Published On: 13 July, 2010|By |

Is our planet warming? If so, is global warming man made? What should we do to protect the environment?

These are questions Australians are asking every day. As followers of Jesus Christ, what should our attitude toward environmental matters be?

If we are going to answer the questions of our day, we need to have a Christian view of environmental protection. Let’s start by looking at the secular view.

Secular environmentalism

The secular environmental protection movement is primarily grounded on one key premise: Naturalism.

Naturalism is an exclusive commitment to natural causes in explaining the origins of the universe and man. Since the supernatural has been ruled out, the only mechanism for the development of all that is, is chance.

This means the Naturalist environmental activist must assume that the universe was not carefully designed. Instead, he must assume that all progress is predicated on a process of disasters””a process he must bring to a halt in order to survive.

The Evangelical response

Evangelicals have tended to respond to environmental activism in strong, reactionary terms. Environmental activists are often scorned and given derogatory labels such as “tree hugger” or “radical green.” While these labels can accurately be affixed to certain elements of the extreme fringe, it is important that Evangelicals respond to bad ideology, not react to it.

Developing a Christian view

What is the Christian approach to environmental protection?

There are four key tenets that need to be affirmed:

1) God designed the environment.

Jeremiah 10:12 tells us that “It is [God] who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”

Our environment is not the fragile remains of a series of chaotic accidents. Rather, Christianity holds that our environment was carefully designed by a wise God.

This is why a Christian world-view tends to look at the environment as a robust, self-adjusting, self-healing, and resilient organism such as the human body rather than as a fragile, temperamental, and sensitive machine1 such as a pendulum clock.

2) God owns the environment.

As the designer and creator of our environment, God has a right to what he made. “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”2

3) God is in control of the environment.

God made our environment, and he will destroy it. And until then, what he made is “stored up for fire.” It is “kept until the day of judgement.”3 Many in the environmental protection movement have predicted man made global catastrophe. In a sense, we could say that man will not get off that easy.

4) God has made us managers of the environment.

No sooner had God finished making our environment than he set mankind in place as its managers. He told us to fill it, to subdue it, to rule over it, and to have it for food.4

This is not a licence to abuse our environment. It is a command to manage it well so that it will continue to function as it should.

The implications

The four tenets outlined above place a heavy weight of responsibility on believers. They confirm that it is not acceptable for a Christian to shrug off environmental matters as unimportant.

On the other hand, these tenets also make it impossible for Christians to approach environmental issues in the same way others do.

A Christian view of environmental management mandates that believers not only abstain from environmental extremism, but also engage in proactive, practical management measures.

Some have packaged this as “creation care.” That works.

Perhaps it could be more diplomatically5 labelled “environmental management.” This focuses on objective elements that all members of society can agree on while allowing Evangelicals to speak to the issue proactively and from a biblical paradigm.

What steps should we take?

What steps should believers take? Perhaps the most pressing need is for a change of attitude among conservative Evangelicals in Australia. Opposition to proposed laws and regulations should be coupled with a solid commitment to our environmental management responsibilities. If we are not in favour of one method of environmental management (such as an emissions trading scheme), we should be willing to consider and support alternate methods.

Conclusion

As believers, we don’t face the future with anxiety as non-believers do. Instead, we have a confident hope because we know that all creation rests in the powerful and loving hands of the creator.

We rejoice to know that from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be glory forever!

Amen.6

.

[1] It is ironic that it is difficult to find anything more natural than a machine to illustrate the point since a machine inherently assumes a designer.

[2] Psalm 95:4-5.

[3] 2 Peter 3:7.

[4] Genesis 1:28-29.

[5] The term “creation care” frames the issue in a way that draws it into the creation/evolution debate. While this is a debate that needs to be had, merging the two debates could easily distract from the issue it is attempting to address, namely, environmental management.

[6] Romans 11:36.

About the Author: Jason Harris

Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research and is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in the College of Business, Law, and Governance at James Cook University, Cairns. Jason is also a pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.

5 Comments

  1. PJ 13 July, 2010 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Jason, this is some of the most sensible writing on the environment from a Christian perspective that I have read. Thanks for putting the issue so clearly in a Biblical light.

    Thinking about your post, I wonder if the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is changing the minds of a few of the more ‘reactionary’ evangelicals in the US when it comes environmental issues? (Wonder where Sarah Palin’s “Drill, baby drill” mantra is up to now?!)

  2. Steve 13 July, 2010 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    It’s a complicated issue and one that Christians need to address. The big decisions are made by government and those are the ones that will have the most effect on the environment. Governments need to act in the best interest of the people, and that means making sure people have jobs and homes to live in, basic needs. In our industrial society, that will have a negative impact on our environment, in terms of using resources and changing the environment. So realistically, some change and impact is to be expected on the environment.

    So we act by voting for the government that will be most environmentally responsible. But there may be other issues that override the environmental issue when we consider who to vote for. So Christians may end up voting for a government that is less responsible, environmentally.

    Also, many Christians I know are global warming skeptics. Yes, it’s complicated.

  3. Jason Harris 13 July, 2010 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Good point Steve. I’ll just clarify that I am not assuming that global warming is actually occurring/man-made. That is a debate that needs to be had.

    But I have found that such debates tend to uncover underlying attitudes about the environment that are more influenced by political conservatism than by Scripture.

  4. Steve 14 July, 2010 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    I agree Jason. I think our situation here in Australia is different to the USA, in that most conservatives would vote for the Liberal party, who have a good environmental policy.

    The Republicans in the US would be different to our Liberal party in terms of their policy.

  5. Jason Harris 14 July, 2010 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Very true Steve. Both of the major parties in Australia tend to take environmental matters very seriously.

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