Dan Story in his new book, "Should Christians Be Environmentalists?" published by Kregel Publications helps gives us what the Bible really says about environmental stewardship and our role in it.
From the back cover: Should Christians Be Environmentalists?
The Earth has been plundered, pillaged, and polluted. The severity of the issue, who is to be held responsible, and the "right" solution has been hotly debated by scientists, environmentalists and politicians. But what does the church have to say? If God instructed the human race to be caretakers over creation, and if environmental exploitation proves a lack of care, is Christianity to blame for today's environmental problems? What does the Bible really say about environmental stewardship?
In a time when both Christians and non-Christians are increasingly aware of environmental and ecological problems, Dan Story urges believers to become more informed and engaged in confronting these issues. Writing as both an environmentalist and a Christian, Story shows readers how to:
Develop a Bible-based theology of nature
Prepare an apologetic response to anti-Christian environmentalists
Explore evangelistic opportunities in Christian environmentalism
"Should Christians Be Environmentalists?" is a powerful challenge for unbelievers to reconsider their misconceptions and erroneous assertions regarding the church's lack of concern for the environment, and it is a bold call for Christians to attain a better understanding of the Biblical perspectives of environmental stewardship.
Dan Story tells us Christian environmentalism ("creation care") is increasingly becoming a topic of concern and interest among Evangelicals. Unfortunately, many Christians have had a tainted perspective on why and how we should engage in this growing area of ministry-not just theologically but morally. Christian environmentalism is also a potentially tremendous evangelistic opportunity to reach young adults (in particular) with the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. Mr. Story wrote his book to provide what he believes is the correct biblical perspective on ecology, wildlife, conservation, and environmental stewardship and ethics. In short, the book explores the historical, theological, apologetic, and ethical dimensions of Bible-based environmentalism. "Should Christians Be Environmentalists?" is divided into three sections: Environmentalism: A Movement In Need Of A Religion, A Bible-Based Theology Of Nature and Environmental Ethics And The Role Of The Church. After reading this book I have a deeper appreciation of the planet God put us on and I want to do what I can to help keep it going. I recommend this book highly.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
The primary purpose of Story's book is threefold. First, to encourage godly environmental by systematically developing a Bible-based theology of nature, including guidelines for environmental ethics. Second, to present an apologetic to anti-Christian environmentalists who claim Christianity is the root cause of environmental exploitation. Third, to identify points of contact - areas of concern to both Christians and non-Christians - that can be starting points of conversation, often leading to opportunities for sharing the gospel. (11-12)
He reports on the demise of outdoor activity (especially among children) and the positive effects of nature on human mental health. He explains why conservative Christians are reluctant to embrace environmentalism.
He investigates the claim that Christians are responsible for the environmental crisis. While he does admit that "throughout church history the majority of Christians have exercised a destructive exploitive attitude toward nature," (34) he notes that this has been the case for all cultures and societies, regardless of religious belief.
In developing his theology of nature, he reminds us that God proclaimed all creation as very good. Story argues that nature has value to God in and of itself, independent of the human race. "The Bible does not teach that God created the earth solely for human consumption and comfort." (84) God expresses concern for nonhuman life and derives joy from the animals he created. (89)
Story investigates whether exploiting nature is a sin. He looks at the effects of the Fall and God's plan for restoration. He develops an ethical basis for environmental stewardship from the moral principles taught by Jesus.
Story argues that Christianity is unique among religions. "Only biblical Christianity recognizes that mankind possesses distinct stewardship responsibilities over creation according to a divine plan. Only biblical Christianity provides the objective moral principles needed to establish environmental ethics and to provide guidance for environmental stewardship." (58)
His summation, "the biblical view of environmental ethics balances human material needs with moral obligations to ensure the welfare of God's creation." (153)
Story has provided a thought provoking and balanced argument toward creation care. Reading this book will help us become the stewards God intended us to be.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.
Dan Story, author of the book, Should Christians be Environmentalists?, is a former agnostic, turned Christian. Soon after becoming a Christian, Story felt compelled to write Christian apologetics materials. Some thirty years later Story has written his first work on environmentalism from a Christian perspective. It is probably good Story took so much time to get back to his environmentalist past, since he is now firmly grounded in biblical theology, so that he handles the topic with the skill of a seasoned apologist. The book is not so much a to-do list of things Christians can do to care for God's creation as it is an apologetic to the Church to become leaders in the field of creation care. Story's target audience is Bible-believing Christians, since there is a biblical emphasis throughout the book.
Dan Story begins Should Christians be Environmentalists? with an examination of environmental catastrophes of the past and how the environmental movement began in the 1960's. He blames the decline of environmentalism on its failure to provide an environmental ethos. As a movement relegated to liberals, it was often opposed by conservative religious people. Story maintains that things would have been different if the movement had employed a God-centered, stewardship-based foundation.
Because Christians often opposed the early environmental politics, much of the blame for the environmental crisis was placed at the feet of Christians. However, Story goes on to show that humanity's fallen nature has been responsible for the vast majority of the environmental destruction. He repudiates the Hollywood-based image that tribal societies were more environmentally-friendly. The reality is that the Native Americans probably killed off North America's megafauna, some 10,000 years ago. They set wildfires destroying grassland to drive buffalo during hunting. Their inability to radically damage their environment was more a result of limited technology rather than a high regard for nature. Story describes an account of Sioux Indians in May, 1832 who massacred 1,400 buffalo to sell their tongues at Fur Company Fort for whiskey. The rest of their carcasses were left to rot on the plain. Story also described attributes of common Native American religions, which, to a large degree, revolved around animism and a fear of evil spirits that were thought to inhabit even inanimate objects. Eastern religions are often said to be more environmentally-friendly, although both China and India have suffered from extreme pollution and environmental destruction as a result of greed and poor environmental safeguards. Virtually every culture and religion have over-exploited the earth to produce environmental damage, mostly as a result of humanity's sin nature.
Dan Story does a really good job describing the biblical framework of creation and how it fits with God's plans. God is both transcendent and immanent and both created and maintains nature for our benefit and for the benefit of other living creatures. Psalms 104, 147, 148, along with Job 38 describes God as providing for all His creatures to sustain their lives. God created human beings in His image, commanding us to be stewards of His creation. The biblical Sabbath included not only rest for human beings, but also their animals (Exodus 20:9-10). When God spared the city of Nineveh through the reluctant efforts of Jonah, God expressed pleasure that both the human beings and animals were spared from judgment (Jonah 4:11). The biblical stewardship mandate comes from God commanding Adam to care for His garden, God commanding Noah to care for all the animals rescued on the ark, and from Sabbath commands, including the command to allow the land to rest from planting one year out of every seven.
My only complaint of Dan Story's theology is that he seems to believe in "restoration theology" (the idea that creation will be restored to a garden of Eden paradise). Story believes that the creation, in addition to mankind, will be redeemed at the end of the world. However, it is easy to confuse Isaiah's description of the millennial kingdom with Revelation's description of the New Jerusalem. In reality, Peter makes it clear that the universe will be destroyed "with intense heat," while Jesus Himself indicated that "heaven and earth will pass away" and Isaiah said that the heavens "will be rolled up like a scroll." In addition, numerous passages suggest that heaven, the new creation, will be vastly different than earth. Even though I believe God will destroy the current creation and create an entirely new, eternal one, this should not abrogate our mandate to be good stewards of God's creation now, since we do not know how many more generations of our children will be living here.
The third section of Should Christians be Environmentalists? examines the role that the Christian Church should play in care for creation. Story does a good job providing a Bible-based explanation of what environmental ethics should look like for the Christian, including many citations of scripture. Story's call to action involves more than just a passive embrace of creation care, but an active promotion to instill those values in our children. Too many of today's children never get out into nature, but are glued to their electronic devices. Story calls for responsibility at the individual level, the congregation level and through all levels of Christian education (Sunday schools, Christian schools and colleges).
In summary, Dan Story's Should Christians be Environmentalists? is a compelling call for action on the part of the Christian Church. For too long Christians have opposed creation care primarily because it has been dominated by liberal "tree huggers." It is time for the Christian Church to get involved and take charge of care for God's creation. Story describes Christian environmentalism as "always 'theocentric,' that is, we care for nature but serve and worship God."