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Christians and the Environment

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What does the Bible have to say about conservationism and environmental concerns? I've noticed lately that several well-known Christian leaders have decided to make "global-warming" a key issue. Other evangelicals suggest that the "climate change" movement is primarily political and ideological in motivation. That's the way I've viewed it, but I'm also aware that God expects us to act as good stewards of His creation. I'm thinking in particular of Bible verses like Gen. 1:28-30 and Ps. 24:1. Can you help me understand what they mean within the context of a specifically Christian worldview?

It’s true that some secular environmentalists are clearly pursuing goals that contradict biblical values. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Christians can’t come to some kind of a meeting of the minds with them to the extent that it involves our love for nature and our sense of responsibility towards God’s creation.

Don’t get us wrong. We realize that many environmentalists focus on side issues which they mistakenly associate with the preservation of the earth. For example, a disturbing number of them are avidly pro-abortion. That’s because they feel that “overpopulation” is a grave threat to the well-being of the planet. As for the evangelicals who have joined the “global warming” camp, we can’t help feeling that in some cases, their focus and emphasis have been misplaced. Why devote more attention to an unproven theory than to the reality of ongoing attacks against life, the family, and the Christian worldview?

But having said this, we should hasten to add that there is no necessary link between appropriate concern for the natural environment and a pro-abortion stance. That connection has been trumped up and popularized in some circles through the influence of certain powerful groups and outspoken individuals. In our view, there’s no good reason why believers can’t find a way to love both God and His creation. The key is to keep our eyes fixed firmly on the truth of His Word.

What would a genuinely Christian and thoroughly biblical expression of environmental concern look like? In our view, it would have to begin with a confession of faith based upon one of the Scriptures you cited: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

Christians, of all people, understand that we do not own the world in which we live. The earth, like the vineyard in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 21:33-46), is a trust given into our keeping by its Maker and Proprietor. God has tasked us with the tending of His garden. We owe Him a positive return on His investment.

God gave man “dominion” or “rule” over creation in Genesis 1:28. But this does not mean that man is free to pillage or abuse the earth’s resources. On the contrary, “dominion” involves responsibility and accountability. It’s a mandate to care for God’s world just as He cares for it. Among other things, this means finding ways to put back into nature at least as much as we take out of it. As any good agriculturalist knows, a fertile field becomes a dustbowl if the farmer can’t find some way to maintain and replenish the soil. In the same way, industry can be helpful when it supplies basic human needs. But it should also act responsibly by doing what it can to preserve natural resources in the process. That’s good stewardship of the Master’s estate.

Exactly how should this stewardship principle be applied to life in the modern technological world? That’s not easy to say. Here at Focus on the Family, we’re not qualified to make authoritative statements about the science behind “global warming” theories. Nor are we experts on subjects such as chemical fertilizers, alternative energy sources, organic farming, or the various methods of mining gas and oil. As we see it, there are still many questions that remain to be answered in all of these important fields of study. And we’d encourage Christians working in those fields to do everything they can to find solutions to the problems we face.

What we can say is that every Christian has a responsibility to care deeply about the natural world. We must do this not only for the environment’s sake, but also as a way of serving mankind. Our interactions with the environment should aim at improving human life and alleviating the sufferings of men, women, and children who have been created in the image of God. Exactly how you and your family should apply this principle is something we can’t possibly prescribe. You’ll have to discover that for yourself through prayer, study, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When you do, it’s up to you to put your findings into action.

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length, call us. Our staff of pastoral counselors would love to speak with you over the phone.

 

Resources
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Resisting the Green Dragon

Resisting the Green Dragon 4-DVD Set

Articles
Focus on the Family: A Statement on the Environment

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