Book: Should Christians be Environmentalists?
Kregel Publishers provided this book free in exchange for the review.
Dan Story released this book earlier in 2012, back in February, in an attempt to address what he sees as a gap between Christian behavior and good stewardship of the world God has created. In it, he addresses the need for environmental action, a Biblical basis for environmental action, and some suggested steps of action for churches and Christians to be involved in environmental action.
His suggested steps of action are excellent. The idea of a local church being involved, perhaps as the community centerpoint, in developing programs that protect creation is a good thing. This is a popular and passionate subject and provides an excellent way to both address the need to be good stewards of what God has given us and reach the lost. In former times, churches often connected with communities through school activities and such, but that door is often closing from both sides. Creation care is a good stepping stone in its place.
Further, demonstrating concern for environmental issues and their global impact factors in as part of our consideration for the global church. It is not just the impact of relief for ourselves that should be considered, but whether or not we continue in reckless behaviors that endanger our fellow man around the world.
A word of caution, though, has to be added to the idea of “world-wide concern” when looking at environmental factors. I live in the heart Arkansas rice country, and we produce a large amount of rice through modern, industrialized farming methods. Those methods include diesel-powered machines, fertilizers, and pesticides. Some environmental groups would have farming reduce or eliminate many of those modernizations. The problem with that is the guaranteed concomitant rise in food prices. So, we might save our great-grandchildren the effects of over-farming by raising food prices to the point that their grandparents suffer malnutrition. This is part of the complexity of the issue.
His Biblical bases for action are valuable. There is no greater authority in the life of a Christian than the Word of God itself. Not emotion, not alarming statistics, not even apparent immediate need, but the Word of God. Story does an excellent job showing examples from Scripture and theological history that support the idea that Christians should demonstrate concern and active involvement in environmental efforts.
This is coupled with an examination of whether or not Christian belief is more likely to be responsible for environmental damage than other religious beliefs. He explains well that damage is done throughout all systems, and also shows that Christianity, as he sees it, should be the leading religious belief concerned with protecting the environment.
The overall case for environmental action is the place where I find fault with this work. One of his opening examples recounts how many predator animals were killed in the 1960s by a government program to reduce predator animals. Having seen the damage that coyotes do to something as simple as drip-line irrigation, I am unsympathetic to coyotes. The further story regarding the overpopulation of deer in national lands sounds more like the need to allow wider hunting than a problem with predator removal; alas many of the groups spoken of fondly in these chapters want no expansion of hunting, either.
My difficulty with this section is one more of method than of content: by opening with the standard environmentalist lines of thought, the work teeters toward proof-texting existing environmental ideas rather than beginning with Scripture to demonstrate the Christian life. It would be better to start with the Scriptural basis and use even the same examples to illustrate rather to start with the “mankind is terrible for the planet” routine. Christian theology does not co-exist well with an advocacy that puts man as a destructive parasite—rather it works well with realizing man as responsible to God for stewardship over creation.
I won’t be leading a group study in this text, but it would do well as a general discussion starter. Most likely, those Christians whose view of the earth is “it’s all going to be burned anyway” will not have an interest here, but those looking for a few insights will find some help here.
Get more info on Dan Story here: www.danstory.net
Again: free book for review from Kregel Publishers.