Isn’t Environmental Concern Based on Pantheistic Thinking?

by Dean Ohlman

Because the earth is an object of worship for many of those given to New Age beliefs and other modern forms of pantheism, it’s logical for them to demonstrate devoted concern for the earth. That’s all they feel they have that is worthy of their reverence. Many of these individuals have followed the natural path of paganism illustrated by the apostle Paul: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Rom. 1:25, NIV). There is a world of difference, however, between those who care for creation because they believe the earth itself is divine and those who care for creation because they honor and worship the divine Creator and desire to follow His will.

It is good to keep in mind that it’s only natural for those who worship the creation to want to care for it—and to be disturbed by those who don’t care about it or for it. Pantheism (believing that God is everything or that He is some impersonal force that inhabits everything) is always significant today among those concerned about the degradation of the earth’s environment. In fact, forty years ago Francis Schaeffer warned the evangelical community that if we did not begin to address these real crises, the philosophy of the environmental movement would come to be based on pantheism. He was already voicing that concern when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in the early seventies (because of extreme pollution by flammable liquids dumped into the stream by careless industries). This shocking event sent many non-Christians into a search for a philosophy or worldview that would address the abuse of our environment because, sadly, they did not find it in Christianity where it should have been evident.

Chuck Colson in his book The Body told us that, “we should be contending for truth in every area of life. Not for power or because we are taken with some trendy cause, but humbly to bring glory to God. For this reason, Christians should be the most ardent ecologists.”

Christians should be able to demonstrate to those who have fallen into the error of neo-paganism and pantheism that the Christian faith provides ample support for creation stewardship. Foundationally, Christians care because earth stewardship is our responsibility of service to God. Why others may care is of little significance to believers—other than serving as a contact point for reaching them for Christ. Many believers who are outspoken advocates of creation care—good earthkeeping—have had significant opportunities to reach non-Christians with the truth of the Gospel—providing them with the fundamental reason for environmental concern: respect for and submission to the One who created the earth. Many earth worshipers might be drawn to the message of the Gospel if more believers lived out the meaning of the Gospel in all its aspects—including respect and care for the Creator’s handiwork. As Joseph Sittler expressed it four decades ago: A believer is an evangelist primarily by who he is and how he lives—not by what he says. What he says is important; but unless his speaking tallies with what he is and does, he had better keep quiet.”

A semi-regular Q&A series from Dean Ohlman


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