Why Christians should look after the planet

It’s such a confusing thing to me that if you believe that God created the Earth for you, why would you not have to look after it?
Louis C.K., Live at the Beacon Theatre (hilarious, but NSFW)

Christianity often finds itself on the wrong side of the environment debate. Comedian Louis C.K. can’t get his head around devout Christians arguing for economic interests over the pressing ecological ones if they really believe that the Earth is a gift to humans.

Louis CK can’t get his head around anti-environmentalist Christian views (strong language)

Naomi Klein, in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate refers to the Judeo-Christian commission in Genesis for humans to “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over every fish in the sea and every living creature that moves on the ground” as at odds with caring about the Earth.

But this wasn’t always the case.

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright explains:

Western Christianity has allowed itself to embrace that dualism whereby the ultimate destiny of God’s people is heaven, seen as a place detached from earth, so that the aim of Christianity as a whole[…]is seen in terms of leaving earth behind and going home to a place called heaven.
N.T Wright, Jesus Is Coming — Plant a Tree!

If you think that all of time, space and matter are going to hell in a hand-basket, then, indeed, why care for the planet? God’s going to just throw it away.

If, instead, you see in the New Testament that talk of ‘new creation’ referring to the renewing of the existing creation rather than something in it’s place, then what we do with this planet right now matters somehow.

I think this latter view, though rarely discussed in Western Christianity, is a more faithful reflection of what the early Christians were expecting. After all, Jesus, as the firstborn of the new creation, still had the scars from his crucifixion. Somehow, some way, the good we do here, and the physical matter that exists here, will have a place in God’s final creation.

When Paul talks of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians he concludes that because of the future resurrection “you know that in the Lord, your work is not in vain.” — it counts, somehow.

Tom Wright explores this whole area in his article, Jesus is coming — plant a tree! and in more detail in Surprised by Hope, both of which I thoroughly recommend.

It’s such a confusing thing to me that if you believe that God created the Earth for you, why would you not have to look after it?
Louis C.K., Live at the Beacon Theatre (hilarious, but NSFW)

Christianity often finds itself on the wrong side of the environment debate. Comedian Louis C.K. can’t get his head around devout Christians arguing for economic interests over the pressing ecological ones if they really believe that the Earth is a gift to humans.

Without going that deeply into New Testament theology, it’s the point that C.K Louis made that sticks with me the most. If I believe God made the world for us, and that he put us in charge; then looking after the planet is a great commission that all of humanity is called to.

Contrary to the negatives Klein sees, the commission of Genesis actually puts more responsibility for the state of the Earth on the shoulders of humanity, not as one species among equals, but as the representatives of the Creator amongst creation.

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