Using Christian Ethics To Develop a Coherent Ecological Ethics

How would you use the sources of Christian Ethics to develop a coherent ecological ethic?

The world faces an ecological crisis that spawns a renewed and broad interest in the topics of ethical responses in different fields, for example, Christian circles and morality. This ecological crisis, when combined with limited ethical responses forces a reflection on Christian ethic`s transformative potential on societies that are idolatrous and that is shaped by economic cultures that are dominant. Ecological ethics encompass taking care of the ecosphere and biosphere. Ecosphere is defined as the part of the atmosphere where one can breathe in a normal way without any form of help, while the biosphere is defined as, the part of the earth`s water, crust, and atmosphere where it is possible for living organisms to subsist. Different sources of Christian ethics are explored in this essay and the ways through which they can be used for development of coherent ecological ethics. Christian ethics can be used for development of ecological ethics only when their sources are thoroughly explored and understood properly.

It is necessary that the cultivation of the earth is done in such a way that all creatures on a global scale, including human beings, are secured by sustainable development. A coherent ecological ethic from a Christian perspective is one that would deal with an ecological crisis from a biblical and theological perspective.

Today, there are different moral views from different people on environmental issues which are based on one or several moral principles. While there are groups of Christians who favour bio-centric approaches, there are other Christian groups that seek to retain an emphasis on humanity and further incorporating concerns on the environment within the frameworks of creation of care while at it like the Catholics.While some people will argue that human actions are either wrong or right depending on their consequences, others will argue that the destruction of natural ways or extinction of certain species is in itself wrong.

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There is an emphasis among Christian environmentalists that all Christians have an ecological responsibility being God`s stewards here on earth. God, in Genesis 1:2-28 instructed humankind to manage the creation in specific ways. God instructed man to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and further subdue it while having dominion over the fowl of the air, fish of the sea and other ordinary living organisms on the earth. The initial purpose of Adam being placed in the Garden of Eden was to take care of it according to Genesis 2_15.

Green Christians argue that the emphasis of the Bible is not on ownership but stewardship and as such, God still owns the earth. In line with the stewardship doctrine, Christian environmentalists oppose any such practices and policies that could pose threats to the survival or health of the planet. The current widespread pollution, habitat destruction and increased reliance on non-renewable sources and any other factors that would bring about climate change or otherwise threaten the health of the ecosystem are of great concern to such Christians.

In line with the Reformational philosophy, every person that inhabits the earth conforms creational norms that are universal. However, if we are to get closer to God, the scripture`s teachings are quite necessary. While there is something that can be drawn about God from the stories of creation, the stories do not tell us anything about sin and grace. These are areas that are reserved for particular reservations in scriptures.

The Reformational or Dooyeweerdian Philosophy views reality as being a creation of God that derives its meaning from God and as such is the basis for the creation order. In the Reformational Philosophy, the topic of order is associated with creational structures, universally accepted principles and laws. Steven Bouma-Prediger building on the insight of John Calvin posits that God calls on his people and further assigns each of the duties that are specific to work towards combating disorder prevalent in the globe. In line with this view, God`s law for nature and people form the basis of creating order. The sovereignty of God is viewed as his actions about the world, whose character is that of a law that gives the world its structure and order. There exist cultural and natural laws, both of which are manifestations of the ordinances by God to the world.

In the traditions of the philosophies of Reformation, an acceptance of the transcendental revealed creation principle is quite necessary for responsibilities that are ethical. However, such an endeavour could not be independent of the word of God in any way.

The command of love for God contains the essence of many other commands, norms, values, and motives. What that implies is that the start of everything must be appreciated in line with its nature. Love is viewed as being appreciative of every other thing, as it is, in nature by God`s creation. Cultural activities are in themselves, in love for God and the neighbor, directed from humans themselves. Science`s prime objective is wisdom growth in the full experiential reality and for technology a focus on construction and subsequent conservation. The Reformational philosophy provides the basis for normative principles, which forms a basis for development that is responsible. It is observed that the good nature of the creation of God is the root of such an ethic of responsibility. Love involves seeking what is natural. Stoker holds the belief that the Reformational philosophies ethical conduct is based on what in the created order is perceived to be natural, culminating in responsibility, love and law ethics.

There are numerous differences, from an environmental perspective between the human beings that are driven and motivated by vices and those who are driven and motivated by virtues. Often, anthropocentric environmental ethics tend to be combined with a utilitarian perspective. Altruism is emphasised by utilitarianism. Utilitarianism in practice, however, tends to be limited to narrower and nationalistic individual interests that are combined with short term time perspectives at times. That tends to leave out the interests of creatures who are not human, the interests of future generations and even those of nature itself. As such, the modern perspective on utilitarianism tends to be more characterized by vices and egoism than virtues and altruism. It is necessary to distinguish the classical emphasis on virtues that are related closely to teleological ethics from modern consequentialism and utilitarianism.

The view by Christians on the human possibility to implement proper stewardship in no way implies a rejection of the goodness of all humans or an assertion that egoism and sin prevail in humankind. What a Christian view implies is an extra dimension in terms of enhancing the implementation of actions that are adequate and overcoming hindrances. The possibility of exhibiting personal modesty and increasing love for neighbours is provided by the fruits of the indwelling spirits. From a view that is Christ-centred, the order of creation is not the ultimate source of ethics. The personal and living God is in no way hidden behind a façade of principles, natural laws, order, and structures, nor behind the change, process and history.

Another source of Christian ethics is eschatological hope. It is worth noting that the Reformational philosophy with its focus on cosmology has concentrates minimal efforts on the last things theory. Ambiguity surrounded the initial ideas of the Reformational philosophy. In Christian circles, there are different views on the world’s future, and Horell et al. identified three prevailing strategies., 2010.

The first position sees the world as coming to destruction in the near future, which leaves very little motivation for preservation and care. The second position views the world as being renewed, already and that provides a basis for environmental ethics. The third position acknowledges that the Bile contains different eschatological perspectives. The second position contains a strong eco-theological focus – creation renewal. Here, creation is seen as a dynamic process that is ever continuing and the last days are interpreted as the process of refining whereby, the earth and everything on it will not be burnt up but found. Here, we see an expectation that the word will continue being our home forever.

The third position, which is mostly drawn from Romans 8, argues that the passage is an indication of a non-destructive transformation that is also radical of the creation in existence. Waiting for the new heavens and earth in no way implies an abdication of moral responsibilities and is in no way compatible with pro-environmental action. In line with 2 Peter 3:5-13, it is only after the dissolution of the present created an order that a new heaven and a new earth will follow. There is a primary biblical motivation for environmental consciousness contained in Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, which brings up the responsibility of working as stewards of God down here on earth, which goes a long way in trumping visions for a future that is dissolutive and transformative.

Further, in addition to the empowering of believers and fruits of virtues, the transformation is one concept that is quite important about human stewardship of God`s creation. The question of how possible change is brought about by the present environmental crisis. From a biblical perspective, the concept of transformation involves a turnaround of humans both collectively and individually. In theological terms, it is necessary to sanctify sinners. That is the incarnations act purpose. The reason why God sent his only begotten son to earth was so that humanity could become divine. That was referred to as Irenaean-Athanasian exchange principle in the early church. Transformation is by itself a process whereby human beings change from loving God and further exercising concern for the welfare of their neighbors from loving themselves solely. Humans are called by the greatest commandment to Love the Lord their God with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their mind as stipulated in Mathew 22: 37-39.

Scholars who emphasize a cautious hermeneutics point towards a transformation that is radical of creation already in existence in the final days with their being some form of continuity for those who are righteous. It is only through the faithfulness of God and his promises that the tensions perceived between a world full of crisis and renewed creation and final judgment that is eminent hold together in the sense of surprise and mystery. The faith held by Christians leaves wide open the end of things, a future that is far much greater than we could comprehend remotely and far much greater than would be supposed by any teleological or naturally deterministic worldview.

What the sources of Christian ethics discussed advocate for, is the careful interpretation of different works of Christ and the teachings of the Bible whenever developing any ecological ethic. When developing a Christian environmental ethic, tensions about how Christ`s work is related to creation remain quite relevant, and it is not possible to ignore them an observation that is also relevant for the cosmological focus of Eco theology.

Today, there are numerous issues with the environment and the use of natural resources which face our world. Such issues are related to inadequacies with the management of nature, protection of nature and processes followed to mitigate and repair changes in the environment. Christians stand in a position that is unique to offer solutions that are thoughtful to these issues. The foundations of Christian ethics as has been discussed are the Principle of Creation value and the Principle of Sustained order. For Christians to practice effective environmental stewardship, it would be necessary that their actions always be in consideration of other people. A Christian steward of nature must realize that God created nature just as he created everything else in heaven and earth. With such realization, the steward would aid in the utilization of nature as was intended by God. When making use of nature, such an individual would be in recognition that there is a responsibility bestowed on them of managing and taking care of nature in a way that is in no way destructive nor wasteful of nature`s original features that God himself designed.

Additionally, a Christian steward is to show respect to animals, plants and other elements of nature out of respect to the triune God in their created order. The steward is also required to value and respect nature because he or she has an awareness that both nature and people will share in renewal and redemption in the new eternal earth and heaven. Showing respect and further valuing nature in no way makes nature the object of worship for a Christian steward. Worship, honor, and credit always go to nature`s Creator and not to nature itself, just the same way as a magnificent piece of art credit and honor would go to the artist who created it and not to the artwork itself.

Those individuals who confess the triune God are involved in a process that is divine of being empowered and further transformed, a process that continues to develop as an act that is participatory between the Creator and the church and individual believers. With an understanding of these sources of Christian ethics, it would be possible to develop an ecological ethic that augurs well with the teachings of the Bible. And, while a Christian ecological ethic would bind Christians primarily, its applicability creates an opportunity for all people to practice it.

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Bibliography

  • Celia Deane-Drummond, A Handbook in Theology and Ecology, SCM, 1996; Eco-Theology, DLT, 2008.
  • Conradie, Ernst M. An ecological Christian anthropology: At home on earth? Routledge, 2017.
  • Danowski, Déborah, and Eduardo Viveiros De Castro. The ends of the world. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.
  • Gifford, Robert, and Reuven Sussman. "Environmental attitudes." The Oxford handbook of environmental and conservation psychology (2012): 65-80.
  • Horrell, David G., Cherryl Hunt, Christopher Southgate, and Francesca Stavrakopoulou, eds. Ecological hermeneutics: Biblical, historical and theological perspectives. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010.
  • Jenkins, Willis. Ecologies of grace: Environmental ethics and Christian theology. Oxford University Press, 2013.pg.12-36
  • Losch, Andreas. "The need of an ethics of planetary sustainability." International journal of astrobiology (2018): 1-8.
  • Mealey, Ann Marie. The identity of Christian morality. Routledge, 2016.
  • R.J. Berry (ed.), The Care of Creation, IVP, 2000.
  • Schaefer, Jame. Theologcial foundations for environmental ethics: reconstructing patristic and medieval concepts. Georgetown University Press, 2009.pg.33-42
  • Stenmark, Mikael. Environmental ethics and policy-making. Routledge, 2017.
  • Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, second edition, Baker Academic, 2010, chs. 3-4.
  • Traer, Robert. Doing environmental ethics. Routledge, 2018.pg.48-62
  • Wells, Samuel, and Ben Quash. Introducing Christian Ethics. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

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