In Chapter 7 of For the Beauty of the Earth, author Steven Bouma-Prediger gives ten arguments for why we should “worry about spotted owls and the Pacific yew.” All of his arguments have validity to some degree—the author points out weaknesses of some arguments—but I’ll focus on the ones that I think are strongest for me as a Christian.
- The intrinsic value argument: Nonhuman creatures have an intrinsic value, because God created them. I think this is a real strength of the Christian argument for creation-care, as opposed to secular or non-Christian arguments. The secular environmentalist can assign value to nature only in an arbitrary or self-centered way. To the Christian, nature and its creatures have value simply because God created them. They were valuable before we came on the scene, and are not valuable just because they are useful to us.
“Unlike the animal rights argument, this argument hinges not on the fact that certain nonhuman creatures have rights but rather on the fact that humans have duties to… sentient life, organic life, endangered species, and even entire ecosystems.”
“A focus only on human use—even if wise use—is a stunted viewpoint that fails to acknowledge intrinsic value in a world not of our making.”
“It does not necessarily follow from the intrinsic value argument that we have the same kind of duties to dogs or sequoias or rain forest that we have to humans.”
- The earth community argument: or the we’re-all-in-this-together argument. This is similar to the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, but Bouma-Prediger modifies it to a Christian form. We, as humans, are a part of a much bigger biosphere, and what we do to the biosphere turns around to have an effect on us. This is not an appeal to self-interest, but rather an acknowledgment that what is good for the environment is good for us.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” — John Muir
“The creatures of the natural world are not there for the sake of human beings. Human beings are there for the sake of the glory of God, which the whole community of creation extols.” — Jurgen Moltmann
- The divine command argument: or “because God says so.” Bouma-Prediger bases this on his interpretation that the earth-care mandate given in Genesis 2:15 (“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” ESV) means that we are here to serve and protect the earth, not to do whatever our sinful desires would have us do.
- The image of God argument: or “because God’s concerns are our concerns.” God cares for the creatures of the earth, and as his viceregents—created in God’s image to rule in his place—we are to show the same care.
Given an acknowledgment that God is concerned about more than just humans, and given that we are called to image or represent God, it follows that we should care for more than just our own kind or our own place.
Care for the earth should never be construed as somehow anti-people.
Conclusion: 1. Nature has value in and of itself. 2. We are connected to the rest of creation. 3. God tells us to take good care of the creation. 4. God has made us in his own image, so we have certain responsibilities and obligations.
So how do we live as individuals? How do we live as a church?
Grace and Peace