Monday, August 07, 2006
Creation vs. Environment
In keeping with the environmental theme of the last post, I thought I'd share some random thoughts I was having the other day about the language we use to talk about the world around us. Let me say up front that I am an environmentalist, in that I am concerned about the ecological damage we humans are causing to God's creation. I believe that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of creation, to use it wisely and not exploit it.

However, the words we use to talk about these concerns are interesting. Consider the word "environment". I hadn't noticed before how human-centric this word is. "Environment" has to have a reference point, as in "our environment". It creates a dichotomy between us as rational human beings, and the rest of the natural world, as if we ourselves are somehow above or separate from "our environment". In other words, even though environmentalism is all about caring for the natural world, the word "environment" still assumes that the natural world primarily exists for our benefit, we possess it and can do what we want with it. Presumably environmentalism would say that we should take care of the earth because it is "ours".

In contrast, the Christian word for the natural world is "creation". "Creation" puts the point of reference outside of human beings. Creation belongs to God and it is his to do what he wants with it. We are merely stewards or caretakers of it. In fact, the concept of "creation" breaks down the dichotomy between us and the world around us. We are all creations, humans no less than the natural world. We are part of the natural world, not above it or separate from it.

Of course, I'm not saying that most secular environmentalists would not also share the belief that we are a part of our "environment", not separate from it. My point here is really just about the language we use. IMHO, the language of "creation" is better suited to communicating our kinship with nature than the language of "environment".

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posted by Mike Clawson at 11:13 AM | Permalink |


At 8/09/2006 10:57:00 PM, Blogger DesertPastor

Interesting post, Mike.

I dear friend of mine recently entered a D.Min. program at Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University. His focus: "Environmential Spirituality" Hmmm.

What would you think of "Creation Care" instead?


At 8/10/2006 12:41:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I generally use the term "Creation Care" instead of environmentalism when I'm speaking with other Christians - partially because, like I said, I prefer the language of "creation" to that of "environment"; but also because in some Christian circles "environmentalism" produces a negative reaction (among folks who automatically associate it with "liberalism"). Hopefully with such people, framing it in terms of Creation Care will circumvent some of those immediate layers of resistance.


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