Environment

Lecture Series: Christianity and the Environment

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Marketplace Institute

Introduction to the Series

This series is designed for people interested in exploring what it means to live as God’s representatives on earth, serving all of creation as faithful stewards. These sessions will help us understand creation care from a biblical and theological perspective, as well as paint a picture of the environmental issues and attitudes present today. The material will look at the redemptive hope that is offered to us through Christ, and how we can walk forward as “priestly earth-keepers.” Our love of God is reflected in the way we love all that he has made, and we believe that humanity’s influence can help God’s creation prosper. 

The series is divided into four sessions, each asking a different question:

  1. Why should we care about the environment? This session gives a biblical foundation for why the earth and our care for it matter.
  2. What are the environmental issues that we face today? This lecture highlights the prominent environmental issues, some of the challenges in addressing them, and why they are of increasing importance.
  3. Can the Christian story offer hope to our current circumstances? This talk explores what it means to find hope in Christ amidst the current ecological crisis.
  4. How then shall we live in light of all this? This final session discusses helpful ways we can engage with our world here and now that are based in a Christian hope.

We encourage participants to go through these sessions with a group of people, listening first to the audio resource and then discussing the material for 15-20 minutes afterwards.

Lecture 1: Why Should We Care?

By Iain Provan

In this first lecture, Iain Provan addresses why Christians should care about creation from a biblical perspective. Drawing from the book of Genesis, he identifies what our role should be in creation: stewards and priests caring for the earth. We are admonished to care well for the needs of the world as a whole rather than solely for human needs to the detriment of the earth and its resources. Provan frames his argument around Lynn White's article "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," published in 1967, yet still influential today. White's article suggests Christianity supports the notion that all of creation was created for man's use and abuse, and that Christianity is to blame for our current ecological crisis. Provan's interaction with White's article reveals some of the article's false assumptions, particularly demonstrating how caring for creation is a central part of Christianity.

Iain Provan has been the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College since 1997. He has extensive teaching experience and has published several academic works on creation care, stewardship, and the book of Genesis.

PLAY AUDIO





Overview of the Lecture

  • According to the biblical account of creation in Genesis, our role in creation is as its "keepers;" we are called to be stewards of the earth.
  • Human beings are image-bearers of God. As God's image-bearers, humans are called to take on a priestly role, mediating God's blessing to all of creation.
  • The Hebrew words often translated as "to rule and subdue the earth" in Genesis are best translated as "to steward and keep" the earth, ruling out potential false interpretations that lead to domination and exploitation.
  • While some Christians have not cared for the earth well, this behaviour is not representative of all Christians and, more importantly, does not reflect a proper understanding of the Christian faith.

Discussion Questions

  1. Were you raised in the church? If so, what are some competing narratives that have been presented to you with regard to our relationship with creation and the creation account in Genesis?
  2. What have you previously understood the words "dominion" and "rule" to mean in the Genesis creation account?
  3. What difference does this lecture make, if any, for how you might approach care for the environment?

Additional Resources

  • Bauckham, Richard. Living with Other Creatures: Green Exegesis and Theology . Baylor University Press, 2011.
  • Provan, Iain. Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters . Baylor University Press, 2014.
  • White, Lynn. "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis." Science, Issue 155, 1967.
  • Wright, Christopher. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God . InterVarsity, 2004.

Lecture 2: Earth-keeping: Environmental Challenges for Today

By Loren Wilkinson

In this session, Loren Wilkinson discusses some of the political, philosophical, and religious assumptions accounting for the varying attitudes toward environmental issues. He then outlines seven specific ecological concerns currently facing our planet. This talk is a helpful reflection on both the success we have achieved as well as some of the sobering failures to care well for the environment.

This talk builds on the first in this series, which reminded us of our call to steward and care for the earth as God's image-bearers. Wilkinson paints a picture of many of the challenges we face on the planet, paving the way for the third session on finding hope in Christ.

Wilkinson's considerable teaching experience and scholarly work exploring how to develop a Christian environmental ethic and the human relationship to the natural world have given him unique insight into the myriad of environmental challenges that face us today.

PLAY AUDIO





Overview of the Lecture

  • Some of the challenges we face when talking to Christians about earth-keeping are 1)linguistic, in that certain words carry either political or social overtones that inhibit action; 2)mistaken Christian eschatology that fails to see God's desire to heal creation and redeem the earth; and 3)a deep suspicion of modern science.
  • Humans, like animals, rely on a sustainable food source and therefore need to ensure that both consumption and creation care are done sustainably.
  • The seven most pressing environmental challenges we face on our planet today include changes in the earth's atmosphere, land degradation, deforestation and habitat destruction, rapid extinction of species, water quality degradation, toxification, and degradation of human cultures.
  • Despite the challenges before us, there is good reason for hope.

Discussion Questions

  1. What thoughts have you associated with the term "environmental" in the past? What factors have contributed to your thinking?
  2. Wilkinson spoke about global issues. What are some of the environmental issues specific to your area?
  3. One of the challenges Wilkinson noted was the degradation of human culture. Do you think that this challenge should be given the same level of attention as the others? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

  • Bouma-Prediger, Steven. For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care . Baker Academic, 2010.
  • Mann, Charles C. "State of the Species: Does Success Spell Doom for Homo Sapiens?" Orion Magazine , November/December 2012. (Referenced in Wilkinson's lecture)
  • McKibben, Bill. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet . St. Martin's Griffin, 2011.
  • Mustol, John. Dusty Earthlings: Living As Eco-Physical Beings in God's Eco-Physical World . Cascade Books, 2012.
  • Northcott, Michael. A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming . Orbis Books, 2007.
  • Wilson, Jonathan. God's Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation . Baker Academic, 2013.
  • Wright, Ronald. A Short History of Progress . House of Anansi Press, 2008.

Lecture 3: Environmental Stewardship and How the Christian Story Offers Hope

By Matt Humphrey

In this lecture Matt Humphrey explains how the Christian gospel offers hope in the face of what appears to be ecological chaos. He begins by highlighting common attitudes to the current ecological situation. He then shows how the Christian story stands in hopeful contrast to these responses. This hope is based upon the hope Christ brings to the whole of our world. Humphrey reminds us that we are participating in the active work of God in this world, and the hope that Christ brings is life-giving.

Since completing his Master of Christian Studies programme at Regent College, Matt Humphrey has been working for A Rocha and teaching at Trinity Western University. His theological training and teaching experience in environmental stewardship combined with his work actively caring for creation at A Rocha gives him a unique perspective from which to offer both rich theological understanding and awareness of the challenges to living out of hope working in creation care.

PLAY AUDIO




Overview of the Lecture

  • Four common attitudes toward ecological challenges are denial, detachment, despair and desperation.
  • The Christian story offers a posture of hope. This hope is rooted in the fact that we are not the centre of the story, God is. God made and loves the world and continues to be involved with it actively. God is also concerned with how we live our lives in this world and guides us as we seek to live well.
  • A Christian response is different from the four common attitudes noted above. It should be one of hope and anticipation that Christ is using us as his stewards as he works to restore this world.

Discussion Questions

  1. What attitudes discussed in the talk (denial, detachment, despair, desperation) do you think are the most predominant among those with whom you live and interact? What might be some ways to encourage these people?
  2. How might a Christian approach to the environment be distinct from other environmentalist approaches?
  3. What are some signs of hope that remind us of God's continuing work in the present?

Additional Resources

Lecture 4: Caring for Creation: A Conversation on How We Can Respond

By Rick Faw

In this final lecture, Rick Faw offers some helpful and manageable steps we can take to care for creation in light of our current circumstances. He provides down-to-earth practical suggestions in a way that doesn't burden one with a long to-do list, but rather helps one cultivate love and wonder for creation. Faw wants Christians to become more familiar with--and grow to delight in--the world around us. Christians can, then, act on specific environmental needs from a place of love rather than desperation or angst.

Rick Faw has worked at A Rocha for a number of years, where he focuses on educational programmes for students of different levels and environmental interests. This diverse teaching experience allows Faw to speak to a wide audience in his lecture as he offers people ways to implement creation care in their everyday life.

PLAY AUDIO



Overview of the Lecture

  • Working out a healthy response to the environmental issues of our day starts with consideration of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and with prayer. 
  • Understanding the biblical mandate to care for creation is part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
  • Some practical ways to engage in the world and environmental issues include: 1) cultivate wonder and gratitude; 2) get to know your place; 3) start with manageable changes in your lifestyle, regardless of how small they seem; and 4) practice grace toward those who are at a different stage on the path than you.
  • Beware of the consequentialist ethic, which says something is only worth doing if you can see tangible results or consequences from your actions.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some small steps toward creation care you can take in your life currently?
  2. How can you come to know your "place" better?
  3. How could your local church play a bigger role in the effort?

Additional Resources

  • Bookless, Dave. Dare to Care for God's World. InterVarsity Press, 2008.
  • DeWitt, Calvin B. Earthwise: A Guide to Hopeful Creation Care. Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011.
  • Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books, 2008.
  • Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Large Print Press, 2009.
  • Wilkinson, Loren and Mary Ruth Wilkinson. Caring for Creation in Your Own Backyard. Regent College Publishing, 2001.

Source: Marketplace Institute



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