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A Critique of Environmentalism and Its Place in Christianity

The world’s environmentalism has its roots in years past, although it is only in the more recent years that it has become almost a god. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution supported environmentalism by portraying all of the earth’s creatures as products of the cultural environment. Humans too, are the results of struggle and progress. All survivors are improvements because of natural selection, and so the creature becomes an object of worship.

Many environmentalists view humans as equal to the rest of creation. Each creature has a common need for every other creature. If a certain species is harmed or not cared for, it will eventually affect all existing species because everything is interconnected. The idea is that unless we spend our lives in service to all aspects of the world, our planet is doomed.

So the environmentalists of the world become tree huggers and recycling freaks. They become terrified when they hear of ozone depletion, and they err not only in seeing themselves as in control of their own destiny, but also as controllers of the entire world’s destiny. Environmentally safe products become popularized, and resources are used more carefully. The earth is served and everything must be redeemed (redeemed can often be interpreted as re-given its original good state).

In striving to understand the environment, humans must study its origins. Christians must go back to the story of creation. Genesis 1 reveals that God created man in His own image and that all of the creation was good. But what most humans fail to account for is sin. Humans recognize that their current view of nature is distorted, but in vanity the struggle to find the “perfect solution” often exists. Romans 1:25 shows the vanity of this when it says that God gives them over to their own iniquity because they “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” However, Christians see that they are distorted image bearers of God, and that because of the Fall, everything they look at will always be distorted. The Third and Fourth Heads of the Canons of Dordt manifest this in Article Four when they state: “There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things… But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to a true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil.” So the Christian environmentalist recognizes his weakness and frailty. Although many recognize that humans have a wrong view of the creation, they fall into A. L. Booth’s error revealed in the following statement: “We must recognize other species as beings who could shed their fur mask and look human, as beings who once shared a common language with humans, and who continued to understand humans after the humans had lost their ability to understand them” (Booth & Jacobs 552). That statement omits the concept of dominionship which God requires us to exhibit over creation.

The word dominion is often misinterpreted. When the Bible relates that man is to have dominion over the creation, it does not mean that because he has the strength, all weaker creatures can be manipulated. Rather, man has dominion because he is capable of seeing the difference between right and wrong. Man’s dominion is a derived authority from God who ultimately controls all of creation. This concept is backed up by Article Two of the First Head of the Belgic Confession which says that we know God “by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes a most excellent book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely, his power and divinity.”

Christians dealing with environmentalism have to properly apply the concept of dominion to the creation, keeping in balance the calling of providing stewardship. The word dominion does not imply man as a slave master, but as a steward of creation. Christians must learn to love and care for the environment because they feel the same way for the Creator. Article Seven of the Confessions manifests this clearly by saying that everything is created by God and that He still upholds and governs them for the service of mankind, so man may serve his God. A certain accountability is required in our acting as stewards. Humans become accountable to God for their conduct because they are the chosen ones to care for creation. Humility is required in all actions affecting the environment. Man should strive to remember John 3:16a, “For God so loved the world (cosmos).” The stewardship ethic cautions him to shun greed and human triumphalism, and to care for the environment and insure it remains fruitful. Christian teachers, also, along with all other Christians, must be environmentalists in a certain sense of the word. They must teach their students the truths beginning already in the first book of the Bible— the truths of dominion and stewardship and also of their sin. What has to follow the teaching of stewardship, though, is the teaching that we will always fall short and that striving to “redeem” the creation is pointless because there will be a new one someday. We have no control over either our own destiny nor that of the entire world. Yes, it is true we have to be stewards, but we must recognize our limitations and also that there are things in this life that are more important than “saving the earth.” Thus, we can and maybe should recycle and not waste what God has provided us. However, this is not our highest calling. We must live our lives sharing the gospel and fellowshipping with other Christians, striving to learn more of God and to grow spiritually. The growing technology should remind us of the further actions of men to control and misuse the environment. But we should not fear. God is in control of the environment. ❖

 

Word Cited:

Booth, A. L., & Jacobs, H. M. 1993 Ties that Bind: Native American Beliefs as a Foundation for Environmental Consciousness.

 

Connie is a member of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.