Christianity and Environmental Stewardship: Some Initial Food for Thought

Several months ago, I came across an article regarding the pace that humanity is consuming the earth’s resources. While I realize information regarding environmental issues is often disputed, I have no particular reason to doubt the credibility of the either the article’s author or the report on which it is based (if someone has reasonable evidence to the contrary, please feel free to pass it along). But if in fact this information is reasonably accurate, then it should raise some very serious concerns in the minds of anyone who seeks a God-pleasing approach to the natural world. The following are some notable excerpts:

“On current projections, humanity will be using two planets’ worth of natural resources by 2050 — if those resources have not run out by then,” the latest report said. “People are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.”
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“For more than 20 years we have exceeded the Earth’s ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path,” WWF Director-General James Leape said in releasing the 2006 Living Planet Report in Beijing.

“If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us,” Leape added.
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“Humanity is living off its ecological credit card,” Mathis Wackernagel, head of the Global Footprint Network, said in a statement. “While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to liquidation of the planet’s ecological assets, and the depletion of resources, such as the forests, oceans and agricultural land upon which our economy depends.”

Many of us within evangelical Christianity have long ignored or dismissed those in the green camp—sometimes over larger worldview concerns (on the extreme: raising nature to the level of deity), sometimes because of our own faulty theology (“Who cares? It’s all going to burn anyway.”). But one simply cannot escape the fact that the wise use of the natural world is a biblical mandate.

Yes, the Lord has appointed humanity over the rest of his creation (Psa. 8:3-8), but the Scriptures are also clear that the natural world remains his possession (Psa. 89:11), a possession he loves (Psa. 145:17), finds joy in (Psa. 104:31) and carefully governs (see the whole of Psa. 104). Accordingly, how can we reasonably argue the fact that humanity is called, not to reckless consumption or domination, but nothing less than a stewardship that reflects the Lord’s ownership over and loving disposition toward his creation?

With that foundational conviction in mind, it remains for Christians to thoughtfully consider–especially given the sometimes complex issues involved–how we can shepherd and enjoy the natural world in a more faithful manner.

Incidentally, that sounds like good material for reader comments…and future blog posts.

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