The Bible on Environmental Conservation: A 21st Century Prescription

By Johnson, William T. | Electronic Green Journal, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Bible on Environmental Conservation: A 21st Century Prescription


Johnson, William T., Electronic Green Journal


Abstract

It may come as a surprise to some, but the Bible has a great deal to say about the environment and its conservation some 20 centuries since it was written. Perhaps among the most surprised will be Bible-toting church goers who may have never heard a sermon related to the "environmental crisis" which has become such a concern to so many around the world. This lack of attention by Christians is especially perplexing since many of our environmental problems are rooted in the Christian faith, according to some scholars. However, by examining the doctrine of Christianity, the basic text of the faith, the Bible, we find an entirely different message. The purpose of this discussion is to present the entire portion of Scripture which relates to environmental principles whereby we may develop a Bible-based, 21st Century prescription of environmental conservation. Some 2,463 verses have been topically organized into nine sections. Four appendices present the full-text of this collection in addition to selected hymns, which have been instrumental in teaching the truths of Scripture over the years. This compilation of verses constitutes approximately eight percent of the Bible. The Authorized Version, also known as the King James Version, was used in the preparation of this collection due its widespread distribution and influence since 1611. Based on the Bible, Christianity's positive contribution to environmental conservation is consistent with its positive contributions to other fields such as literature, art, music, education, health, and science.

Landscape of Environmental Literature: A Forest Without Trees

Christians, like many other groups, have served as convenient scapegoats over the years, being blamed for all kinds of social ills, including environmental problems (White 1967). While the allegation that our present environmental problems lie rooted deep within Christianity, has been well answered and refuted by Harrison (1999) as well as many others, ill-informed finger pointing continues as the new millennium dawns (Worster 1993). Rather than address the behavior of Christians, genuine or otherwise, it is first of all necessary to examine the basic doctrine and text of the faith - the Bible.

Various authors have presented bits and pieces of the Bible as they have sought to either validate or invalidate the charge against Christian teaching (Joranson and Butigan 1984). I submit that the Bible can well speak for itself and is presented in its entirety with regard to environmental issues. Appendix A is a compilation of 1929 verses from the Old Testament and Appendix B lists 638 verses from the New Testament. These two appendices organize the Scripture topically so a small number of verses have been included in more than one section. Appendix C lists the scriptural references sequentially but does not include the actual text nor does it list any verse more than once.

The importance of examining the Bible, as the message of Christianity, rather than the behavior of Christians, as the representatives of Christ, is underscored by the fact that relatively few people actually read the Bible. This phenomenon is not new. Foxe (1981) reported that after 1500 years of Christianity, though the words of Christ were relatively widely distributed, few actually read the text. Hence the Bible had relatively little influence on the culture at that time. Little interest in reading the Bible also characterizes this day and age (North American Scene: Religion in School 1987, Glenn 1990, Christianity in America 1995, and Stafford 1986). Therefore, in order to understand what God has to say on this issue, it is essential that the entire word of God be examined. The assumption upon which this discussion is based is that the Bible is the word of God and as such it is trustworthy and timeless. It is trustworthy because it is truthful. It is timeless, hence practical and relevant today, because God never changes. …

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