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Christianity and the Environment
Despite the popular view that many Christians believe environmental issues to be unimportant and indeed incompatible with their core beliefs, there are many more who believe quite the opposite. Many Christians today take environmental issues to heart (McDermott 2011), believing that it is not only the right of the faithful to inhabit and "rule over" the earth, but also their duty to protect this environment. In fact, the majority of Christians have embraced the idea of environmental protection and action to curb climate change without feeling that such action is incompatible with their basic faith. Hence, despite the historic tendency to exploit the earth and its resources under license of their "special" place in creation, Christians today believe that the biblical idea of "mastery" also means protection. Even prominent institutions such as the Vatican believe in the importance of protecting the earth, while the faithful on both the liberal and conservative sides believe that ecologically sound practices are essential from both a practical and religious point-of-view.
In the past, many Christians have interpreted the Old Testament idea of "mastery" over creation as a license to exploit the resources of the earth (McDermott 2011). Indeed, God does provide human beings with a "special" place on earth, declaring them to be higher than the rest of creation. In the past, this has been viewed as a command to rule over the earth, which has further been interpreted as a license to exploit. While there are those who still hold this belief today, the majority of Christians now interpret the idea of mastery to be synonymous with care. God, according to this view, is the master of all, but remains separate from earth. It is therefore the duty of believers, as representatives of God on earth, to protect the environment as part of the "mastery" directive.
Taking this idea further, Silvius (2012) points that Adam was never required to "rule" the earth by exploiting it. His rulership directive was also one of "keeping" it, or caring for nature. Indeed, early in Genesis God commands Adam to study the animals and plants and give them names. In other words, his care of the environment was also a scientific endeavor, to study and understand the relationships within nature and to name the creatures under him accordingly. God never gives Adam the directive to use and exploit as he wishes. Hence, today's environmental crisis can be seen as resulting from human selfishness, greed, and an ultimate denial of the original commandment God gave Adam (McDermott 2011).
DeYoung (2012) confirms that, as God's children, Christians should indeed be concerned with the environment. Despite common objections such as that the earth is just temporary, and that environmentalism in its extreme form has taken a somewhat fanatical aspect that should be reserved for religious devotion, the conclusion remains that stewardship of the earth is a God-given, biblically confirmed duty. According to DeYoung, both the Old and New Testament holds this central duty for Christians, where the Bible illustrates the earth as belonging to God but being cared for by its stewards in the form of humanity.
Deem (2009) also confirms this view, with the main point of his assertion being that God took obvious enjoyment in creation when he finished his work in Genesis. Hence, this author also interprets the command to rule over the earth and "subdue" it as a command to care rather than to exploit and destroy. Like other authors, Deem cites many extracts from the Bible that confirm God as the creator, with earth and everything belonging to him and giving him pleasure. Hence, human beings have no license to destroy and exploit as they see fit. The earth has been provided as a resource for human beings to live with their families. To ensure the longevity of earth and the human race until the Day of Judgment, the earth should be preserved in order to continue being a pleasure to God and sustenance to his creatures.
Another interesting viewpoint regarding Christianity and the environment is the claim that environmentalism can be used as a vehicle for evangelism. DeWitt and Nash (2009), for example, provide an in-depth response to those who would interpret Scripture as a license to exploit, and also to those who consider Christianity as mainly responsible for today's environmental crisis. Interestingly, the article finishes with…[continue]
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