In his World Peace Day message, Pope Benedict XVI included caring for the environment as an important part of promoting peace. Nothing controversial about that—environmental degradation has often led to conflict over resources.
What was controversial was the Pope's speaking about environmental issues as if the Christian worldview were true. Benedict told his audience that "respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man."
This statement should not have been controversial or even noteworthy. As Frank Furedi of the British magazine spiked pointed out, the fact that the Pope "felt it was necessary to remind people of the unique status of the human species" was "telling, indeed."
Telling, but not surprising. There is a misanthropic strain in modern environmentalism. The message is often that there is nothing wrong with the environment that fewer and poorer humans would not cure.
What is also not surprising is the lack of real interest about Christian worldview and the environment.
There is plenty of interest in the environment as a kind of "wedge issue" between Christians. Look at the climate change issue, for example. In that case, the media was so anxious to learn what different Christians thought about the environment, they could not wait to tell their readers that the "environmental issue splits evangelical ranks."
Sure, there are differences on how best to address the issue, but the press ignored the bigger story: Evangelicals of all stripes agree that caring for the environment is our Christian duty. And articulating this care is an important part of a Christian worldview.
That is why I was happy to sign the statement produced by the National Association of Evangelicals titled, "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility." One of the priorities listed was working to protect God's creation.
The statement declared "God-given dominion" is a "sacred responsibility" that rejects "depletion" and "destruction" of creation. Instead, "our uses of the Earth must be designed to conserve and renew the Earth."
Thirty years ago, statements like that were not possible, because nobody saw biblical Christianity as a worldview. They saw it as an isolated movement, concerned only with personal salvation.
Bible-believing Christians now understand that their worldview affects all of life, not just personal salvation. It deals with the work place, the neighborhood, politics, arts, and, yes, the environment.
When environmentalists and others criticize Christians for not doing enough or not doing the "right" thing, at least they are acknowledging that there is a place for the biblical worldview in public life.
The problem is, as in the case of the Pope, when that worldview contradicts their worldview, then they insist that faith and the insights it produces are a private matter.
It is a blatant inconsistency. If we are concerned about the environment, we ought to be concerned about the unborn in the womb, or the human rights of people around the world. The source of the concerns is the same in each instance: our Christian worldview.
That our critics cannot—or do not—get it is telling, indeed.
From BreakPoint®, January 30, 2008, Copyright 2008, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship