Ten Principles of Christian Earth Stewardship
April 24, 2016 § 5 Comments
Christian theologians began addressing the destruction of creation in a serious way after Rachel Carson published her landmark book Silent Spring in 1960. For my first book on earthcare, I read a lot of these books and began synthesizing the main common themes. I found ten such themes.
The first several principles define God’s relation to creation as its Creator. Principle four—the central principle of Christian earth stewardship—defines the human’s proper relation to creation. The rest of the principles define the human’s proper relation to God vis a vis creation. Together these principles define a covenantal triangle, a three-way set of mutual promises and obligations, though these Christian theologians mostly ignore God’s side of the covenant and focus only on ours.
Here are the ten themes or core ideas I found in this literature:
- “The earth is the Lords”: God is the sovereign proprietor of creation—not humans. (Ps. 24:1)
- “Behold, it was utterly good”: God’s creation is inherently good.n (Gen 2:4)
- “The heavens are telling the glory of God”: The creation glorifies God; therefore so should we, especially in our earth stewardship. (Ps. 19:1)
- “Have dominion . . . “: We are given dominion over creation, but only in trust as stewards. (Gen 1:28)
- “A little lower than God”: Among the creatures, we humans enjoy the privilege of God’s special favor. (Ps 8)
- “Because they worshiped the creature rather than the creator”: We worship the transcendent Creator, not the creation. (Rom 1:25)
- “I am establishing my covenant with you”: Covenant is the rightful context for our earth stewardship. (Gen 9:8)
- “Open your hand to the poor”: Responsible earth stewardship calls for social justice. (Deut 15:11)
- “The time has come . . . for destroying those who destroy the earth”: We are called to responsible earth stewardship; harming creation is a sin.
- “The creation waits with eager longing”: Salvation in Christ offers the prophetic promise of a new covenant with creation. (Rom 8:19)
Writers supported these principles with biblical proof texts. Soon I will provide a document with the passages I found either in my reading or in my own research. I reviewed it briefly and saw some problems with it; I haven’t looked at it in a while.
A lot of these Bible passages don’t really work very well, in my opinion. A lot of the time, you must argue from inference and stretch the meaning pretty thin, at that. The most glaring case are those supporting the idea that destroying creation is a sin. This is the key claim of Christian earth stewardship, and yet nowhere in the Bible does it say this outright.
All Christian theology must work within the basic framework of its sin-salvation paradigm, in which the basic human problem, not just spiritually, but in all human spheres, is sin, and the irreplaceable solution is salvation in Christ. So Christian earth stewardship theologians must add bad earthcare to the already long list of sins, a list that is dominated by things that have been on the list for millennia and have been more clearly defined in the Bible.
But I am getting to my critique. For, after writing most of this book, I came to the depressing conclusion that the book led to a dead end, that Christian earth stewardship was itself a dead end, and that some new approach was required. I felt I had to start over, after years of research and writing.