Sunday, February 17, 2013

Guess What? God Is an Environmentalists!

This is my fourth and final blog (at least for the foreseeable future) where I unashamedly plug my new book, Should Christians Be Environmentalists? (Kregel Publications). In future blogs, I’ll explore other provocative issues, such as will pets and other animals be in heaven?  But for now,  you really need to read my book on Christian environmentalism. This is especially true for Christians ministering the so-called “millennial generation” (18 to 30 year olds). In my opinion, the topic is a perfect apologetic and evangelistic point of contact with that generation. I’ll explain why in this brief summary of the book.

In recent years, there has been a growing concern over environmental issues within Christendom. Even setting aside the controversy over climate change (which I don’t try to resolve in my book), there are other crucial environmental issues that are clearly the result of human activities: worldwide extinction rates, destruction of wetlands and other fragile habitats, and—particularly on a global scale—air and water pollution. Should Christians Be Environmentalists?, however, is not a book exposing environmental problems, nor is it a doomsayer’s appraisal of potential environmental catastrophes. Enough is already being written on those topics.
The primary purpose of my book is threefold. First, to encourage godly environmental stewardship. I do this by systematically developing a Bible-based theology of nature and guidelines for environmental ethics. I demonstrate that the Bible instructs the human race to be God’s caretakers over creation, and He provides moral principles that can guide mankind’s activities in nature so that people utilize the earth’s resources without overly exploiting the land and its wild inhabitants. God didn’t give people carte blanche to use nature with no concern for the land and other life forms.

Second, Should Christians Be Environmentalists? presents an apologetic response to anti-Christian environmentalists who claim that Christianity is the “root cause” of environmental exploitation and degradation, and that other religious traditions (i.e. tribal religions) are better suited morally and theologically than Christianity to be the spokesmen for environmental stewardship. Such claims are groundless. I’ll show that every culture, regardless of religious beliefs, has exploited and despoiled their natural environments. I’ll demonstrate that Christianity more than any other worldview—secular or religious—is better equipped to implement and institutionalize worldwide environmental ethics.

Third, I investigate the potential evangelistic opportunities embedded in Christian environmentalism. As many seasoned apologists and evangelists know, apologetic techniques that were effective thirty years ago, such as rational arguments and historical evidences for the Christian faith, are not as effective in the twenty-first century. In particular, people under the age of thirty have been conditioned by postmodern relativism to reject moral absolutes and to be skeptical of all religious truth claims. Accordingly, Christian evangelists and apologists are urgently seeking relevant “points of contact”—areas of common concern to both Christians and non-Christians—that can be starting points for conversations, often leading to opportunities for sharing the Gospel. Surveys show that the health of our environment is “top  of the list” of young peoples’ concerns today. This being the case, I’m convinced that Christian environmentalism can be a tremendously effective point of contact with this generation, especially among college and high school students and other young adults.

I conclude the book with a special word to non-Christian readers. I share my journey from a zealous non-Christian environmental advocate to an even more zealous Christian environmentalist, and the impact this journey had on my life. My story can become the reader’s story. Hope you enjoy the book, and let me know what you think.

Dan Story

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How Can We Know "Dominion" in Genesis 1:28 (KJV) Means Stewardship?"

Part Two           

 Previously we saw that the biblical instruction for the human race to “subdue” the earth and to have “dominion” over other living things does not give mankind a license to abuse and exploit nature. Christians who think otherwise are out of sync with Scripture.  Rather, dominion means stewardship. There are several ways to demonstrate this, but the most obvious is to look at nature through God’s perspective. If God loves, finds joy in, and carefully provides for the survival and welfare of non-human life—independent of His even great love, joy in, and provision for humans—it seems self-evident to me that the human race ought to willingly be God’s caretakers over the creation He values.  Here are the Scriptures that back this up.

First, God “owns” nature, not people: “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine” (Ps. 50:10-11; also see Ps. 24:1).

Second, God designed the world to support animal life as well as people: “O LORD, you preserve both man and beast” (Ps. 36:6); “The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isa. 43:20). Moreover, God provides specific food and habitats for specific wildlife: The wild donkey was given “the wasteland as a home, the salt flats as his habitat” (Job 39:6).  The eagle builds “his nest on high” and “dwells on the 
cliff . . . a rocky crag is his stronghold” (27-28). God “makes spring pour water into the ravines” to give “water to the beast of the field” (Ps. 104: 10-11). He planted cedars in Lebanon so that birds could make their nest and “the stork has its home in the pine trees. [In addition] the high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys” (vs. 16-17). At night “the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” (v. 21). Jesus told His disciples that not a single sparrow “is forgotten by God” (Luke 12:6) and pointed out that God provides animals their food (Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:24).

 Third, the vast majority of the animals God created play no role in human welfare, and much of what happens in nature only God observes: God causes rain to “water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it” (Job 38:26). He asked Job, “Do you know when the mountain goat gives birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time when they give birth?” (39:1-2). The self-evident answer to these, and the other rhetorical questions that God asked Job, is that only God observes these events and is present when they occur. On the other hand, humans are told to care for the animals under their charge (Exod. 23:12; Prov. 12:10 ).

Fourth, God’s covenant with Noah after the Great Flood includes not only people but all animal life (Gen.9:8-11). Moreover, the prophet Hosea spoke of another covenant that would occur in the distant, eschatological future when God will make a covenant “with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground . . . so that all may lie down in safety (2:18).

This is just a small sample of the many passages throughout the Bible that reveal God’s perspective on animal life. If God loves and cares for the earth and its wild inhabitants, certainly people ought to honor God by willingly being His stewards over what He values and cares for. If you would enjoy a full study of our stewardship responsibilities in creation, as revealed in the Bible (and other related issues), get my book Should Christians Be Environmentalists? (Kregel Publications, 2012).
Dan Story