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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Christian Environmentalism?

By Christina Quick
July 7, 2013

Bible believers join a controversial discussion

Few terms are more politically charged than environmentalism. The ostensible turf of animal-rights groups and left-leaning activists, the modern environmental movement is a hotbed of controversy.

However, environmental extremists aren’t the only ones expressing an interest in the natural world. Many Christian leaders agree the church has a God-given duty to care for creation — an assignment that dates back to the first book of the Bible.

“The stewardship of God’s creation is one of the logical consequences of our belief that God is Creator,” says Assemblies of God General Secretary James Bradford, who holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. “Even though the contemporary environmental movement has its unbiblical extremes, we as believers should understand our mandate to care for and protect what our Heavenly Father has created. According to the Genesis 1 mandate, we are co-administrators of His creation.”

The false notion that nature itself possesses godlike attributes fuels many of environmentalism’s more radical elements. Such ideas are prevalent within paganism, Eastern mysticism, and the New Age movement.

“Sadly, this pagan religion has been effective in steering society’s focus from God and the message of His Word to the preservation, and often worship, of His created handiwork — the earth,” states “Environmental Protection,” an Assemblies of God paper on the issue available via the Fellowship’s website (ag.org).

However, the document also declares Christians have a responsibility to be caretakers of precious resources needed for life and health.

“The Assemblies of God believes everyone needs to be a good steward of all God’s creation, including the Earth,” the position paper says. “As clearly indicated in Scripture, we believe the Earth was created by God. We also believe it serves as the temporary home for all members of the human race — God’s highest life form, made in His own image — until eternity.”

Tara Sirvent, who teaches ecology at Vanguard University, an Assemblies of God school in Costa Mesa, Calif., says she wants her students to learn more than just science. She hopes they also will develop an appreciation for God’s creation and understand how Christians are to interact with the environment.

“Obviously, care for the environment can be taken to an extreme,” Sirvent says. “Nature is not a god; we should not worship it. We are not equal with nature. Nor should nature take precedence over people. We are the only part of creation with God’s image. Thus, actions that place creation over people should be discouraged. But engaging in activity that promotes environmental stewardship should be encouraged.”

While the Christian’s primary task is evangelism, not environmentalism, the two pursuits don’t have to be mutually exclusive, according to Michael Tenneson, a field ecologist and professor of biology at Evangel University (AG) in Springfield, Mo.

“We can care for God’s creation as an act of Christian worship and as a means of reaching out to others,” Tenneson says. “A good steward is someone who thoughtfully manages resources according to the agenda of the owner.”

Tenneson says everything in an ecosystem has the potential to impact human life. Clean water, fertile soil and wholesome food are necessary for sustaining healthy communities. Even small acts of environmental stewardship can affect human populations. For instance, preserving a seemingly insignificant plant on the verge of extinction could lead to the discovery of lifesaving medicines.

“When something in an ecosystem is in trouble, it can have a domino effect and lead to a host of other problems,” Tenneson says. “I’d love to see more young Christians interested in sharing the love of Christ through helping people be good stewards of resources.”

Andrew Hauck, an Evangel University graduate and research specialist for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Ph.D. in crop science, says caring for the environment can be a valid expression of faith in Christ.

“Worldly values tend toward exploitive relationships, self-interest at community expense, and short-term gains with long-term expenses,” says Hauck, who hopes his crop science research will help farmers in developing countries. “Faith generates a quite different set of priorities in all areas of life, including relationship with what God has provided to meet our physical needs. Life based on these redeemed priorities contrasts with the status quo of the world and results in praise to the glory of God.”

Steve Badger, a chemistry professor at Evangel University, says the Bible teaches that God cares for all living things. Badger points to the words of Christ in Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of the them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (NIV). Jesus went on to assure His listeners, “You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

“The problem comes when people are not able to recognize the greater value in humans as opposed to animals,” Badger says. “When we view creation through the lens of Scripture, that makes all the difference. Christians shouldn’t shy away from environmental concerns; this is primarily the domain of Christians. We’ve been given the responsibility to steward the natural world, and we should not allow nonbelievers to take that responsibility away from us. We should own it.”

The Bible teaches that the present world will not last forever. Scripture prophesies that God will create a new heaven and earth following the second coming of Christ. Yet that doesn’t excuse followers of Jesus from their call to stewardship, according to the AG paper.

“In spite of these future events, we feel Christians must act responsibly in their use of God’s earth as we rightly harvest its resources,” the document states. “As Christians, we believe dominion requires good stewardship of our temporary home — earth.”

Tenneson says that while issues such as recycling and energy conservation are matters of personal conviction, thoughtful choices and a compassionate response can help Christians establish a testimony in an arena in which the gospel is seldom proclaimed.

“We could present a voice to the movement that involves a motive that is God-honoring and people-honoring,” Tenneson says. “We can show our love to God by helping people and being good stewards of the environment.”


CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer.

 

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.