An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Christians - the reluctant greens

In 1990 I co-wrote a book with Christopher Droop called The earth is the Lord's (Regius Press, 1990). In the intrests of recycling I thought I post some excerpts from the book.

There have been many good theological and sociological studies on the reasons for the churches’ neglect of social issues. However, there has not, to our knowledge, been any study that deals specifically with Christians’ reluctance to get involved in environmental action. [This was written in 1990 when this was the case – Calvin B. De Witt has since written on this subject.] The purpose of this chapter is twofold: first to examine why Christians are reluctant greens, and secondly to expose and challenge non-biblical perspectives on life, so that the path can be cleared for the construction of a truly Christian response to environmental and ecological issues.

It is not the case that Christians have always been opposed to involvement in politics or social action. William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Elizabeth Fry and the Salvation Army are testimony to the contrary. They were involved because of their Christian commitment. The reasons for what has been called the ‘Great Reversal’ (i.e. the withdrawal of Christian social involvement) are manifold. John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today suggests five reasons:

  • reaction against liberalism in the church;
  • reaction against the so-called ‘social gospel’;
  • the pessimism that followed World War One;
  • the spread of pre-millennial dispensationalism, the modern idea that Jesus will ‘rapture’ the church at any moment, with the prediction that the world would get worse until Jesus finally returns; and
  • the rise of middle-class Christianity and the resulting identification of Christianity with middle-class values.
These excuses are responsible for Christians not only being reluctant social reformers but also reluctant greens. There are also several other factors that underlie the lack of environmental concern among Christians. I shall outline below eight reasons excuses in subsequent posts that I believe have contributed not only to a lack of involvement in society, but more particularly, to a reluctance to be involved in environmental action.

1 comment:

Lyn Perry said...

Good topic to "recycle" :-)

I subscribe to Wheaton College's CACE (Center for Applied Christian Ethics) newsletter (my alma mater, btw). And they just sent this email out. It's a bit long, but covers some good points that you are addressing. Looking forward to discussing this further. Lyn from Thought Renewal
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A Healthy Debate

There is a debate brewing within the Christian household of faith. Although some in-house arguments should be kept under wraps, I believe that this important topic should be openly discussed. Two weeks ago Dr. James Dobson, together with some two dozen leaders of the Christian "religious right," sent a letter to the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) urging that their Vice-President, Richard Cizik, resign from office. Dobson and his co-signers believe that Cizik is giving too much attention to the issue of creation care, especially global warming. Growing evangelical concern about the environment (and other issues such as fighting HIV/AIDS, poverty, the war in Iraq, immigration) is, according to the Dobson group, distracting evangelical commitment to the more important moral issues regarding the sanctity of marriage and pro-life legislation. NAE leaders have responded that evangelical Christians should not limit themselves to these two topics, but rather should be addressing a wide range of issues.

At an evangelical college like Wheaton we recognize that each of our academic disciplines (whether they are in the natural sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, the arts, etc.) poses specific ethical challenges for faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We strive to use our best thinking, resources, and energies to respond to these challenges. Nevertheless, certain questions remain. Should Christians concentrate on one or two major issues or should we be concerned about a wide array of subjects? What are the most important moral issues of our day? What are the most effective ways to address these problems? I believe that we will be better disciples of Jesus if we intentionally respond to these questions through open dialogue.

Healthy debate, however, has some basic ground rules. Positions must not be misrepresented (constructing a "straw-man" distorted position of your opponent, then tearing it down, does not advance growth nor mutual respect). We should strive to find common ground where it can be found, but also defend our deepest convictions where we must. Each one of us needs to let go of our personal pride and to desire to see our God better represented by all Christians. As the Body of Christ, we should aim for our priorities to be shaped by the main emphases of Scripture and not by an obscure verse taken out of context. Most importantly, may all that we do and say be worthy of our Lord Jesus.

You are encouraged to participate in this debate by sending us your opinions. We will try to post many of them on our webpage. Email CACE at CACE@wheaton.edu.

Your brother in Christ,
Lindy Scott
Director of CACE