Christianity and Environmentalism

In the current public landscape, it is unfortunate that Christians, especially evangelicals, have allowed themselves to be colored as anti-environmentalists and climate change deniers. It is a false accusation because many evangelicals care deeply about nature though they do have a tendency of expressing their beliefs through personal action rather than public advocacy. That lack of advocacy and reservations about how far environmental should be pressed into public policy have led for some to assume that most Christians do not care for the environment.

Christians, however, should not assume that environmentalism is a secular issue and exit the public discussion. The Bible agrees in principal with the environmentalists that we should care deeply about the earth and be good stewards of it.  The first job given in the Bible after all was to tend the garden of Eden and the Bible condemns waste and the mistreatment of life. Environmentalism as a movement, however, contains some unbiblical paradigms and against those paradigms Christians should make a case for a biblical environmentalism that affirms the care for nature without smuggling in destructive secular assumptions.

The main difference between the Bible and secular assumptions on this issue is how each side views man in relation with the rest of nature. The Bible shows a clear distinction between man, who is made in God's image, and the rest of nature which is not. Also, man has been given dominion over the world with the charge to steward it with his needs as a priority. Environmentalist dogma typically treats man as equal to the rest of creation and man's concerns subordinate to the needs of nature. This leads to advocacy that promotes the protection of environmental concerns over the needs of man.

There are also differences in how man should engage with the world. In the Bible, man is to work the ground and improve it by doing so. Most environmentalist consider man's involvement with nature as an intrusion so that nature is better off to be left alone. Does it harm a tree to prune it? No, the tree is healthier. Doesn't cultivated earth produce more abundantly what wild nature? I think there can be agreement that where man's involvement is motivated by greed it can be destructive, but it shouldn't be assumed that all cultivation of the earth is bad.

Finally, Environmentalist are generally motivated by a picture of the world as being fragile and resources scarce. While not justifying waste and wanton misuse of resources, the biblical narrative shows a picture of the world as having ample resources so that any scarcity is do more to sin than any deficiency with the earth. Science tells us that the earth can feed a multiple of the number of people that currently live on the earth, but still there seems to be a cloud of some dystopian future of exhausted resources that hangs over the environmental community.

A Biblical approach to environmentalism it one of balance. It encourages us to find the middle-way between care for the earth and the needs of man. A secular approach loses this balance and causes an unnatural subordination of man to nature. As Christians we should never let it be said that we teach against the environment. Not only is it a false narrative but one used as a tool to disparage us in the public square. Done right, Christians should be seen having the best approach to the environment.

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