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Shouldn’t Christians Want to Save the Planet?

Last week I posted an entry challenging the notion that we can save the planet.   This generated some interesting comments.  One person pointed out that it was his understanding that Christians should care about the environment.  On this there is no dispute.  Since I rarely speak on this issue I thought something more definitive is in order.  Briefly.

There is no question that Christians should care about the environment.  However, the infantile notion that the planet needs saving or could be saved is not what that means.  This notion rests on the idea that the planet has some sort of intrinsic value, that it has the capacity to care which configuration it ends up in, and that there are things we can do for the sake of the planet just for the sake of the planet.

What is really meant by ‘saving the planet’ is ‘establishing or maintaining the biosphere in certain particular ways.’  And by this it is basically meant, ‘preserving the biosphere to reflect human interests.’  Here it might be objected that no, other interests are at stake, say for example the polar bears.  But even there it is our human interests, because it is a special characteristic of humans to care about such things.  This care is proper, but if we are not honest about it we are liable to be played as suckers.

The interesting thing about Christian care for the environment, especially if we take the Scriptures as our guide, is that this ‘human interest’ is front and center.  Genesis 1:26 has God putting mankind in charge of ‘the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’  This we can properly call stewardship and as we see from the text, the value of humans and the earth is set by God, and in this equation, the earth is placed in subject to Humanity.

Presumably, this means it is to humans to carefully manage what has been put under their care.

By ‘carefully manage’ we must understand that ‘human interests’ must be the guiding light, and as this command comes when man was yet unfallen the concern that mere selfishness would be the guiding light is probably not warranted.

Of course, some of the most strident Christian environmentalists are ones who have thrown out Genesis 1.  So, I don’t know what their Scriptural basis is.

Now, all this said, it doesn’t follow that the earth somehow because more important than humans.  If Jesus said that a man is worth more than a sparrow one has to imagine that man is worth more than a pile of dirt.

I say this because if anyone out there wants Christians to express more concern about the environment, they should do what they can to end abortion on demand.  It is pretty difficult to rally behind saving baby seals by the hundreds when baby humans are being slaughtered by the millions.  The gap widens further when we remember that the ‘party line’ in environmentalism is that the chief environmental problem is humanity itself, ie, over-population.  And how better to curtail over-population… for the sake of the planet of course… then to pursue ‘family planning’ measures.

I would say the fundamental difference between prevalent environmentalistic concern and a Christian concern for the environment is that environmentalists tend to be ready to sacrifice humans in their quest to ‘save the planet’ while a sane Christian point of view refuses to trade the lives and well being of humans while stewarding creation.

One might say that in the quest to destroy the Nazis and end the holocaust it was necessary to set aside care for historic buildings and the habitat of protected species off the coast of Normandy.

Here the earnest green reader will protest that surely if the planet is destroyed (translate:  rendered in such a way that the environmentalists insist would be the end of the world) then humans can’t live on it at all.   But this is not true on any level and even if it were it wouldn’t follow that aborting humans would be the solution, nor- and this perhaps is more important- still wouldn’t justify caring about the planet before one cared about the humans that were on it.

In other words, a sustainable environmentalist outlook from a Christian perspective would value the environment but not more than humans, and humans and their welfare would not be traded for the sake of the environment.

This seems especially prudent since environmentalist claims continue to change from decade to decade.  It was only forty years ago that they were claiming that overpopulation was going to be the end of us and that a new ice age was imminent ‘unless we did something.’  Today overpopulation is still on the table but now it is ‘global warming’ that will be the end of us.  It is dizzying, but it is so easy in today’s climate to be blinded by science.

I say this because I certainly would not deny that there are things that can reasonably be done now even while striving to protect the unborn.  However, it is difficult to trust the advice of people who are so quick to centralize power under their own persons and equally quick to change how the world is going to come to an end.  The sorriest thing is how easy it is for them to get the rest of us to go along with them.

Anyway, I will gladly say that when abortion on demand is eliminated on a global scale I will attend more willingly to the globe.



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  1. I think the more biblical perspective would be that we save the planet and its inhabitants because (1) they testify about God and His qualities (Psalm 19, Romans 1), (2), they have the ability to praise God and bring glory to Him (Psalm 148), and (3) God said that they were created good (Genesis 1).

    So it’s not about self-interest at all.

    • Anthony on April 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Who do they testify about God to?

    Romans 1, in particular suggests that creation is testimony against humans who reject the unseen maker. That would strongly suggest that it is self-interest, not the opposite.

    Besides, what your comment fails to expound on, and which I think you should, is just what you mean by ‘saving the planet.’

    As for (3) God did in fact say that the universe and the earth were created good. It also says that Mankind was put in charge of the earth. Both must be taken into account.

    • Gary on May 5, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Well-said, Anthony. I especially appreciated the sparrow reference.

  2. They testify to us, one way or the other, whether to edify or condemn. Our response is the difference.

    And humans were placed in charge as vice-regents. We will report back to God on how we did in our task.

    • Anthony on May 10, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    k, if they testify to us, then yes, even here, it is a question of our own self-interest.

    I have no objections to the idea that we are ‘vice-regents’ or that we will be reporting back to God. But we must abandon this notion that we can separate out the welfare of the planet as a thing in itself distinct and apart from human sentiments.

    Or, if it is distinct in that sense, nonetheless human sentiment is the appropriate guide in the stewardship.

    I would say that THIS is the difference. Those who promote environmental issues would like us to believe that they somehow know better than the rest of us how to manage the planet. They want us to defer to them and ask no questions. To the extent that they are genuine, in the final analysis it is still their own sentiments about what constitutes a ‘healthy planet’ that is guiding them. And I’m convinced that quite a few of them aren’t genuine at all and rather are looking for yet another avenue for enslaving other men.

    And in a more general point, when I think about reporting back to God, I have trouble imagining that God is going to be judging our soldiers in world war 2 harshly- if at all- for harming the environment on their way to ending the holocaust. I tend to think that if anyone whose moral compass was so out of whack that they protested that effort on the grounds that various creatures were having their habitat threatened are going to find themselves in for a nasty surprise.

    I have trouble believing that God is going to be taking people for task for choosing to invest their time fighting for the unborn and others who are defenseless instead of recycling and otherwise leaping like lemmings to do whatever the latest environmental fad happens to be. Indeed, my guess is that those who pursue the ‘health of the planet’ while the health of millions and millions of the unborn is utterly disregarded will find their situation uncomfortable.

    To the extent that one could conceivably do both and at the same time, great. If one had to choose one…

    But let us remember that the most strident proponents of ‘saving the planet’ view overpopulation as the number one environmental issue. In short, these people aren’t merely indifferent to the plight of the unborn, eliminating the unborn is actually part and parcel of their grand scheme to ‘save the planet.’ These are the same people giving Christians ideas on ‘environmentally friendly’ measures.

    Lest you don’t believe me, consider this link:

    Just a word of caution, then: in pursuit of a Godly concern for creation, be wary of the advice of people seemingly expressing what looks to be the same concern, but in fact comes from an entirely different outlook with an entirely different set of priorities. You may act with sincere intentions but may in fact be complicit in a diabolical program with goals and hoped for outcomes you’d never approve of if they were forthright.

  1. […] Christians and the environment popped up on a Christian environmentalist blog.  My post was ‘Shouldn’t Christians Care about the Environment?” and the brief response (if it was a response at all) was called ‘Self-interest makes […]

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