Tuesday, June 21, 2005

So Then, What Shouldn't We Do?

Yesterday I started talking about some things we should do as Christians, per the Bible, in regards to the environment. Specifically, I took the ever-so-controversial position that we should treat animals humanely, not over-consumer natural resources, and avoid unecessary destruction of the environment even in such dire circumstances as war. In other words, be informed and think about how our actions impact our environment. Sounds fairly straightforward, though for some it may mean adjusting one's decision making processes to include a new variable. For me it's simple because I have a naturalist wife, heavily into conservation, who smacks me upside the head when I make the rare (ha!) ecological blunder.

It's not easy for those who don't consider the environment, actively, to start thinking proactively about how we impact the earth and atmosphere, and how that in turns impacts our neighbors - who, by the way, we're commanded to love. So we should by all means take their well being into account even insofar as the environment is concerned.

There is a danger, though, in starting down this path. These dangers are carefully laid forth in scripture. The primary danger is elevating our proper stewardship of nature to a worship of nature. This is clearly idolatry, and to be honest, this is what many Evangelicals see in some environmentalist movements. (Not wanting to be associated with some environmentalist groups who do treat nature as a god is the primary reason my wife prefers to be called an ecologist instead of an environmentalist.) Scripture is very clear that we should not worship creation in any form - worship is solely the province of God. The environment cannot be more important than God.

The second danger is in equating animals (or other elements of nature) with human beings. People were created in the image of God. He values us more than animals, plants, stones or air. This is NOT to say the rest of creation is unimportant; nay (isn't that a great word?), but verily as we've seen in previous posts God takes all of His creation seriously. However. When a conflict arises between's one's stewardship responsibilities and the well being of our neighbor, the person wins. Now I can't foresee a position where the choice comes down to deforestation of, say, Minnesota and making sure Bob in accounting gets a few nice knick-knacks. But in a situation where it's between a negative impact to the environment or a negative impact to a person (especially spiritually) God's word is clear on the priority.

Of course we should maintain humility before God, and realize that our priority in creation is not a reason to dominate creation to the detriment of our surroundings. But we do have priority in creation. Jesus didn't die for cows, or that forests may thrive: He died for our salvation. Our priorities need to match His. (Again, this is not to say that a secondary priority isn't important too - or that we should use our place to destroy what we are to care for - just that when it comes down to it, mankind is more important than the rest of creation.)

We should care for the environment, sure, but we can't let it get out of hand. The environment is important, but it cannot supercede our command to preach the Gospel, care for the poor and love our neighbors. Nor can we let it take the place of God in our lives. If we keep it in perspective, caring for it appropriately should be a piece of proverbial cake.

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