The environment as a moral issue
As you’ll know if you’ve read my About page, one of my interests is the relationship between sane religion and honest science. By that I mean religion which lives in a real world, and science which is allowed to be itself and not bent to fit some religious viewpoint.
Many current findings of science, of course, concern human impact on the environment. Christianity hasn’t always done a brilliant job environmentally. All you need do is read the beginning of Genesis for its ideas—not as as the pre-scientific science it was never intended to be—to see the difference between its vision and the role we have acquired. The Earth is meant to be “fruitful” and is “very good”. Our position of power over other living things, recognised in Genesis, gives us an obilgation to look after them, delighting in creation’s goodness and living in harmony with it.
Historically the church has largely forgotten this, seeing the Earth as being there simply for human beings to exploit as we like. So we’ve become alienated from it (another theme of the stories!), becoming agents of destruction rather than creation.
Personally I see environmental damage as a major moral issue for followers of a religion which believes in the goodness of God and sees God as the source of all existence and of all life. Harming the Earth is wrong for the same reason that harming people is: it is created and loved by God.  We should should be giving life to our part of creation and building it up, not destroying it.
So it’s good to know that there are Christians—and members of other religions—who are taking this seriously.
Christian Ecology Link
One organisation working to bring such people together and encourage those in the church to care about the environment is Christian Ecology Link. I’ve been a regular recipient of their email newsletter since well before the world went green (or at least, wanted to look green).
In keeping with the organisation’s name, the newlsetter is largely a collection of brief news items linking to information about organisations and events. Below are the links from the latest issue. Hopefully this will give you an idea of the breadth of material it covers. The wording is mine, not taken from the newsletter:
- Froglife survey: a survey of frog and reptiles in the UK, in need of volunteers.
- Environment Sunday: links to the UN page about World Environment Day and to some events in Oxford.
- Futureshape: an environmental resource for Baptists.
- A review of the Green Bible, which is the NRSV translation but with material about the environment highlighted in green and some theological articles added.
- A review of a booklet considering the peak oil concept from a Christian perspective.
- A BBC report on the “ecological debt crisis”.
- Articles The day Britain goes into ‘ecological debt’ and Britain starts eating the planet from the New Economics Foundation, and UK goes into ecological debt on Easter Sunday from The Guardian.
And I’ve not included the items which had no web address but just a person to email, or the final item which gave links for help on public speaking. Also, since it wasn’t in the newsletter, I’ve not mentioned a joint event with the London Islamic Network for the Environment . . .
If this kind of news is of interest to you, visit the CEL website and sign up for their newsletter.
 Creation is a word which sometimes carries misleading overtones. Not helped, in fact, by the existence of creationism. People think of a moment in time when God made everything.
As far as I’m concerned creation isn’t a moment in time. Neither is it an alternative process to the one science sees, with God bypassing the laws of physics and designing every little detail of, say, the human appendix. When I say God is creator, I mean that every part of space and time exists because God makes existence possible; the laws of physics, or any deeper laws that explain them, exist because of God; the process of evolution that produced life exists because of the way those laws are. If God controlled the process, it would no longer be a free one and the universe wouldn’t really be God’s creation, just be an extension of God. Neither would there be any room for free will, or for spiritually aware life (such as us) to respond freely to God. Back
A lucid and intellectually coherent Christian view. Thank you.
Your final sentences added to my understanding of God the creator. I am a CEL linker and Methodist Local Preacher: in my green sermons and prayers I try to use ‘God the creating’ to show the continuity of the creating process. The big bang was only the start… The wonder of God the creating continues.
Have you come across Arocha, the Christian conservation organisation? Another inspiring group.
The name sounds semi-familiar but I don’t know anything about them. Do you have a link?
Sure, it’s http://www.arocha.org.uk/
From dust we were made… the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. Whatever damages creation also damages us and will cause untold problems for our children and grandchildren.
Blessings from a CEL member!
Great post! Keep at it…
one of the things that i disagree with most christabs on is the importance of the envoment. i belive that protecting the invoment is far more important than being agaist gay marrage (as christans we can be agaist gay marrage of cause but i think we should be putting more effort in protecting gods creation). for one thing gay people getting marriged doset hurt anyone but if the polluters and other people (includeing ourselfs) are allowed to get destorying the envoment it would hurt humanitiy and i dont think god would like us to destroy his creation that he him self says is good.