Science in Christian Perspective


A Christian Affirmation on the Stewardship
of Natural Resources

Richard H. Bube, Editor

From: JASA 29 (September 1977):

The existence of all life requires the use of energy and natural resources. Responsible living requires responsible use of energy and natural resources.

We, who are citizens of the USA, have been using almost six times more energy per person than citizens of the rest of the world. (Coal equivalent energy use in Kilograms per capita was 11,244 for USA in 1971 compared to 1,927 for world average.-United Nations Statistical Yearbook, 1972.) This imbalance is not only in terms of personal affluence and luxury, but also in terms of social and industrial practices.

Even the development of new sources of unlimited energy will not alter the crisis presently coming upon us. (1) If it were possible to bring the rest of the world up to the standard of living currently enjoyed in the USA, and if in the time required to do this the population of the world only doubled and the overall use of energy (from fossil fuels, or nuclear sources) only doubled, we would be within a factor of two of generating enough heat on earth to melt the polar ice caps and inundate the coastlines of the world. There is an absolute limit to the amount of energy that can be generated from these sources, even if their supply were unlimited. Of course the increased environmental pollution resulting from such energy use would, in itself, be totally limiting. (2) Our civilization depends critically not only on energy, but also on a host of materials such as metals, which are in limited supply Unless use is followed by recycling and re-use, we will find ourselves without the basic materials needed for human welfare.

The Christian has specific reasons for responding to the needs of his community and the world in a time of crisis for energy and natural resources. It is essential that Christians be leaders and example setters in the days ahead, not indifferent or reluctant followers. Christians in the USA have been blessed with greater affluence; they have also been given, therefore, greater responsibility. 

1. The Christian believes in God as Creator and Sustainer of the world. Natural resources are a gift to us from God. They merit our respect and careful attention because God has made them. It is part of our responsibility to use and manage these resources in a way that glorifies God and contributes to the well being of our neighbor.

2. The Christian believes that the human being is made in the image of God and has been given a unique position in the created universe. God is pleased to act under ordinary situations through human beings who are committed to Him. To act responsibly with respect to natural resources is therefore to serve God.

3. The Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Cosmos. He who died for us on Calvary and rose again three days later is the same Lord by Whom all things were created, for Whom all things exist, and to Whom all things are intended to be gathered. To be an obedient disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a responsible steward of the resources of the Cosmos.

4. The Christian believes that he is called to serve God and be obedient to Christ in many cases through his neighbors, those presently living and those still to be born. Thus to be wasteful of natural resources or to use them thoughtlessly or selfishly in indifference to the needs of our neighbors, is to yield to disobedience.

5. The Christian believes that be is called to be a witness to the new life that is in him through every aspect of his life. Living responsibly toward the natural world and toward his neighbors is an essential aspect of Christian witness to the saving grace and love of God.

Because of these specific reasons and others that might as well be adduced from the biblical record, we Christians pledge to live in a way that is responsible with respect to the natural resources given to us by God. In particular we pledge:

1. To discipline our pattern of living so that energy and resource conservation is fed in at the beginning al ng wth our personal preferences and conveniences, thereby permitting energy conservation to be achieved simply by better planning and thoughtfulness.

2. Consciously to decrease the amount of energy that we use by doing for ourselves what might be done for us by an energy-using machine whenever and wherever possible.

3. To limit our individual use of the automobile insofar as this is possible, and to attempt to cooperate in sharing automobile transportation, or to substitute bicycles and walking wherever feasible.

4. To replace, as it becomes possible, our large gasoline-inefficient automobiles with smaller gasoline-efficient automobiles, and to decrease the number of automobiles deemed "essential" per household.

5. To avoid overheating our homes in the winter, seeking rather to put on sweaters and seek better insulation, and to avoid overcooling our homes in the summer.

6. To reduce to an absolute minimum, and to eliminate if possible, all purely recreational uses of gasoline, which also have negative environmental impact.

7. To reduce to a minimum the use of natural resources for activities that are purely in the luxury category, guiding ourselves by the remembrance of how many others will be cold, hungry, or without the preaching of the Gospel because of our unnecessary activities.

8. To avoid foods and other commercial products that are packaged, treated, processed or in other ways manufactured at the expense of energy and rare natural resources, without corresponding nutritional or health benefits, simply for the sake of convenience or sales attraction.

9. To seek other modes of energy supply as the opportunity and our own situation allow us, e.g., the adaptation of solar energy to meet at least a portion of our heating needs if we can afford to do this, in order to release scarce oil and gas for those who must use these fuels.

10. To avail ourselves of opportunities to become educated on what it means to be truly responsible stewards of energy and natural resources in a particular situation, recognizing that many problems may not have obvious and simple solutions. (For example, is it better to use glass containers for milk that can be re-used but require heat and water to sterilize them, or to use paper containers that must be manufactured anew for each use but can be disposed of after use, although probably not without environmental degradation?)

11. To support those public officials who truly seek to face and resolve the problem in a way that is as fair and equitable as possible to all involved, particularly to the poor and underprivileged in the United States and in the Third World countries, and to oppose those public officials who do not.

12. To develop a consciousness of what it means to be God's steward of energy, of water, and of natural resources, so that waste and indulgence become as offensive to us as sin, and conservation and responsible use become rewarding whole-hearted service to God.