The Environment and You

The following is the discussion guide I used for our last "Theology at the Forge."  By the way, if you're in Columbia, join us tonight at the Forge and Vine at 7th Street for a discussion on health care.  Let me say, beforehand, though, that there are many out there that don't understand what I, along with many others, are trying to accomplish by these public theology discussions.  Some in the evangelical world can't support anything to reach skeptics that isn't simply a walk through an evangelistic tract.  However, you can see by the questions below that the gospel permeated every aspect of the evening.  One of the problems today is that the average unbeliever can't see how the gospel has any relevance to the details of his life.  The individualistic approaches to evangelism that the church has perpetuated for years have led to many thinking that the gospel has no bearing on issues like health care or the environment or sex or stem cells.  What we are trying to do at Karis is teach the gospel as a worldview that affects everything.  So, enjoy the discussion questions below.  See how our faith should shape the way we view the environment.  But note that there is never a "Christian view" of global warming or recyclying presented.  That's because the Bible doesn't address those issues.  Those are left to applying our worldview through Christian wisdom.

The Environment and You: Conserve or Consume?

Karis Community Church, 04.23.07, Theology at the Forge

1.         When we think about people and the environment in America, what stereotypes do we typically hear on both sides?  If those stereotypical positions are real at all, what faulty thinking do you think could lie behind each?  (crazy tree-hugger, oil-flingin’ redneck)


2.         What are real, practical reasons why human beings should be concerned about caring for the environment?  (concern for those beyond you, concern for beauty, etc.)  Why do you think our culture today makes it easy and natural not to care?  (individualistic, consumeristic, narcissistic, myopic culture) 


3.         As we look at our world around us, what are some true environmental issues that should concern us?  (global warming, deforestation, etc.)  What do you think a person’s worldview has to do with the way he or she views such things and deals with such things?


4.         In 1967, Lynn White of Cal-Berkley wrote an influential article called “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.”  The article made this claim:  “We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no purpose save to serve man.”  Why do you think this idea is commonplace?  How might it be justified?  For those of us that call ourselves Christians, how would you respond to this?  Who or what might also be to blame?


5.         This is “Theology at the Forge.”  Therefore, I want us to spend some time discussing what Christian theology might to have to say about the environment.  I want us to look at the topic in the four broad categories we speak of much here at Karis: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.  What might each have to do with our discussion tonight?  I don’t assume, of course, that we all hold to this.  I just want to lay it out.


·         Creation: Christians believe God made the natural order.

                                                               i.      What is God’s relationship to the created order?  What difference might this make?  (immanence and pantheism vs. transcendence and deism; answer: an immanent, transcendent God who created all things)

                                                              ii.      What is the intended relationship of humans with the creation?  (stewards of that creation under the Lord)

                                                       iii.      What was the purpose of the creation?  How was it intended to relate to humans and to God?  (to be ruled over and cared for by humans, but also to bring glory to God; shows that Christianity is no dualism where spiritual is exalted at the expense of the material)

                                                    iv.      What differences could result from an evolutionary vs. a creationist understanding of the natural order?  (disrespect, as the product of mindless forces, or scientific exploitation vs. respect and conservation and wonder)


·         Fall: Christians believe the creation fell, along with humans, due to the sin of Adam.

                                                               i.      What impact does the fall have on how humans handle the creation?  (will trash it or worship it)

                                                              ii.      What impact does the fall have on creation itself?  (subject to decay)


·         Redemption: Christians believe that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ brings healing to the natural order, including humans.

                                                           i.      What difference should redemption make to people as they relate to the created order?  (Jesus should change the way we see and relate to the environment)

                                                           ii.      What does it mean to say that the created order experiences redemption?  (Restoration inaugurated by Jesus, yet awaits final fulfillment)


·         Consummation: Christians believe that the world and its inhabitants are moving toward complete restoration - a new heavens and a new earth.

                                                                            i.      What should this teach us about how to relate to the environment?  (should strive to “usher in” this restoration)

                                                ii.      What does this say about where the environment is heading?  (heading toward a new heavens and a new earth, a restored creation; over against dispensational, “left behind” ideas)


6.         If we assume this view of the world (which I am not assuming you do):

                                                               i.      That God created all things and gave humans the charge to be stewards over it…

                                                              ii.      And those humans fell, bringing corruption to the world itself, and concomitant, sinful responses of humans to that creation…

                                                            iii.      And Jesus came to redeem all things, including the creation and those human creations that relate to it…

                                                            iv.      And God will one day restore His entire creation, with humans, at the last day…

·         Then, how would that impact how someone interacted with that environment?


7.         What are practical ways that we can care for our environment?  What are things you do or recommend?  Can we consume, yet also conserve?  (better, care for)



“What Christians offer is an understanding that the world is not ours, that we are not the ones that give things value… The church and all of our institutions have failed to oppose the destruction of the world.”

                                                                                Wendell Berry