Do christians have insights into the world of events that are superior to those of other persons? And do evangelicals, because they take seriously the claims of Scripture, have a sensitivity to the meaning of their age that is at least as great as that of those who sit more loosely to scriptural authority? It would seem that the answer to both of these questions should be a clear yes.

The world is only beginning to think into the long-range effect of the current set of crises upon our lives and upon our ways of thinking. Quite possibly the energy crisis is but the tip of the iceberg. More specifically, we may be approaching the end of an era, not only of prodigality but also, it is to be hoped, of a grotesque distortion of emphasis.

Evangelicals ought not to be the last to perceive the possibilities in the present time of crisis for a decisive correction of our Western point of view. The purpose of this essay is not to survey what evangelicals are saying at this point but to suggest from the responses of others what we ought to be thinking and saying.

Events of our day clearly portend less availability of many resources and many forms of consumer goods. Secular sources at present outrun religious agencies in asking questions and seeking possible ways of coping with shifts in life-styles that seem inevitable. Some look stoically to a future of shortages. Some sensitive young people are asking whether, not having had the experience of the Great Depression, they will be able to adjust to a life of diminishing amenities.

Most of the secular forecasts are bleak. Could it be that the anxieties of our era will offer to the Christian Church a great opportunity to function prophetically and creatively? Does the pattern of uncertainty confronting us offer hope of a new openness in the mentality of our time into which those entrusted with the Evangel can step?

A few questions may give us a point of departure for such a prophetic projection. First, is it admissible to view the energy crisis as a providential warning? That is to say, is it possible that the Almighty has permitted mankind to move prodigally toward exhaustion of one kind so as to bring him up short? Could it be a mercy that we have not been permitted all at once to run out of a wider and more critical pattern of resources?

The Christian’s vision of the ownership of “the earth and the fullness thereof” seems to date to have been projected only poorly into the planning of the West. William G. Pollard, in his essay “The Uniqueness of the Earth” (in Earth Might Be Fair, edited by Ian G. Barbour), suggests that we are at the end of a “two-hundred-year joy ride [since the Industrial Revolution] that was wonderful while it lasted.” We in the West have treated our earth as if it were a gigantic filling station that belonged exclusively to man.

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The Christian who is sensitive to the overtones of Scripture at this point can surely find categories for correcting this false vision. Suppose we try on the category of stewardship for size.

In its terms, we hold our planet, with its fragile biosphere, as a trust. A civilization that takes this seriously will be neither purely exploitive nor purely submissive toward nature. The steward will never interpret the words “have dominion” as a license to exploit the environment and to view it with cavalier irreverence.

If the biblical assertion that “the earth is the Lord’s” could be proclaimed convincingly and brought to bear upon the mind of the West, it just might serve to modify the egoism that underlies our technological culture. To be more specific, this insight might serve to project into the mentality of the advanced nations the idea that man cannot in the long pull operate successfully independently of God. Thus it might in some measure neutralize the damage wrought by Bonhoeffer’s careless maxim that modern man must learn to live without God.

A corollary of the principle of stewardship is a revulsion against an economy of waste, including prodigal exploitation of resources. The Christian conscience cannot content itself with breast-beating and doomsday predictions. Christians should, under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage, take the lead in supporting measures and policies to repair the damage already wrought. Beyond this, they ought to pioneer in inculcating a reverence—even a love—for the world as God’s creation. It is impossible for one to denude that which is cherished.

Again, could not the evangelical witness be brought to bear with telling force against the dominant stress upon success, money, abundance, and plastic comforts as essential components of “the good life”? Surely the Evangel offers a clear word concerning these false measures of an abundant life.

The roll-backs now being compelled by the shortage of our energy resources may, at long last, be bringing the secular mind to question the constant stress upon the quantitative in the thinking and planning of the West. The assumption that quantity equals richness has, it seems clear, underlain the conceptual goal of GNP and its correlate emphasis upon consumption.

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Long ago One tried to tell mankind that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of that which he possesseth.” Underlying this warning is the constitutive principle of the universe, that quantity is no substitute for quality. The probable diminution of an affluence based upon the quantitative may expose new possibilities for the Christian proclamation. The question is, Will Christians step into this newly opening door with a certain word? Will they, that is, seize the opportunity to proclaim the superiority of quality, of excellence, of wholeness, of personal integrity and personal sanctity?

In so doing, the Christian person need not retreat from the realities of man’s situation in nature. Rather, he or she will welcome any light that the scientific attitude may cast upon that situation. And as a minimum, there must be a recognition that in the interaction of man and nature, God is an essential ingredient if there is to be any creative relationship.

Finally, the evangelical mind needs to recognize that krisis-events are in reality judgments. In the threatened shortages of vital energy resources and the threatened exhaustion of precious and irreplaceable minerals and other materials, it can reasonably be deduced that judgment is abroad in the land. It is not always easy to perceive this in what may be called passive shortages. We tend to wait for the visible and active signs of violence in the streets or grave military threats to make this clear.

But krisis means judgment and demands a response. Let evangelicals then ponder whether they may have a message uniquely answerable to our emergencies, that of repentance, of self-humiliation, of “return, ye children of men!”

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