Gaia, by Oberon Zell
Christians are often perceived as people who don’t care about the environment. Secular environmentalists blame at least part, if not all, of the historical problem of resource abuse on Christian thinking.
In this post, I’ll cover half of this topic- problems with what non-Christians believe. This is much too long of a topic for one blog post. See the other side of the coin at Problems and Misconceptions, part 1.
1. Deep ecologists believe that the earth itself is a living being. This is popularly called the Gaia hypothesis, and was reintroduced to modern thinkers by James Lovelock in a scathing thesis that blames all of the woes of the planet on Christians. Not all environmentalists go this far, but every movement has it’s extremists. Whether secular environmentalists think they believe this or not, they often act as if it is true.
I say this because it is the basis for the value system which treats all living things as if they have equal value. This belief, at its core, proposes that humans are simply a different, but similar, life form. We are part of the sequence of organisms, but without basis for being a rational and distinct entity apart from the rest of nature.
This is a fundamental difference between Christian and secular environmentalists. It is insurmountable. But it does not mean that there is not a Christian reason for, and responsibility to, care for that earth.
2. Many people do, at least partially, blame Christianity for environmental problems. They cite the King James Bible, Genesis 1:28, where Adam was told to subdue and have dominion over the earth, as proof that we have acted for over 4000 years in a way that dominated the earth, rather than living in harmony with it. Their “proof” is the cutting of forests, coal mining, dumping of toxic wastes, whatever... The fallacy here is that they are equating Christianity with Western Civilization. Not all, probably not even most, of the Europeans and emigrants to North America were or are actually Christian. Non-believers participated equally in these activities.
But, Christians will have to accept some guilt on this point. Christians, along with many other cultures, have failed throughout the centuries to recognize our relationship with the natural world. This is not a good reason to abandon Christianity and embrace other religions.
3. Some secular environmentalists are coming from a position of believing that Christianity does not have anything to do with the environment. For example, a Deist who believes that there is a God, but that he his separate from creation (he set it in motion, but now ignores it), will reject the idea that a sincere Christian has any reason to care about the world.
4. Those environmentalists who have consciously chosen to reject Christ as Lord are not going to be interested in any alternative reasons for caring about the environment, which are based on Scripture.
There are a couple of things that secular environmentalists get right.
1. They are looking for meaning and purpose in the world. Philosophically speaking, most people today say that there is no meaning. So those who seek a reason to care at all are one step closer to a Christian world view, which also states that the world has meaning.
2. Directly emerging from point one is the corollary that the natural world does have value. Both secular environmentalists and the Scriptures teach this, but they find a different source for that meaning.
Spelling out these problems and differences is leading to a point- why it is that Christians should care about the environment. Stay tuned.