Or Christian Stewardship
written August 10, 2001;
see similar content on my origins page.
tribute to the Shawangunk Mountains.
Let me quickly state that I worship God, not the earth! There is no way that this page will lead to a statement of the divinity or special nature of the earth, ‘Nature’, ‘Gaia’, or anything else. That would be idolatry. I just think we need to act more in accordance with God’s will when we have dealings with the environment (His creation). Also, I am not a tree-hugger, Luddite, anti-farmer, anti-industry, PETA-lover, whale-saver, granola-eater or anything like that. I’m a conservative, as in ‘don’t destroy it, conserve it’.
Be careful. Lots of people and groups say the “believe” in God, then go off and make up their own doctrine. Remember, even the demons believe in God, and shudder (James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder”). Belief in God is not the issue, submission to His will is. This includes acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior. Only from this vantage point will we have the proper perspective to conduct a review of Christian Environmentalism. This review then becomes a mission to understand God’s will for our relationship with the environment.
I guess I subscribe to the common sense theory of environmental stewardship. Or maybe I should call it the back yard theory. If I wouldn’t do it in my back yard, we shouldn’t do it on a larger scale in the world’s environment. For example, I wouldn’t want a pipe of industrial waste to empty out into my backyard where my kids play. Common sense tells me it would be unhealthy for my children. Therefore, the industrial waste cannot be good for the environment. That’s not to say that it isn’t necessary, just that it’s not good for the environment. Therefore, if we are going to knowingly pollute the environment, we better have good reason to do so. This involves stewardship. It involves thinking about the consequences of an activity.
I think part of the problem lies in the scale of human activity. When people were rural farmers, they had animal and human waste, and they had household refuse. If it could burn, it would be burned. Animal waste was reclassified as fertilizer. Household refuse was tossed in a hole. Growing up, we used to dig through an old stone wall where decades ago bottles and cans were thrown. Now some of those bottles are collectors’ items. This all works on a small scale. The problem comes when we increase the quantity of waste without increasing the amount of land to absorb it. That’s why farming is great, but industrial farming produces water pollution from excess animal waste stored in lagoons. There just isn’t enough land or time to absorb the manure. Somewhere in the past (sorry to mix dimensions) we stopped being stewards of God’s creation and started becoming abusers of it. Along with that process we have convinced ourselves that a) we have complete dominion over everything on earth and b) there will be no significant long term consequences of our actions.
Imagine you build a house, then let someone come and live in it. At first, the person will take care of the house because he knows it is yours. Over time, he will start to think of the house as his own. He will still take care of it, but he will do so because he thinks it is his. Generations to follow will take care of the house to differing degrees, as each generation takes possession of the house from the previous occupant. In time, it will be assumed that the house always was and always will be. Then there will come a generation who thinks there is no need to take care of the house at all, since all that time and effort expended in maintenance detracts from their time spent indulging pleasures. Maybe they’ll sell off the fancy trim on the house. Maybe they’ll sell off truckloads of dirt from the backyard, since they never have time to play in the backyard anyway. Maybe they’ll not bother to paint the house anymore since they never go outside to see it. Maybe if a room starts to leak, they’ll just move out of the room instead of fixing the leak. You get the idea. Pretty soon the house is a mess. Someone comes by and says “Your house is a mess.” The occupant says “Don’t tell me what to do with my house.” The someone then reminds them “It’s not your house.”
I do believe we were placed in God’s Creation and it was given over to us for our use (see the biblical references below). I’m just afraid that our use has now become subservient to our sin. I’m talking about our sins of pride, gluttony and covetousness, which leads to gross over-consumption and waste. We have allowed our sinful desires to blind us to the consequences of what we are doing. We can attack this from two sides: from the supply side, or from the demand side. On the demand side, you have the Voluntary Simplicity people advocating for less consumption. On the supply side you have the Christian Environmentalists saying “there just isn’t enough there to keep using at the present rate.” There are great arguments on both sides, with my caveat that we must not take our eyes off Jesus. He is the reason for consuming less and taking better care of what we have. The only goal for us is that expressed by Paul in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I will resist thinking that there is a religious benefit to Voluntary Simplicity in and of itself. That is idolatry.
Romans 1:20 – even un-evangelized people must affirm the existence of God based on nature all around. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Genesis 1: The creation charter, given by God to man defining his relationship with the environment.
verse 26: man is made to “…rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (also see Psalm 8:6-8)
verse 28: “…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
verse 29: “…I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”
verse 30: But look what he gives to the animals, not man: “And to the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.”
Genesis 3: Changes due to the fall.
verse 17: “…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”
verse 18: “It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field”.
Genesis 9: Noah’s revised charter (after the flood). Here we are given the animals as food. Verses 2-3 – “The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”
Psalm 8 describes God creating the universe and man, then making man ruler over the animals (verses 6-8).
Psalm 104 is a wonderful description of God’s creation, and his hand in creation. I especially like v24: “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures”. What God makes in wisdom, who are we to destroy? (see web link below).
Job 38, 39, 40 and 41: Awesome chapters from God’s mouth. By his questioning of Job, we know that God can do these things: 39:1 - “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” God does. 41:1 – “Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook?” God created some creatures that defy man’s power.
Psalm 104 (see Kent Hovind web link below).
Proverbs 8 (verse 22 on)
Job (at the end)
Romans 8:20-21 - Creation is subject to God’s will. Also a basis for the second law of thermodynamics (“bondage to decay”)?
2 Peter 3:5-6 – in this chapter, note the difference in physical laws between this world and the next.
Amos 4:13 – forms mountains & wind; Amos 5:8 – made Pleiades & Orion, causes rain. Note the present tenses.
2nd Creation: last three chapters of Revelation
Isaiah 40:22, 26; 42:5 and more regarding the heavens.
God’s relations with animals:
Genesis 1:20-25 – He creates them: fish and birds on the fifth day, ground animals on the sixth.
Genesis 9:9-15 – He establishes his covenant with man and every living creature not to flood the earth to the point of destruction.
Deuteronomy 22:6-7 – rules for man regarding birds
Jesus calms the storm (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:36-41, Luck 8:22-25). Jesus demonstrates God’s dominion over nature by rebuking the winds and the waves. The winds and waves obeyed him. He didn’t just work a magic spell, he directly interacted with Nature, and she obeyed. In Mark, he commands the waves “Quiet! Be still!”
According to the Old Testament law, we are to let our land rest every seven years, the ‘Sabbath Year’. See Lev. 25:1-7. If you want to really do it right, look at the next section – the Jubilee Year. Failure of the Hebrews to observe the Sabbath Year is seen in the length of time they were exiled from the promised land (70 years). See 2 Chr 36:21 and Jer 29:10. They had been in the land 490 years, not observing the 7th year as Sabbath (490/7 = 70 years ‘taken’ from the land). My garden will take a Sabbath year in 2007.
Ezekiel 34: judgment against the goats that trample the pasture & muddy the water.
I need to read more of Wendell Berry, but from what I can tell, I will agree with most of his positions.
Here is a page of
Here is a
The classic secular writings include Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson and A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.
Let me put out a quick caveat: I may not endorse all the positions held by people below. I will take care to remove links to organizations that have a corrupted view of God. I may have missed some.
Target Earth: http://www.targetearth.org/. I need to look here more.
EEN: http://www.creationcare.org/. They keep changing names & sites which makes me wary. Don’t be surprised if I move this to a ‘stay away’ section.
ICES: www.stewards.net. I haven’t looked through this site yet.
The Good Steward: http://www.thegoodsteward.com/.
5/9/2005: some more links while trying to find a curriculum of environmental stewardship from the Christian point of view:
(thanks Orion magazine)
Presbyterians for Restoring Creation: www.prcweb.org - see their resource pages;
good resources, bible verses, sermon subject ideas
EarthMinistry: www.earthministry.org - haven’t gone here yet.
Essays and People
My favorite essay so far. By Ray Bohlin, at
Ronald A. Smith’s essay: http://www.hsutx.edu/academics/logsdon/smith/environ.html
Look’s like someone’s starting a site: http://home.earthlink.net/~berdwa22/Soap_Box/soap_box.html
F. R. Duplantier’s essay: http://www.americasfuture.net/2000/jun00/00-0618b.html
Sandy Wilber’s site: http://home.netcom.com/~symbios/index.html I definitely DO NOT believe with some of his positions!
and essay: http://home.netcom.com/~symbios/chrcom.html
A bibliography: http://www-personal.k-state.edu/~kbmill/scifaith.html
An article from Outside magazine: http://www.outsidemag.com/magazine/200103/200103christian1.html. I used to subscribe to Outside, and I liked it. I have not yet read this article.
The Cornwall Declaration text: http://www.stewards.net/CornwallDeclaration.htm
Creation Care’s version: http://www.creationcare.org/Resources/Declaration/declaration.html. I will read these and have commentaries on them.
Here’s what they say in
Calvin DeWitt: http://www.counterbalance.net/enviro/calvi-body.html
Max Terman: http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?1033
Kent Hovind’s comparison of Genesis and Psalm104, and its relation to Young Earth Creationists: link
Here I will include groups that I believe pretend to worship God while defending the environment, but have gone awry.
Here is an idea from a friend of mine: Perhaps the only reason
Research: biblical references for the tithe, and the tithe promise (…test me in this). Collect people’s stories and mine of how God rewarded us (according to his promise) for tithing.
Research: biblical references for preserving wilderness for wilderness’ sake (Psalms & Job, for example)
Create a separate page on biblical tithing: money, goods & time (talents)
To add to this page: a summary of young-earth vs. old-earth creationists vs. evolution, etc. – just a primer & links to more knowledgeable sites. This must really lead to a separate page on creationism as distinct from Christian environmentalism. Include here the Reasons to Believe site.
2/19/2004: In basic ecology, there are four major categories of organims: primary producers (plants), primary consumers (herbivores), carnivores and decomposers. The debate is: are carnivores necessary? A ‘top-down’ model assumes that carnivores are necessary to keep the herbivore population in check. A ‘bottom-up’ model argues that carnivores are not required, that herbivore populations can be kept in check by fluctuations in the supply of food. An interesting twist on this is: prior to the Fall (of Adam), did animal death occur? That is, is the death of animals part of God’s pre-fall plan, and thus part of the world He pronounced ‘good’ upon creation? I think yes, animals did die of predation prior to the Fall. Recent scientific study of island populations confirms the top down model. Also, if it is not in God’s plan for predation, then what did the carnivores eat prior to the Fall? I think the Fall only meant that man will now die. Prior to the fall, death occurred only among animals & plants, not among men. Said another way, the Fall of Adam did not bring with it a death sentence for animals. This makes sense in many ways – only man was created in the image of God. Only man suffered specific curses spelled out in the bible. There were additional consequences for animals – later in Genesis 9, for example. Hmm – a careful reading of Gen. 1:30 seems to indicate that animals were only given the green plants for food. Well, now I’m stuck again.
4/2006: I’m working on a wilderness liturgy – not too far along I’m afraid. My goal is to lead it with my family in a camping trip.
20091011 Watch out; I worship God. I have not made a new God called “The God of Sustainability”, whose doctrine is “The Doctrine of Simplicity”. Money should be used in the service of others. As per Benjamin Franklin, the word Righteous carries the connotation “Right Use”. Ben believed that doing good to others is a way of worshiping God.