Needed: Theologically Informed Environmentalists

We need to think Christianly about the environment. We need voices to declare that in the midst of a worldwide dialogue about climate change, (much of it politically charged rather than scientifically grounded, in my opinion) we need to remember that God and His Word will never change. I was thinking about these things as I recently read Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. The book, besides being a great read about an increasingly forgotten time in Twentieth Century American history, is also a call for clear, Biblically informed, theologically astute thinkers. The book chronicles, as the subtitle describes, the fascinating story of those who stayed and lived through the dust bowl of the “dirty ’30s.” The age of the Great Depression was also the age of one of the greatest environmental disasters in modern times. Whether it was man or the weather that caused most of the disaster wasn’t clear to this reader. But certainly, the stripping of the land, the poor agricultural practices and the possible greed that went with westward expansion and land grabbing are all possible contributors. The author surely thinks so. And the stories of families, many of them Russian and German immigrant families, are gripping tales of humanity fighting against the elements.

The whole book, which I would recommend, brings up the need for a Biblical and Reformed worldview on the environment. As I told my son when we discussed the book, we must make sure that in the presence of so many far left, radical, unbalanced and unbiblical environmentalists, we who trust in the Maker of the earth and the Maker of mankind, don’t fail to follow His plans for the earth. We are to cultivate the earth. It is our charter as human beings that pre-dates the fall. We are to care for the land, for the animals, for resources that the land can bring, in order to glorify God with obedient stewardship. This calls for thoughtful conservation of resources, wise husbandry of forests, and good agricultural practices that honor God’s gifts rather than squanders them.

When I was a boy I was told that we should leave something better than when we found it. I was warned that if you shoot an animal, you had better eat it, not just kill it for sport alone. When you plow the earth, let it rest before plowing the next year.  And once you gather the crops in, begin to work organic material back in, to fortify it for another season. In The Worst Hard Time Timothy Egan reveals the sad story of a time when our forefathers on the American prairie failed to follow these simple rules to their own hurt and heartache. And we could, of course, make the same mistake again. But we could also forget that the earth and its fullness are given to mankind for careful stewardship. Christ is Lord of the fields and Lord of the forest. He is Lord of the seas. He is Lord of the prairie. Some good companions to this book would be Far As The Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story Of Redemption by Dr. Michael Williams and Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview by Dr. Albert M. Wolters. Both of these books provide a thoroughly Biblical and thus real understanding of both creation, the results of the fall, and the hope of redemption, already underway in Christ Jesus and present in the earth and its environment today.

How desperately we need a new generation of preachers and teachers and just wise Christians to speak truth into the debates on environmentalism.

© 2009 Michael A. Milton, all rights reserved.

Learn more about the ministry of Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte and the ministry of Mike Milton at The Call with Mike Milton.

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
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