Science in Christian Perspective
A New Consciousness:
Energy and Christian Stewardship
RICHARD H. BUBE
From: JASA 28
(March 1976): 8-15.
Since life is an anti-entropic process, the existence of life is synonymous with the consumption of energy. The higher the form of life, the greater is the consumption of energy needed to maintain full functioning. If human life is intrinsically good, then the consumption of energy is intrinsically good. The question is: How much energy must be consumed to make life human?
In the twenty year interval between 1950 and 1970, the consumption of energy resources in the United States doubled, increasing at a rate more than twice the population growth rate. The fraction of energy usage in the form of electricity increased even more rapidly relative to the total during this period. All but a few countries in all the rest of the world get along on one-half or less of the energy considered necessary for Americans, although in recent years the growth rate of energy use in other countries has greatly exceeded that in the United States. This rapidly accelerated use of energy resources is depleting our conventional energy sources; the first slight tremors of an impending energy crisis have already been felt.
Any attempt to separate problems associated with energy from those associated with population, food supply or environmental concerns is doomed to failure. We are dealing with a complex system with many interconnections; attempts at simplistic or reductionistic solutions are bound to be inadequate. An increasing population seeking an increasing standard of living requires greater energy consumption of many different types, including food. The production of food in turn depends critically upon large inputs of energy for farm machinery, transportation, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and related activities. The processing of food for the consumer again requires large energy inputs, a rapidly increasing demand in the present day of preprocessed, pre-packaged, pre-baked, frozen or dehydrated foods. Although a limitation in population growth obviously would benefit the many pressures on energy, food and the environment, it is probable that a limitation on population only would have little more than a perturbative effect on the total constellation of problems. The increase in environmental pollution since 1946 is seven times the increase in population,' largely because of a major change in production technologies starting after World War II. It appears that little less than a dramatic change in values and lifestyle is appropriate for major improvements in the near future.
Finally, it must be remembered that the subject of energy use is peculiarly tied to the future as well as the present. A balance must be struck between our responsibilities to the present generation and our responsibility to future generations. If we avoid our own energy crisis by exhausting the energy resources of our children's children, if our desire for greater and greater amounts of energy lead us to irreversibly damage the air, water and land of our planet, then we will have doubly failed. We will have failed our responsibility to both the present and the future.
God calls the Christian to be faithful in all things. Faithfulness with respect to man's responsibility for stewardship of the earth requires the willingness to dig into problems that are difficult and challenging. Such problems have not often been effectively tackled by evangelical Christians. What is required is a holistic approach in which ethical and technical matters are appropriately interwoven, a growing consciousness that because Jesus Christ is the answer, his disciples are called upon to be obedient in a variety of ways, not just those commonly associated with religious expression. Until the responsible use of energy, as one example, assumes the same role in the daily life of the Christian as the faithful use of Word and prayer, an integrated understanding of Christian living in a day of energy scarcity will elude us.
Is There An Energy Crisis?
Whether one decides that there is an energy crisis or not depends critically on one's definition of "crisis." If the period of time in mind is the next 5 years (or until the next election), the answer may very well be that there is no energy crisis. But if being at the beginning of a radical change in the availability, cost and mode of energy supply is in mind, the answer is certainly yes.
Traditional sources of energy-the fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum and natural gas-are running out as presently foreseeable rates of use are projected into the near future. Just 100 years ago, the principle source of energy in the United States was wood. Subsequent industrial development was built on the large exploitation of our coal resources. About the time of World War I, oil began to become a major contributor to our energy consumption. Finally in about 1950 natural gas took over a significant role in our economy. The large utilization of these fossil fuels is therefore a rather recent development against the history of the human race, not to mention the history of the planet earth itself.
Even if coal is utilized in many different ways not presently used (e.g., solvent refining, pyrolysis, gasification magnetohydrodynamic generators), its supply is hardly infinite and we will probably begin to run out of coal in about 300 years or less. The attempt to use coal more widely threatens the air through volatile pollutants, and the exploitation of strip mining to tap our major reserve of coal threatens the earth with degradation.
Domestic petroleum production peaked in 1971. Although 89% of all fossil fuels remaining today are in the form of coal, 77% of United States consumption involves the use of oil and natural gas. Of all known petroleum reserves in the world, 75% are in the Middle East, where they will continue to be constantly threatened by international polities. It is expected that we will begin to actually run out of petroleum (as contrasted to local or politically-generated shortages, which are already with us) in about 25 years. The oil-rich nations of the Middle East are well aware of this, and are making major efforts to use their new income to prepare alternate energy sources for their own future.
Richard H. Bube is Chairman of the Department of Materials Science arid Engineering, and Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, Stanford, California. A graduate of Brown and Princeton Universities, Dr. Bube has been associated with Stanford since 1962 after 14 years as Senior Staff Scientist at the RCA Laboratories in Princeton, N.J. Dr. Bube is the author of books both in his professional field of photoelectronic properties of materials, and in the area of science and Christian faith. A Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Scientific Affiliation, he is editor of the journal ASA, associate editor of Annual Review of Materials Science, on the editorial board for Solid-State Electronics, and a consulting editor for Universitas.
There are many costs (energy, environment, health) beside financial costs, and any balance sheet that excludes them will cover up massive deficits in the quality of human life.
Natural gas is an ideal fuel, but its supply is so limited that the
may burn the last molecule of natural gas within 20 years.
Even during the interval when these traditional sources of energy are still available, however, the energy crisis will manifest itself as a drastic increase in the cost of energy: a cost to be reckoned not only in dollars, but in degradation of the environment, and in damage to the health and welfare of human beings. From these effects springs a major lesson of the energy crisis: there are many costs (energy, environment, health) beside financial costs, and any balance sheet that excludes them will cover up massive deficits in the quality of human life.
But the energy crisis is not the result only of the depletion of traditional and environmentally acceptable sources of energy, it is also the result of an absence of presently viable alternatives. Alternatives are known; nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, solar heating, solar electric, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and fuel from wastes-but no single one of these, or simple combination of several of these, is known today to meet the projected energy requirements of the year 2000.
Nuclear fission involving U235 is short-range, the supply of this material being more limited than the supply of coal. The nuclear breeder reactor overcomes this difficulty by producing more fissionable material than is consumed, but whether the operation, handling of radioactive wastes, arid protection against accident and sabotage, of such an installation can be sufficiently controlled to warrant its operation, is still a subject for intense public debate. Nuclear fusion promises the ultimate limitless source of energy, but the technical problems involved in bringing it to practical use are extreme, if solvable at all.
All of the other alternative sources of energy arise from just three sources: the radiation from the sun, the gravitational effect of sun and moon on the tides, and the heat inside the earth itself. All of these sources will make a contribution to the future needs for energy, but it is unreasonable to suppose that they are going to supply a major share of the needs predicted for 2000 within the context of present-day lifestyles.
The effective use of such alternative sources of energy also calls for a technology of energy transmission and storage that is not presently available. Many of them are transient sources (solar, wind) and their utilization requires that excess energy received during periods of supply be stored for use in periods of dormancy. Their effective application also calls for a change in public evaluation of initial-capital-outlay cost vs life-cycle cost; systems involving these sources are often much more expensive at the beginning than conventional sources, but then the owner recovers this expense during the life of the system rather than continuing to pay regularly for fuel.
When all the aspects of the present energy situation are considered, including the physical, social, economic,
technical and human changes that are required for the future of human life on earth, there seems to be no other answer than, "Yes, there is an energy crisis."
Why Is There An Energy Crisis?
There is an energy crisis because (a) environmentally-acceptable sources of energy are being or about to he depleted, and (b) there have been no developments yet or in the near future that appear able to replace these sources with other environmentally-acceptable sources of energy. Human sin cannot be blamed as the ultimate cause of this crisis.
On the other hand, when such a crisis makes itself known depends upon a variety of other factors including human nature, social practice, international polities etc. Human sin can play a dominant role in determining when such a crisis is felt and how severely people suffer because of it.
The present dynamics of the energy crisis are a complicated interplay of a variety of interactions. Some of the contributors are described in the following. Of course, everyone would like to find a scapegoat.
It must be someone's fault. Three convenient targets present themselves: the energy industry, the federal government, and the environmentalists. As seen by their adversaries, the first conspires, the second bungles, and the third obstructs. The first is a knave, the second a fool, and the third a dreamer.2
But scapegoats usually provide little more than convenient places to assign blame, and more basic causes of the energy crisis are much more deeply rooted in human nature and culture. It is perhaps useful to realize that some contributors to the energy crisis arise from what might be called commendable or at least neutral aspects of human life, and that others arise from aspects of the human condition that are more closely related to its intrinsic sinfulness.
At least five factors that would be called commendable or neutral in a general assessment of them may be given.
Development of environmental consciousness. The growth of an awareness of the need to protect the environment has been slow and fairly recent. It is not evident that Christian principles have played an active role in this growth, although there can be no doubt that they should have. The consequence of this enhanced awareness of the importance of the total man-nature system has been an unwillingness to sacrifice the enviuonment for the production of more energy. The environmental cost of new energy is one of the main factors to be considered in choosing from alternative energy possibilities.
Growth of population. The growth of population, per se, is probably to be attributed to the intrinsically good drives of human nature. For millennia the generation of many children was both a sign of divine favor and a practical contribution to the welfare of the family. High infant mortality called for an even greater conception rate. But we have arrived at a time in the history of the world when the uncontrolled growth of population seems certain to bring a series of catastrophes including its own limitation. As human beings continue to "do what comes naturally" the strain on energy production increases continuously; an increase in the per capita consumption of energy due to a higher standard of living and becoming accustomed to a variety of labor-saving devices and technological processes only aggravates the problem further.
Changes in agricultural practice. Modern methods of agriculture have revolutionized the production of food, but at the expense of greatly increased consumption of energy. The number of calories of energy needed to produce 1 calorie of food for actual consumption has increased continuously over the last 50 years from about 2 calories in 1920 to almost 10 calories in 1970.2 Natural fertilizers from animal manure have been almost completely replaced by chemical fertilizers that not only require energy consumption to produce but result in pollution of local water resources. Financial costs and economic considerations have controlled the situation; energy costs have not been hitherto part of the balance sheet.
Changes in mode and style of transportation. Widespread use of automobiles and airplanes for individual travel has added immeasurably to the freedom of each person, but at a greatly increased cost in energy. Onefourth of the energy use in the United States is for transportation, including both passenger and freight. The transportation efficiency for passenger travel by a suburban train is twice that by bus, seven times that by automobile, and ten times that by jet plane. The transportation efficiency for freight movement by a supertanker is four to ten times greater than by train, twenty times that by truck, and one hundred times that by jet plane.4 Our practice, however, in each case has been to move more and more toward the less energy-efficient mode.
Urbanization. The development of city living, with its high population density almost completely dependent upon supplies from outside locations, intensifies the need for energy consumption in order to meet the needs of people. The plight of our great cities has many causes, but the energy crisis will aggravate them all in the near future.
In addition, there are at least four other factors that seem to be not only the consequence of natural development, but as much or more the consequence of human sinfulness.
Materialism. Materialism is a common philosophicoreligious base for the majority of people living in the Western world. It claims quite simply that to have is to be. Things bring happiness. We are bombarded by advertisements to purchase things that will make our lives complete, happy and sexually fulfilled. The production, the purchase and the owning of things is constantly advanced as the way to the good life, the beautiful life, the American life, Materialism demands the objectification of energy in order to provide a tangible basis for personal worth. In this context any responsible conservation of energy becomes virtually impossible.
Growth of energy-expensive industrial processes. By failing to include the total costs to society in the daily balance sheet, industries have moved ahead to meet the demands of materialism and to obtain higher profits by adopting technologies that are ever more energy-expensive. Commoner points out the areas in which rapid growth in industrial production has occurred: nonreturnable soda bottles, synthetic fibers, mercury for chlorine production, mercury in mildew-resistant paint, air conditioner compressor units, plastics, fertilizer nitrogen, electric housewares, synthetic organic chemicals, aluminum, chlorine gas, electric power, pesticides, wood pulp, truck freight, consumer electronics, motor fuel consumption, and cement.5 Many of these areas involve both a greater energy cost and a greater environmental cost.
Given the farmer's present economic situation, he cannot survive unless he pollutes . . . . Like an addictive drug, fertilizer nitrogen and synthetic pesticides literally create increased demand as they are used . . . . The total energy used to produce the active agent (of detergents) aloneand therefore the resultant air pollution-is probably three times that needed to produce oil for soap manufacture . . . . The crucial link between an energetic process and the environment is the temperature at which the process operates. Living things do their energetic business without heating up the air or polluting it with noxious cnmbusion products . . . . Mercury poisoning is a feature of the "plastic age." . . . The low-powered, low-compression engine was displaced between 1946 and 1968.
This meant more fuel combustion-and therefore more air pollution from gasoline combustion productsper vehicle-mile travelled . . . . For the same freight haulage, trucks burn nearly six times as much fuel as railroads . . . .
to produce metal for an aluminum beer can is 6.3 times that needed for a steel
The story goes on and on: modem progress has often been a thoughtless and sometimes selfish plunge into greater energy consumption and greater environmental degradation.
The exclusiveness of the profit motive. Our industrial enterprise has been guided, at least in principle, by the ideal that society is best served as a result of competition between many sources of supply, each trying to gain a larger share of the market and hence a larger profit than its competitors. In the course of this sharp competition, the final product is supposedly improved, economics are ensured, and incentive is provided where it counts the most: in the pocketbook. In practice, however, it is all too often found that the final product is degraded because the necessity for profit has made quality an unaffordable luxury, economies are obtained at the expense of the public and in order to provide larger profits for the relatively small number of well-todo investors, and the development of built-in obsolescence, the hardsell of materialistic views, and a "public-be-damned" attitude, often follows. The growth of large industrial monopolies and international cartels leave the individual with litle choice of alternatives. When the profit-motive is the exclusive guide to industrial action, economic factors dominate all others, and energy, environmental and human costs never enter the equation.
Nationalism and its counterparts. Finally in a global view of the energy crisis, nationalism, racism and ethnicism can be grouped together as analogous challenges to the responsible use of energy. They correspond to putting some group of people above the welfare of all people, whether that group be the nation, the race, or the ancestral background. In each case, the preservation of the welfare of the group takes priority over all other responsibilities. They threaten the responsible use of energy because they demand that the group's energyutilization be maintained and expanded even at the expense of all other groups' energy needs.
How Can This Crisis Be Alleviated?
There are essentially only two possible ways to alleviate the energy situation: (1) the development of ways of utilizing environmentally acceptable sources of energy that are not now contributing appreciably to energy needs, and (2) the conservation of presently available energy sources by a variety of means. Since the details of the development of alternative energy sources are quite technical, we concern ourselves here primarily with the requirements of energy conservation that are certain to play an important role in the near future if not for a much longer period.
What conservation means. The conservation of energy means at least three different things: (Ii) stopping certain uses of energy completely, (2) reducing the use of certain sources of energy partially, and (3) using energy more efficiently and putting waste energy to work. Lincoln suggests several general areas in which energy conservation should he sought. An absolute reduction in oil and gas should be achieved through the substitution of domestically available fuels such as coal and nuclear (although here there is the common conflict with environmental concerns that we discuss further below). The trend in transportation toward greater speed and convenience at the expense of decreased efficiency of energy use should be reversed and incentives provided for small automobiles, mass transit, and improved traffic control. Good energy conservation practices in the home should be encouraged, and improvements in construction and insulation supported to decrease energy loss from existing houses. The discussion closes significantly with the words, "Recent experience has shown that technological advances alone will not solve the problem."
In the area of agriculture, as another example, Steinhart and Steinhart offer a number of areas where energy conservation should be attempted: more use of natural manures, weed and pest control at much smaller energy cost, research by plant breeders for more suitable stock, a change in eating habits toward less highly processed foods, control of packaging, reducing the use of trucks for food transport, and reconsidering the trend to ever-larger frostless refrigerators.8
Many of the above suggestions involve both energy conservation and improvements in the efficiency of energy use.
Self sufficiency. One way to contribute to the conservation of energy is to attempt to reverse the trend by which the individual becomes dependent on outside sources for all of his energy needs. Hammond provides a useful summary of suggestions: turning down the thermostat in winter, wearing warmer clothes, shopping less frequently, doing by hand such jobs as mowing the lawn, mixing batter and brushing teeth that have become electrically done in recent years, turning out lights, putting up storm windows, servicing the furnace, using brooms and non-electric blankets, limiting use of television, seeking local recreations, home gardening to supply some of the family's food needs and use of cooking methods that minimize energy use. Experimental homes using solar and wind energy are growing in number, and some of the developments can be adapted for individual existing homes with or without alteration. Minimization of the use of the onepassenger automobile and taking full advantage of alternatives modes of transportation, including of course the bicycle and the leg muscles in walking, also contribute to energy selfsufficiency.
Dilemmas of conservation of energy. Although conservation of energy appears to be an unmitigated good, the introduction of conservation into our present society can produce serious consequences. Basic conflicts are certain to be encountered by any major attempt to effect a conversion to an energy-saving lifestyle, as the success of this attempt inevitably results in the loss of job and income for thousands of people employed in the corresponding industries. The same problem is faced, of course, whenever any major industry receives much less demand for its services, as in space or defence programs. A major decrease in the use of the automobile, for example, would be certain to have drastic effects on the automobile industry, whose health is often taken as an index of the nation's health.
Hannon 10 points out three dilemmas associated with changes in our attitude toward energy use.
Energy conserving policies would increase overall employment in general by decreasing the number of highwage jobs and increasing the number of low-wage jobs, but the people holding the former belong to the most highly organized unions.
Spending money in any way demanding energy, and the extra dollar spent required almost the same energy when spent by a poor family as it did when spent by a rich family. It appears that the only way to save energy is to reduce income.
What does the consumer do with the dollars he saves after he has shifted to a cheaper mode of transportation? He can spend it or save it. In either case, energy will be required to provide for this freed expenditure . . . . he can never save more energy by redirecting certain portions of his income than he can by becoming that much poorer.
These dilemmas are cited in detail to show that the conservation of energy, like all other perturbations in a dynamic system, is certain to have large effects that cannot be ignored if conservation is to achieve its ultimate goal of providing a quality human life. Hannon suggests that "in the long run, we must adopt energy as a standard of value and perhaps even afford it legal rights."
How does the Christain respond to such problems in which wholly desirable goals (conservation of energy as responsible Christian stewardship) seem to necessarily produce foreseeable deplorable human conditions (many people without work, food, income)? At least the problem must be sufficiently understood to allow alleviation of the human condition of those forced into unemployment at the same time as the conservation of energy is achieved.
Conservation of energy and the environment. As mentioned earlier, within a given context conservation and environmental concerns will often, if not always, be in tension. Environmental concerns are of at least two types: those that deal with human physical health (air and water pollution, chemical poisoning), and those that deal with human aesthetic health (wilderness, wild rivers, mountains). Environmental concerns require the evaluation of risk factors with two components: (1) what the risks actually are, and (b) what risks are humanly acceptable. Both of these questions are frequently difficult to answer adequately.
When human life is endangered, one would expect that Christian advocates would be among the forefront of those seeking to alter the situation and bring relief. All too often, however, Christians have been completely unaware of the needs of society and of their own responsibility to be positive contributors. It is provocative to ask today, when there is a good deal of concern about the environmental effects of strip mining, why there has been for so long so little concern about the effects of deep-mine work, which under the best of conditions could not help but bring damage to the health of the miners and under the worst of conditions could be a guarantee of early death. If there is a question about how much society in general would be willing to give up in order that no human being would have to suffer out of proportion to the rest, is there not just as much question about how much Christians would he willing to give up?
So often we simply embrace the cultural situation without exercising actual judgment about it. We accept that a certain number of people must die in order to provide the convenience that the rest of us desire; we hope that we are not ourselves those who must die. But then we must face that basic question: how many probable deaths will we accept in order to get what we want? We know that the automobile, simply as a projectile, is inevitably the cause of the death of thousands of people each year, people who would otherwise have lived on to enjoy life. We can add to this toll the contribution of the automobile to pollution and the effect of that on the lives and health of thousands. How much can we tolerate? That is the kind of challenge that we all must face in connection with alternative sources of energy.
Nuclear energy, particularly in the form of the breeder reactor, can be considered as an example. Rose 11 selects three areas of concern about the major development of such systems for the generation of power: illegal acts, accidents and radioactive waste disposal. He feels that "illegal use is ... the most worrisome and least resolved hazard, and a prime motivation for exploring the possibilities of controlled nuclear fusion." Estimates of danger due to accidents (and, of course, this can be only the most approximate of estimates) have projected a "fatality rate" per person in the year 2000 to be about the same as the probability of being struck by a meteorite, and a thousand times less than the probability of being electrocuted. Such estimates vary widely, however, and orders of magnitude difference may occur between different estimators; the probability of injury for people living in the vicinity of an accident is obviously much larger than for others, and an average over all people can be misleading. Radioactive wastes are of two types, one having a half-life of only 30 years or less, but the other having very long half-lifes, for example, 25,000 years for plutonium-239. All of the wastes are very toxic for human beings and tend to accumulate in the bone and other body sites. Their storage must be safe, guarded, and virtually perpetual.
How many additional probable deaths due directly or indirectly to the operation of nuclear energy plants around the world can be tolerated? If it were known that each year one million people would die or be fatally affected, it is probable that this source of energy
Can a Christian deliberately and continuously, as a matter of principle, harm the few to benefit the many? And can excuse be sought in ignorance?
would he judged too expensive in human life. Suppose the number were
one hundred, one? In many contexts, a person who would never
knowingly kill another,
leaves a thousand to die just as surely by his inaction. For a person
give his life for another can be a noble and selfless sacrifice; for a person
to subject another to a situation where his life will be taken unwillingly from
him, violates most standards of Christian living. The moral challenge
raised here is an old one: can a Christian deliberately and continuously, as a
matter of principle, harm the few to benefit the many? And can excuse be sought
Is there a Christian solution to the energy crisis?
Many Christians seem to feel that since Jesus Christ is the solution to all human problems, there should be not only a Christian solution to the energy crisis, but a uniquely Christian solution different from all other non-Christian solutions. If such a uniquely Christian solution does not exist, then they seem to feel that the matter is not one deserving serious attention. This misconception is the result of a failure to recognize the outworking of the Christian commitment in all aspects of life. It is not that the Christian brings to the energy crisis some master plan forged in heaven, or some superknowledge of science and technology not available to others, but that the Christian brings a world and life perspective shaped by communion with the risen Lord, who calls him to be concerned, to love, and to serve.
Can we not simply claim that every solution that takes full concern for the quality of human life is ultimately based on a Christian foundation, whether recognized and admitted or not? Are there two ways to have full concern for a hungry man, a Christian way and a non-Christian way? The contribution of the Christian is that he recognizes the need for full concern, to treat the whole man in all his needs, whereas the nonChristian will generally cut off the fullness of his concern when something short of the full needs have been met.
Responsibility and guilt. We have spoken repeatedly of the responsibility of the Christian with respect to the energy crisis. The concept of responsibility requires the possibility of action (ability-to-respond); we are responsible to do what we can, but we should not underestimate how much this is.
It is important to distinguish clearly between our responsibility and our guilt. We are responsible to attempt solutions in whatever ways we have ability and opportunity; we are guilty only if we fail to attempt. If groups with which we are associated commit immoral acts, we are responsible to attempt to change the situation, but we are not guilty of the acts themselves; if we condone the acts or if we do nothing, then we become guilty as well. Thus individual American citizens need not feel intrinsically guilty about the large consumption of energy by the society into which they were born-unless they fail to act responsibly in their own
There is perhaps no area where the activity of the Devil is more obvious than when Christians do evil in good conscience.
utilization of energy and unless they do nothing to alter the pattern
of use around
Can we have too much energy? Of all the alternative sources of energy, the one that promises the most in terms of energy supply is controlled nuclear fusion. If such a process were developed, it would provide an essentially unlimited supply of energy-effectively by putting in human hands the power of the sun itself. The method is currently fraught with technical problems, but its very existence raises the question as to whether the obtaining of a source of limitless energy would necessarily be an unmitigated good.
When account is taken of the way in which human beings have polluted and degraded the environment with only limited energy at their disposal, what might not be the consequence of unlimited energy? At the conclusion of his article on nuclear energy, Rose 12 significantly remarks
Here is a final question. We have never before been given a virtually infinite resource of something we craved. So far, increasingly large amounts of energy have been used to turn resources into junk, from which activity we derive ephemeral benefit and pleasure; the track record is not too good. What will we do now?
One suspects that even the "ultimate solution" of the energy crisis will but bring home more sharply than ever the lesson that man is in no shape to go it alone.
Energy and Christian stewardship. The energy crisis, with its interrelationships in the population, food and environmental areas provides a general challenge to the Christian church, and to evangelicals in particular, to get on with the business of being a whole Christian in all of life. Although the concept of Christian stewardship is an old one that extended to one's whole existence, it has tended to become, like many other such teachings, spiritualized and religicized to mean little more than contributions to the church offering plate. But offerings to the church and tithing are only a portion of the total claims of Christian stewardship upon us. A great need of the evangelical Christian church, that body who knows and values the importance of the presentation of the Gospel of saving faith through Jesus Christ, is to rekindle the concept of Christian stewardship so that it extends to cover what one does at home, at work, at play as well as at church. Sermons are needed, teaching is needed, but most of all evident practice in the life of individuals is needed. Social sins must be recognized as being as heinous and as destructive as individual sins. Grace, faith and works must be molded into a whole Christian person.
Christian stewardship is based on the position that ownership can never be ultimate and must always be temporary. The universe and all that is in it belong ultimately to God alone, We understand our role clearest when we see ourselves as caretakers of what God has for a short time allowed to rest in our hands. Any time that a person's concept of ownership of a thing begins to take on an ultimate aspect of his thinking-i.e., any time that ownership of a thing becomes so important that loss of that thing would seriously deprive life of its meaning, he has forgotten the actual order of reality and has passed into idolatry. It is this awareness and acceptance of the human role as caretaker, steward, or deputy in the name of God over God's world that forms the essential basis for a Christian approach to responsible living with respect to energy, population, food and the environment.
Even with an awareness of the false claims of cultural materialism, however, living responsibly as a Christian is no simple task. A new definition of success is required, a definition in terms of being rather than in terms of having. A new definition of necessity and luxury is required, a definition that does not allow luxuries to become necessities without conscientious reflection, and yet takes full account of the aesthetic as well as the physical needs of human beings. A re-evaluation of the Christian approach to such matters in the political sphere is required; as long as Western capitalism unavoidably appears as a defence of the rich, and Communism skillfully represents itself as a defence of the poor, can the battle for human freedom be won?
Finally there is the question of the development of Christian norms to guide responsible Christian stewardship. Christians in general become aware of the nonChristian aspects of their life through a familiarity with the Word and with the experiences of other Christians. In some Christian communities no members smoke, and the community accepts smoking as a nonChristian activity (in recent years supported by the findings of medical research); in other Christian communities many members smoke and the community accepts smoking as a gift from Cod. Where a general Christian consciousness of the equality of all races does not exist, many Christian communities interpret the inequality of races as the will of God. So also where a general Christian consciousness of the significant demands of Christian stewardship with respect to current crises does not exist, many Christians will continue in irresponsible living in good conscience. There is perhaps no area where the activity of the Devil is more obvious than when Christians do evil in good conscience. Does not a vital consciousness of Christian stewardship require that a person who wastes energy should feel as guilty as one who commits adultery?
What Can Individual Christians Do?
God requires that Christians be faithful. He does not promise us success necessarily, but he also does not allow us to use the unlikelihood of success as an excuse for disobedience. In the world in which we live, the Christian finds attempts at responsible stewardship constantly frustrated by a multitude of factors: cultural styles, unconcern of others, powerlessness to make major changes, political practices-the very structure of society itself. Perhaps the greatest challenge to the Christian is to exercise responsible stewardship in a situation where such stewardship is discouraged and all but made impossible.
The individual Christian can be a faithful steward of energy by living himself in a way that reflects a desire to be responsible both to the present and the future. In the previous sections of this paper on conservation, increasing energy efficiency and developing self suffieien cy, many specific approaches have been mentioned as examples. In the area of transportation, the Christian will not in general (and it is always foolish not to recognize that valid exceptions exist for most generalizations) drive a large car that gets low gas mileage, nor will he regularly drive as the only occupant of his car, but he will consider alternative modes of transportation, including public transportation, bicycling or walking. In his home the Christian will be a faithful steward by having only needed lights on, by keeping his thermostat low in winter and high in summer, and by planning his daily routine so as to use no more energy than necessary. In his public life the Christian will support political candidates who give evidence of a consciousness compatible with responsible stewardship. The Christian will encourage and participate regularly in recycling efforts; every church should be a recycling center for its members. The Christian will take care as to how his money is spent and will develop an awareness of what kinds of goods have been overprocessed or over-packed, and are destined to contribute heavily to environmental pollution.
Responsible stewardship also requires that Christians reflect deeply on some of the difficult questions raised in this paper, seeking through their communion with the Word, through prayer, and through discussion in the community of faith to arrive at Spirit-led answers.
A quote from Daniel Moynihan was not meant to be taken in a Christian context, but it speaks relevantly to the theme of this paper.
A century ago the Swiss historian Jacob Borckhardt foresaw that ours would be the age of 'the great simplifiers,' and that the essence of tyranny was the denial of complexity. He was right. This is the single great temptation of the time. It is the great corruptor, and must he resisted with purpose and energy. What we need are great complexifiers, men who will not only seek to understand what it is they are about, hot who will also dare to share that understanding with those for whom they act.13
1B.Commoner, The Closing Circle, Bantam, N.Y. (1972). Commoner points out that the highest postwar growth rate is the production of non-returnable soda bottles, with an increase of 53,000 percent!
2 H. Landsberg, "Low-Cost, Abundant Energy: Paradise Lost?" in Energy: Use, Conservation and Supply, P. H.
Abelson, Ed. AAAS, Washington, D.C. 11974), pp. 3-9.
3J. S. Steinhart and C. E. Steinhart, "Energy Use in the U.S. Food System," Energy: Use, Conservation and Supply, P. H. Abelson, Ed., AAAS, Washington, D.C., pp. 48-57.
4G. A. Lincoln, "Energy Conservation," Energy: Use, Conservation and Supply, P. H. Abelson, Ed., AAAS, Washington, D.C., 1974, pp. 19-26.
5B. Commoner, loc. cit., pp. 140, 141.
6B. Commoner, loc. cit., pp. 149-171.
7C, A. Lincoln, loc. cit.
8J. S. Steinhart and C. E. Steinhart, loc. cit.
9A. L. Hammond, "Individual Self-Sufficiency in Energy," Energy: Use, Conservation and Supply, P. H. Abelson, Ed,, AAAS, Washington, D.C., 1974, pp. 34-38.
10B. Hannan, "Energy Conservation and the Consumer," Science 189, 95-102, 1975.
11D, J. Rose, "Nuclear Electric Power," Energy: Use, Conservation and Supply, P. H. Abelson, Ed., AAAS, Washington, D.C., 1974, pp. 88-96.
12D. J. Rose, loc. cit.
13From the farewell speech of Daniel Mnynihan to the President's Cabinet in 1970, quoted by E. E. David, Jr., Science 189, 679 (1975) in an editorial, "One-Armed Scientists?"
Energy and Power, Scientific American Inc., W. H. Freeman and Ca., 1971.
Energy, J. Haldren and P. Herrera, Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA, 1971.
Energy, Technology in the Year 2000, Technology Review, 1971, 1972.
"Energy: How Critical is the Crisis?" Consulting Engineer,
Energy and the Future, A. L. Hammond, W. D. Metz and T. H. Mangh II, AAAS, Washington, D.C. 1973.
Energy: Use, Conservation and Supply, P. H. Abelson, Ed., AAAS, Washington, D.C. 1974.
Exparing the Energy Choices: A Preliminary Report, Energy Policy Project, Ford Foundation, 1974.