A small band of environmentalists secretly circulated a petition recently that purports to speak for a broad spectrum of Christian leadership emphasizes earth care over human prosperity while misrepresenting Biblical directives and the ospel of Jesus Christ.
The effort is a new “Caretakers of Creation” statement, which its writers hope to be authoritative, and is a replay of the Evangelical Climate Initiative of five years ago. Behind the new document is the ministry Flourish, led by ECI promoters Rusty Pritchard and Jim Jewell. Pritchard has degrees in zoology, resource economics and environmental engineering, and helped create the Department of Environmental Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, where Flourish is also based. Jewell is former chief of staff to Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, with degrees in communications from Biola University and California State University, Fullerton.
Similar to they circulated ECI for signatures years ago, Pritchard and Jewell were selective in who got to see the “Caretakers of Creation” language before it is released to the public (which they say will be soon). Upon access to Flourish’s website version of the statement in mid-May, readers were told, “Please do not publicize this link except to potential signatories” (screen capture). For a group that plans to express views representative of mainstream Christian theology on man’s relationship and treatment of the Earth, to purposely hide it from thousands of evangelical leaders — who might have informed opinions about it, many who undoubtedly will disagree — wasn’t a very honest way to go about it.
So why was Flourish so surreptitious? Maybe because they hoped no critical eyeballs would catch the unbiblical premises upon which they’ve built “Caretakers of Creation,” and thus wreck their evangelical “call to action.” Besides ECI, this was the strategy also undertaken by Jonathan Merritt — now also a Flourish staffer — when he composed and circulated the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative, which he tried to make appear as though it represented the mainstream of the SBC. It didn’t.
The themes presented in “Caretakers of Creation” are not difficult to debunk by anyone who rightly divides the word of truth, or at least those who can discern between guilt-ridden hokum and reality. The statement begins by noting disasters in various places (the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher, floods in Pakistan, drought and dust storms in China, earthquakes and cholera in Haiti, and incredibly, the summer heat wave in the Northern Hemisphere last year). Flourish implies that humans are responsible, as “These crises and others like them have had vast economic, social, cultural, familial, and spiritual consequences.”
Of course the Gulf disaster was different from the other crises mentioned, as it was the result of human error or possibly negligence, but not intention. But the only way to pin the others on man is if you buy into the highly doubted (read public polls the last few years) — if not completely discredited (try stories and studies linked at ClimateDepot.com sometime) — theory of human-caused catastrophic global warming. Regardless, a Biblical response to all disasters is not to concern oneself with “Creation care,” as Flourish suggests, but to instead minister to those who were created in God’s image — that is, people. Thank you, Franklin Graham, for setting that example.
Christian theologians are welcome to respond, but I have yet to find a “Creation care” dictum in the Bible. Adam and Eve tended the Garden until the Fall, when God then cursed it, which means that He converted it into something less than His original intention. But even before they gave in to the temptation, God told the first humans to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28, NASB). Lest you think that “subdue” is code for “care” in that verse, the Hebrew word it is taken from — transliterated “kabash” — is also translated elsewhere in the Old Testament as “assault,” “force into bondage,” “subjugate,” “trample,” and “tread under foot.” So Man’s dominion, yes; Earth “care,” no.
Not that a Biblical view justifies assailment of the orb. We dwell with others who live here as well, ones whom we are to treat with love, respect and care. We do not love our neighbors as ourselves if we pollute our common water or air sources. Christians’ testimony of salvation in Jesus will fall on deaf ears if we destroy our shared natural resources to the point of harming our fellow citizens.
But Flourish really goes off the rails toward the end of statement, where take mankind as a whole to task, when in fact — for the most part — freedom, capitalism, prosperity and human consumption have produced the healthiest societies, the cleanest air and water, and the most continually restored natural resources on the planet. Nevertheless, Flourish inflicts guilt on American values via social gospel imperatives:
We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its biodiversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.
Among Flourish’s calls to action are for “Christians worldwide” to “adopt lifestyles that renounce habits of consumption that are destructive or polluting,” and to “exert legitimate means to persuade governments to put moral imperatives above political expediency on issues of environmental destruction and potential climate change.”
I wonder if Pritchard, Jewell and Merritt have renounced their own consumption habits by giving up their fossil-fueled vehicles and electricity, as well as their modern conveniences that are composed of many different minerals mined from the earth. Or if not, perhaps they can define for the rest of the human race just what level of consumption is acceptable. That will be hard to find in the Bible, too.