Care for creation: christian activism and biblical justification for environmentalism

Broadhurst, Harriet (2019) Care for creation: christian activism and biblical justification for environmentalism. Undergraduate thesis, University of Chichester.

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Abstract

In 1994 the ‘Evangelical Declaration of the Care of Creation’ (EDCC) was
issued, by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), to raise awareness of
humanity’s responsibility for the environment. The declaration came forth due to the
growing evidence that the Western world had been exploiting the Earth and its
resources. Unfortunately, the exploitation is still on the increase. The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided a report in 2018,
demonstrating Western society’s impacts on global warming. It verified an increase
of 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The purpose to question Christianity is due to its vast significance in Western
culture, influencing the attitudes and behaviours of many individuals and institutions.
In 2017, Christianity had 2.3 billion identifying members making up 31.2% of the
global population. This large following foreshadows the extensive impact Christian
environmental education could have. Thus, the question “In what ways might the
Bible support Care for Creation?” must be addressed.

The concept ‘Western world’ is a diverse, complex and controversial term. A
common definition is, a society which shares related traditions, (liberal) political
ideologies and religions, usually said to derive out of Western Europe, but not
exclusively. Western cultures developed through Christianization and are typically
well economically established. For this investigation, ‘Western world’ will be defined
as a set of economically affluent countries, enforcing the division between the ‘east’
and the ‘west’ to be a matter of degree between the accessibility of technological
advancements and industrial developments. The evidence of environmental degradation is undeniable. Climate change is now a very real existential threat to our whole civilisation, which has been caused by
humanity. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has compiled
a vast amount of research, indicating the rapid deterioration of the Earth. Prior to
1950, atmospheric carbon dioxide had never hit above 300 parts per million (ppm).
However, 2018 reached an astronomical 400ppm, resulting in the Earth’s
temperature rising by 0.9 degrees Celsius, since the late 19th century.6 A change
largely propelled by human-made emissions; transportation, electricity, agriculture,
industry and residential. These findings are supported by Overshoot Day, an
international organisation, who conclude 1.7 planets are “needed to support
humanity’s demand on Earth’s ecosystems”, foreshadowing the necessity of efficient
and sustainable approaches to humanity’s demand on the Earth’s resources.
As a result, environmentalism, ‘the concern and action aimed at protecting the
environment’, exercises the minds of many biblical scholars.
Therefore, this investigation will examine the biblical justification for creation care and identify
existing Christian interpretations that inform environmental activism. I will argue that
the Bible contains pro-environmentalism motivation that can be applied to different
forms of activism and theoretical approaches.
The Care of Creation has been formulated to enforce a defensive, honouring
and respecting attitude towards God’s creation. This Christian ecological care
derives from a theological understanding of the importance of the Earth and the
necessity to recognise humanity’s responsibility, in the name of God, to protect the
environment.
Christianity’s response to climate change and creation care is multifaceted
due to the diversities and complexities in belief, culture and the environment. The
major challenge in culture is the prominent androcentric and anthropocentric views.
Androcentrism is a concept commonly used to describe a male-centred society;
“…All our human scheme of things rests on the tacit assumption; man being held the
human type…” This assumption derives from elite, predominately white, Western
men who have constructed a belief that nature and women are to be subdued and
controlled with functionality as their sole purpose. Anthropocentrism, however, is
the attitude that regards “humankind as the central... element of existence.”
Unfortunately, Western culture has been witness to some of the most
detrimental anthropocentric obsessions, which are said to derive from a dualistic
worldview. Namely, the idea that the world can be divided into binaries such as
nature/culture and man/woman. Christianity is said to have adopted these binary
oppositions and claimed their authenticity through ancient biblical worldviews. As a
result, it is often argued that dualism and Christianity have created conditions where
nature is seen as weak and subordinate, resulting in justified ecological destruction
and exclusion.

In chapter one, ‘For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created’
(Colossians 1:16), Christian organisations, responding to climate change, will be
examined. This chapter will aim to answer the fundamental questions: what is
creation care? Why do we need it and in what ways should Christians take
responsibility?

In the second chapter, ‘…It was very good’ (Genesis 1:31), I examine the
biblical foundation and justification for creation care. The Bible is essential to
reference due to its position of authority, for many Christians, signifying that certain
passages could aid the reduction of environmental degradation. This investigation
does not intend to suggest that the Bible wholesale promotes an environmental
agenda, as passages do allude to an anthropocentric understanding, but many parts
do promote creation care.

Lastly, in chapter three, ‘… but the earth He has given to human beings’
(Psalm 115:16), I will assess the evidence of biblical creation care in relation to three
theoretical approaches; creation spirituality, eco-justice and stewardship. The three
approaches will be analysed and evaluated based on their efficiency and theological
and ecological viability.

Item Type: Thesis (Undergraduate)
Additional Information: BA (Hons) Theology and Religion
Uncontrolled Keywords: Christianity, Environment, Education
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history
Divisions: Departments > Theology
Undergraduate Dissertations
Depositing User: Janet Carter
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2021 14:43
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2021 00:10
URI: http://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/5686

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