Creation Care & A Bundled Worldview
In my family, the “real news” comes from ESPN SportsCenter. Sometimes I can suffer through a drama and I’ll admit that I enjoy a clean comedy every now and again. But nothing on TV helps me unwind like a good college basketball matchup or cheering on the San Diego Chargers as they pull out a last-minute win against the Denver Broncos (seriously, it could happen!).
But where we live, the only cable TV packages that include ESPN also include dozens of channels I don’t want: the home shopping channels, a channel that shows the US House of Representatives debating bills, and countless channels broadcasting in languages other than English. But if I want ESPN, I am stuck paying for these others as well.
To make things worse, the cable companies have started bundling all of their services in a way that it makes it nearly impossible to buy them individually. So even though my cable company doesn’t provide the best Internet service, and despite the fact that we don’t need a landline since we all have cell phones, the cable package I bought comes bundled with Internet and digital phone. All I wanted was ESPN, but now I’ve got 60+ channels (most of which we don’t watch or even have to block because of racy content), spotty Wi-Fi that crashes and has to be reset every so often, and digital landline phones that only the telemarketers call. Ah, the joy of bundling!
Unfortunately, we all too often take the same approach with our worldview. Rather than evaluating each belief on its own merit, we choose one or two we are passionate about and purchase a bundle that covers all the rest of life.
Why? Maybe we hope we’ll fit in better if we appear to be in agreement with people around us. Fellowship certainly comes more easily when we share much in common with other people. Similarly, conflict can be a real community killer. And besides, who wants to be the oddball on the outside anyway?
I think another reason we so readily buy into a bundled worldview is that it’s just easier. I mean, who actually has the time to do all the legwork necessary to determine the legitimacy and accuracy and biblical harmony of every single piece of a complex worldview? For that matter, who among us has the expertise to rightly judge every ethical situation, every political philosophy, and every scientific claim? Bundling takes away much of that pressure by conveniently wrapping up dozens of positions into a tight, clean package and slapping a fancy label on it: conservative, liberal, progressive, creationist, naturalist, atheist, post-modernist.
This kind of bundling, whether it is due to intellectual and spiritual laziness, a desire to fit into social groups, or something else, can lead to contradictions in our worldview. Maybe you love the outdoors and want to see it fiercely protected. But you also love to hunt and gun rights are just as important to you. Good luck finding a bundled worldview, or a political party for that matter, that fully represents you. You see, when we bundle our worldview beliefs, we are forced to make compromises.
Sadly, environmental stewardship and conservation, commonly known as creation care in the Christian church, is typically bundled with atheists, Buddhists, and nature worshippers. Yet, as children of the Creator, shouldn’t Christians be the first to defend His masterpiece?
|For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)|
|In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)|
I was at a banquet honoring exceptional students a few years back, sitting at a table with a group of parents. “So, what’s your area of expertise?” one parent asked me. “I’m an environmental microbiologist,” I replied. “I study how bacteria interact with pollution, either making it worse or making it better.” Another parent at the table chimed in: “I guess it’s a good idea to recycle and conserve water when we can, but I think environmentalists take it too far. There are much more important things in life than trees and fish.”
God saw all that He had made,
and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
Ouch. His tone indicated that I had fallen victim to his bundled worldview. In his mind, good Christian meant anti-environmentalist. By contrast, when he heard the word “environmental” in my job title I got bundled into another category: environmental scientist meant tree-hugging anti-Christian. But since I don’t get the various beliefs that make up my worldview from either politicians or modern Christian culture, neither of those bundles fits me.
|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)|
Instead, my worldview is built from building blocks I find in the Bible. And what I see in in the creation story is that God is the Creator of the environment (Genesis 1); that He is pleased with His creation (Genesis 1:31); and that He has given mankind the responsibility to be stewards of that creation (Genesis 2:15).
You see, creation care is not a social or political idea – it’s God’s idea.
Some people have argued that the message in Genesis is that we are to rule over the creation (Genesis 1:26-27), which means, in their minds, that we can do whatever we please. But the context of Genesis 1 and 2 is God handing over temporary management of His good creation to mankind. Sort of like when Dad loaned you his favorite rifle or the fly rod he built. In fact, those same verses also tell us that God has made us in His own image. The question, then, is this: What does it look like to rule over creation in His image? The answer, I believe, is stewardship.
My friend Ryan Montana (isn’t that the coolest last name?) with a beautiful brown trout he took on a fly in the eastern Sierra. Seconds later, this fish swam off unharmed, surviving to reproduce again one day. Barbless hook, catch-and-release flyfishing is a great way to incorporate creation care into your outdoor adventures. If you don’t flyfish, you need to figure out what creation care looks like with your favorite adventures. Start with Leave No Trace principles which can be practiced on any frontcountry or backcountry excursion.
|Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27|
But the guy who disparaged my career because “there are much more important things in life than trees and fish” did make a good point. There are indeed more important things in life. Jesus said that the two most important things are loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:37-40), and my life as a Christ follower needs to give the same priority to these two commandments that Jesus gave them.
But just because Jesus didn’t say, “And the third is like the first two: care for the creation,” it doesn’t mean that it has zero importance. He didn’t answer the Pharisee’s question about the greatest commandment with “sound financial stewardship” or “a good work ethic” or “consistent church attendance” either, but we still place value on those things.
|“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40|
But our financial stewardship and work ethic and church attendance are all part of loving God and loving people, you might protest. And I would agree. But one might also argue that caring for God’s creation is an act of honor and obedience to the Creator, and good stewardship of natural resources like air and water is an act of love toward current and future generations.1
Creation care as an act of love toward other human beings, present and future, is possibly the most convincing argument in my mind. I want my kids to have the choice to live in California without worrying about developing asthma from the air pollution or any of a number of other diseases from exposure to contaminated water and soil. I want my grandkids to be able to cast flies onto the same rivers and streams that I have enjoyed. I want them to be able to summit a peak like Cerro de la Muerte in Costa Rica and see both the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts with nothing but virgin rainforest in between. I want them to hike the Pacific Crest Trail up the backbone of the Sierras without having to scramble through endless clearcut forest.
I want to leave a legacy of abundance and beauty, reflective of the Creator Himself. What outdoor legacy are you hoping to leave to future generations?
Once we recognize that we’ve been sold a bundled worldview, we can begin to slowly, methodically unbundle it, teasing out each belief, each opinion, each ideology. Only then can we begin to assess each one individually on its own merits, no longer adopted without question, no longer attached to the other pieces of this life puzzle. But instead, prayerfully tested against Scripture. And only then will we be able to rebuild a worldview that is fully in accordance with the Word of God and the will of God.
So, what are you waiting for? Start unbundling your worldview and watch as a revolution in the church begins.
1 For a primer on creation care principles, try Serving God, Saving the Planet: A Call to Care for Creation and Your Soul by Matthew Sleeth.