As conversations increase about Christians’ engagement with culture, our scope of understanding what “culture” includes continues to broaden. Yet one cultural topic that we often neglect is the environment.
My conversations with my friend Carly Abney have helped me see this deficiency. Carly is an NC State student finishing her degree in Sustainable Materials and Technology. She is passionate about Christ and His Church, and she’s passionate about the environment and what it means for Christians to be good stewards of God’s creation.
In her degree path, Carly has seen environmentalists express apathy and skepticism toward Christ and the gospel because their experiences with Christians on the topic have been less than winsome. Even so, Carly sees the value and importance of the Christian voice in these conversations, particularly when Christians are willing to enter them with a high view of the gospel and a fundamental understanding of how God views creation.
In her own words, here’s some practical advice from Carly to help us think better about the environment:
1. God values his creation, and so should we.
God shows his high opinion of the earth by daily sustaining every particle and daily providing for every species. He declared creation good before He created man. The earth has value beyond its utility: it has intrinsic value because of the One who made it.
As followers of Christ we desire to love what God loves. I want to value what my savior and creator has said is good, because He knows what is best. I want to take the same view of creation that God does, and we reflect our love for God by caring for what He has created.
2. We’ve been called to be just kings over the Earth.
In Genesis 1:28 God gives the command to “fill the earth and subdue it.” This verse is used by Christians and non-Christians alike to say “see, Christians just dominate the earth.” However, isn’t this a command to fill the earth with his glory by being just kings?
We are called to be Christ-like in every area of life, and this includes being like Him in the way we treat creation. As He is a good and just King, so should we be. We desire to see the whole earth be rightly aligned with the purposes God has. Christ is a just King, Redeemer and Sustainer, and we are called to be imitators of Christ.
3. God uses creation to help us understand his glory.
The psalms are filled with natural imagery. References to the skies, mountains and the sea help us grasp the enormity of God’s character. Descriptions of the birds, flowers and beasts of the field help us understand how He cares for us. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (Psalm 24:1-2).
Believers and unbelievers alike are able to feel a sense of awe when standing at the Grand Canyon’s edge, or when feeling the first sprinkles of a thunderstorm rolling in off the ocean. As believers, this creation stirs our affection to worship the one who made it.
4. Environmentalists need the gospel, too.
Environmentalists need the gospel, and there are always opportunities to reveal gospel truth in the environmental movement. Those who study the environment already have a deep understanding of the brokenness that affects all aspects of the world. However, they can’t see God’s hope in response to the brokenness.
The environmental community values interconnectedness. They know that no one can stand alone, and they have strong community. But their definitions of community lack Christ at the head.
Environmentalists also see that nature has value beyond its utility (often better than many Christians). Some Christians see the beauty of the Creator, but neglect the beauty of His creation. Environmentalists see the beauty of the earth, but they do not see the beauty of the Creator.
5. Caring for the environment isn’t just for liberals and hippies.
In their book, True North, Mark Liederbach and Seth Bible argue that “evangelicals who are concerned to have a relevant and winsome gospel witness cannot afford to be decades behind the discussion.” There is space for believers in the conversation surrounding clean energy, sustainability, waste reduction, responsible farming practices and the beauty of creation.
As believers, we have to strike a balance between authority and humility. We know the ultimate authority, the Creator, but many of us have not spent much time learning the science behind the issues. I pray that there will be many believers who study the sciences and are willing to bridge that gap. However, you don’t have to be a scientist to form an educated opinion; the scriptures give us the tools we need to enter these conversations.