How to answer tough questions

Christianity is Responsible for the Environmental Crisis

Conversation Stopper

Christianity gets blamed for a lot of things, like the Crusades and the Inquisition. Most recently, some people have blamed Christianity for the environmental crisis.

Assumptions

  • Christian theology about creation encourages an attitude of domination and misuse of the earth and its resources.
  • Some popular Christian beliefs about the end of the world (Left Behind, dispensationalism) encourage apathy among Christians surrounding issues like climate change and unsustainable human development.
  • “There is no point polishing brass on the Titanic.”

Talking Points

  • Historically, the vast majority of damage done to the earth is not the result of Christianity but industrialization and overconsumption. The driver is not theology but the quest for material wealth. This is why countries like China, which cannot be characterized as Christian, have experienced such dramatic damage to its environment.
  • The hyper-consumerism of America, the Western world, and increasingly the rest of the world is anything but Christian. The teachings and example of the founders of Christianity and Christian theology emphasize simplicity and contentment with basic essentials. They look more radical today than they ever have. “Life,” Jesus said, “does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
  • Humans are called in Genesis to garden the earth, not to use it as their personal trash can. The command to Adam is to care for the garden and name the animals, it is a command to learn about and be in relationship with creation.
  • Dominion is not the same thing as domination or abuse. The oft misinterpreted command in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” is a command to extend the garden of Eden into the wild and chaotic creation. A garden is a place where human creativity and culture and the created order flourish together.
  • Popular Christian theologies that emphasize a radical break between this world and the next are both novelties and unBiblical. The Bible emphasizes a profound continuity between this world and the world to come. The Biblical story begins in a garden (Eden), climaxes in a garden (the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb), and ends in a garden (the Garden in the midst of the New Jerusalem). Rather than flying away to a home in the sky, the ultimate destination of redeemed humanity is Earth...an earth that has been united with Heaven.
  • Christianity is the best hope for the environmental movement. It has the most potential power to bring real change and take the environmental movement fully mainstream. Most major movements for change in recent history, especially in Europe and America have been religious in their base. What the environmental movement lacks is the power to motivate people to change long ingrained habits. At best, their primary tools are fear and guilt. Christianity’s view of creation as the loving gift of God to humans to steward introduces much more powerful motivations: love and gratitude.

At a fundamental level, the question is: What is the world? Is it an accident of physics or is it a precious gift from our Father to us.

Which kind of item would you be more motivated to care for? Some random thing you found on a street or in a stream somewhere...or a special and precious gift from your Dad.

Additional Resources:

What are some helpful easy tips you might have on helping Christian communities and individuals care for the environment?

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