The Gospel According to Tom

If we're looking for the real reason Western culture is polluting the air and water, blame the Ten Commandments. That's the word from environmental activist Tom Hayden. Hayden has recently written a book called Lost Gospel of the Earth, in which he blames the Judeo-Christian tradition for wrecking the planet. Hayden writes: "the Ten Commandments prohibit adultery but not pollution." They "demand that we honor our parents but not the earth." And that passage in Genesis, in which God gives Adam dominion over the earth? Well, it is, Hayden says, "a license to plunder the natural world." How can we repent and reform? By throwing out the book of Genesis and replacing it with "green theology," Hayden says. Thus the ecological gospel according to Hayden. Of course, there's nothing new about this. For decades, New Agers have blamed the ecological crisis on Christianity and have proposed some version of green theology as the answer. But contrary to its bad press, the Bible actually teaches a very high view of creation. When God put Adam in the garden to till and keep it, the Hebrew words mean "serve" and "take care of." There's no warrant in Christianity for the abuse of God's handiwork. Genesis teaches that humans have "dominion" over nature but that doesn't mean arbitrary rule, it means stewardship. This is God's world, and we're accountable to Him for the way we treat it. Now granted, Western culture has plundered the world, just as Hayden claims. But that didn't come from Christianity, it came from humanism. As Western culture rejected the Bible's view of creation, a new image of humanity emerged: Man was no longer regarded as God's servant but as the pinnacle of evolution, the victor in the Darwinian struggle for existence. Think back to the 19th century: The robber barons of industry didn't appeal to Christianity to justify their cutthroat tactics. No, they appealed to evolution. Listen to the words of William Graham Sumner, America's most influential Social Darwinist: "There can be no rights against Nature," he wrote, "except to get out of her whatever we can." Today we are appalled at such a crass attitude, and rightly so. But the antidote to Western arrogance is not Eastern pantheism. Pantheism denies that humans are unique: It puts us on the same level as the trees and the grass. And that's where our environmental problems came from in the first place. But it's an obvious fact that humans do have unique powers no other organism has. The only religion that can solve our ecological problems is one that acknowledges our uniqueness-and then gives ethical guidelines to direct our unique capabilities. Christianity does just that: It teaches that humans were made in the image of God to be stewards over His creation. Once again, Christianity solves one of the most pressing issues of modern society. We can't afford to let people misrepresent the Bible's answers to these issues. Contrary to what Tom Hayden says, the Bible teaches a profound respect for the creation, starting with God's own opinion of creation, which Genesis gives us in one simple sentence: "And God saw that it was good."  


Chuck Colson



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