Christian views on environmentalism

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Christian views on environmentalism vary among different Christians and Christian denominations.


Major Christian denominations endorse the Biblical calling of our stewardship of God's Creation and our responsibility for its care. Some of this church policy is relatively recent and may not be followed by some parishioners. According to some social science research, conservative Christians and members of the Christian right are typically less concerned about issues of environmentalism than the general public. [1] [2] Many Christians, however, are environmental activists and promote awareness and action at the church, community, and national levels.

Green Christianity is a broad field that encompasses Christian theological reflection on nature, Christian liturgical and spiritual practices centered on environmental issues, as well as Christian-based activism in the environmental movement. Within the activism arena, green Christianity refers to a diverse group of Christians who emphasize the biblical or theological basis for protecting and celebrating the environment. The term indicates not a particular denomination, but a shared territory of concern.

Basic beliefs

Christianity has a long historical tradition of reflection on nature and human responsibility. Christianity has a strong tendency toward anthropocentrism, as emphasized in the early environmentalist critique of Lynn Townsend White, Jr.. While some Christians favor a more biocentric approach, Catholic officials and others seek to retain an emphasis on humanity while incorporating environmental concerns within a framework of Creation Care. Christian environmentalists emphasize the ecological responsibilities of all Christians as stewards of God's earth.

Beginning with the Genesis 1:26-28, God instructs humanity to manage the creation in particular ways.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." [1:28]

Adam's early purpose was to give care to the Garden of Eden:

"And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Genesis 2:15)

Green Christians point out that the biblical emphasis is on stewardship, not ownership—that the earth remains the Lord's (Psalms 24:1) and does not belong to its human inhabitants. Leviticus 25:23 states:

"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants." [3]

As a result of the doctrine of stewardship, Christian environmentalists oppose policies and practices that threaten the health or survival of the planet. Of particular concern to such Christians are the current widespread reliance on non-renewable resources, habitat destruction, pollution, and all other factors that contribute to climate change or otherwise threaten the health of the ecosystem. Many Christian environmentalists have broken with conservative political leaders as a result of these positions. [4]

Anglican - Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have strong beliefs about the need for environmental awareness and actions. Reducing carbon footprints and moving toward sustainable living are priorities. [5]

Orthodox Churches

Eastern Orthodox

Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, has voiced support for aspects of the environmentalist movement, as has Pope John Paul II of Rome. [6] Fr. John Chryssavgis serves as advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch, currently Bartholomew I, on environmental issues such as global warming. Orthodox Christian theology is generally more mystical and panentheistic than the traditions which developed in the Christian West, emphasizing the renewal and transfiguration of the whole creation through Christ's redemptive work. Many Eastern Christian monastics are known for having cultivated unusually close relationships with wild animals.

Non-Chalcedonian, or Oriental Orthodox

Armenian Apostolic Church

In the nineteenth century, Catholicos Nerses V of All Armenians planted a forest stretching 100 hectares. [7] Much of it was destroyed during the Communist era but replanting efforts have begun in the twenty-first century.

The late Catholicos Karekin I stated that the Armenian Apostolic Church is committed to the defence of creation because harming the gift of God is a sin when man has a duty to care for it. [8]

Under Catholicos Karekin II, the Armenian Church produced a seven year ecological action plan [9]

Ethiopian Orthodox 'Tewahedo' Church

Traditionally, Ethiopian Orthodox monasteries and some churches have preserved small sacred forests around their buildings in memory of the Garden of Eden. This has allowed many endangered species to survive in areas where their habitat has otherwise been lost. [10]

Evangelical churches

As the scientific community has presented evidence of climate change, some members of the evangelical community and other Christian groups have emphasized the need for Christian ecology, often employing the phrase "creation care" to indicate the religious basis of their project. Some of these groups are now interdenominational, having begun from an evangelical background and then gained international and interdenominational prominence with the increase in public awareness of environmental issues. Organizations with an evangelical genesis[ clarification needed ] include A Rocha, the Evangelical Climate Initiative and the Evangelical Environmental Network.

Some prominent members of the so-called Christian right have broken with the Bush administration and other conservative politicians over the issue of climate change. Christianity Today endorsed the McCain-Lieberman Bill, which was eventually defeated by the Republican Congress and opposed by Bush. According to the magazine, "Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our environment." [11] The increasing Christian support for strong positions on climate change and related issues has been referred to as "The Greening of Evangelicals." [12] Many Christians have expressed dissatisfaction with a leadership they feel places the interests of big businesses over Christian doctrine. [13]

However, many conservative evangelical Christians have embraced climate change denialism or maintain a neutral stance due to the lack of internal consensus on such issues. The Cornwall Alliance is an organization which takes an opposing view on the issue to the Evangelical Climate Initiative. The National Association of Evangelicals has stated that "global warming is not a consensus issue", and is internally divided on the Christian response to climate change.

Latter Day Saints, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Latter Day Saint movement has a complex relationship with environmental concerns, involving not only the religion but politics and economics. [14] [15] Mormon environmentalists find theological reasons for stewardship and conservationism through biblical and additional scriptural references including a passage from the Doctrine and Covenants: "And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion". [16] In terms of environmentally friendly policies, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has some history of conservationist policies for their meetinghouses and other buildings. [17] [18] The church first placed solar panels on a church meetinghouse in the Tuamotu Islands in 2007. [19] In 2010, the church unveiled five LEED certified meetinghouse prototypes that are being used for future meetinghouse designs around the world, the first one having been completed in 2010 in Farmington, Utah. [20]


Major Lutheran Synods acknowledge that the Bible calls us to care for God's creation. The dominion that God gave His human creatures has often been abused, carried out to the detriment of creation: loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, environmental damage, etc. We are called to live according to God’s wisdom in Creation with his other creatures. Sustainable living is needed. [21] [22]

Roman Catholic Church

Catholic environmental activists have found support in teachings by Pope Paul VI ( Octogesima adveniens , #21) and Pope John Paul II (e.g., the encyclical Centesimus annus , #37-38).

Pope Francis has published an encyclical, named "Laudato si' (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home", which aims to inspire everyone - not just Roman Catholics - to protect the Earth. He endorses climate action and has made cases on Christian environmentalism on several occasions. "Take good care of creation. St. Francis wanted that. People occasionally forgive, but nature never does. If we don’t take care of the environment, there’s no way of getting around it." [23] [ full citation needed ]

Seventh-day Adventists

The Seventh-day Adventist church is committed to environmental stewardship [24] [25] as well as taking action to avoid the dangers of climate change. [26]

According to its official statement, the church "advocates a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled over-consumption, accumulation of goods, and production of waste. A reformation of lifestyle is called for, based on respect for nature, restraint in the use of the world's resources, reevaluation of one's needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life." [27]

In 2010, Loma Linda University, one of the church's largest universities, introduced the Loma Linda University Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies. The goal of the center is to address the comparative lack of environmental concern among Christians by increasing awareness of environmental issues. The center features animal displays representing global biodiversity hotspots of special concern and also introduces visitors to original scientific research being conducted in the school's biology, geology and natural sciences departments.[ citation needed ]

Southern Baptist

The Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative is an independent coalition of Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and laypersons who believe in stewardship that is both biblically rooted and intellectually informed. [28]

United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church believes in the need for environmental stewardship. For Christians, the idea of sustainability flows directly from the biblical call to human beings to be stewards of God's creation. [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

Spiritual ecology is an emerging field in religion, conservation, and academia recognizing that there is a spiritual facet to all issues related to conservation, environmentalism, and earth stewardship. Proponents of Spiritual Ecology assert a need for contemporary conservation work to include spiritual elements and for contemporary religion and spirituality to include awareness of and engagement in ecological issues.

Ron Sider Canadian theologian

Ronald James Sider is a Canadian-born American theologian and social activist. He is the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, a think-tank which seeks to develop biblical solutions to social and economic problems through incubating programs that operate at the intersection of faith and social justice. He is a founding board member of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. He is also the Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA) is an international, non-denominational Christian vegetarian organization that promotes responsible stewardship of God's creation through plant-based eating. The CVA advocates vegetarianism from a biblically-based, Christian perspective and sees dietary choice as a valid way to bear witness to Christ's ministry of love, peace, mercy and compassion, and prepare for the Peaceable Kingdom as foretold in the Bible.

Environmentalism broad philosophy, ideology and social movement concerning environmental wellbeing

Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the impact of changes to the environment on humans, animals, plants and non-living matter. While environmentalism focuses more on the environmental and nature-related aspects of green ideology and politics, ecology combines the ideology of social ecology and environmentalism. Ecology is more commonly used in continental European languages while ‘environmentalism’ is more commonly used in English but the words have slightly different connotations.

Christians in Science (CiS) is a British organisation of scientists, philosophers, theologians, ministers, teachers, and science students, predominantly evangelical Christians, concerned with the dialogue between Christianity and science. The organisation was started in the 1940s as one of the professional groups of IVF, and was known as the Research Scientists' Christian Fellowship from 1950 until it adopted the current name in 1988.

The Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) is a campaign by US-American church leaders and organizations to promote market based mechanisms to mitigate global warming.

Ecospirituality connects the science of ecology with spirituality. It brings together religion and environmental activism. Ecospirituality has been defined as "a manifestation of the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment." The new millennium and the modern ecological crisis has created a need for environmentally based religion and spirituality. Ecospirituality is understood by some practitioners and scholars as one result of people wanting to free themselves from a consumeristic and materialistic society. Ecospirituality has been critiqued for being an umbrella term for concepts such as deep ecology, ecofeminism, and nature religion.

Ecotheology is a form of constructive theology that focuses on the interrelationships of religion and nature, particularly in the light of environmental concerns. Ecotheology generally starts from the premise that a relationship exists between human religious/spiritual worldviews and the degradation or restoration and preservation of nature. It explores the interaction between ecological values, such as sustainability, and the human domination of nature. The movement has produced numerous religious-environmental projects around the world.

Stewardship is a theological belief that humans are responsible for taking care of the world. This is supported by a basic belief in a Deity who created the heavens and the earth and all the creatures upon it. The Creator then gave his human creation the task of “taking care of it”. Therefore, people who believe in stewardship are usually people who believe in one God who created the universe and all that are within it, also believing that they must take care of creation and look after it forever. Creation includes animals and, some say, the environment. Many religions and denominations have various degrees of support for environmental stewardship. It can have political implications, such as in Christian Democracy.

Richard Cizik is President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. He was the Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and one of the most prominent Evangelical lobbyists in the United States. In his position with the NAE, Cizik's primary responsibilities were setting the organization's policy on issues and lobbying the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. Cizik also served as NAE's national spokesman and edited a monthly magazine, NAE Washington Insight. Since 2003, Cizik has been active in a type of environmentalism known as "creation care"; his stance on global warming has drawn both support and criticism from fellow Evangelicals. He serves on the Board of Advisors of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Evangelical environmentalism is an environmental movement in the United States in which some Evangelical Christians have emphasized biblical mandates concerning humanity's role as steward and subsequent responsibility for the care taking of Creation. While the movement has focused on different environmental issues, it is best known for its focus of addressing climate action from a biblically-grounded theological perspective.

Religion and environmentalism is an emerging interdisciplinary subfield in the academic disciplines of religious studies, religious ethics, the sociology of religion, and theology amongst others, with environmentalism and ecological principles as a primary focus.

<i>The Green Bible</i> English version of the New Revised Standard Version Bible with a focus on environmental issues and teachings

The Green Bible is an English version of the New Revised Standard Version Bible with a focus on environmental issues and teachings. It was originally published by Harper Bibles on October 7, 2008. It is a study Bible featuring a foreword by Desmond Tutu and essays by Matthew Sleeth, Calvin B. DeWitt, Pope John Paul II, Brian McLaren, Ellen Bernstein, Ellen F. Davis, James Jones (bishop), N.T. Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Gordon Aeschliman.

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation is a conservative Christian public policy group that promotes the view that a free-market approach to care for the environment is sufficient, and is critical of much of the current environmental movement. In particular, the Cornwall Alliance rejects claims of global warming. Originally called the "Interfaith Stewardship Alliance" it was founded in 2005 in reaction to the efforts of evangelical leaders to fight global warming. The name Cornwall came from the 2000 Cornwall Declaration. The organization's views on the environment have been strongly influenced by the wise use movement of the 1980s and 1990s.

Mormonism and Christianity Comparison of Latter Day Saintism and traditional Christianity

Mormonism and Christianity have a complex theological, historical, and sociological relationship. Mormons express the doctrines of Mormonism using standard biblical terminology and have similar views about the nature of Jesus' atonement, bodily resurrection, and Second Coming as traditional Christianity. Nevertheless, most Mormons do not accept the Trinitarian views of orthodox Nicene Christianity, codified in the Nicene and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds of 325 and 381; Though Mormons consider the Bible as scripture, they do not believe in biblical inerrancy. They have also adopted additional scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Mormons practice baptism and celebrate the Sacrament, but they also participate in religious rituals not practiced by traditional Christianity.

Matthew Sleeth (Christian environmentalist) American environmentalist

Matthew Sleeth is an author, speaker, and advocate of creation care. A former emergency department physician, Sleeth wrote his first book, Serve God, Save the Planet (Zondervan), in May 2006. Since then, he has spoken more than 900 times in churches, schools and to media outlets about the biblical mandate to care for the Earth.

Restoring Eden

Restoring Eden is a Christian grassroots environmental ministry that works with people to be a voice for the environment and all those who depend on it.

Articles related to Christianity include:

Although biological evolution has been vocally opposed by some religious groups, many other groups accept the scientific position, sometimes with additions to allow for theological considerations. The positions of such groups are described by terms including "theistic evolution", "theistic evolutionism" or "evolutionary creation". Theistic evolutionists believe that there is a God, that God is the creator of the material universe and all life within, and that biological evolution is a natural process within that creation. Evolution, according to this view, is simply a tool that God employed to develop human life. According to the American Scientific Affiliation, a Christian organization of scientists:

A theory of theistic evolution (TE) — also called evolutionary creation — proposes that God's method of creation was to cleverly design a universe in which everything would naturally evolve. Usually the "evolution" in "theistic evolution" means Total Evolution — astronomical evolution and geological evolution plus chemical evolution and biological evolution — but it can refer only to biological evolution.

Laudato si' is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. The encyclical has the subtitle "on care for our common home". In it, the pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take "swift and unified global action."


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  3. Leviticus 25:23
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  14. "Mormon Belief and the Environment", by George B. Handley in Patheos September 15, 2009.[ unreliable source? ]
  15. (1998) New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community Editors: Terry Tempest Williams, Gibbs M. Smith, William B. Smart ISBN   978-0-87905-843-2
  16. Doctrine and Covenants 59:20
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  18. "Church has Enduring Track Record on Conservation Practices", Mormon Newsroom (Press release), LDS Church, 27 April 2010
  19. Taylor, Scott (28 April 2010), "Mormon Church unveils solar powered meetinghouse", Deseret News
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  22. Together With All Creatures, Caring for God’s Living Earth, Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, April 2010, retrieved 25 May 2015
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  24. A Statement on the Environment, 1995 and Statement on Stewardship of the Environment, 1996. See also fundamental beliefs #6, "Creation" and #21, "Stewardship".
  25. Hayes, F. E., and W. K. Hayes (2011) Seventh-day Adventist faith and environmental stewardship. In H. T. Goodwin (ed.), [book title not yet specified]. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Michigan.
  26. The Dangers of Climate Change: A Statement to Governments of Industrialized Countries, 1995 (Official statement)
  27. Statement on Stewardship of the Environment, 1996
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  29. United Methodist Church Statement on the Environment, United Methodist Church

Further reading