Earth First scream therapy

The following item was originally posted in September 2007. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.

I love trees, but…

Here is a video clip featuring Earth First! people mourning the loss of a tree:

Some questions for thought:

  • What is right in the worldview of the people in this movie?
  • What is wrong in the worldview of the people in this movie?
  • How should we think about trees?

Grace and Peace

Christianity — protection against superstition and the paranormal

The following item was originally posted in September 2008. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.

Atheists, and other opponents of the truthfulness of Christianity, often equate Christianity with superstition.

Here’s a quote from “Look Who’s Irrational Now” by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway in the Wall Street Journal:

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.

“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

And…

Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn’t.

Perhaps denial of the greatest truth opens one up to a myriad of falsehoods.

Grace and Peace

Father’s Day 2009 #1

The following item was originally posted in June 2006. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.

In my wide margin Bible, I mark an “F” in the margin to denote verses about the family. As I have done this, I have seen more clearly my responsibilities as a father. The most common command or exhortation in the Scriptures in regards to parenting is to teach our children about the wonders of God:

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:19)

You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ (Exodus 13:8)

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever. (Joshua 4:6-7)

O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old. (Psalm 44:1)

So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)

Things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done. (Psalm 78:3-4)

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13)

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 89:1)

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8)

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight. (Proverbs 4:1)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The father makes known to the children your faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)

Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation. (Joel 1:3)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Being that I am not much of a talker by nature, this is something I need to be very intentional about or it doesn’t happen. But when I stumble in the telling of the story of God’s grace to my children, I pick up and keep on going. They need to hear it and see it from me daily. Just as in the Old Testament, the people were to tell their children over and over about what God had done to save Israel in the exodus, we are to tell our children over and over about what God has done in creation and redemption.

Grace and Peace

(Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version)

Francis Schaeffer — 25th anniversary of his death

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Christian author, philosopher, and pastor Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer is highly regarded in the Evangelical Christian world for his defense of the faith, his advocacy of pro-life political action, and leadership of the l’Abri community in Switzerland. Francis Schaeffer was also an advocate of environmental protection.

HT: World Magazine blog: Remembering Francis Schaeffer, by Scott Lamb

The following item was originally posted in January 2008. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.

pollution.jpgI recently finished re-reading Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. If you read only one book on why Christians should care about nature, this is the book. It is short, and fairly easy reading (by Schaeffer standards). It is not a book about “50 ways to be green;” rather it lays the Biblical and philosophical foundations for taking care of the Earth. Even though it was written almost forty years ago, it is still relevant to the environmental issues we face. Unlike many conservative Evangelical leaders, Schaeffer was willing to admit that we face an ecological crisis.

The book has seven chapters:

  1. “What Have They Done to Our Fair Sister?”
  2. Pantheism: Man Is No More Than the Grass
  3. Other Inadequate Answers
  4. The Christian View: Creation
  5. A Substantial Healing
  6. The Christian View: The “Pilot Plant.”
  7. Concluding Chapter by Udo Middelmann

The book also has two essays as appendices. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” by Lynn White, Jr., and “Why Worry About Nature.” by Richard Means. These were two important essays of the late 1960s; the first was written to state the case that the environmental crisis is Christianity’s fault, and the second was written to present pantheism as the answer.

I gave a long quote a few weeks ago: “I looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness.”

Here are some more quotes:

Near the end of his life, Darwin acknowledged several times in his writing that two things had become dull to him as he got older. The first was his joy in the arts and the second his joy in nature…. The distressing thing about this is that orthodox Christians often really have no better sense about these things than unbelievers.

Our agreement with Means [an advocate of pantheism as the solution to the ecologic crisis] at this point centers on the fact that the hippies of the 1960s did understand something. They were right in fighting the plastic culture, and the church should have been fighting it too, a long, long time ago, before the counterculture ever came onto the scene.

Again, a pantheistic stand always brings man to an impersonal and low place rather than elevating him. This is an absolute rule…. Eventually nature does not become high, but man becomes low…. In the Eastern countries there is no real base for the dignity of man.

Far from raising nature to man’s height, pantheism must push both man and nature down into a bog.

A poor Christianity is not the answer either.

Much orthodoxy, much evangelical Christianity, is rooted in a Platonic concept. In this kind of Christianity there is only interest in the “upper story,” in the heavenly things—only in “saving the soul” and getting it to Heaven…. There is little or no interest in the proper pleasure of the body or the proper uses of the intellect…. Nature has become merely an academic proof of the existence of the Creator, with little value in itself. Christians of this outlook do not show an interest in nature itself.

We should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God has made it.

The man who believes things are there only by chance cannot give things a real intrinsic value. But for the Christian, there is an intrinsic value. The value of a thing is not in itself autonomously, but because God made it.

But we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.

But Christians who believe the Bible are not simply called to say that “one day” there will be healing, but that by God’s grace, upon the basis of the work of Christ, substantial healing can be a reality here and now.

Here the church—the orthodox, Bible-believing church—has been really poor. What have we done to heal sociological divisions? Often our churches are a scandal; they are cruel not only to the man “outside,” but also to the man “inside.”

The same thing is true psychologically. We load people with psychological problems by telling them that “Christians don’t have breakdowns,” and that is a kind of murder.

On the other hand, what we should have, individually and corporately, is a situation where, on the basis of the work of Christ, Christianity is seen to be not just “pie in the sky,” but something that has in it the possibility of substantial healings now in every area where there are divisions because of the Fall. First of all, my division from God is healed by justification, but then there must be the “existential reality” of this moment by moment. Second, there is the psychological division of man from himself. Third, the sociological divisions of man from other men. And last, the division of man from nature, and nature from nature.

One of the first fruits of that healing is a new sense of beauty.

We are to have dominion over it [nature], but we are not going to use it as fallen man uses it.

Man is not to be sacrificed…. And yet nature is to be honored.

Christians, of all people, should not be the destroyers. We should treat nature with an overwhelming respect.

Most Christians simply do not care about nature as such…. These are reasons why the church seems irrelevant and helpless in our generation. We are living in and practicing a sub-Christianity.

If we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.

To just list quotes does not do justice to the stream of reason that Schaeffer develops in this book. If environmental issues are important to you, this is a must-read.

Grace and Peace

The Earth has a future

This item was originally posted in June 2006. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries (with some editing).

Additionally, this is being submitted to the January 2009 Accretionary Wedge Geoscience Blog Carnival, in which a number of geology bloggers are writing on the topic of speculation about future Earth history from a geological perspective. The first part of this post contains no original thinking on my part, but is a summary of an article that appeared in the online journal Geosphere.

For those of you who have gotten here who are not regular readers of The GeoChristian, welcome. I write primarily for a general audience rather than for a geological audience. One of the primary objectives of The GeoChristian is to promote geoscience literacy in the Evangelical Christian community, and so I have a number of posts on issues that are controversial within that group, including the age of the Earth and Christian attitudes toward the environment.

I close this post with a few thoughts on Christian perspectives on the future of the Earth.


The Accretionary Wedge #16: Pondering the geological future of Earth is now posted.


We usually think of the science of geology as being about the past: geologists often reconstruct events that happened thousands, millions, or even billions of years in the past. Sometimes geologists are called upon to project into the future as well. Examples of this include earthquake prediction and finding sites for long-term (>10,000 years) storage of radioactive waste. Geologist Steven Ian Dutch takes a look at the prospects for the next million years in “The Earth Has a Future”, published by the Geological Society of America in the online journal Geosphere. I’ll summarize the article and then give a little commentary on it.

The article is available online in two versions:

Dutch starts with processes active on the surface of the earth—erosion, uplift, volcanic activity, plate movement, changes due to human activities—as well as the more rare events such as eruptions of supervolcanoes and meteorite impacts. He calculates the rates at which these occur at various places on the earth, and makes predictions as to what the earth will be like in one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, and a million years from now. He acknowledges that there are many uncertainties in these speculations, but it is still a worthwhile exercise.

One of the most difficult things to predict, in Dutch’s mind, is the future impact of human activity. Will humans become extinct? Will technological civilization collapse? Will humans modify the surface of the earth beyond recognition?

Some things that will happen in the next 1000 years:

  • 5-7 magnitude 8 earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, with total movement of about 25 m.
  • 40 eruptions of Vesuvius
  • 5-10 eruptions of Fuji
  • ~12 eruptions of Cascade Range volcanoes
  • Perhaps smaller volcanic eruptions in areas with lower-frequency eruptive histories: cinder cones in the SW United States, Puy region of France, or Eifel region of Germany
  • 200 eruptions of Mauna Loa on Hawaii, building it 5 m higher
  • Probable death of Old Faithful Geyser, as its geothermal plumbing shifts over time
  • Several world-wide large volcanic eruptions (on the scale of the 1815 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia, which caused “the year without summer” in the United States and Europe)
  • Little change visible in mountain ranges as they simultaneously uplift and erode
  • The Mississippi River and its delta will change its course. Its delta naturally changes position every 1000 years or so, and is overdue (thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers)
  • Niagara Falls will have cut back 900 m upstream from its present position
  • A good chance of a meteorite impact with a crater of 100 m or more
  • Most steel structures (Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge) will survive only with careful maintenance
  • Humans will still be using coal and natural gas, but not much petroleum

Some things that will happen in the next 10,000 years:

  • 50-70 magnitude 8 earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault, with displacement of 250 m
  • Kilauea, on Hawaii, will be about 100 m higher
  • Several hundred eruptions of Vesuvius
  • 100 eruptions of Fuji
  • 100 eruptions of Cascade Range volcanoes
  • 90 m uplift of the Baltic Sea and 100 m uplift of Hudson Bay as they continue to rebound after the removal of Pleistocene ice sheets. These bodies of water will, therefore, be smaller
  • By natural cycles, we would be nearing the end of the present interglacial, looking to the beginning of a new ice age
  • Niagara Falls will retreat upstream by 9 km
  • Higher probability of a 1 km crater formed by meteor impact, with considerable destruction up to hundreds of km away
  • Without considerable care, the only human structures that will still exist are large highway cuts and large monuments
  • No present human cities are 10,000 years old. Will any of our present cities exist 10,000 years from now?

Some things that will happen in the next 100,000 years:

  • 2.5 km slip along the San Andreas Fault. Not enough to close the Golden Gate
  • Kilauea will be 1 km higher, and Loihi (an underwater volcano SE of the island of Hawaii) will be above sea level
  • Some mountain ranges will have had 1 km of uplift. In most cases, this will be accompanied by close to 1 km of erosion, so the net result will be exposure of deeper rocks, not higher mountain ranges
  • Earth could be in an ice age
  • Niagara Falls will stop retreating as rock types are different further upstream. A new waterfall will start forming near the outlet of Lake Erie
  • There could be a meteor impact with global effect

Some things that will happen in the next 1,000,000 years:

  • The San Andreas Fault will have slipped 25 km, perhaps blocking the entrance to San Francisco Bay
  • The highest points of the island of Hawaii will be Kilauea and Loihi. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea will be old and eroded
  • Several enormous catastrophic landslides will have occurred on the slopes of Hawaii
  • Many current volcanoes will have become extinct, being replaced by others
  • One or more eruptions of “supervolcanoes” such as Yellowstone or Long Valley, California. (The last large eruption at Yellowstone, 640,000 years ago, had a volume of 1000 km3, as compared to 0.5 km3 for Mount St. Helens 1980)
  • Some rivers will have changed their courses
  • Ten or more major periods of glaciation
  • Hundreds of meteor impacts
  • The earth’s day will be 20 seconds longer (due to tidal effects)
  • The moon will be 38 km further away
  • The solar system will have traveled 750 light years in its orbit around the center of the galaxy
  • The only present human structures to survive will be large and made of earth and stone: open-pit mines, large road cuts, mine waste piles, the Pyramids. (Even the Pyramids might not make it if the climate becomes more humid in that area).

Commentary

This kind of reasoning is increasingly important in the Earth sciences: trying to figure out what has happened in the past and what is going on at the present in order to make predictions about what is likely to happen in the future.

Some issues that come to mind as I as a Christian geologist think about the future of the Earth:

  • This paper puts our human achievements in a good perspective. All that we create is of a very temporary nature. Compared to the universe and the potential vastness of time, we are rather temporary. The purpose of this isn’t to magnify the creation, but to magnify the Creator. God is to the universe as the universe is to us. And that is an understatement.
  • In Christian understanding, God is sovereign over the events of the future. This does not rule out the type of investigation that has been done here—we can seek to understand how the earth works and then project that into the future. This is the geological principle of uniformitarianism properly applied to the future. It has its limits, but it can also be a powerful tool.
  • As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ, who ascended to heaven after his resurrection, will return to Earth some day. I don’t know when that will be. First century believers thought that it would occur in their lifetimes, and probably couldn’t imagine a delay of at least 2000 years. I don’t know if Christ’s return will be tomorrow, or 3000 years further down the road. I am just told to always be ready.
  • One reason that we need to use our natural resources wisely is what I just stated. We don’t know the future; we don’t know when Christ is returning. Our water, mineral, soil, and energy resources may need to last us a very long time. There are a number of other reasons, of course, for us to pursue a sustainable future.
  • The Biblical view of eternal life (yes, as a Christian I believe in life after death) is not living in heaven. The Earth has a future, at least as a new Earth (Revelation 21:1). Biblical scholars disagree as to the exact relationship between the present Earth and the New Earth; whether it is just a makeover or a complete re-creation. But eternity for the believer will not be spent strumming harps on clouds, but on a real, physical Earth that is in many ways like the one we live on. It will have rocks and trees and bodies of water. It may be different in some ways than the present Earth, but it will still be “earthy.” The primary difference will be the removal of sin and its effects, such as disease, war, famine, and death.
  • Will the new Earth have volcanoes? Earthquakes? Uplift and erosion? Plate tectonics? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it will. We tend to think of things like volcanoes and earthquakes as “bad,” but I believe these things could fit under the phrase “it was good” from Genesis 1. Volcanoes, for example, renew the surface of the earth, and provide us with rich soils. “Good” isn’t the same as “safe;” in fact, dangerous things have a way of showing God’s glory to us.

Grace and Peace

“I looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness”

This item was originally posted in January 2008. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries. I also wrote a longer review of the book Pollution and the Death of Man in January 2008. This book is foundational for a Christian perspective on the environment, arguing that a Biblical Christian worldview provides the strongest basis for taking care of the Earth.

A story from Pollution and the Death of Man, by Francis Schaeffer:

Some years ago I was lecturing in a certain Christian school. Just across a ravine from the school there was what they called a “hippie community.” On the far side of the ravine one saw trees and some farms. Here, I was told, they had pagan grape stomps. Being interested, I made my way across the ravine and met one of the leading men in this “Bohemian” community.

We got on very well as we talked of ecology, and I was able to speak of the Christian answer to life and ecology. He paid me the compliment (and I accepted it as such) of telling me that I was the first person from “across the ravine” who had ever been shown the place where they did, indeed, have grape stomps and to see the pagan image they had there. This image was the center of these rites. The whole thing was set against the classical background of Greece and Rome.

Having shown me all this, he looked across to the Christian school and said to me, “Look at that; isn’t that ugly?” And it was! I could not deny it. It was an ugly building, without even trees around it.

It was then that I realized what a poor situation this was. When I stood on Christian ground and looked at the Bohemian people’s place, it was beautiful. They had even gone to the trouble of running their electric cables under the level of the trees so that they couldn’t be seen. Then I stood on pagan ground and looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness. Here you have a Christianity that is failing to take into account man’s responsibility and proper relationship to nature.

(quote from chapter 3 — Other Inadequate Answers)

What do “pagans” see when they look at us? Do they see people who place value on the creation and its creatures because God places value on them? Do they see people who use the Earth’s resources wisely because God has called them to be good stewards? Do they see people who create or people who destroy? Do they see people who live in contentment or people who are caught up in the destructive consumerism of our society?

Another way to ask the question: Do they see beauty or do they see ugliness?

Schaeffer stated that Christianity has failed to take into account two things in regards to ecology: What is our responsibility toward the creation? and What is our proper relationship to the creation?

How should we then live?

Grace and Peace

For the Beauty of the Earth

for_the_beautyLast year I ran a series of posts with quotes from For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger. This book develops a Biblical view of creation care that is neither Earth-centered nor man-centered, but God-centered. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I periodically recycle previous posts. For this book, however, I won’t re-run all eleven posts, but will just give you some highlights:

Chapter 1 — Where Are We? An Ecological Perception of Place

Despite our education we remain ecologically illiterate. Or perhaps more accurately, because of our education we remain ignorant of how the world works.

Ecological literacy is “built on a view of ourselves as finite and fallible creatures living in a world limited by natural laws.” (Quote from David Orr, Ecological Literacy)

Chapter 2 — What’s Wrong With the World? The Groaning of Creation

The author refers to Calvin DeWitt (professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and a co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network), who lists “seven major degradations brought on by our assault on creation”:

  1. land conversion and habitat destruction, e.g., deforestation
  2. species extinction
  3. degradation of the land, e.g, loss of topsoil to wind and water erosion
  4. resource conversion and production of wastes and hazards
  5. global toxification, e.g., oil spills
  6. the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion
  7. human and cultural degradation, e.g., the displacement of agriculture by agribusiness

The author, Steven Bouma-Prediger, goes through these degradations (and others), and I’m not going to restate those here. It is clear that much of human impact on the Earth is not just bad for woodpeckers, wildflowers, and walruses; it is bad for us as well.

Does our soaring consumption really make us happy?

Chapter 3 — Is Christianity to Blame? The Ecological Complaint Against Christianity

Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and its traditional cultures. It is hardly too much to say that most Christian organizations are as happily indifferent to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economies as are most industrial organizations. –Wendell Berry

Bouma-Prediger then analyzes four common complaints against Christianity given by many anti-Christian environmentalists:

Complaint #1 — The first is that monotheism in general, and Christianity in particular, is the primary if not sole cause of the despoilation of the earth.

How do we as Christians answer this complaint? Bouma-Prediger gives a few ideas:

  • Understand that humans are in some way unique; we are made in the image of God.
  • Also understand that we are not only unique, but are also part of the creation. We are made of the same stuff that the rest of creation is made of, and are embedded in the creation. The name “Adam” is very similar to the Hebrew word for “earth” — ‘adama.
  • Distinguish between dominion and domination. One who has dominion, like the ideal king of Psalm 72, is one who “rules and exercises dominion properly.”

For Jesus, to rule is to serve. To exercise dominion is to suffer, if necessary, for the good of the other. There is no question of domination, exploitation, misuse. Humans, therefore, are called to rule, but only if ruling is understood rightly.

Such a reading of Genesis 1:28 is contradicted by virtually all the rest of the Bible, as many people by now have pointed out. The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it. If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it? — Wendell Barry

Complaint #2 — Christian theology emphasizes the spiritual over the material, resulting in the material being abused or neglected.

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.

Complaint #3 — The third reason that many environmentalists blame Christianity for the ecological crisis is eschatological: If this world is going to burn, why take care of it? If Jesus is coming back soon, why be concerned about what the world will be like 100, 1000, or 10000 years from now?

Bouma-Prediger acknowledges that the complaint is at least partially valid because there are a number of Christians whose behavior and statements reflect this kind of attitude.

I’ll add a thought of my own. I believe in the literal return of Christ, and that it could happen at any time. This does not negate my responsibility to take care of the Earth any more than it negates my responsibility in any other area. I take care of my body, even though I believe that some day I am going to get a new one; a body without aches and pains, sore hips and graying hairs. It would be foolish for me to abuse my body, even though my resurrection body will be even better. The same goes for the Earth. It is foolish for us to consume resources at unsustainable rates, pollute the air and water, and force thousands of species into extinction when we could live otherwise.

Complaint #4 — The fourth complaint against Christianity given by environmentalists is that because the Christian worldview is largely responsible for the rise of science and technology, Christianity is to blame for the ecological crisis that is upon us. This idea was promoted by a widely reprinted essay by historian Lynn White entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.”

White’s thesis is accepted without question by most environmentalists, but Bouma-Prediger points out the weaknesses of the argument:

  • While Christianity had a role in the rise of science and technology, it was not the sole factor
  • “Ecological crises are not peculiar to Christian-influenced cultures. Non-Christian cultures have also caused severe or irreparable harm to their ecosystems.” — quoted from James Nash.
  • In general, environmentalists accept White’s critique of Christianity but ignore the section where White points out that there has always been a stream of thought in Christianity that affirms the value of the Earth. White proposes St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint for ecologists.

Chapter 4 — Is there a connection between scripture and ecology? — Biblical wisdom and ecological vision

Some lessons from Genesis 1-2:

God is the creator of all things.

Humans are given the delegated, royal responsibility of ruling the earth.

The chaotic, to be sure, exists, but the universe is a place of order and structure, purposefully and lovingly designed by God.

Creation is good. The universe originates not out of struggle or battle or conflict, as portrayed in so many ancient creation stories, but through a seemingly effortless and struggle-free divine speaking and making.

The earth is a home for all earthly creatures. The earth is created as a habitat not only for humans but for all living things.

The sabbath reminds us, among other things, that the world is in God’s loving hands and, therefore, will not fall to pieces if we cease from our work.

Chapter 5 — How should we think of the earth? A theology and ethic of care for the earth

Neither cosmocentrism, with its “ethic of adoration,” nor anthropocentrism, with its “ethic of exploitation,” is adequate since both tacitly assume a dualism between nature and history, differing only in which has priority. Only a theocentric perspective, which refuses to accept such a dualism, is able to cultivate a proper “ethic of responsibility.” For these and other reasons Richard Young concludes that “the Christian Scriptures, when interpreted through a theocentric perspective, offer the most satisfying and realistic solution of the environmental problem.”

Jesus Christ is Creator, Integrator, and Reconciler; yet many who call on his name abuse, neglect, and do not give a care about creation. That irony is there for all to see. Honoring the Creator in word, they destroy God’s works in deed. Praising God from whom all blessings flow, they diminish and destroy God’s creatures here below. The pieces of this puzzle do not fit! One piece says, “We honor the Great Master!” The other piece says, “We despise his great masterpiece!” — Calvin DeWitt

Chapter 6 — What kind of people ought we be?

In this chapter, the author develops seven ecological virtues:

1. Act so as to preserve diverse kinds of life.

Creatures exist to praise God and are valuable irrespective of human utility. From this theological theme comes the ethical principle of intrinsic value.

We are obligated to preserve nonhuman species except when other moral considerations outweigh or overrule this duty. And since such species cannot exist without their homes, we are also obligated to preserve habitats.

2. Act so as to live within your means.

We have a prima facie duty to preserve nonrenewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources.

The author doesn’t advocate austerity, but rather discipline and self-restraint, as individuals and as a society.

3. Act cautiously.

We are to act cautiously in our relationship with the creation both because we are finite and because we are faulted. Because we are finite, we don’t understand all of the implications of our activities. Because we are faulted—fallen into sin—we are “alienated from God, other humans, ourselves, and the earth.”

4. Act in such a way that the ability of living creatures to maintain themselves and to reproduce is preserved.

It is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful, not just people. — Calvin DeWitt

We are permitted to use the fruit of the earth, but we are not allowed to destroy the earth’s ability to be fruitful.

Ecologically speaking, foolishness is the disposition to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable and expendable.

5. Act in such a way that the creatures under your care are given their needful rest.

In the ten commandments, the command for sabbath rest doesn’t just apply to humans, but to their livestock as well.

6. Act so as to care for the earth’s creatures, especially those creatures in need.

Dominion does not mean domination but responsible care.

It is not enough merely to refrain from doing harm; in certain cases we are morally required to do good.

7. Act so as to treat others, human or nonhuman, fairly.

It is not that animals are equal to humans, but that we have certain responsibilities toward them because of our position over them.

Chapter 7 — Why worry about spotted owls and the Pacific yew?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Grace and Peace, and take care of the Earth