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Greening of the Gospel?

Evangelical environmentalists press to add creation care to the church's mission.
1996This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Cal DeWitt in 1977 sat alone in his office at Calvin College reading the Gospel of John. He had read John 3:16 countless times in his Christian life, but this time he noticed something different in the well-known passage, "God so loved the world."

"That day, it bowled me over," DeWitt recalls. Noticing the Greek word cosmos (world in English), DeWitt was deeply moved by the idea that Christ's death had eternal implications not only for the rebellious human race, but for the cosmos, all of creation, as well. That day was a turning point in DeWitt's understanding of biblical mandates for care of God's creation and stewardship of the earth.

DeWitt has gone on to become a leading light in the contemporary movement among evangelicals toward environmental awareness and activism. In recent years, that movement has blossomed in size and influence. It also has drawn its share of criticism from within evangelical ranks.

BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT: For nearly two decades, DeWitt has been pressing church leaders to affirm the church's role in caring for the environment.

In 1979, he became director of the Mancelona, Michigan-based Au Sable Institute, which had been reorganized around the goal of environmental stewardship. Au Sable sponsored yearly forums, where a few dozen evangelical leaders gathered to focus on the Bible and creation. "Nobody was raising any green flags," DeWitt recalls. "We were just rediscovering the Creator. Many of us knew that the Scriptures had a lot to say about the Creation, but we began to realize that some of the key things were central texts of evangelical Christianity."

The words of some hymns DeWitt had sung all his life began to sound odd, he says, citing, "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through" as ...

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