Science in Christian Perspective


Environmental Awareness

Phil Schafran, Guest Editor

From: PSCF 47 (June 1995): 79.

Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith is providing a needed forum for the ongoing environmental discussion among evangelicals. Articles in recent months have included those that are strictly scientific and those that are purely theological. It is encouraging to see both perspectives make their distinctive contributions.

As a biblical theologian, I am encouraged by recent efforts to develop an independent biblical theology of creation which breaks away from its subordination to a theology of human salvation. The first is the 1994 Fortress Press publication, From Creation to New Creation: Old Testament Perspectives, by Bernhard W. Anderson. This book is a collection of Anderson's work over the last forty years. Anderson has spent much of his career interpreting Old Testament "creation" texts during a period when these same texts were neglected by Old Testament theologians. This neglect was due to the influence of Gerhard von Rad who made creation theology the servant of salvation history (human salvation). The contemporary ecological context has brought the work of Anderson to an important position. Anderson combines a sensitive reading of Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern texts with a contemporary awareness and application of these texts. The result is a biblical theology of creation which stands independently as a legitimate pursuit in its own right.

The second is the 1994 Hendricksen Publisher's Creator and Creation: Nature in the Worldview of Ancient Israel, by Ronald A. Simkins. Simkins combines the disciplines of Old Testament theology, cultural anthropology, sociology, and the history and archaeology of ancient Israel to construct a model of human-environmental relations. Simkins uses a values orientation model to investigate and systematize the ancient Israelites' values toward the natural world. Drawing upon the world view of Israel within her ancient Near Eastern context, Simkins maintains that Israel had three solutions to the human/nature relationship: (1) subjugation to nature, (2) harmony with nature, and (3) mastery over nature. The second solution was generally chosen in Israel while the other two solutions were chosen under special circumstances or by certain subgroups within the culture. Israel's preferred choice was directly related to its values orientation preferences. This is in contrast to Westerners who prefer the mastery over nature solution. Simkins fresh approach to Israel's texts, world view, and values contributes toward a new understanding of ecology in ancient Israel.

These works are indications that environmental awareness is increasing among biblical theologians and that the awareness has vitality. This coupled with the Evangelical Declaration are reasons to be encouraged.

My hope is that the discussion will continue and that the ASA and PSCF will be at the forefront of it.