Dan Story, author of the book, Should Christians be Environmentalists?, is a former agnostic, turned Christian. Soon after becoming a Christian, Story felt compelled to write Christian apologetics materials. Some thirty years later Story has written his first work on environmentalism from a Christian perspective. It is probably good Story took so much time to get back to his environmentalist past, since he is now firmly grounded in biblical theology, so that he handles the topic with the skill of a seasoned apologist. The book is not so much a to-do list of things Christians can do to care for God's creation as it is an apologetic to the Church to become leaders in the field of creation care. Story's target audience is Bible-believing Christians, since there is a biblical emphasis throughout the book.
A movement in need of a religion
Dan Story begins his book, Should Christians be Environmentalists?, with an examination of environmental catastrophes of the past and how the environmental movement began in the 1960's. He blames the decline of environmentalism on its failure to provide an environmental ethos. As a movement relegated to liberals, it was often opposed by conservative religious people. Story maintains that things would have been different if the movement had employed a God-centered, stewardship-based foundation.
Because Christians often opposed the early environmental politics, much of the blame for the environmental crisis was placed at the feet of Christians. However, Story goes on to show that humanity's fallen nature has been responsible for the vast majority of the environmental destruction. He repudiates the Hollywood-based image that tribal societies were more environmentally-friendly. The reality is that the Native Americans probably killed off North America's megafauna, some 10,000 years ago. They set wildfires destroying grassland to drive buffalo during hunting. Their inability to radically damage their environment was more a result of limited technology rather than a high regard for nature. Story describes an account of Sioux Indians in May, 1832 who massacred 1,400 buffalo to sell their tongues at Fur Company Fort for whisky.1 The rest of their carcasses were left to rot on the plain. Story also described attributes of common Native American religions, which, to a large degree, revolved around animism and a fear of evil spirits that were thought to inhabit even inanimate objects. Eastern religions are often said to be more environmentally-friendly, although both China and India have suffered from extreme pollution and environmental destruction as a result of greed and poor environmental safeguards. Virtually every culture and religion have over-exploited the earth to produce environmental damage, mostly as a result of humanity's sin nature.
Bible-based theology of nature
Dan Story does a really good job describing the biblical framework of creation and how it fits with God's plans. God is both transcendent and immanent and both created and maintains nature for our benefit and for the benefit of other living creatures. Psalms 104, 147, 148, along with Job 38 describes God as providing for all His creatures to sustain their lives. God created human beings in His image, commanding us to be stewards of His creation. The biblical Sabbath included not only rest for human beings, but also their animals (Exodus 20:9-10). When God spared the city of Nineveh through the reluctant efforts of Jonah, God expressed pleasure that both the human beings and animals were spared from judgment (Jonah 4:11). The biblical stewardship mandate comes from God commanding Adam to care for His garden, God commanding Noah to care for all the animals rescued on the ark, and from Sabbath commands, including the command to allow the land to rest from planting one year out of every seven.
My only complaint of Dan Story's theology is that he seems to believe in "restoration theology" (the idea that creation will be restored to a garden of Eden paradise). Story believes that the creation, in addition to mankind, will be redeemed at the end of the world. However, it is easy to confuse Isaiah's description of the millennial kingdom with Revelation's description of the New Jerusalem. In reality, Peter makes it clear that the universe will be destroyed "with intense heat,"1 while Jesus Himself indicated that "heaven and earth will pass away"2 and Isaiah said that the heavens "will be rolled up like a scroll."3 In addition, numerous passages suggest that heaven, the new creation, will be vastly different than earth. Even though I believe God will destroy the current creation and create an entirely new, eternal one, this should not abrogate our mandate to be good stewards of God's creation now, since we do not know how many more generations of our children will be living here.
Role of the Church
The third section of Should Christians be Environmentalists? examines the role that the Christian Church should play in care for creation. Story does a good job providing a Bible-based explanation of what environmental ethics should look like for the Christian, including many citations of scripture. Story's call to action involves more than just a passive embrace of creation care, but an active promotion to instill those values in our children. Too many of today's children never get out into nature, but are glued to their electronic devices. Story calls for responsibility at the individual level, the congregation level and through all levels of Christian education (Sunday schools, Christian schools and colleges).
Dan Story's Should Christians be Environmentalists? is a compelling call for action on the part of the Christian Church. For too long Christians have opposed creation care primarily because it has been dominated by liberal "tree huggers." It is time for the Christian Church to get involved and take charge of care for God's creation. Story describes Christian environmentalism as "always 'theocentric,' that is, we care for nature but serve and worship God."
My environmentalist story
I have been an avid hiker/camper for decades and have a profound admiration for God's work of creation and have been a Christian environmentalist for years. When Vulcan Materials decided they were going to expand their mining operation to destroy a mountain near our home, I opposed the effort for 6 years. Unfortunately, our city council cared more for revenue than the lives of our people and the beauty of our mountains and agreed to allow Vulcan to tear down our mountain. The case is still in the courts, but it seems likely that Vulcan will be allowed to proceed with the project. More here...
Rich Deem, reviewer
- Christians and the Environment: Is Christianity anti-Environmental?
- What Will Heaven be Like?
- Genetically Modified Food: Is it safe to Eat Genetically Modified Crops?
- Catlin, George, North American Indians: Being Letters and Notes on Their Manners, Customs, and Conditions, Written During Eight Years' Travel Amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-1839, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Learly, Stuart, 1913), vol. 1, excerpted in "America Needs a National Park," American Environmentalism, ed. Greg Barton (San Diego: Greenhaven, 2002), 172. See also Krech, The Ecological Indian, chapter 5.
- But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire,
kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (2 Peter 3:12)
- "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the
smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is
accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Mark 13:31)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Luke 21:33)
And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." And this expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:26-27)
- And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. (Isaiah 34:4)
Last Modified May 30, 2012