by Dean Ohlman
When a philosophy becomes dominant in an individual’s life, it virtually becomes a religion. When it does, we often add the suffix “ism” to the main word defining what it is that people have given themselves over to. Many people are so given over to socialism, capitalism, scientism, creationism, conservatism, liberalism or any one of dozens of other “isms” that these become virtual worship systems for them. Because these philosophies and/or belief systems come to rule an individual’s behavior, they strongly affect their emotions as well as their beliefs. “Environmentalism” is an emotionally charged word that evokes images of radical activists storming the fences of nuclear power plants or chaining themselves to trees, which are about to be cut, made in to timber, and sent to Home Depot. It can also paint mental pictures of people worshiping nature. Without question, thousands of environmental activists really do seem to have no greater object of worship than the natural world. The material world appears to have become their god, no doubt because it’s the most amazing thing they know.
Conservative Christians, of course, don’t want to be associated with nature worship, so we don’t want to be characterized as “environmentalists.” However, the difference between “environmentalism” and truly biblical earthkeeping is pretty extreme. Some environmentalism tends toward worship of the creation; biblical earthkeeping, however, is centered on a personal relationship with and worship of the Creator. And as a part of our worship we respect and care for the creation that comes from God’s awesome power and gracious providence. Caring for creation is one of the major responsibilities given by God to His people (Gen. 2:15). And there is no reason we can’t combine that responsibility with all the other responsibilities we have: care for our children, care for our neighbor, care for the lost, and the like. All the while we take great pains not to make the objects of our care the objects of our worship (Rom. 1:21-25). Our caring concern for the environment is an obligation of our work as human beings, not our worship as followers of Christ.
A semi-regular Q&A series from Dean Ohlman.