Bryan Fischer
September 17, 2007
War of worldviews: the Judeo-Christian tradition vs. environmentalists
By Bryan Fischer

A wing of the evangelical movement, headed by Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, is hopping on the trendy environmentalism bandwagon, and linking arms with environmentally activist groups. An evangelical church in Boise is hosting a national conference on the environment this week, and the Sierra Club is actually providing scholarships for college students to attend.

It's important for evangelicals to recognize that, as appealing as it may be to join forces with environmentalists on the left, there are profound differences in worldview that one day must be faced head on. Evangelicals who believe these differences can be held in tension indefinitely are fooling themselves.

Something will have to give, and fundamentalist environmentalists are not about to budge on their deeply held convictions. Ultimately, evangelicals will have to sacrifice their deeply held convictions if they are to continue to team up with dogmatic environmentalists.

As Rabbi Daniel Lapin observed on Dr. James Dobson's radio program, the whole purpose of the environmental movement is to do away with Genesis 1-3.

Here are several of those fundamental differences:

  1. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, man worships the Creator rather than the creation: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." In environmentalism, there is no Creator to worship, and therefore man worships the Earth itself, as the goddess Gaia. Since nature itself is sacred in environmental thinking, every time man leaves his imprint on the earth, he is intruding on the divine, and every act of human development is an act of sacrilege or blasphemy.

  2. The Judeo-Christian tradition sees man as the pinnacle of God's creation; environmentalists see him as a parasite and a noxious weed. According to Scripture, only man has been made in the image of God ("So God created man in his own image," Gen. 1:27) and has a spirit as well as a body. According to environmentalists, man is nothing more than a highly developed ape.

  3. The Judeo-Christian says, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth;" in other words, there aren't enough people on the globe, since we haven't filled it up yet. Environmentalists say there are already too many people and we must severely restrict population growth. (Note: Thomas Sowell once famously calculated that every man, woman and child could be relocated to the state of Texas, with each family of four being given comfortable living space, leaving the rest of the surface of the world empty. The claim that there are just too many people is a fraudulent claim. Further, almost all famine in the world is a result of politics, not population. There is plenty of food to feed every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. Civil wars and repressive political regimes keep food from getting to people who need it, or prevent them from developing the capacity to feed themselves.)

  4. The Judeo-Christian tradition says that man has been given authority over all the earth: "Subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). Environmentalists argue that if man has any rightful authority over the environment at all, it is extremely limited and must be restricted and withdrawn wherever possible.

  5. The Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that man was placed in the garden not only to care for it, but to learn how to extend his benevolent oversight over all the earth. In essence, the cultural mandate of Genesis 1-3 is for man to turn the entire surface of the globe into a garden, reclaiming it from the untamed jungle. Thus the biblical mandate is not just to tend the garden, but to extend the garden. Environmentalists say the garden is already too big, and land must be reclaimed from human development and returned to its native state wherever possible.

  6. The Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that man is God's vice-regent, and has received delegated authority from God to convert natural resources to human habitation and use. Man is therefore accountable to God for development, meaning that development then must be responsible and benevolent, since man must answer to God for his use of God's delegated authority. Environmentalists believe that man has no right, delegated or otherwise, to place his imprint on the surface of the earth. Further, environmentalists believe that man is not answerable to God but to environmentalists themselves for what they do with the environment.

  7. The Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that the conversion of natural resources to human use is a good thing. Doctrinaire environmentalists believe that every act of development is a bad thing, and must be curbed and restricted by government mandate. In the biblical worldview, responsible development is good; for environmentalists, every act of human development is, by definition, a rape of the earth.

It's naive for evangelicals to think they can keep politics out of the debate. For environmentalists, it is relentlessly about politics, and about the use of the oppressive power of the state to force their views on the rest of us.

Eventually, in this unlikely pairing of evangelicals and environmentalists, something will have to give if the partnership is to be maintained. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that it is the evangelicals who will have to give up precious principles or find themselves dismissed from the movement.

© Bryan Fischer


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