Often Christians lag behind the wider cultural when it comes to social change. This is felt most acutely in the realm of the environment. Suspicions about secularism and New Age spirituality have caused many conservative Christians to dismiss the environmental movement. Advancing a controversial claim among some environmentalists, Dan Story argues that Christianity and the Bible provide the best framework for environmental stewardship.
Dan Story wrote Should Christians Be Environmentalists? with three purposes in mind. First, he wanted to encourage environmental stewardship among Christians by providing a bible-based theological framework for creation care (11). Second, he wanted to provide an apologetic for Christian environmentalism against claims that Christianity is the ‘root cause’ of environmental problems (a thesis famously argued by Lynn White in 1967 but also several others) (11). Lastly he wanted to encourage Christians to use their concern for creation as a point of contact for evangelism(12). Story succeeds in each of these objectives. Along the way he manages to reference a good deal of academic literature regarding theology and the environment yet remain accessible.
The book divides into three parts. In part one, Story assesses where we are as a culture in our approach to environmental concerns. He argues that the materialist underpinnings of secular culture provides no real basis for long term environmental stewardship, he challenges the notion that Christians are responsible for environmental crisis and the notion that other religions are ‘more in tune’ with the environment. But he also makes clear that humans have made a significant impact on the earth and that we are all responsible for mismanaging natural resources and causing damage to our world. In part 2 he provides a Bible-based theology of nature (through the framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Stewardship. Story describes the trajectory of the Biblical story (from Eden to (re)New(ed) Earth), the way human ‘dominion’ has been misunderstood to mean exploitation rather than stewardship and how the ‘fall’ has caused us to use and abuse the earth selfishly and greedily. In part three he focuses he advocates Christian concern for the environment (from the biblical framework he just sketched).
My only major critique of this book is the title. Certainly Story is cognizant of the fact that many Christians have been wary of the environmental movement, but this is not really a book which explores if Christians should be environmentalists. Instead it is a book which advocates strongly for creation care and stewardship of the environment from a Christian perspective, provides an apologetic for Christian involvement because of anti-Christian environmentalism and discusses the evangelistic opportunities we Christians will have if we care for the earth. Exploring whether or not a Christian should be involved in environmentalism is not an open question in this book. Story is emphatic, you should. Part of me wonders if Should Environmentalists Be Christian? would have be a more apt and provocative title.
Titles aside this is a good introduction to environmental stewardship Christian style and I happily recommend it. Because Story does write out of conservative Christian conviction, he is able to make a compelling case for Creation care to a segment of Evangelicalism which still regards environmentalism with suspicion. This might be a good book for a book group or a church small group.
Thank you to Kregel Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.