The garden that is Earth, which God put in our care, is ailing—not from some mysterious disease, but from abuse and neglect. The time has come for evangelicals to confront the environmental crisis.

Most would agree with Romans that the Earth is “groaning in travail” and is in “bondage to decay” (8:21–22). But we have viewed such verses as though they had nothing to do with our propensity to misuse the planet. The facts of human carelessness are clear. The ozone layer protecting us from the sun’s harmful radiation is thinning. Industry-generated toxic waste is seeping into our drinking water. Vital rain forests are being destroyed. Urban areas routinely declare air-pollution alerts.

There are many points of uncertainty in the environmental diagnosis. The extent of global warming, for example, is not yet known precisely. But taken together, the list of environmental woes suggests the need for fundamental change. Problems that were once local have become global, and therefore inescapable. And what is most frightening of all, they may become irreversible.

Some environmentalists have blamed the church for the current worldwide environmental predicament. They argue that the creation story in Genesis, where humanity is given “dominion” over the Earth, has caused Western culture to see the world through an “anthropocentric” lens, leading to cavalier exploitation of the environment. Evangelicals can respond to the critics—and address the crisis—on several fronts.

• Let us first admit that some Christians, past and present, have argued that dominion means freedom to exploit the world. In our refusal to refute such wrongheaded notions—both by our lifestyle ...

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