Last week I started summarizing the complaints that some environmentalists have against Christianity as presented in chapter 3 of For the Beauty of the Earth, by Steven Bouma-Prediger. In my previous post on this, I presented the first complaint, which was that the Genesis 1:28 mandate that gave humans dominion over the creation leads to despoilation of the Earth. The second criticism is that Christian theology emphasizes the spiritual over the material, resulting in the material being abused or neglected.
The emphasis within the Christian tradition on dualisms of soul and body, spirit and matter, denigrates the earth and sanctions its misuse and exploitation.
Christianity fosters a care-less attitude toward things material and thus is at fault for the plundering of the earth.
The author points out that even though some Christians may be guilty of this kind of thinking, neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament affirms such a dualism or separation between the spiritual and material.
While the body is separate from and inferior to the soul for Plato, this is not the case for Scripture.
For God, matter matters.
The initial premise is unacceptable– the claim that the Bible promotes a dualism between soul and body, spirit and mater–this argument is not sound.
Some additional thoughts of my own:
- The original creation was proclaimed to be “very good” even apart from anything “spiritual” in its description. (Genesis 1:31).
- Christ became fully human as well as being fully God. The incarnation is a sign that the material is good and of eternal value.
- Christ did not come just to redeem our immaterial souls; he came to redeem our bodies. We will receive new bodies in the resurrection, and all of creation will be made new.
- The idea that the spiritual is important and that the material is unnecessary or even evil is found in gnosticism, not in Biblical Christianity. This gnosticism was present in an incipient form in the apostolic age–it is argued against in Colossians–and became a major heresy in the second century. (The DaVinci Code tries to paint a pretty picture of gnosticism, but this corruption of Christianity stands in opposition to the Christ of the Bible, the Gospel, and care of the creation).
The second ecological complaint is unfounded. Biblical Christianity affirms the value of the material creation, and holds us accountable for how we take care of the world.
Grace and Peace