Evangelical Christian perspectives on the environment
Christianity Today magazine asked three Christian leaders “How concerned should Christians be about environmental care?” The answers are short, but serve as an introduction to the range of answers that exist among Evangelicals. Each of these writers, from politically liberal to conservative, has insights that Evangelicals need to take into consideration as we think about our responsibilities in the realm of creation care.
Here are a few excerpts:
Answer #1: As much as God is, by Jonathan Merritt, author of Green Like God. Merritt’s perspective represents the politically liberal side of Evangelicalism, and he focuses on some Biblical issues that the political conservatives that make up the majority in Evangelical circles sometimes ignore.
Non-Westerners carefully observe the historically Christian West and form opinions about our faith based on our lifestyles and practices. For example, Americans make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet consume over a third of Earth’s paper products. How does this influence the gospel message in countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, and Ecuador, where deforestation causes so much suffering and injustice?
It is inappropriate to claim that creation care—or any social issue—composes the foundation of the gospel. But the gospel calls us to a radically sacrificial, compassionate lifestyle. Jesus commands us to “make disciples of all nations” and teach others to “obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). This includes the commands to love our global neighbors, care for the least of these, and uphold the creation care mandates throughout Scripture.
Part of missional living is telling the truth. That means we must be honest about our world’s problems. When we blindly follow Christian lobbying groups and “alliances” that ignore global injustice, the gospel suffers.
Answer #2: No less than stewards, by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler is one of those individuals who is able to comment intelligently and passionately on just about any topic he puts his pen to. Mohler’s blog is at AlbertMohler.com.
Concern for the environment is one of the most controversial issues facing Christians today. On the one hand, we confront an environmentalism that is often deeply rooted in a naturalistic worldview, sometimes wedded to pantheistic or panentheistic spirituality. On the other hand, we face a painful legacy of silence, apathy, and unconcern among evangelicals.
For a long time, I did my best in my teaching and writing to “balance” this verse [Genesis 1:28] and its clear declaration of human dominion over the created order with the biblical theme of stewardship. But I have come to the conclusion that they are really one and the same. A proper understanding of dominion includes stewardship.
God invested the only creature made in his image with the power of dominion. There is little room for misunderstanding. Human beings are not blights upon creation. Indeed, creation itself is, as John Calvin famously declared, the theater of God’s own glory. Human dominion over the earth is to be exercised so that God’s glory is most evident in God’s creation. The love and care the Creator invested in the cosmos is to be our model of dominion, rightly fulfilled.
We cannot buy into the implicit pantheism and questionable science of so many environmentalists. We cannot accept environmental apocalypticism. Far too many evangelicals seem to do this while ignoring deeper Christian motivations for proper earth care.
At the same time, we cannot neglect our responsibility to exercise our dominion in a way that treasures the earth, heals its wounds, respects its creatures, and values its divinely given resources.
I suppose we all are capable of a good deal of emotional care for the environment,for what that’s worth. But our resources are more limited for objective, outward care—time spent removing litter from a streambed, protesting toxic waste at a chemical plant, inventing a more fuel efficient and less polluting engine. Time and money and bodily energy spent on those cannot simultaneously be spent on HIV/AIDS care and prevention, hunger relief, evangelism, fighting human trafficking, or reading Bible stories to our children.
Prioritizing is inescapable. The apostle Paul’s statement about gifts in the church applies: “There are many parts, but one body.The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!'” (1 Cor. 12:20-21).
Suppose Julie dedicates full-time service to Earth stewardship and no time to her church’s clothes closet for the poor. Ron does the opposite. Jean divides her time unevenly among homeschooling her children, teaching a women’s Bible study, following up on visitors to her church, and contacting her state and federal representatives about public policy concerns. Is one of them wrong? “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4).
Grace and Peace