Every once in a while I will write a book review. This one is instigated by my friend Alex Aton who says he needs a book report on a particular book I was reading. However, this will not be a pure book review. It will be a combination of a review of Gordon Wilson’s A Different Shade of Green, along with a spattering of my thoughts on the subject that come from reading other similar materials such as Gary North’s Dominion Covenant, and that come from conversations with guys from church like Ian Gehris. So what you find here, may or may not be in the book. Here goes.
A Different Shade of Green by Gordon Wilson is a great introduction to getting Christians to realize that they must think distinctly as Christians when it comes to the issue of the environment and our responsibility in creation. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead He rose to renew all of life which means that when it comes to environmental issues we cannot simply pick one side of the political aisle, nor mix together a cocktail of various pagan beliefs on the subject – we must be Christians.
Wilson lays out the basic principles of proper creation care, referencing things such as the dominion mandate God gave to man in Genesis. This dominion mandate is not the permission to do whatever we want with creation and be eco-terrorists. Dominion is the responsibility to use and care for creation according to biblical ethics. Man is not to rule over creation, but to rule over it ethically.
The eco-alarmists and eco-doomsdayers often warn about the dangers of overpopulation; which is of course a myth and a conspiracy theory. Such fear mongering is influenced by their worldview which says that man is a drain and a danger to nature, and we do nothing but harm it. Certainly mankind has, can, and does cause a lot of harm to the environment, but it is not by virtue of being mankind. It is by virtue of being unethical. When operating under God’s rules, mankind is actually a benefit and blessing to creation that causes it to be more fruitful than it could without mankind.
Wilson also makes the case that only those who have a Creator God have a proper foundation for caring about the environment. If Darwin is true, then there is no reason to care for animals on the verge of extinction, and no reason to preserve certain eco systems. If Darwin is true then it’s survival of the fittest and we have every reason to rape and pillage the planet. But if we have a God who is a sovereign creator, then we have responsibility to care for what He has made, since it belongs to Him, and we are just caretakers. This of course is not to say that non-Christian’s haven’t or can’t do truly good things for the environment, but it is to say that they cannot account for why they ought to do good, and why it is good. The reverse is also true: certainly Christians can do bad things for the environment, but they are being inconsistent with their religion.
Not only does Wilson distinguish between the believing and unbelieving worldview, but he also makes distinctions between the various sub-worldviews in Christianity that lead to differing ethics toward creation. For example, the premillennialist who believes at any moment the end will come and the world will be burned up has no reason to put any care and concern into creation. Contrast that with a postmillennialist who believes that Christ also redeems the creation that groans for redemption, and that this planet isn’t headed for fire, but for a time when the lion lies down with the lamb and children play by the adders nest. This will come by the preaching of the gospel when all the world is saved. Even the animal world was tainted by the fall, and as far as the curse is found, so shall Christ’s blessings flow – the animal world and the land will be redeemed. The postmillennial worldview is important here because scattered individuals can only do so much in caring for the environment. It truly takes large group of people, say nations. If the nations were given to Jesus and He told us to go disciple them, then He will have them all one day, big groups of people, who could then really care for the environment and make it as fruitful and healthy as possible.
Wilson also does a good job debunking a few common scare tactics that are not true, such as the overrated danger of CO2 emissions. As Christians we have to disagree with some of the problems that environmentalists say are problems such as CO2 emissions, climate change (real but not a problem), and the human population. But we also have to agree with them on others things such as the fact that the environment does matter, we should protect endangered species, seek sustainability, etc. However, agreeing on the problems does not mean we agree on the solutions. Most of the time the environmentalist’s solution to every problem is a government decree. Which makes sense if the government is your god. We look to our God for answers, just as they do theirs. The problem is that government is a bad god since it is no god at all. Government regulations and policies always end up hurting more than helping. Wilson shows how government subsidized solutions to environmental issues are only held up by the subsidies and are not sustainable or even better for the environment such as current wind and solar power options.
The solutions will lie in government restraining itself to actually protect property rights, which it doesn’t do well with environmental issues, and also in the preaching of the gospel and subsequent converting of the nations to seek to apply God’s law to how we care for creation. So Christians are not to be conservatives who don’t actually want to conserve the environment, and we are not to be liberals who don’t know how to conserve, or why they ought to conserve the environment. We ought not to think that we are gods, nor that the environment is god. We are to be distinctly Christians, under God, taking dominion over creation, and making it fruitful and productive. Whatever we do and wherever we go, we want to leave it better than we found it, including the environment.
Wilson gives great reminders that when we seek to be as ethically responsible as possible in business endeavors there will be many times where it seems like we will lose out on the profit for doing things the right way, yet God can shovel in blessing faster than we can shovel it out. One of the main ideas from the Proverbs on a practical level is that those who deal wisely and ethically will be successful and blessed. God created a world with consequences. It matters how we act and what we do, not just for the sake of our eternal destination, but for the here and now, for this earth, for history.
There is certainly more to be said, but as the book is mainly basic principles, so I will stop here as well. It’s a good book, I recommend. I hope to see Ian doing some writing on this topic, or else I may have to, and that won’t be as good.