The heat continued long after the fires went out. Who was to blame for the fires that tarnished the Golden State? Those blazes killed 22 residents, destroyed 3,600 homes, and burned over 750,000 acres. What could we do to stop it from happening again?

As any firefighter will tell you, the cause and the solution to wildfire is rarely simple. While those who started the fires should be held accountable, they were not responsible for the drought in Western states and other contributing factors that made the fires spread so quickly.

Chief among the culprits: dead and diseased trees, drying underbrush, and aggressive attempts to stamp out all fires (which led to accumulating deadwood), which have turned many Western forests into major wildfires in waiting. While some debate the effects of logging and livestock, almost everyone agrees that the quantity of easily ignitable fuel in several forests is, well, unnatural.

Underneath agreement on the problem, however, remains division on the nature of nature and our role in it. The debate will reignite, and the California wildfires vividly demonstrated that ecology is not purely academic. The Bible teaches Christians to embrace a theology in which God is both immanent in his creation and transcendent and beyond it; one in which humans are both part of God's creation and its subduers and caretakers. In short, though Adam and Eve's fall made our jobs more difficult, we still have the same job: we were created to be gardeners.

Our calling as stewards of creation is neither to protect nature from human "intrusion" nor to tame all wilderness. Some Christians have wrongly joined with Thoreau in romanticizing the outdoors; other Christians have taken another extreme. "In God's law neither man nor ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.