Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You Have no Idea How Excited I was When I Discovered This Book

I was reading a few articles about (so-called) Christian Environmentalism when I came across a reference to the book Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology by Francis Schaeffer. The title was enough to make me want to read it, but when I saw who wrote it I nearly fell off my chair.

A Big Dawg in the world of Christian teachers had written a book about ecology.

Hello, Amazon? Send me my copy right now.

I purchased a used copy and got to reading as soon as it arrived. I was not disappointed.

This book was written in the seventies. Schaeffer uses the first few chapters of his short (YAY!) book to refute some points made by writers of the day, who blamed the spread of Christianity for the poor state of the natural world. (Two of the essays he refutes are printed in the back of the book.) Schaeffer discusses, and rejects, the idea that one can make a moral appeal for the environment without a belief that it was created for a purpose. He makes the point that such appeals address morality only in their terminology. When scrutinized, these appeals are simply pragmatism disguised as morality.

He also discusses, and again rejects, the notion that pantheism offers a solution. Instead, he gives a refreshing explanation of creation and the place that each component (man, tree, bird, etc) has within it. This, of course, from the Biblical perspective. He points out how man is "one" with nature because he, like nature has been created by God. He then asserts that its beauty is not what makes nature worth saving. Neither is its usefulness. It is worth our respect because God made it. To disrespect it (a created thing) is not only to show contempt for God, but it is also to deny the place God gave us which is, like nature, a created thing.

Additionally, he states that man is unlike nature in that we were created in God's image. In this way, we are above nature, and indeed were given dominion over it. However, we, unlike a tree, can act upon it in ways that God did not intend. In regard to one's view of nature, Schaeffer is very careful to point out where the "hippies" (his term, not mine) get it right and where they don't. And he does the same for the Christian, making the point, where necessary, that our view of nature is often not quite right.

I found one thing Schaeffer mentions particularly interesting, perhaps because I had never really thought about it this way before. He says: In each of the alienations arising from the Fall, the Christians, individually and corporately, should consciously in practice be a healing redemptive factor - in the separation of man from God, of man from himself, of man from man, of man from nature, and of nature from nature... a Chritian-based science and technology should conscioulsly try to see nature substantially healed, while waiting for the future complete healing at Christ's return.

After introducing his last chapter with those words, he goes on to tell how the Church "can apply them practically to the whole question of ecology." But first he identifies the "two factors that lead to the destruction of our environment: money and time - or to say it another way, greed and haste."

His answer to these problems is that we must rightly exhibit our God-given dominion over nature: recognizing that he is able to do much more than God ever intended for him to do, man must submit to self-imposed limits. Limits to his pleasure and self-gratification. To make his point, Schaeffer parallels this with examples from a sexual relationship and a business relationship.

He conlcudes with these words: The balance of nature will be more nearly what it should be, and there will be a way to utilize nature for man and yet not destroy the resources which man needs. But none of this will happen if it is only a gimmick. We have to be in the right relationship with Him in the way He has provided, and then, as Christians, have and practice the Christian view of nature.

Can you tell I loved this book? I swear I didn't tell you everything. If you read it you will get a clearer understanding of how man can be "one" with nature and yet still be "above" it. And there is good stuff in there about how our view of nature even affects our witness.

Good stuff.

I know you're not going to, but go read it.

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Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, oh, oh! I'm definitely going to go read it! The quote you gave about the Fall--I've felt that for a long time but had never articulated it so, well, articulately. I'm ordering the book right away.

Thu Jun 28, 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger ShaggaBear said...

interesting. I need to read that book. God called us to be "stewards" and not just "consumers!"

Thu Jun 28, 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

I've ordered it--can't wait--thanks for the recommendation!

Thu Jun 28, 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Delicious post.

And by the way, just awarded you a wee little button award for being such a great blogger. Stop on over to get it!

Sat Jun 30, 08:06:00 PM  

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