I’m still in Portland, and still snowbound until probably tomorrow. Now that Portland has officially recorded the snowiest December on record - 16 inches, so far (and a drift of 21 inches outside my mom’s front door) - it seems like a good time to continue my series on environmentalism, a series that obviously has relevance to global warming and how we talk about it.
I’ve been offering excerpts from the book, Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition. The previous installment can be found here.
Here’s the conclusion of the Jewish point of view:
If…there is a God, then everything changes. If there is a God who has created us, then each and every human person has infinite value, and none can be sacrificed for the sake of nature or some abstract cause. (p. 31)The chapter on the Catholic view offers this:
Nowhere does revelation suggest (as do some contemporary religious and secular environmentalists) that creation, undisturbed by human intervention, is the final order God intended…. The human person and the natural world are never ascribed the same dignity.And this comes from the Protestant/Evangelical view:
Some would argue that if man refrains from exercising dominion over nature, nature would be better off. Yet the issue bearing the greatest importance is whether man would be better off. When man does not exercise dominion over nature, nature will exercise dominion over man and cause tremendous suffering for the human family….We alone, of all God’s earthly creatures, have the power, intelligence, and responsibility to help order the world in accord with divine providence and thus minimize the effects of natural evil. (pp. 39-40)
Some environmentalists, especially those in the “Deep Ecology” movement, divinize the earth and insist on “biological egalitarianism,” the equal value and rights of all life forms, in the mistaken notion that this will raise human respect for the earth. Instead, this philosophy negates the biblical affirmation of the human person’s unique role as steward and eliminates the very rationale for human care for creation. The quest for the humane treatment of beasts by lowering people to the level of nimals leads only to the beastly treatment of humans. (p. 69)
In the three months since my previous installment from this book, it seems that the clamor about global warming has subsided. The current economic crisis has shown that the environmental “emergency” has become less of one in the face of joblessness and recession. But I have little doubt that the subject will heat up again once the economy does, too. Here are some of the key points I wish we’d keep in mind as the discussion continues:
- Man(kind) is the pinnacle of God’s creation.
- As such, we are superior to all plants and all animals. We have value, dignity, and eternal consequence that nothing else in creation has.
- We have been given earth to manage for the benefit of mankind; we do not manage the earth for the benefit of the earth, per se.
- All environmental discussions should consider the cost to humans of recommended policies.
- Some costs are in fact too much to pay.
I’m sure that’s not all, but it’s a good start.
And since this is Christmas, let's consider: Does not the incarnation of Christ itself say something about the exalted status of mankind in creation?