Our Approach to the Environment
Humanity’s impact on the planet Earth is growing. Thankfully, our collective awareness of that impact is also on the rise. In recent years, Christian practice has received some justified condemnation for either publicly opposing policies and movements that acknowledge and address the significant negative human impact on the environment, or privately ignoring this impact. Over the course of Christian history, however, caring for our planet and our creaturely neighbours has been an important lived theology of the church.
The MI Approach to the Environment
Why Christians Should Care for the Environment
The word “environmentalist” has strong associations for many of us. For some, it might signify those who care about what is happening to the earth, while for others it might signify radical ideologies that prioritize wildlife over people. Recognizing, however, that our planet is not a replaceable commodity, and that the future of humanity on earth is inseparable from that of the rest of creation can help us reorient our understanding of the environment. In order for creation to thrive, humanity must properly fulfill its role to care for it. Likewise, humanity thrives when its environment thrives. Insofar as an environmentalist is understood as one concerned for the environment, as an advocate, and as a caretaker, such concern is part of our very purpose as humans.
Creation Care as a Response to God’s Call to Humankind
People were uniquely called by God to act as regents within the world on his behalf (Gen 1:28). We have been equipped to fulfil this call through our capacity to dramatically transform the world, and through our conscious ability to act with care for creation. We therefore have a remarkable responsibility to benevolently govern the world as God’s appointed regents.
The Difference Between Dominion over and Destruction of Creation
Our livelihood and that of creation are intimately intertwined, so to care for ourselves is to care for creation. Scripture does, however, acknowledge that humankind has “dominion…over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26-30). What does this mean? There are ways creation can be drawn upon in a sustainable manner of which the Bible provides examples (Lev 25:1-7). If we consider the world as an unlimited fountain of resources that merely exists for the sake of our own consumption, the world will never be able to sustain our insatiable desires. What we need instead is an alternative approach to our role here on planet earth that carefully considers how our actions serve the rest of creation as those who have been endowed with the responsibility to have dominion over it.
Why the Future of the Earth Matters
Our physical world is not just an interim placeholder in God’s plan for the human race—a stopping point on the journey to heaven. Instead, the biblical story starts and concludes here in creation; this is—and always will be—our home (read Tom Wright's article on this very topic). Of course, the story the Bible tells is not about a static world, but one that is growing and changing from the garden found in Eden, to a garden city in which heaven has come down to earth. Between these two bookends, there are signs of how deeply creation has fallen out of relationship with God such as hatred, sickness, death, and pain. As the priests of creation, we need to care not just for ourselves but also for the world as a whole and work towards its health and wellbeing (Rom 8:18-25).
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