I recently read an article discussing the Lynn White Thesis of 1967, a widely publicized paper (The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis) blaming Judeo Christian beliefs that man has dominion over nature to exploit it as he sees fit. In it White is quoted as saying that “Environmental concern can only improve if Judeo Christian institutions were rejected and if society converted to a ‘communion with nature’ social structure”.
At some time or another, most of us have encountered people who consider Christians to be generally lacking in concern for environmental issues. Dr. Charley Dewberry, a scientist and Dean of Gutenberg College wrote an article entitled “Is there a Christian Environmental Ethic?” In it he shares: “as a working scientist, I meet people who view all Christians as ultra-right-wing conservatives. They believe that Christians view the environment through the lens of economic expedience and that Christians like other conservatives are working to gut the existing environmental regulations on public and private land, so that supply and demand market forces can work. Viewed this way, Christians have no morals with regard to man’s relationship to nature. Christians have no environmental ethic.”
Dr. Newberry also shares that Christians ask him how he can be an environmentalist as well as a Christian since the former means “someone who worships the environment and cares for nature more than people. Both the Christians and the non-Christians described here share the common perception that only two environmental ethics exist… the free market perspective and the environmental perspective.” He goes on to describe both of these views and I encourage you to read them. But for now, I will share a third perspective he suggests and subscribes to: the biblical perspective.
According to Dr. Newberry, the biblical perspective
1) Acknowledges God and His purposes
2) Reflects nature’s inherent worth because God created it
3) Stresses that man is distinct from the rest of nature because God created him to be so
He writes that “God created nature in part to provide for man’s material needs, and in turn He gave man the responsibility to care for the natural world to be a steward over it.”
We know that God has entrusted us with a great responsibility to care for His creation and we must acknowledge that we have at times failed miserably. We also know that the world is watching and that the only way that we can bring about change in our world is to start in our homes, churches and other places of involvement by creatively seeking ways to live responsibly and sustainably. Otherwise, our words are empty.
In their article, ‘Beyond the Lynn White Thesis’, Djube and Hunt begin with the following statement: “We find that social sources of information in the church shape the dimensions of religious beliefs and exert stronger effects on attitudes on the environment than do doctrinal or religious measures.” So as we go forward, let us begin by practicing those disciplines and principals as we become aware of them. Wherever possible seek to educate, encourage and motivate others to seek new and exciting ways to be faithful stewards of God’s creation. We can do this, not only in our congregation, but also in our workplaces, our families, and other places of influence.
Beyond the Lynn White Thesis: Congregational Effects on Environmental Concern; Paul A. Djupe and Patrick Kieran Hunt; http://static.squarespace.com/static/5084639de4b0f4598aa9423d/t/50cdddaae4b01020c34f170e/1355668906151/Djupe%20and%20Hunt%202010.pdf
Is There a Christian Environmental Ethic; Charley Dewberry; http://msc.gutenberg.edu/2008/01/is-there-a-christian-environmental-ethic
The CECX Creation Care Committee
consists of Mark Cummings, Jonathan Feinour, Bradley Alexander, Pete Sinnott, and Tanya Ellenburg-Kimmet. We are committed to learning and implementing ways of resource conservation and environmental friendly interaction.