Why should Christians be interested in the health of the environment? Is it only for some pragmatic reason, such as “clean air is good for us” or is there a Biblical support for stewardship of the environment? Many believers are put off by the new age-iness of some “tree huggers;” is this sufficient reason to dismiss the concept of creation care?
Christianity Today recently posted an article on the Biblical basis for environmental stewardship: A Covenant with the Earth: Why the work of Christ makes all the difference in our care of creation by Matthew Farrelly. Farrelly briefly reviews four books on Christianity and the environment, then makes some further comments about the renewed relationship between not only God and humans that is made possible through Christ, but also the seeds of a renewed relationship between humans and the creation. The creation will not be fully restored until Christ returns, but in the words of Francis Schaeffer, we can have a partial healing now.
The author takes a God-centered, rather than a man-centered or an Earth-centered, approach to the environment. Here are some quotes from the article:
Surveying covenant history, it becomes apparent that the relationship between human beings and the land is crucial. The ecological state of the land is dependent on Israel’s relationship with Yahweh; the land responds to both the sinfulness and holiness of God’s people.
In light of the new covenant, all of our creation care is grounded in Christ. It is not grounded in our fear of ecological destruction or some romanticized view of nature—nor in political correctness. Because Christ has ushered us into this new covenant—between God and us and all of creation—our relationship to creation is inherently in Christ. The image of Adam has been reframed, restructured, and re-engineered in Christ’s image. Thus, our “dominion” and “tending and keeping” of the earth is where we now work as new creation and for new creation. We are a restored kingdom of priests, and part of our mediation is between God and “every living creature,” even the land itself.
As the spate of recent creation-care books shows, evangelicals are thinking more deeply and acting more faithfully than ever before when it comes to creation care. But I believe our concern should be shaped first and foremost by this great redemptive narrative that God has fulfilled in Christ, and is still telling through Christ’s body, the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christian environmental stewardship must always take place at the foot of the Cross, where we grasp that the old is passing away, and that all things—people, creatures, and the land—are becoming new.
The first three comments on the Christianity Today site show that there is considerable amount of resistance to this type of thinking among Evangelical Christians:
New evangelicals seem to believe that working for the Gospel is adequate for salvation. Instant gratification. We have a president who talks about “collective salvation” and the worshipers of mother earth buy it hook line and sinker. It is easier than living holy lives, and telling others about Jesus. Just invite them to a garden party.
Very sad commentary for believers. Yes, this author appears to have bought into the secular “scream” of earth worship, rather than its creator. The references he sites, take an enormous amount of speculation to connect to this issue; actually I couldn’t make the connections. Worshiping our great earth is not what Christ died for, but it’s tempting for some, brought forward in this article, to add “earth care,” as one more condition for Christian living. Check out Ephesians 2:9 “not by works, so no one can boast.” NIV
All of this leaves me a little cold. Creation is certainly of eternal significance and fits within the realm of God’s covenant with us. But to shape this relationship as a task that we have to complete puts too much emphasis on our efforts and does not focus on God’s grace and love as expressed in salvation and the place of this planet in His plan. What is missing is the concept of beauty in what we do and how that reflects the presence and grace of Jesus Christ. Real environmental effort expresses God’s presence and the fact that this is His creation. There is too much proclamation of scare tactics and human need to save planet earth. In reality, this is our opportunity to proclaim the reality of God as expressed through His creation.
I agree wholeheartedly that “green is not the gospel,” but I would also urge the body of Christ that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10) and that those good works cover all of life, including how we live in relationship with God’s good creation.
Grace and Peace