Mapping the Terrain—Environmentalism
Christian ecological concern is as old as the beginning of humanity, when “[t]he Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15).1 God has ordained that humankind, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Thus, Christian care of the environment is a dominion stewardship responsibility.
Because Christian concern for the environment is grounded in God’s command to be stewards of creation, we neither worship the environment, as many New Agers do,2 nor countenance abuse of the environment, as many who carelessly exploit the natural resources of the world.3 We care for the environment as those who must give account to God and neighbor for our stewardship. Furthermore, because of the global consequences of the Fall, we repudiate the notion that the wilderness is “pristine” and should remain untouched. In fact, wilderness is untamed and unforgiving and must, therefore, be managed.
Micro-environmental strategies seem to be the most obvious ways most Christians can demonstrate care for the environment. Reducing consumer waste, recycling, reducing air pollution, etc., should characterize the Christian lifestyle.
At the macro-environmental level, the issues become more complex. The scientific data are still being gathered on macro-environmental issues like so-called “global warming.” Whether, or how much, humans can impact global climate change is questionable. Detected changes may be the result of uncontrollable factors like solar flares, long-term environmental cycles, or natural impacts like volcanic action. In the mean time, Christians should support policies that neither impoverish communities by restricting progress nor contaminate the world through exploitation.