Christians often don’t know what to make of Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22nd, or at least on a weekend close to that date. Increasingly, believers in Christ are aware of environmental issues, but something like “Earth Day” is viewed as being for new agers, tree huggers, pro-abortion people, and theological liberals. I’ve never been to an Earth Day celebration, but a look at the St. Louis Earth Day brochure tells me that I can visit booths of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Planned Parenthood, and the Soul-Esteem Center. I can eat food from the Maharashi World Peace-Vedic Organic booth, or watch yoga demonstrations. The event is sponsored by large companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Monsanto, and Toyota. There are, however, Christian organizations present as well: the Christian Vegetarian Association (I have no idea where they are at theologically) and the Concordia Seminary Students in Mission (theologically conservative).
An excellent book for getting a handle on a Christian response to environmentalism is Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer and Udo Middelmann. This book was written in response to an influential essay which appeared in Science magazine entitled The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis, by history professor Lynn White. In this article, White blames Christianity and the Bible for many of the world’s woes. He held that the Christian view of human dominion over nature based on Genesis 1:26-28 has led to exploitation of nature and the present ecological crisis, and many in the environmental movement have accepted this portrayal.
As I said, Schaeffer and Middelmann wrote Pollution and the Death of Man in response to White, as well as to others in the environmental movement with an anti-Christian perspective. Because the Christian world view is being blamed for environmental problems, the authors argue that it is important for Christians to pay close attention to environmental issues. They analyze various responses to the environment, and demonstrate that it is possible to have a Biblically-informed view of stewardship that respects both humans and nature. The pantheistic or naturalistic world views that dominate the environmental movement lack this balance that only Christians can supply.
I highly recommend Schaeffer and Middelmann’s book as a starting point on environmental issues. It is about the philosophy of creation care, rather than about specific environmental issues, and it lays a good foundation for our moral responsibility to be good stewards of what God has given us. My hope is that Christians will become more aware of both the theological and scientific aspects of ecological issues. Until this happens, our options are to continue to ignore issues that could have significant effects for generations to come, or to blindly follow “experts” on either the right or the left.
Grace and Peace