For a lot of people, the phrase “Christian environmentalist” sounds like an oxymoron. At least since Lynn White’s famous 1967 essay, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” many people who care about the environment see Christianity as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Dan Story sets out to change this perception in his book, Should Christians Be Environmentalists? Story himself was part of the beginnings of the environmental movement in the ’70s. When he became a Christian in the early ’80s, he didn’t leave his interest in and concern for the environment behind; it became deeper because of his commitment to Christ. The purpose of his book is threefold:
1. To “encourage godly environmental stewardship by systematically developing a Bible-based theology of nature, including an environmental doctrine and guidelines for environmental ethics” (11).
2. To “present an apologetic to anti-Christian environmentalists who claim that Christianity is the ‘root cause’ of environmental exploitation and degradation, and that other religious traditions are better suited morally and theologically to push for environmental stewardship” (11).
3. To “explore the potential evangelistic opportunities embedded in Christian environmentalism” (12).
Story argues that, while Christians have not necessarily had a great track record when it comes to environmentalism, the fault does not lie with Christianity. Rather, Christian opposition to environmental concerns have traditionally been politically and ideologically based (28), not based on the Bible. A biblically faithful Christian is a Christian who cares about the environment, because God created it and entrusted humans with the task of faithful stewardship. Not only that, but God’s plan for redemption includes not only humans, but the entire created order (Rom 8:19–21; Rev 21:1). Along the way, Story addresses questions surrounding Christian environmentalism (or, as my former professor Loren Wilkinson would prefer it, “creation care”), and urges Christian care for the environment as not just something Christians ought to do, but also as an opportunity to spread the gospel.
This is a wonderful introductory book on the subject of Christianity and environmentalism. While it is introductory, it is not full of fluff; Story quotes academic sources, but still manages to maintain a reading level that non-experts would be comfortable with. I would recommend it to both Christians and non-Christians who are interested in getting behind the rhetoric to see what the Bible really says about the created world, and what life on earth would look like if we took it seriously.
Note: Thanks to Kregel Publications for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.