For an Earth Day post—Christians and the Environment—Christian blogger Tim Challies drew from Francis Schaeffer’s foundational book on the environment, Pollution and the Death of Man:
Schaeffer begins with the reassurance that as Christians we are able to acknowledge what today’s secular humanists cannot: That mankind has been called by God to exercise dominion over the earth. We are not here by chance and we are not here by mistake. We were placed here by God to care for this planet and have been called to be faithful stewards of it. But like everything else in this world, our ability to exercise this kind of stewardship has been affected by our sinful state. “By creation man has dominion, but as a fallen creature he has used that dominion wrongly. Because he is fallen, he exploits created things as thought they were nothing in themselves, and as though he has an autonomous right to them.” We no longer consistently tend the world in love, but instead ravage and pillage it. Though we may not believe in all of the dire claims being made about the state of our planet and its perilous future, we must at least acknowledge that we have not cared for the world as God has called us to.
The Bible offers us a far better and far higher view of ourselves, our planet, and our responsibility toward it. Schaeffer affirms that our understanding must begin with God’s act of creation through which he created things that have an objective existence in themselves. Despite the claims of pantheism, creation is not an extension of God’s essence. It is only the biblical view that gives worth to man and to all that God has created. How? Because we understand both ourselves and nature when we see that, though we are separate from nature, we are related to it as something God has created. “So the Christian treats ‘things’ with integrity because we do not believe they are autonomous. Modern man has fallen into a dilemma because he has made things autonomous from God.” Because we love the Creator, we love the creation. As we love the creation, we express love to the Creator.
Even in the 1970’s Schaeffer was saying “We must confess that we missed our opportunity. We have spoken loudly against materialistic science, but we have done little to show that in practice we ourselves as Christians are not dominated by a technological orientation in regard either to man or nature.” He warned that “if we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.” Ultimately, he calls upon us to treat nature well because we are all products of the loving Creator; we are all creatures together.
While acknowledging that sin and its effects will not be eradicated until the Lord returns, Schaeffer believed there can and should be “a substantial healing,” of the planet and its environment. He says, “we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.” As Christians we of all people are the ones who ought to be treating creation now as it will be treated in eternity. And this, I think, is our challenge: to treat the planet today as we will treat the new earth, exercising dominion without pillaging, exploiting without destroying, faithfully stewarding God’s great gift.
Schaeffer acknowledged that we face an ecological crisis, that human sin has a big part to do with it, and that Christians in particular are often part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This is a far cry from the anti-environmental rhetoric that comes out of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
Read Challies’ entire blog post: Christians and the Environment.
Or even better, read Pollution and the Death of Man.
Grace and Peace
HT: Glenn Brooke