Christians and the Environment (Tim Challies)
I am rather skeptical of several claims made by environmentalists about global warming. However, this skepticism of bleak and pessimistic prognoses doesn't mean that I don't care about the planet we live on. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I want my skepticism to allow me to find better solutions than those offered by the green movement. I want my diagnosis of the problem and my understanding of the solutions to be Bible-based. On this subject, Francis Schaeffer and his book Pollution and the death of man (Cruciforme, 2015) helped a lot. This is again, in my opinion, one of the best books that offers a Christian perspective on how we should care for creation.
Schaeffer begins by asserting that Christians, unlike non-Christian humanists today, recognize that God has called mankind to exercise dominion over all the earth. We are not here by accident and we are not here by mistake. We have been placed here by God to take care of this planet and we have been called to be its faithful stewards. However, our ability to exercise this kind of stewardship has been affected by our state of sin.
“... it is true that man has been given the power to rule over creation. But since the fall he has misused this power; he is in a state of revolt and he has placed himself at the center of the universe. He sees himself as an autonomous being, and believes that he has the right to exploit creatures as if they were nothing in themselves ”(p. 66-67).
We have stopped caring for the world with love and faithfulness. We ravage and plunder it. While we may not believe all of the terrible claims about the state of our planet and its perilous future, at least we need to recognize that we have not taken care of the world as God called us to.
The answers to this crisis do not lie in our own efforts or in the opinions of politicians. On the contrary, if we are to understand the crisis, its roots and its solutions, we must turn to Scripture. This is precisely what Schaeffer does. Although his book was first published in 1970, it reads as if it had been written yesterday (if, at least, the reader is prepared to replace the ecological issues of thirty years ago with those of 'today, perhaps by replacing the discussions around pesticides with those concerning global warming).
Schaeffer looked at his time and looked at how people dealt with environmental issues. He was shrewd when he said that ecology necessarily breeds a kind of pantheism when it lacks any solid biblical foundation and any coherent moral foundation. Schaeffer understood that people would quickly come to deal with environmental problems by seeking to "be one with the planet", and this many decades before the movie Avatar . In his book, he tells us about this typically Schaefferian reflection: “In the coming years, [pantheism will] presented as the only possible solution to ecological problems [and] will be one more element of Eastern thought that the West will adopt ”(p. 20). Almost forty years later, his words have proven to be correct. We can now observe how the green movement is gaining popularity alongside certain oriental practices, such as yoga.
Pantheism raised nature, lowered man and rejected God In fact, this is necessary for pantheistic thought:
"We are asked to treat nature well for this reason alone: that it affects man, my children and generations to come ... In fact, [this consists in] placing man in an absolutely egocentric position in front of nature ... Devoid of absolutes, modern man is also devoid of categories. [Having said that] , categories are essential to any real answer and the only categories these men have are no more than pragmatism and technology ... Pantheism always demeans man instead of uplifting him ”(p. 24, 25, 31).
Ultimately, pantheism plunges man and nature into a sort of quagmire, leaving us unable to make any necessary and rational distinction between ourselves and the world around us. < / p>
The Bible gives us a much better and much higher view of ourselves, our planet, and our responsibility to it. According to Schaeffer, our understanding must begin with God's act of creation, by which he created things that have objective existence in themselves. Despite the claims of pantheism, creation is not an extension of the essence of God. It is only the biblical view that gives value to man and to all that God has created. Why ? Because we understand human beings and nature better when we see that, while separate from nature, human beings are linked to nature by being themselves a creation of God.
“The Christian therefore treats things with integrity because he does not believe in their autonomy. The dilemma faced by man today is due to the fact that he made all things autonomous from God ”(p. 49). We love creation because we love the Creator. By loving creation, we express our love for the Creator.
Even in the 1970s, Schaeffer wrote:
“We must confess that we have already missed opportunities to intervene: we have spoken out loudly against materialistic science, but we have done little to show that in practice, as Christians, we don't let technology dictate our attitude towards man or nature ”(p. 80).
Schaeffer warned us: "If we do not place an intrinsic value in nature, it is our own worth that will be diminished" (p. 82). In the end, he urged us to treat nature well because we are all products of the loving Creator; we are all creatures.
While acknowledging that sin and its effects will not be eradicated until the Lord returns, Schaeffer believed that there could and should be a "real and visible" healing of the planet and its environment (p. 63). He said “that by virtue of the work of Christ, [Christianity] should be able to bring a significant renewal now, on individually, as well as socially, in each area affected by the Fall ”(p. 62-63). As Christians we are especially called to treat creation as it will be treated in eternity. That is, I think, our challenge: to treat the planet today as we will treat the new earth, that is, to exercise domination without plundering, to exploit without destroying and to faithfully manage this great gift of God.
Buy the book:
Christian Publications [Canada & United States]
BLF Store [France & Belgium]
Maison de la Bible [Switzerland]
|A Christian Perspective on Ecology
Tim Challies and his wife, Aileen, have three children between the ages of 11 and 17. Tim serves as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a literary critic and co-founder of Cruciform Press. He is the author of five books and blog posts daily at challies.com ..