This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« Literary Criticism | Main | Future Imperfect »

August 28, 2006

A Plea for Christian Environmentalism

"Beware of sentimental alliances where the consciousness of good deeds is the only compensation for noble sacrifices." Otto von Bismarck

In a recent article at The New Republic Online, the eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson has penned a plea to Christians to help save Creation:

It may seem far-fetched for a secular scientist to propose an alliance between science and religion. But the fact is that environmental activists cannot succeed without you and your followers as allies. The political process in American democracy, with rare exceptions, does not start at the top and work its way down to the voting masses. It proceeds in the opposite direction. Political leaders are compelled to calculate as precisely as they can what it will take to win the next election. The United States is an intensely religious nation. It is overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian, with a powerful undercurrent of evangelism. We secularists must face reality. The National Association of Evangelicals has 30 million members; the three leading American humanist organizations combined have, at best, a few thousand. Those who, for religious reasons, believe in saving the Creation, have the strength to do so through the political process; acting alone, secular environmentalists do not. An alliance between science and religion, forged in an atmosphere of mutual respect, may be the only way to protect life on earth, including, in the end, our own.

Professor Wilson presents some evidence of why he thinks the world is on the verge of environmental collapse:

Scientists estimate that, if habitat-conversion and other destructive human activities continue at their present rates, half the species of plants and animals on earth could be either gone or at least fated for early extinction by the end of the century. The ongoing extinction rate is calculated in the most conservative estimates to be about 100 times above that prevailing before humans appeared on earth, and it is expected to rise to at least 1,000 times greater (or more) in the next few decades. If this rise continues unabated, the cost to humanity--in wealth, environmental security, and quality of life--will be catastrophic.

However, he does not provide evidence beyond that paragraph. Nor does he offer any practical ideas on what Christians can do to stop the destruction. Because this is intended as an initial step, and is intended as a short online article, these are not fatal flaws. It will be interesting to see what flesh he adds to these bones in his forthcoming book mentioned in the article.

More troubling, potentially, is the offer of an alliance, using the language of faith, by a secular humanist who appears to have no other interest in matters of faith in general, or Christianity in particular, beyond accomplishing his own agenda. Members of the academy, particularly those in the hard sciences, tend to be condescending (or worse) towards people who take their faith seriously. What consequences are their for Christians to take up this offer to become unequally yoked? ("Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" 2 Cor. 6:14)

I will take Professor Wilson at his word that this plea is freighted with utmost respect for Christians and our beliefs. In addition, I am increasingly concerned about environmental matters, although I remain agnostic about the threat of Global Warming. Even without Global Warming, though, there are plenty of environmental issues to cause concern, such as deforestation and toxic pollution, particularly in the less developed countries.

However, I think that Christians need to address these problems from a distinctly Christian perspective--one in which we take seriously our stewardship of the Earth. (See Genesis 1:26-31) In addition, we must remember that God's salvific plan through Jesus was for the entire creation, not just humans. (See, e.g., Romans 8:20-23 and Revelation 21:1-2) As the Church, Christians have an important role within that plan for the creation.

This does not mean that we should exclude cooperation with non-Christians, nor ignore what they have to offer. It just means that we need to discern God's plan for the environment, not man's plan. If we ignore this important philosophical starting point, if we start out with our own plan and not God's, then we will likely miss the mark, and risk watering down the Gospel for the sake of getting along with secularists, or risk veering down the path of animism.

What, then, does that mean for the Professor's offer? Of course, his offer is obviously rhetorical in the sense that he does not really expect an answer, or that he will be sitting down with the National Association of Evangelicals in a future meeting to discuss the alliance. What this means as a practial matter, though, is that we need to look inward to Christianity and its sources and resources to discover and determine the means by which we should be faithful stewards. If Professor Wilson would like to join us within that context, then he is certainly welcome.

Posted by Mark at August 28, 2006 01:04 AM

Trackback Pings

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Plea for Christian Environmentalism:

» Role Reversal from BlogWatch
Mark at Stones Cry Out reports on a secular scientist reaching out.... [Read More]

Tracked on August 28, 2006 09:36 AM

» Featured on BuzzTracker from
[Read More]

Tracked on August 31, 2006 04:19 PM


What's so funny is thatin Nov., E.O. Wilson was a key member of the group of scientists that met with key evangelical leaders - including one of the leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals - to discuss what scientists and evangelicals could do together to help stop human-induced global warming. That happened at the Melhana Plantation in Thomasville, Ga in Nov., and together, the scientists and evangelicals held a press conference on Jan. 17 to discuss the retreat and their finding. It was huge news in January.

Posted by: Debbie at March 1, 2007 06:05 PM