Green Plus Christian Isn't New Math
Jonathan Merritt, author of Green Like God, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Cal Beisner, national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, discuss how concerned Christians should be about environmental care.
Creation Care: As Much as God Is
If we are concerned about the gospel, we should be concerned about the environment. While the two issues might not immediately strike one as connected, I have come to believe they are inextricably so.
Creation care is a launching pad for the gospel. I correspond with missionaries around the world who are glad to see American Christians championing "creation care." In many foreign countries, missionaries don't begin with Jesus, an unknown, when witnessing to others. Rather, they begin with creation and the Creator, who is clearly evident to all (Rom. 1).
Creation care strengthens our gospel witness. In Western countries like ours, where we see a growing sensitivity to environmental problems, people view environmental stewardship as the mark of a "good person." When people see Christians selflessly caring for the planet and advocating for those who depend on Earth's resources, our gospel message becomes convincing. That's why church planters across the United States are beginning to incorporate environmental stewardship practices into their congregations' DNA.
Non-Westerners carefully observe the historically Christian West and form opinions about our faith based on our lifestyles and practices. For example, Americans make up only 5 percent of the world's population, yet consume over a third of Earth's paper products. How does this influence the gospel message in countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, and Ecuador, where deforestation causes so much suffering and injustice?
Living out the gospel includes caring for creation. It is inappropriate to claim that creation care—or any social issue—composes the foundation of the gospel. But the gospel calls us to a radically sacrificial, compassionate lifestyle. Jesus commands us to "make disciples of all nations" and teach others to "obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20). This includes the commands to love our global neighbors, care for the least of these, and uphold the creation care mandates throughout Scripture.
Ignoring environmental problems heaps shame on the gospel. Part of missional living is telling the truth. That means we must be honest about our world's problems. When we blindly follow Christian lobbying groups and "alliances" that ignore global injustice, the gospel suffers. Augustine cautioned against this in The Literal Meaning of Genesis: "If [non-Christians] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books [Scripture], how are they going to believe those books?"
I could offer more reasons Christians should care about creation: because the "earth is the Lord's" (Ps. 24); because it reveals the attributes of God (Ps. 19; Rom. 1); because God asked us to care for it (Gen. 2:15); and because Christ's death began a process of cosmic redemption in which we are called to participate (Col. 1; Rom. 8; Rev. 21). But more than any of those, we must care about creation because we want the kingdom of God to reign on earth and the gospel of Jesus Christ to take root among all people.
Creation Care: No Less Than Stewards
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Concern for the environment is one of the most controversial issues facing Christians today. On the one hand, we confront an environmentalism that is often deeply rooted in a naturalistic worldview, sometimes wedded to pantheistic or panentheistic spirituality. On the other hand, we face a painful legacy of silence, apathy, and unconcern among evangelicals.