Saturday, February 12, 2005
Why I Oppose a "Christian Environmentalism"
First, let me lay out my qualifications. Academically, I have laid them out before in my post on "intelligent design." I have a graduate degree in chemistry and have attended seminary. More importantly, I am a consultant in the environmental field. I own the company and I give advice to manufacturers on both complying with environmental regulation and simply operating in an environmentally sound manner. Here is my company web site for reference. While I doubt seriously that I am entirely unique, I am probably one of the very few conservative evangelical Christians so educated and trained.
In our comments exchange, Parableman said the following:
It seems to me that you're treating my lack of expertise in the specifics of this subject as a justification for saying that I don't have the right to point out that the area is tremendously important. I just don't see why that would be so.
I was trying to make the point that when it comes to environmentalism, it is all in the details. Without the details, to say this "area is tremendously important" is to already have taken a step in a dangerous direction. But let me step back from that point for a minute and discuss four reasons why I oppose the idea of "Evangelical Environmentalism," of which that will be the last reason I present.
First reason -- SmartChristian had it right when he said:
...what is really needed, it seems to me, is a biblical theology leading to environmental practice within the church.
Great point, now try and develop that theology. The Bible is remarkably mute on virtually anything that gets discussed today when it comes to the environment. There is Genesis 1 when God grants us dominion over the earth. There is the well developed Jewish tradition, developed out of the Pentateuch, regarding cruelty to animals. And then there is God's command to bury our waste. That's about it.
Now we are into all those details that Parableman thinks are not all that important. In such a circumstance, all we can do is look at things on an issue-by-issue basis, and at the risk of sounding cliche' ask "What would Jesus do?" But back to that in a moment.
Second reason -- As Parableman points out in his original post, the guys that are trying to gin up some sort of evangelical environmentalism are pantheists. The distance from "evangelical concerned about the environment" to pantheist is very, very small. There already exist countless "Christian environmental activist groups." I refuse to link to them because most of them spout pure garbage. If any organization needs to happen in the church, it should be to oppose these groups -- their theology is idolatrous.
From a political standpoint, the biggest problem is that such people (both inside and outside the church) control the environmental agenda. In my opinion, once we start considering the the individual issues from a biblical pespective all we will ever arrive at is opposition to that agenda, and we will have no serious agenda to offer as an alternative. My opinion is based on the fact that the Bible has so little to say -- thus the lack of an alternative agenda, and because of the idolatry, or near idolatry evident in environmentalism in general, opposition is required. Opposition without alternative is a political loser, as was so evident in the last election cycle.
Third Reason -- The question of our role in creation is not nearly as clear-cut as it might seem at first glance. We are both a part of creation and given dominion over it. Most of the environmental agenda as it is defined today is based on the assumption that the actions of mankind are somehow "unnatural." Can that be true if we are in fact a part of creation? So, if we accept that our actions are a part of the created order, that we were in fact created precisely to shape to world to our liking, (dominion?) we are again driven into the details. What specific actions in exercising our dominion are good stewardship and what are bad? From a political standpoint, once again, we are back to offering only opposition and no alternative.
Fourth Reason -- When it comes to evangelicals, or the church, making decisions on these issues they are simply ill-equipped to do so. The highly technical nature of each issue requires enormous amounts of study and background. The world is full, absolutely full of egregiously bad "science" with regards to environmental issues. Because the topic is "hot," there is enormous amounts of grant money available for studies in the field, and a lot of it from agenda groups that want agenda science. The resources necessary for the church to sift through all this good and bad science effectively are tremendous. Is that the best way to spend our time and treasure?
Not that I am anything special, but I think our time would be much better spent trying to make more of me. That is to say, people in the field that are committed to Christ, and rely upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is what the church does best and it already has the resources to do so.
Any form of "evangelical environmentalism" is a morass. All we can do is be opponents to an agenda that someone else sets. That's a political loser. If we try and set an agenda ourselves, it will require the development of untold resources and will likely divide the church.
I'm sorry, but I don't see a way to win on this one.
UPDATE: I've made a far deeper examination of this issue here and here.