The Greening of Protestant Thought

By Robert Booth Fowler | Go to book overview

3
DISSENT AND PROTESTANT FUNDAMENTALISM

Protestants agree, for the most part, on the importance of environmental issues. Nothing about the sometimes intense arguments over interpretation of the Bible denies that. But this fact should not mislead one into assuming that every Protestant is an ardent environmentalist, confident that true followers of the Bible should rally to the movement at once. This is hardly the case. The most assertive open dissent often comes from Protestant fundamentalists. The word "fundamentalist" here refers to the minority of evangelicals who normally defend the Bible as inerrant and advocate very high boundaries between the community of the faithful and the larger society, which they regard as corrupt. Some liberal or evangelical theologians and writers on the environment may not always take fundamentalists terribly seriously, but they are a significant part of Protestantism in the United States. They cannot be ignored for a moment if one wants to get a full picture of Protestant thought on the environment over the past quarter century. Four common attitudes toward the environment and environmentalism are present among fundamentalist writers: indifference toward environmentalism; hostility toward it; a certain sympathy for the cause; and a great obsession with what in fundamentalist language is termed the "end times"--the end of the world, a concern not so far from the sense of cataclysm that permeates environmentalist discourse.

Indifference toward the environment, or at least toward claims of environmental crisis, abounds in fundamentalist Protestant writings. Thus, while environmentalists worry over the condition of the ozone layer or about toxic waste, many fundamentalist Protestants sound other alarms, especially over end times. In fundamentalist analysis, the arrival of end times is more than a prophecy about the distant future; end times are imminent. By this view, nobody can save the earth; that is for God to do. What people can do is prepare for the impending apocalypse.

How to do so is the inevitable question. The fundamentalist stance has been straightforward. As Hal Lindsey has argued, the task of the true Christian is to accept Jesus now and to devote oneself to encouraging

-45-

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The Greening of Protestant Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Protestants Face the Environment 13
  • 2 - The Bible as (contested) Foundation 28
  • 3 - Dissent and Protestant Fundamentalism 45
  • 4 - The Argument Over Christianity 58
  • 5 - Stewardship 76
  • Toward Eco-Theology 91
  • Process Environmentalism 108
  • 8 - The Ecofeminist Challenge 123
  • The Protestant Environmentalist Agenda 141
  • 10 - Politics and the Means to Change 159
  • Conclusion 175
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 207
  • SCRIPTURE INDEX 237
  • GENERAL INDEX 238
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