What exactly is “creation care?”
Creation care highlights our responsibility to serve and care for everything that God has created – people and place. Scripture tells us that God created the world, called it “good,” and then placed humans in charge of the earth as stewards (Gen. 1:28-30). Everything still belongs to God (Psalm 24:1-2), but we now have a responsibility. As Christians, it is our desire to honor God by employing good stewardship of the earth and by making wise decisions about how our environmental impact affects our neighbors, both locally and globally. At its core, creation care is a spiritual issue that directly relates to our views on consumption, materialism, stewardship, thankfulness, simplicity, and love for our neighbor. Taking care of creation is our response to the awesome God who created it.
How is creation care different from “environmentalism?”
Both creation care and environmentalism take seriously the dynamic relationship between humans and the environment, believing that our choices and actions have an important impact upon the natural world. However, while most environmentalists may be motivated by valid and commendable goals, they overlook the fundamental relationship between the natural world and it’s Creator.
Creation care emphasizes this relationship by viewing environmental responsibility as part of our worshipful response to God through the stewardship of everything entrusted to us. Creation care goes beyond mere stewardship, however, and concerns itself with the ways in which our lifestyle and environmental impact affect both our relationship with God and with those around us. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love your neighbor. Creation care means loving God by responsibly living in the world he has created, and loving our neighbor by refusing to negatively impact his or her natural environment, health, and quality of life.
Ultimately, the difference between creation care and environmentalism may be less in the goals we pursue, but more in the fundamental values that motivate us.
Does creation care mean worshipping nature?
Absolutely not. Creation care entails worshipping our Creator by respecting and being good stewards of that which he has created. Nature points to God (Romans 1:20), but it is not God.
Don’t we have plenty of other important issues to deal with, such as poverty, hunger, terrorism, and sanctity of life issues? Why should we focus so much effort on the environment?
All of these issues are extremely important. At the same time, pitting earth care against people care presents a false dichotomy. The Christian faith does not consist of a narrow set of issues, but rightly addresses all moral causes—particularly those related to justice and compassion. In reality, environmental sustainability and Christian care for others are inextricably linked together. For example:
- Our addiction to oil results in large amounts of money being sent to unstable governments in the Middle East that are known for human rights abuses and for sponsoring terrorism.
- The enormous demand for cheap energy results in coal plants that ruin the drinking water (not to mention the health) of rural Appalachia.
- Deforestation in the Amazon, due to increased demand for cheap meat, contributes to spreading desertification in poverty stricken West Africa.
- Changing climatic conditions results in increased droughts and flooding, as well as rising sea levels, for many of the poorest people in the world.
- Purchasing the cheapest possible goods at large mega-stores often sends money to sweatshops in East Asia where working conditions are intolerable. The list goes on and on.
Creation care is not a matter of prioritizing the environment over individuals. Rather, it entails recognizing that our interactions with the natural world result not only in environmental consequences, but in humanitarian costs as well.
Where does the Bible talk about caring for creation?
There are countless verses pointing toward our responsibility to care for the natural world, God’s concern for what he has created, and the worship that creation naturally ascribes to God by its very existence. For a larger listing of verses, visit Blessed Earth's list at http://www.blessedearth.org/resources/creation-care-scripture/. Here’s a partial listing of a few key verses:
- Genesis 1:28 – 30
- Genesis 9:8 – 17
- Deuteronomy 10:14
- Psalm 19:1 – 4
- Psalm 65: 9 – 13
- Psalm 104
- Nehemiah 9:6
- Micah 6:1 – 4, 7 – 8
- Romans 1:20
- Romans 8:19 – 23
- Philippians 2:4 – 8
- Colossians 1:16
A lot of people talk about “sustainability.” What does sustainability mean in relation to the environment?
Simply put, sustainability means living within our collective means. Environmental sustainability refers to meeting our natural resource needs (including water, food, minerals, energy, etc.) in such a way that we do not negatively impact the ability of others to meet their same needs. Sustainability places a particular emphasis on the needs of the poor, who are often disadvantaged by first-world consumption patterns, in addition to the long-term well being of future generations. From a biblical perspective, this concept is perhaps best illustrated by the parable of the good Samaritan who went out of his way to make personal sacrifices to care for both the immediate and long-term physical needs of a complete stranger.
What does “Fair Trade” mean? And why should it matter to me?
What many people do not realize is that the cheap coffee, tea, and chocolate we buy in the store (in addition to many other products) often comes at the expense of a decent livelihood for poverty-stricken farmers around the world. These farmers are frequently forced by large multinational corporations to sell their products at exorbitantly low prices and barely receive enough income to meet their basic needs. Fair Trade products seek to correct this inequity by guaranteeing a decent minimum wage to farmers. In addition, Fair Trade products are generally grown using more sustainable farming techniques, minimizing their environmental impact. What may cost a few cents more to you and I will result in a great difference in the life of many farmers all over the developing world.
What about global warming?
Regardless of one’s perspective on anthropogenic (human caused) global warming, the evidence of a changing climate is all too clear—the earth is warming, precipitation patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and numerous species are going extinct. In an effort to make sense of these challenges, many people erroneously view global warming as a political issue, as if policy could help us interpret such changes. In fact, the examination of human influence on the global climate system is entirely a scientific issue with moral implications.
Despite uncertainty among the general public, the scientific debate over global warming is largely settled, with near unanimous agreement among climatologists that increased human emissions of greenhouse gases are contributing toward a changing climate. This conclusion is based on hundreds of well-documented, peer-reviewed scientific publications from the world's top climate experts. Perhaps most importantly, scientists tell us that such changes will significantly impact millions of people around the world. More and longer droughts, increased flooding, more severe weather events, mass species loss, spreading desertification, and abnormal growing patterns will all influence the ways in which we live.These changes present one of the greatest social justice challenges of our time. Not only will the consequences be global in scope, but they will also considerably impact our quality of life. More significantly, the poorest people (those who have emitted relatively few greenhouse gases, and are thus the least responsible) will be the most severely affected. The challenge for Christians will be in our ability to recognize the moral and ethical implications of this crisis, and to respond faithfully toward our local and global neighbors, as well as toward future generations.