Science in Christian Perspective
Called to Stewardship
H. Scott Althouse,
St. Davids, PA 19087
From: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 50 (December 1998): 236-238.
Environmental stewardship is an overarching, contextual call for all Christians. Just as love and our concern for justice shape our daily lives, so too must stewardship of the environment be a permanent reality in how we determine to live within the established limits of creation and the rest of humanity.
My Christian journey has been shaped by the constant intervention of God in my life and his glorious revelation through creation. This journey has reaffirmed my purpose in lifeˇto be of maximum service to God and my fellow human beings. Like every Christian, I am called to love God with everything and to love my neighbors as myself. I have come to see myself as a responsible steward of creation. I base my motivation to enter the environmental field from the awesome nature of God's character. Our Father is one who is concerned with the intricate details of our personal lives. The Lord is the Lord of justice, righteousness, and shalom. Our faith and our commitment to caring for creation has to reflect our love for the Creator by bearing his image in all areas of our lives.
Throughout my life I have had a great love for the outdoors. Growing up as a young child in Lancaster County, PAˇthe pristine garden spot of AmericaˇI developed an early yearning for the land. Weekend fishing trips, camping outings with my family, and week-long outdoor expeditions with the Boy Scouts left powerful impressions on my shaping worldview. The importance of creation and its healing and spiritual qualities cannot be overstated. God's incredible revelation through creation remains the most powerful and cleansing component of my life.
My childhood yearning for the creation led me to the majesty of the Colorado Rockies following high school. I spent many sunsets on Rocky Mountain peaks watching the alpenglow gradually fade away. The pristine beauty of these virtually untouched natural areas provided a spiritual refuge for me. In the wildness of Colorado, I was able to consider the reality of my fallen nature. It was here that I experienced hope like never before. God began to talk to me and increase my awareness of the Great Reality. I am so grateful for his glorious provisions and also the decisions and hard work by many people who helped to preserve this corner of God's creation. Had there not been a place to escape in my time of struggle as a young adult, I may not have experienced the direct revelation and Truth of God in my life. It simply may have been too late. But in the wildness of the Rockies I could not deny the Creator; he began to call me back to a life of integrity and love.
Thankfully, the intervention of Christ awakened me to the Truth and motivated me to change my lifestyle and expand my worldview. After this critical turning point, I recommitted myself as a diligent follower of Jesus Christ. Looking back, I am not sure that I really knew what that meant at the time, but I did know that the modern secular worldview resulted in emptiness and misery for me. I was now totally open and willing to receive God's grace and powerful changing forces in my life. For this reason, I have chosen a life of service that is aimed at protecting God's glorious creation.
I have continued my education and God constantly deepens my vocational vision. As a double major in political science and environmental studies, I have sought to expand my personal vision of what, specifically, Christians can offer the environmental movement. Is it possible to overcome the widely held opinion that Christians are largely responsible for the ecological crisis? What can Christians learn from the secular environmental community? These are some of the questions I have identified to be of paramount concern in order for Christians to more aptly lead the environmental movement and to become better stewards of creation, writ large. Moreover, through my education at Eastern College, Au Sable Institute, and the American Studies Programˇand my constant prayer and meditation with a community of believersˇI have come to understand my vocation of creation care.
This brings me to the key issue of responsible Christian stewardship of the environment. Primarily, we are managers of the land, servers of God's created order. I acknowledge that God maintains ownership of the earth and that humanity's dominion is a derived authority. We must observe God's perfectly whole handiwork where humanity has not corrupted it. Developing care, appreciation, and love toward creation is completely necessary. Upon observing degradation to the creation, Christians must embrace an environmental mandate: the biblical command to care for God's creation. That is, imitate Christ as reconcilers and continue restoration. We shall develop a new awareness and renewed sense of servanthood toward all creation by mimicking Christ.
What I have termed the environmental mandate is outlined in Scripture. We must blow the whistle on corrupt and poor stewards: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We...are telling you to turn...to the living God, who made heaven and earth...He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons" (Acts 14:15˝17). Once we are aware of our position regarding Christian stewardship, we must claim responsibility and show others the Truth. "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualitiesˇhis eternal power and divine natureˇhave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Moreover, responsible Christian stewards will use their faith in Christ to allow God to work through them in order to imitate God's dominion for the reconciliation and redemption of the created order.
The responsible stewardship of creation is a primary duty for all of humanity, especially Christians. I have recently increased my sense of Christian duty regarding the numerous environmental issues confronting the Earth and the human race: global warming, species extinction, human population growth, resource consumption, air and water pollution, sustainable development, and energy use, to name a few. But what, if anything, can responsible Christian stewards learn from the secular environmental community?
Over the past two years, I have worked in Washington, DC with a number of secular environmental groups on public policy, legislation, and grassroots organizing. I dealt with a wide array of individuals with varied perspectives and motivation for working in the environmental field. No matter if the issue at hand was clean water, endangered species, takings legislation, or national forests, the message God was sending to me was the same. At the Sierra Club, the Clean Water Network, and Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the common denominator was that these groups are desperately trying to reach out to religious people. This "secular" environmental community has acknowledged that pure science and reason alone are unable to convince the American public about the severity of the ecological crises. Scientific reasoning has not sufficiently motivated people to deal with these environmental issues. Today many environmental groups now realize that ecological issues are moral issues that only religious epistemology can truly answer. There is a strong desire in Washington, DC to broaden alliances and build moral coalitions in our attempt to address these broad concerns and restore creation.
I emphatically believe that the biblical mandate of creation care is the answer and the best philosophical foundation to lead the secular environmental community and the rest of humanity in mitigating the ecological crises through the millennium. So in response to the widely-held paradigm that the Judeo-Christian worldview is largely responsible for our current ecological crises, I say, "Perhaps, but we Christians shall also lead humanity out of these crises through the Spirit of reconciliation and our commitment to creation care." Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. Christians must continue the concerted revival of our culture and our reconciled concept of stewardship so that all people may receive the fruits of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Moreover, a holistic Christian response to the environmental movement must be one of action and leadership.
This revival will be led by Christians who see themselves as responsible agents of God's righteousness and justice. Responsible scholarship leads us to Christian advocacy of the creation and social action. Christians are to influence public policy, particularly legislation that affects our ability to be responsible stewards of creation. We must confront the secular fallacies of the deep ecology movement with faith and obedience to God's calling each of us to be responsible stewards of his creation. The lifestyle choices we make must ultimately and sustainably bring all of our lives and culture under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Since everything is covenantally bound to the Creator, the earth will reflect his glory as the children of God continue to restore creation.
We ought to reinforce and encourage our mutual commitments to utilize all of our talents for the proper stewardship of God's creation and to the benefit of God's Kingdom. I am grateful for the American Scientific Affiliation for articulating the legitimacy and necessity for Christians to engage the natural sciences. So too are the disciplines of theology, ethics, politics, law, economics, and business the responsibility of Christian stewards. Thankfully, there does exist a concerted Christian effort to engage the modern environmental movement. To these pioneers and trailblazers, my generation owes a debt of gratitude. Thank you.