World Earth Day – Stewardship of the Planet
Colossians 1:16 (NLT) 16 … Everything was created through Him (Christ) and for Him.
Sunday 22 April 2018 is Earth Day. It is a day set aside since 1970 to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. In my experience, secular culture is more in tune with the concept of stewardship of creation than most Christians, and there are some historical and theological reasons for that.
Central to our understanding of stewardship is our understanding of the Gospel – the Kingdom of God. We are not kings – God is. All that we are or have is on loan to us, and He calls us to be faithful stewards for the glory of God and as a testimony to His grace.
The gospel of the Kingdom precedes our understanding of stewardship. As we respond to the preaching of the grace, goodness, and generosity of God in Jesus Christ, then we will understand what the Bible instructs on stewardship – because it is in response to the Gospel. Personal stewardship is what we do with what we have. A steward is a manager, not an owner. Stewardship is a theological belief that humans are to care for creation.
In 1843, Ludwig Feuerbach (not a fan of Christianity) claimed that, “Nature, the world, has no value, no interest for Christians. The Christian thinks only of himself and the salvation of his soul.” Lynn White wrote a seminal article in 1967 “The Historic Roots of our Ecological Crisis.” White argued that environmental degradation was the indirect product of Christianity, which he labelled (in its western form), “the most anthropocentric religion the world has ever seen… [and] leads naturally to the exploitation of nature”.
This was based on a Christian capitalist view of Genesis 1:28 “…Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it; have dominion over…every living thing….” The biblical claim that humans have dominion over creation has shaped the typically western view of nature: that the natural world exists solely to meet human needs.
In 1970, Francis Schaeffer responded by issuing a challenge for the evangelical church to take more seriously issues of environmental stewardship: “God’s calling to the … Christian community … is that we should exhibit a substantial healing, here and now, between man and nature and nature itself, as far as Christians can bring it to pass.” (Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology, 1970). Chris Sugden, Director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, has noted that it is hard for evangelicals to take the environment seriously as a mission concern – for evangelicals, as “gospel people,” are focused on the salvation of human beings from sin.
“Ideas that the trees and the land and the rivers, let alone the foxes and the butterflies are worth the time, attention, and the resources of the Christian constituency have struggled to find acceptance in evangelical counsels.” Sugden, “Evangelicals and Environment in Process,” Evangelical Review of Theology 17/2 (1993) 119-121. Tim Keller asks the question: Is Christianity part of the problem or part of the solution?
The Apostle Paul says that everything was not only made through Jesus, but for Him. This Earth Day, think of how Christians can redeem the conservation narrative. Consider the implications of the Biblical doctrine of creation for humanity’s proper relationship to creation – stewardship. All that we have is on loan to us. It is through Jesus and for Him.