“We care for the environment precisely because God will create a new earth.”

If you ever overhear me muttering threats while I read Christian media, it’s likely that I’ve discovered more “Christian” shows of contempt for environmentalists.

It’s amazing how often I find fellow believers putting down those who strive to save the natural world our Creator made. I get sick to my stomach when I hear that Christians disregard the state of the environment because, well, Jesus is coming back soon so why worry about global warming?

And when certain Christian movie-review sites (you can probably guess the one I’m thinking of) note a film’s focus on the environment as a bad thing, I find myself tempted toward some truly sinful behavior in response.

These things are especially affecting to me when I visit my favorite panoramic displays of God’s creation, like my personal favorite… the view from the coast of Whidbey Island’s Fort Casey, where I am right now, writing this to you.

Today, I’m grateful for this view… and for David Neff, editor in chief at Christianity Today. He’s courageous enough to take on tough topics, endure the angry mail, and respond with grace and patience I admire.

Here’s his special look at “Second Coming Ecology.”

Seeing through eschatological eyes pushes me in the direction of relating to desperate people who are at a distance, because God has promised some day to bring them close. When I was growing up, eschatology meant “end times”‚Äîthat is, my church focused on the timing and manner of final events.

But Jesus and the apostles played down the time element and even the manner of the End. Instead, they emphasized the inbreaking of God’s rule and the way our ability to see his rule helps to transform the present.

If we are given that ability to see God at work, bringing the present into contact with the End, we cannot be indifferent to the way things are. We cannot be deaf to the groanings of Creation. And we can treasure every gift God gives us as a sign of his promises.

Thanks for that, David.


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  • veritaspoet

    I don’t know any Christian who would be against being good stewards of the world we’ve been given, and especially not on an theological grounds.

    What I do have a problem with is being told that global warming is man made, when even scientists (who are much smarter than me!) seem to be divided on the issue.

    Only one side is being told, and it’s shoved in our faces day in and day out, without any room for discussion on the matter.

    Unfortunately, taking care of the environment (as far as pollution) and global warming are tossed together under the umbrella term of ‘environmentalism’. This confuses the issue.

  • Thanks for the examples, Jeffery.

    It seems like you’re criticizing two different things. I was merely pointing out that the “Jesus is coming back so let’s trash the earth” is not a viewpoint I’ve ever heard articulated by even the most hardcore dispensationalists. Not to say that it isn’t out there but I just haven’t seen a significant example of it and you haven’t provided one.

    The broader criticism of anti-environmentalism among Christians is probably warranted. The examples above are certainly valid.

    I do think the problem is that the people spearheading the movement are 180-degrees off ideologically from most Christians. We certainly should share a common goal of caring for the earth but we are driven by two completely different forces. I don’t see how it would be wise to partner with groups who fundamentally disagree with us just because we both want to help the planet.

  • I find it interesting that evangelical Christians should complain about “pseudo-science” of environmentalists, especially since as a group, evangelical Christians have warped, spindled, discarded, and otherwise mutilated the findings of science for generations.

    And should anyone complain — rightly — that I have lumped all evangelical Christians together in the same pot, I would say that putting environmentalists there is an equal sin.

    How could anyone who believes God created the earth think that driving even one species extinct in favor of a shopping mall or any other human achievement is good stewardship of that creation?

    Finally, I was interested in Neff’s evocation of Romans 8, which just happened to be a lectionary passage this past weekend. As I was pondering it, the notion struck me that rescuing creation from bondage to decay meant rescuing it from us.

  • puckspice

    I’ve run into quite a bit of resistance to ecological responsibility in the evangelical church in several states, so I don’t think it’s an isolated incident. What baffles me most is that ‘anti-human environmentalists’ don’t really seem to be all that influential, if they exist at all, and yet most Christians who oppose the ‘environmental agenda’ (never mind that we’re the tenders of the Garden so it’s our main purpose in relation to the natural world) cite that as their reason.

    I find, more often than not, it’s either an attempt to marry themselves to the conservative agenda and make it a religious issue rather than a political one, or an excuse for laziness when it comes to using resources responsibly.

    I honestly think if the church started taking all the sins in the Bible more seriously, we’d be much less freaked out about it and much less hostile to God’s creation. Seriously, when was the last time you heard a sermon against gluttony? It’s quite a big problem here in our country, but heaven forbid our pastors ask us to deny ourselves pleasure or comfort on occasion…

  • culturezoo,

    I can’t point to “camps” of believers who preach these anti-environmentalist screeds, but I’ve flinched many times over the terms used by certain Christian media personalities. You might consider them to be “whack-jobs”, I’m not sure. Movieguide is the obvious example, and they’re taken very seriously in certain sectors. They list “pro-envrionmentalist” aspects of the movie alongside profanity, explicit sex scenes, and violence as elements that can cause a movie to be slapped with their label of “abhorrent.”

    I remember noting their response to the release of “The Ant Bully,” which was described as “a mediocre, politically correct anti-human environmentalist screed.”

    In the same article, they criticized the Dove Foundation for giving the “Family Seal of Approval” to “such films as “Lady in the Water” (New Age, mixed pagan worldview), “An Inconvenient Truth” (strong environmentalist worldview…)”

    Took me about a minute to find that example, and I’d serve up more if I had time.

  • “Yes, some Christians do have contempt for environmentalists and environmentalism (I‚Äôm one of those Christians, in fact)”

    Webster’s defines contempt as “the act of despising, the state of mind of one who despises”. I don’t see how despising environmentalists squares with the many NT admonitions to love our enemies, don’t judge outsiders, live peaceably with all men. Not to mention Gal. 5:22-23.

    I’ve run into a lot of Christians who’s “left behind/it’s all gonna burn” eschatology leads to a general unconcern for ecological issues here and now. Jesus is making all things new and the church is his instrument to participate in that mission for as long as we’re here.

  • I’ve actually heard it preached from the pulpit and from non-celebrity Christians. So I am not sure it is a “strawman”.

  • petertchattaway

    FWIW, the only example that comes to my mind of someone saying that the environment doesn’t matter because Jesus is coming soon is the oft-cited example of James Watt — which, as Neff notes in his article, turns out to be something of an urban legend.

    Though for what it’s worth, Neff seems to be wrong about where the urban myth comes from — or at any rate, his information is incomplete. He writes: “This oft-repeated quote comes from a journalist who didn’t bother to confirm something that he read on the Internet.” Neff might be referring to Bill Moyers and Grist.org, which are both cited on the Wikipedia page for Watt — but according to Grist.org, they got the quote from a book called Setting the Captives Free. And that book, according to Amazon.com, was published way back in 1990 — well before the internet had become a daily part of most people’s lives.

  • alexburdine

    I emplore you all to read “Bringing Heaven Down to Earth” by Nathan L.K. Bierma for an appropo discussion of this topic.

  • cptcasualt

    One might say he puts the “ecology” in “eschatology”.

  • I’m inclined to think that you’re attacking a strawman here, Jeffery. I don’t know any Christians who are against taking care of the planet because Jesus is coming back. Maybe you’ve encountered some but I’m inclined to think that they’re few and far between.

    I do know Christians who are opposed to the alarmism, naturalism, and even pseudo-science that dominates the environmentalist camps. I’m especially reluctant to give credence to the environmentalist luminaries because they seem to be operating in an entirely different worldview than my own. That doesn’t mean that I don’t do my best to care for the earth.

    Can you give us a solid example (other than just a few media whack-jobs) of a significant group of Christians that put out the view you’re attacking here?

  • heatheragoodman

    Love that title quote.
    I believe that God will re-create, restore, and redeem the physical as well as the spiritual. My job now is to work alongside the Holy Spirit in sneaking the future into the present.

  • gordonhackman

    I wholeheartedly agree, and have always been a bit nonplussed when some Christians, including that movie review site you mention, act as if environmental stewardship is somehow wrong or evil.

    I do think that concern for the environment has to be pursued in a balanced and thoughtful manner, and that for some people it can become something of an ideological idolatry, but I don’t know how anyone who enjoys the beauty and wonder of God’s creation or who reads in the Bible about God’s care and sustenance of the natural world can think it’s a non issue for Christians.

    It’s also worth noting that one of the heroes of theologically conservative, biblically based cultural engagement, Francis Schaeffer, though so too and even wrote an entire book about it, “Pollution and the Death of Man.” Schaeffer also expressed frustration with Christians who did not see the importance of this issue. I’ll end with this great quote from him:

    “If I love the Lover, I love what the Lover has made. Perhaps this is the reason why so many Christians feel an unreality in their Christian lives. If I don’t love what the Lover has made–in the area of man, in the area of nature–and really love it because he made it, do I really love the Lover?”

  • jinxmchue01

    “I get sick to my stomach when I hear that Christians disregard the state of the environment because, well, Jesus is coming back soon so why worry about global warming”

    I have not seen any Christians that do any such thing. Yes, some Christians do have contempt for environmentalists and environmentalism (I’m one of those Christians, in fact), but that does not mean that they have contempt for taking care of the planet. Of course, what some Christians judge to be taking care of the planet and what environmentalists judge it to be are two different things. Christians take part in recycling, cleaning up garbage and pollution and do things like carpool. Nothing wrong with those things. What people like me take exception to is this radical environmentalism that is based upon lies and hatred of human achievement and advancement and which demands – sometimes by threat of fines or legal action – that we comply with ludicrous expectations for our habits and behavior.

  • Amen to that!