Recently, James Dobson accused Richard Cizik (vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals) of trying to shift emphasis “away from the great moral issues of our time” and engaging in a “dangerous and divisive” conversation.
The reason? Cizik recently called on evangelicals to articulate a public theology of creation care.
In an open letter to the NAE, Dr. Dobson and several others called on Cizik to resign, saying that his “disturbing views seem to be contributing to the growing confusion about the very term ‘evangelical.'”
But caring for the earth is not the exclusive domain of tree-huggers and pantheists. Environmental issues are not just for one political party or ideology. Cizik, a self-described “pro-Bush conservative,” is proof.
Whatever one believes about global warming—and I believe it’s real—one thing is clear: creation care is important to God.
It’s so important to God, in fact, that it was one of the very first commands he gave us: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28, TNIV)
To subdue the earth is to harness its natural resources for our benefit—but it is to do so in ways that are responsible and sustainable.
One of the distinctives of ancient Jewish thought was the idea that humans ought to work with the land, not against it. You can see it in Jewish architecture. Its humble simplicity is a stark contrast to the mountain-leveling construction projects of the Greeks and the Romans.
In fact, creation care is part of the reason we are here: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15, TNIV).
Creation care (or environmentalism or whatever you choose to call it) is about stewardship. It’s about realizing that we are made from the same stuff that the earth is—that we are connected to the earth because we’re all made by the same creator.
It’s about realizing that how you treat something reflects how you truly feel about its creator.
Let me illustrate. Several years ago, I was at my grandmother’s house when I found a drawer, tucked away on the third floor, crammed with papers. My grandmother had kept every letter, every card, every picture I had sent her when I was little.
Some of the letters and drawings were pretty comical. (Apparently, when I was five, I though grandmothers appreciated pictures of things like dinosaurs pooping.)
Why did she keep all those drawings (even the pooping t-rex)? She cherished them because she cherished the person who made them.
The same is true for us and God’s creation. Our success or failure to care for what God has entrusted to us will reveal how we really feel about the one who made this world.
Sincere Christians will debate the best ways to care for our environment, to go about obeying the spirit of Genesis 1:28—but the point is that we need to be having the conversation. Christians ought to be wrestling with sustainability and climate change. We need to acknowledge that if creation care is important to God, then it is, in fact, “one of the great moral issues of our day.”