Is God Green?

Our planet is in peril. Christianity is the world’s largest religion. A crucial question of our times is whether this faith will have a constructive or destructive impact—or end up an indifferent factor—in how the global environmental crisis will play out. So far, when it comes to ecology and environmental care, Christianity is sending very mixed messages. It is proving to be an ambivalent religion.

Trends in climate change, reductions in bio-diversity, pollution of water and air, deforestation, and soil degradation are all ominous. The growing population of the world, combined with the consumerist habits of this ever-increasing population, means that our current way of doing life are simply not sustainable. Already there is disturbing deterioration in the quality of life of many people, especially the poorer and relatively powerless members of the global community. Many thoughtful people are now convinced that the problem now exceeds any administrative, political or scientific solution; that, ultimately, it also requires a religious or spiritual revolution—the kind that alters the way whole civilizations see and do life.Despite widespread secularization, and the territorial gains of Islam, Christianity remains a massive ideological, institutional and sociological force in the world today. The question is whether in the big picture and over the longer term it will prove helpful or harmful. Christianity, as a humanly-constructed sociological phenomenon in the world today, carries within it the seeds of both ecological destruction and harmonious possibilities for planet earth. The future of humanity on earth may well depend on which side prevails. The pivotal issue is which inferences Christians of this and subsequent generations will draw from the wellsprings of their faith. Some of these inferences have been, and continue to be, dangerous to the environment, and threaten to imperil life on this planet. Other inferences constitute intellectual foundations for responsible creation care, and grounds for hope that life may thrive and be extended well on into the future. Among the sinister inferences are these: first of all, that the early chapters of Genesis authorize humans to exercise dominion over the rest of the earth, to use it as they wish. In addition, many Christians infer that salvation, which is of paramount concern, is a matter of soul-flight to heaven and evasion of eternal fire below. The created order is a convenient but temporary backdrop for the great drama of salvation history. Significant numbers of Christians believe that creation care only distracts from evangelism; that the planet is doomed anyway; that its preservation is the sovereign God’s responsibility, not ours; and that Christians are called to love not the world.

But the Christian faith also contains within itself positive potential to contribute to a healthy, sustainable natural order. It teaches reverence for human life, based on humanity’s unique Godlikeness. This estimate of humanity, combined with an awareness of how embedded we are in the larger eco-system, can lead to concern for the environment as a human survival strategy. Many Christians believe that God appointed humans to function as subordinate administrators and responsible care-givers of earth in his name and on his behalf, and that we will someday be held accountable for our performance of duty. Moreover, simplicity and contentment are important Christian virtues—and both are very good for the environment. Christian virtues of unselfishness and empathy can sensitize Christians to the need to preserve the planet for future generations. The Christian faith holds out hope of the eventual restoration of all things. In the meantime, the church is to function as an early prototype of the Kingdom still to come. We are to live proleptically—that is, as though the future has already arrived. This responsibility is ours regardless of how much more the environment degrades, because it is a matter of obedience and calling, not calculated outcomes.Which way will Christianity tilt? Which direction will this massive, ambivalent religion go? There are powerful pressures today to opt for short-term personal comfort and convenience, and these may prove overwhelming for Christianity—embedded as it is in the more affluent and powerful countries of the world. But there are hints of a sea-change within even the conservative evangelical wing of Christianity. A cross-section of conservative leaders signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative in 2006, and just last month, March 2008, a Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change acknowledged that “our cautious [past] response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed.” Stay tuned; but for now, the Christian ambivalence continues. Meanwhile some Westerners who care deeply about the planet are seeking support from the enchanted worldview of neo-paganism, the virtue of harmony pursued by Taoists, and the simple, gentle demeanor cultivated by Buddhism.


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8 Responses to Is God Green?

  1. John Mustol July 17, 2008 at 6:32 pm #

    I greatly appreciate Joel Fieri’s engagement on this issue. He shows love and patience in that he is willing to engage in discussion when we seem to differ so much. The minds of so many Christians are closed to this issue. You are, at least, open to dialogue. For that I thank you. First, I have three questions.

    1. Is it possible to formulate our ecological theology and ethics as Christians without being dominated by our reaction against secular forces? Are we motivated by love or by fear? Can we forget Al Gore and secular environmentalists and prayerfully come together over Scripture to rationally formulate a Christian view on the relationships between God, humans, and the nonhuman creation? In our reaction against Al Gore and secular environmentalists, are we, in effect, allowing them to control us? In that we are consumed by revulsion against them and their ideas, are our ideas actually determined by them?

    2. You say, “I also strongly reject the premise that we are sinfully destroying the planet.” I am unsure what this means. Do you mean that you believe there never were and are not now any ecological problems anywhere, at all? Or, do you mean that there may be localized ecological problems, but there are no global ecological problems? Do you mean that there may be ecological problems but they are purely technical/material problems and have nothing to do with the spiritual problem of human sin? Please explain.

    3. You say, “Our society has enacted environmental legislation, endangered species acts, emission standards, pushed conservation education, recycling, etc., with little or no opposition from evangelicals, yet we still beat ourselves up and accept the premise that by living our lives we are destroying God’s creation.” This is a complex, emotional statement which again is hard to understand. But let me ask if it was not the advocacy of the despised “environmentalists” who pushed through some of these laws, policies, and court decisions that have headed off ecological damage? Was it the environmentalists who in the 60s and 70s forced the auto manufacterers to lower car emissions to reduce pollution in Los Angeles and other urban centers? What would the Los Angeles basin be like today, if environmentalists had not battled the auto companies in the legislatures and in the courts? Is the endangered species act bad? Are God’s creatures important to Him or not? If yes, how should we relate to them? What is your view on recycling? Is it good or bad? What is “conservation education,” and is it good or bad? By saying that Evangelicals did not oppose these things, are you saying they were passive? If so, why?

    Regarding the issue of malaria and DDT, although Joel has cited some credible authorities who support its use, he has not produced the scientific data necessary to support the assertion, “The ‘ban’ on DDT resulted in the deaths of x-number of people.” Neither has my research turned up the needed scientific data. This is a question of predictive science. It is ironic that certain people accept the unresearched predictive science of the DDT/malaria issue on the one hand, but reject the heavily researched predictive science of global warming and climate change, on the other. Be that as it may, I think it is correct to say that some environmentalists overreacted to the risks of DDT use and that their naïve and elitist advocacy led to a precipitous reduction in its use, which did result in increased human deaths in some areas. Just how many, we do not know. It is unsupported hyperbole to claim that it is “millions” of people. To engage in this inflated rhetoric is to make the very same mistake the environmentalists have made, only in the opposite direction. I would suggest that DDT used appropriately (low level indoor residual spraying) should remain available as one tool among many for malaria control. It is clearly not the panacea its advocates claim, nor is it the evil its opponents make it out to be. Like all anti-malarial measures, it has positive and negative aspects. Futhermore, from a biblical Christian perspective, it must be used responsibly in such a way that respects human rights, God’s ecosystems, and the value of his nonhuman creatures. Moreover, although DDT was banned in the US and in some other nations, it has not been banned worldwide for public health use (which includes mosquitoe control). In fact, its use has been ongoing since the 1960s in many parts of the world, including Africa.

    Lastly, I make the claim that there is a fundamental spiritual problem with the view of God’s creation taken by some Christians. It is distorted by modernist thinking. “The growth of science and technology during the past several centuries, coupled with the economic structure of our society, has obliterated any notion of intrinsic value in the subhuman world. It has turned nature into a secularized object to be observed, analyzed, controlled, exploited, and used apart from any reference to God” [Richard Young, Healing the Earth: A Theocentric Perspective on Environmental Problems and Their Solutions (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 80]. This is a fundamental problem. Nature and our relationship to it has been secularized. It has become the domain of godless secular humanists who know or care nothing of God. And tragically, many evangelical Christians have uncritically bought into this godless and unbiblical paradigm (1 Tim. 4:3). There is even a cadre of evangelical intellectuals who promote it. Such people as Thomas Derr, E. Calvin Beisner, and others present a view which syncretizes Christianity with secular Enlightenment humanism and classical liberal economic and political theory. For them, our relationship with God’s earth and his creatures is governed not by biblical principles, but by Enlightenment values of individualism, personal freedom, self-interest, the market, inevitable progress, and an abiding faith in humanity’s capacity to save itself. Although these writers make some positive contributions to the debate, this basic flaw means that, at bottom, their view is neither Christian nor biblical. Sadly many “conservative” Evangelicals have uncritically accepted this secularized paradigm regarding God’s material creation, and as a result, rendered themselves just another self-centered, secular voice in the debate over ecological problems.

    I look forward to Joel’s responses.

  2. Joel Fieri July 11, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    In reply to John Mustol’s challenges;
    First, what I meant by “developing ministry strategies and culturally relevant messages” stems from my observations of the emergent church and Christian progressive movements, both of whom use the term, or some such variation. Granted, it is largely about evangelism, but it is also a part of their respective theologies and philosophies. There is always a fine line between “becoming all things… to save some” (I Cor 9) and satisfying “itching ears” and telling people what they want to hear (2 Tim 4:3). On the issue of environmentalism (and others) I think we are close to crossing that line, if we haven’t crossed it already.

    As for the ban on DDT killing millions, that grave accusation is not mine, but has been echoed for years by African leaders and doctors, Western doctors, and scores of thoughtful social commentators and intellectuals. Pertinent links I have found are listed below. Interestingly, some of these sites provide links to rebuttals of their arguments.
    African leaders and doctors;
    Western doctors;
    I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so I will leave the judgment of their accuracy to professionals such as you, John. But I do know that this many voices should not be dismissed or ignored simply because they take an opposing view on a politically correct issue. And if they are correct, then I would not be so quick to say their condemnations of the EPA ban and its advocates are unwarranted.

    As for the arguments that Dr. Scorgie and others above have put forth, they are as extreme as any I’ve heard from Al Gore’s propaganda machine. I have not seen or heard any of the “sinister interpretations of Genesis” advocated in Christian circles, nor have I heard Dr. Mustol’s cited quote regarding “damming rivers and leveling forests”. Can they provide evidences for either of these ideas being prevalent in the modern evangelical community? I also strongly reject the premise that we are sinfully destroying the planet. I assert the opposite, actually. Our society has enacted environmental legislation, endangered species acts, emission standards, pushed conservation education, recycling, etc., with little or no opposition from evangelicals, yet we still beat ourselves up and accept the premise that by living our lives we are destroying God’s creation. How much environmental action is enough for us to admit that we care? If what we’ve already done to save the planet isn’t enough, then either the planet is not save-able, or (more likely) it was never in peril. Judgment for our stewardship of the planet will be low on God’s priority list, I suspect.

    So if the question is “should Christians and churches adopt the green label and cause, even go so far as assigning the label to God”, my answer is – no, we shouldn’t. The environmental movement has been hopelessly corrupted by eastern philosophy, secular progressivism and quasi-Marxist ideology, and the scientific claims used to support their cries of impending eco-peril are dubious, at best. Yet, I see these claims being unquestioningly accepted as thousands of dissenting scientific voices are stifled. Mine is a call for Christians to use critical thinking and wisdom and view environmentalism for what it is – an ideologically driven movement with a questionable, if not tragic, history, yet one that still wields incredible influence on popular culture and society.

  3. John Mustol July 4, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    As a fellow Christian layman, allow me to respond to Joel Fieri’s comments. I share his concern that we must avoid false religions and false beliefs (1 Tim. 1:3-7). That is why I argued above that we must not live in reaction (positive or negative) to secular and quasi-religious ecological movements, but must look to Scripture and to orthodox Christian tradition. We don’t need a new religion; we need a deeper and better understanding of Christianity: God and his nature, creation, Jesus Christ, the incarnation, providence, the gospel, the kingdom, the resurrection, and redemption. This is the sad irony of Evangelicalism’s response to ecological problems. We have THE ANSWER, but, in fear of perceived threats of paganism and syncretism to ourselves from “environmentalism” we withold the wondrous resources God has provided to us and to his world.

    Let us be clear on the meaning of the words, “environmentalism,” “environment,” environmental,” “environmentalist.” These words do not necessarily mean adherence to any particular environmental group, religious or secular. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines environmentalism as “advocacy of the preservation or improvement of the natural environment.” This is how it is generally used, and does not imply “religion.” Bjorn Lomborg calls himself an “environmentalist,” which dreadfully stretches the meaning of the word, but Lomborg is anything but religious, at what I have read of him. Glen and I were using the word “environment” to refer to that part of God’s creation which surrounds and includes us humans – the “natural” world – God’s creation. (Carol Merchant does not cite “Environmentalism” as a religious movement in her book, Radical Ecology (New York: Routledge, 2005).

    I deeply dislike the word “environment” because it implies that the natural world is centered on humanity. This is called “anthropocentrism” and is idolatrous and wrong. The natural world, in fact the whole universe, is centered on God. “It’s all about God,” is a very wise and true popular Evangelical aphorism. This is the doctrine of “theocentrism” which is, in my opinion, the only biblical view and is the only reasonable framework for a Christian ecological ethic. (See Richard A. Young, Healing the Earth: A Theocentric Perspective on Environmental Problems and Their Solutions, Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994.) The problem is that everybody uses the word “environment,” so it is hard to avoid it. May I suggest that in this blog, we use the word, “ecology,” to refer to God’s creation – the natural world, its denizens and its systems. This has its problems too, but it’s better than “environment.” And let us avoid the word “environmentalism” altogether.

    I would like to point out that ecology IS in the final analysis a “religious” issue. By this I mean that, by its very nature, it has to do with the meaning, value, destiny, and relationships of humans, animals, plants, things, and the world. Lynn White who blamed Christianity for ecological problems recognized this, and numerous people, secular and religious, have also come to agree. I quote one source among many: “The human ability to create meaning, our chief asset and deficit, is the only hope for changing our deadly habit [of ecological abuse]. If the distinguishing feature of human beings is self-awareness and self-control, we must exercise and cultivate this capability to alter the direction of our culture – revising and redirecting our goals. It is not entirely unrealistic to hope for such a change in values.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton, The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self (New York: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1981), 235.

    In this vein, allow me to quote from Francis Schaeffer writing presciently in 1970: “We [Christians] must confess that we have missed our opportunity . . . . we have missed the opportunity to help man save his earth. Not only that, but in our generation we are losing an evangelistic opportunity, because when modern young people have a real sensitivity to nature, many of them turn to the hippie communities or mentality, where there is at leasty a genuine sense of nature (even if a wrong one), because they have seen that most Christians simply do not care about the beauty of nature, or nature as such.” Francis Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1970), 85.

    Joseph Sittler, one of the first Christian theologians to directly address the problem of ecology, wrote: “When Christian orthodoxy refuses to articulate a theology for earth, the clamant hurt of God’s ancient creation is not thereby silenced. Earth’s voices, recollective of her lost grace and her destined redemption, will speak through one or another form of naturalism. If the Church will not have a theology for nature, then irresponsible but sensitive men will act as midwives for nature’s unsilenceable meaningfulness, and enunciate a theology of nature. For earth, not man’s mother — which is a pagan notion — but, as St. Francis profoundly surmised, man’s sister, sharer of his sorrow and scene and partial substance of his joys, unquenchably sings out her violated wholeness, and in groaning and travailing awaits with man the restoration of all things.” Joseph Sittler, Jr. “A Theology of the Earth.” The Christian Scholar 37, no. 3 (September, 1954): 370.

    Joel, you speak of developing “ministry strategies and culturally relevant messages.” I assume you are speaking of evangelism. Why would ecological concerns not be part of this? Ecological minded secular people need Christ too, and they are groping desperately for a basis to ascribe meaning and value to natural things. Their desperate search has spawned a host of religions and pseudo-religions: Creation Spirituality, Gaia (not Gaea), Deep Ecology, Native American spirituality, aboriginal religions, pagan ideas, and eastern religions, New Age, and so on. A lot of secular people are deeply concerned about ecology. Why would we not want to show how the gospel speaks to this concern?

    The problem of global warming and climate change is complex. Space allows only a brief comment. There is a great deal of emotion, propagandizing, and outright deception on both sides. Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, a masterpiece of propaganda, is not convincing. On the other hand, people like Michael Crichton and Rush Limbaugh engage in the same kind of nonsense on the other side. It is difficult to sift through all this. I suggest Sir John Houghton, an Evangelical Christian and former chair of the IPCC as a sane voice in the midst of all this: John Houghton, Global Warming: A Complete Briefing. 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). More thoughtful skeptics like Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, and Bjorn Lomborg all admit that it is a problem that should not be ignored. They disagree (even among themselves) on what should be done about it. Moreover, whereas the secular public worries about possible consequences of global warming and climate change, we Christians hold a completely different perspective. This is God’s earth and His atmosphere. Because he created it, it has value (Gen 1:10b, etc.), and we need to respect it and care for it, whatever the consequences. This is the basic framework that we bring to the table. There is so much more to say, but I must stop. We can discuss this further if you like.

    The claim that the ban on DDT (1972 in U.S.) has resulted in the death of millions of people evidently dates from a speech by famed author and film-maker, Michael Crichton, in 1993, “Environmentalism as Religion” (available at Among other things, Crichton said, “I can tell you that the people who banned [DDT] knew that it wasn’t carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn’t give a damn.” Crichton later says, “I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigious science journals, such as Science and Nature.” I find no list of references at the end of his speech posted on his website, and I am unable to find any such documentation anywhere else.

    I have encountered this claim on other internet blogs and in books, for example, Roy W. Spencer, Climate Confusion (New York: Encounter Books, 2008), pp. 89, 94-95, 144. Unfortunately Spencer, like Crichton, does not reference or document this claim, which, to be believed, requires substantial and complex scientific support. Having worked in Africa as a missionary physician (1985-1993), I have firsthand experience of the ravages of malaria. The epidemiology and biology of Plasmodia and the ecology of Anopheles Gambiae, the principle vector of malaria in Africa are very complex. This is a serious claim, and I urgently ask Joel Fieri to please give me references to scientific studies and papers so that I can see if this claim is true. If he is going to make this grave accusation, he must provide solid support. I eagerly await his references.

    I agree with Joel that we need a “balanced approach” to ecological problems. But this goes both ways. I have read and heard extreme and irrational nonsense from both sides of these issues. As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to truth and to the Bible as the Word of God, we must try to avoid all this noise and seek the mind and heart of Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). If we do that, I think that we will come up with a “Christian eco-theology and eco-ethic” that will lead to care for God’s earth and his creatures, that will open new ministries and evangelism, and help center our lives on God, for whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Rom 11:36).

  4. Joel Fieri June 28, 2008 at 7:11 pm #

    To a Christian layman such as myself, free from the pressures and imperatives of theologians and Christian academics to develop ministry strategies and culturally relevant messages, I find your arguments in the above article and subsequent comments troubling on many fronts. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll focus on two.
    Firstly, to quote Glen Scorgie “Many thoughtful people are now convinced that the problem now exceeds any administrative, political or scientific solution; that, ultimately, it also requires a religious or spiritual revolution—the kind that alters the way whole civilizations see and do life.” This can be seen as a basic description of a religion, which is how many thoughtful people view modern environmentalism – as a secular substitute for rejected Judeo-Christian faiths. It has the concepts of Deity (Mother Earth, Gaea), Eden (Earth before western civilization), original sin (pollution, carbon emissions), prophets (Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, Al Gore and others. – false prophets all), a messiah (Gore?) redemption (recycling, green lifestyles, carbon offsets), apostasy (skeptics of GW are often likened to Holocaust deniers, or have their motives attacked), pending doomsday (Silent Spring, Population Bomb, now man-made global catastrophe) and Paradise (harmony with nature, Ecotopia). Thousands of thoughtful scientists, intellectuals (Christian and secular) and people of faith do not believe the hysteria of the environmentalists. This is not due to any sinister ambivalence for creation, or desire to dominate it. Rather, it is because they have heard the dire predictions and doomsday scenarios of radical environmentalism for forty-plus years, and have seen most or all of them turn out to be false, often with disastrous consequences for humanity (40 million dead as a result of the ban on DDT, for example). And yet their messages are still wholeheartedly believed by so many in our society, and now, tragically, by a growing number in the evangelical community. For those who value truth, this is frightening.

    Secondly, to quote John Mustol – “But it should not be our purpose to please environmentalists or any other human groups.” But that’s exactly what you are advocating. The environmental movement has always been political, and they are overjoyed that evangelicals are accepting their claims, which they will use to their political advantage. One cannot read or hear a claim to the scientific certainty of Global Warming (now being called “Climate Change” due to an inconvenient global cooling cycle) without an urging of society having the “political will” to enact measures to stop it. Why believe this “human group’s” messages while ignoring the evidence and arguments of the above mentioned skeptics? Why not a balanced approach?
    To conclude, the approach you advocate will, in my prayerfully considered opinion, lead to a deceiving and weakening of the evangelical community, resulting in a further lack of ability by the faithful to “stand firm” against false teachings. By embracing the cause of the Green Movement and, ominously, assigning such an attribute to God (Scorgie), and by linking salvation to environmental activism (Mustol), you will take the first steps down a slippery slope towards the false religion of environmentalism and will be pulled towards secularism and even the “enchanted worldview of neo-paganism, the virtue of harmony pursued by Taoists, and the simple, gentle demeanor cultivated by Buddhism.”

  5. John Mustol May 15, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    Christians must engage the problem of ecology – not just some Christians, but all Christians. And they must do it now. It is hard to exagerate the importance of this issue. Many in the church have simply ignored it and gone along with the culture; some have endorsed it in their minds, but have not changed their attitudes and lifestyles; and others have opposed environmental concerns. The world in the twenty-first century will probably see much more serious ecological disturbances than it did during the twentieth. Before these calamities are upon us, the church must formulate a theology and ethic of the relationship between humans and the nonhuman world. And she must start living it. There is an enormous amount of work to do, and the hour is late.

    Many (perhaps most) people in the secular environmental movement believe that Christianity is either a negative ecological force in the world, or that it is superfluous. On the one hand, this is unfair since Christianity has something to say to the issue, and there have been some Christians involved in environmental activism. In point of fact, I would argue that a biblical Christian “eco-theology” is the most sensible and plausible approach when compared to all the others that are out there. On the other hand, these secular people are right because in real life, Christians have generally done little, and too often have participated in doing great damage to God’s creation. If we are honest, we must admit that, just as with the problems of slavery and women’s rights, the church is following culture, not leading it. Environmentally conscious secular people see little in our words or behavior to attract them because, frankly, there isn’t much there.

    But it should not be our purpose to please environmentalists or any other human group. Our purpose is to please God. The facts are that God’s world and his creatures are being ravaged and desecrated by sinful self-indulgent human activity – and we, the church, are, for the most part, uncritically participating in this. God’s earth and his creatures are good and valuable in his sight (Gen. 1). God cares about them and is offended by our foolish and sinful ecological behavior. It is time for us to start caring for his creation – really caring, not just saying we care. It is not a matter of government regulations or environmentalist lawsuits. It is a matter of Christians living differently and doing what is right because they love and worship God and respect and reverence what belongs to him. Through such changed behavior, we glorify God and we might just open the way for some secular environmentalists to meet the real Jesus.

  6. Brian Tallman May 2, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    “If that is so, mission must urgently recover from its long-term schizophrenia. The split between saving souls and doing good in the world is not a product of the Bible or the gospel, but of the cultural captivity of both. The world of space, time, and matter is where real people live, where real communities happen, where difficult decisions are made, where schools and hospitals bear witness to the “now, already” of the gospel while police and prisons bear witness to the “not yet.”” –N.T. Wright

  7. Wendy Patrick Mazzarella April 27, 2008 at 4:14 am #

    What should Christians think about the current global environmental crisis? Should we be concerned about preserving our planet for future generations? When we turn to the Bible for an answer we can start right at the beginning with God’s charge to Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15), and surmise that there is no reason that this would not continue to be our responsibility today. We can read about God’s covenant with Noah, his descendants, and every living creature that came out of the arc that never again would a flood come to destroy all life (Gen. 9:8-11) and opine that God didn’t make that covenant promising not to wipe out the earth with a flood contemplating that we would choose to wipe it out ourselves by other means.

    Christian concern for the well-being of the planet is also reflected in our concern for each other. Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), and we are reminded, “in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Such passages should motivate us to refrain from selfishly engaging in environmentally destructive practices without concern for the impact on future generations. The statement, “We would flatten a hundred forests or dam a thousand rivers to save a single human soul” doesn’t make much sense in modern times when certainly evangelicals can both save souls and save the rainforests! We as Christians should be concerned about doing both in order to expand God’s kingdom above, and improve our existence here on earth for our lifetime and that of those to come.

  8. John Mustol April 22, 2008 at 10:17 pm #

    For evangelicals the dominant ethical imperative that trumps all others is evangelism – the saving of souls. I have heard Christians say, “We would flatten a hundred forests or dam a thousand rivers to save a single human soul. A human soul is priceless.” But this assumes that human souls are separate or separable from the created (physical) world – a kind of Platonic-Gnostic dualism. Modern science (reading God’s “book of nature”) and considerable biblical data (e.g. the incarnation and physical resurrrection) suggest this may not be correct. If, in fact, humans are inherently physical beings and not simply “spiritual” souls separable from the body, then they are inherently connected to and embedded in the physical world and dependent upon it for their existence – including, in some sense, their eternal existence. After all, the NT does talk about our future physical resurrection (1Cor 15:51-54). Thus, “salvation,” must mean salvation not out of the world, but within it. Put another way, the gospel is good news for all of creation, not just humans (Col. 1:19-20). This means that the passages in the NT that suggest the renewal, transformation, and final redemption of the physical world (e.g. Rom 8:19-23) are necessary to and complementary with human salvation. This changes the meaning and form of evangelism. It is not dualistic and Platonic but holistic, organic, and physical. Our “soul” salvation is connected to the “salvation” (redemption and final transformation) of those forests and rivers that some would so readily flatten. Humans (soul and body) are indeed priceless, but maybe forests and rivers are worth something too. Maybe what God has in mind for salvation is not a lifeboat but an ark.