Monday, May 17, 2010

Philosophy Comprehensive Exam - Question #2

NOTE: Again, these are unedited responses from comprehensive exams, answers given with no resources or materials at hand. This one was an exhilerating experience for me ... a topic I do not always have opportunity to address.

QUESTION 2. Apply the Ten Commandments to environmental ethics. Which commandments apply – and how, and why?

Scarcely a single secular ethics textbook is written today which does not include a lengthy discussion of environmental ethics or ecology responsibility. On the other hand, many lengthy treatises on Christian ethics avoid or minimize discussion of the same topics (thus, for example, Oliver O’Donovan’s Resurrection and the Moral Order contains no discussion whatsoever, while John Frame’s 930-page Doctrine of the Christian Life contains a mere two page discussion). I find this exceedingly strange, as I believe that Christians should be at the forefront of the movement toward environmental responsibility and ethics. In this essay, I will argue for the necessity of a vibrant Christian environmental ethic, based primarily upon the Ten Commandments, but supplemented by the doctrine of creation and the cultural mandate of Genesis 1. First, I will address the continued applicability of the Ten Commandments within Christian ethical discussion. Second, I will observe the intertwined nature of the Ten Commandments. Third, I will address environmental ethics from the foundational framework of the doctrine of creation and mankind’s cultural mandate. Finally, I will demonstrate how and why seven of the Ten Commandments relate, directly or indirectly, to a Christian environmental ethic.

I. The Continued Applicability of the Ten Commandments in Christian Ethics


At the outset, it is necessary to address the applicability of the Ten Commandments. While some Christians question whether the entire breadth of God’s law revealed in the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy) continues to inform and direct Christian ethics, the continued applicability of the Ten Commandments is almost unquestioned amongst Christian theologians. The sole exception is the fourth commandment – the Sabbath. On this front, many Christians argue that the command to respect the Sabbath day as a day of rest and worship has been abrogated by the new covenant in Christ and the institution of the Lord’s Day as the proper day of Christian worship. There is, however, no mention in the New Testament of any of the Ten Commandments (or other aspects of the Mosaic law) being abrogated or replaced – indeed, Jesus insists (Matthew 5:17ff) that he has not come to abolish the law. Aspects of the Old Testament law are indeed fulfilled in Christ, but it is difficult to see how the Sabbath commandment (or any of the other Ten Commandments) is fulfilled in Christ and therefore no longer binding. It is easier to note that commandments regarding the appropriate temple sacrifices and offerings have been fulfilled through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ – the book of Hebrews makes this quite clear. Thus, we no longer bring doves or bulls or goats or grain offerings or drink offerings or wave offerings to church on Sunday mornings – although I must admit that it would certainly enliven our contemporary worship services if we did! Furthermore, some of the ritual cleanliness laws regarding the appropriate measures to take before approaching the presence of God in the tabernacle or synagogue or temple have been fulfilled in Christ.

Regarding the Sabbath commandment, however, I do not see how Christ has fulfilled what was commanded, thereby removing the obligation to honor the fourth commandment (observe the Sabbath Day – in six days you shall do your work, the seventh day is to be a day of rest, holy to the Lord your God; for in six days he made the heavens and the earth, and rested on the seventh day). Jesus certainly does make it clear that some of the Sabbath regulations that had been built up through the rabbinic tradition were not particularly honoring to God; he also insists that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” But nowhere does he insist or even insinuate that the Sabbath is somehow abrogated through his life, death, and resurrection. Quite the contrary. I agree with John Frame, who argues that the Sabbath is a ‘creation ordinance’ – presented by God as a commandment not just through the Decalogue of Exodus 20, but even implicitly commanded in the beginning of Genesis 2. “Thus, in six days the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array; on the seventh day God rested. He looked at all he had made, and behold, it was very good.” [rough paraphrase; please forgive inaccuracies of transmission!] As a creation ordinance, the Sabbath is something which will never be abrogated; thus, it remains incumbent upon Christians today to consider how the Sabbath ordinance applies to them. This will become important as we consider the application of the Ten Commandments specifically to the question of environmental ethics. For now, however, it is sufficient to note that the Ten Commandments do indeed continue to apply to Christians. They are a part of God’s Old Testament law, an expression of His holy character and moral nature, and a binding part of our covenant with the Lord God Almighty.

II. The Nature of the Ten Commandments


When asked for his opinion of the most important of God’s laws, Jesus sums up the Ten Commandments: “The first is this: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself.” Christian theologians have long noted that the Ten Commandments can be effectively, though imprecisely, summed up by designating commandments one through four as “love God,” and commandments five through ten as “love your neighbor.”

However, it is essential to note that the separation, helpful and effective as it may be, is entirely artificial. We cannot separate love of God from love of neighbor. Note the question that Jesus is answering when he gives the ‘two’ greatest commandments: “Teacher, which one is the most important of God’s laws?” Jesus is being asked for a single commandment which sums up or epitomizes God’s law. Instead, he provides what looks like two commandments: love God AND love your neighbor. He does so because there is and can be no distinction between the two. The Apostle John writes that he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot truly love God, whom he has not seen (1 John 3). Furthermore, John writes that people will know that we love God by observing the love that we have for one another (John 13?). The clear correlation is that a sincere and vibrant love for God will necessarily result in a sincere and vibrant love for our neighbor; on the flip side, a life that demonstrates a lack of love for our neighbor is a clear indication that we lack a sincere and authentic love for God.

Thus, we should not artificially distinguish the Ten Commandments, thinking that we can somehow be in faithful obedience to nine of them, yet be lacking in one. As the apostle James writes, one who fails to keep the law at one point, fails to keep the entire law (James 2). Faithfulness to God’s law is a complete package. Each of the Ten Commandments has a bearing upon the other nine. This, again, will be of importance when we come to consider the implications of the Ten Commandments for a Christian environmental ethic.

Another helpful distinction regarding the Ten Commandments is what the Reformed tradition (e.g. the Westminster Confession) calls the broad vs. the narrow implications of each commandment. Each of the Ten Commandments (particularly numbers 6 through 9) has, on the surface, a very specific application. For example, we are commandment (#6) “Do not murder.” That is, do not exercise unauthorized lethal action upon another human being. If I am mad at my brother Abel because he offers a better sacrifice than me, I cannot express that anger by striking out and killing Abel. Doing so is a violation of the sixth commandment. That is the specific, narrow, implication of the sixth commandment. However, the broad extrapolation of the sixth commandment uses the initial principle, that of respecting and honoring the life that God has breathed into our fellow man, and their creation in the image of God; and applies it to further circumstances. Thus, the Westminster Confession also urges us to refrain from speaking slanderously against our neighbor or against our enemy, as doing so expresses our contempt for a fellow creature of God.

John Frame supplies a helpful matrix through which to apply the Ten Commandments in both their broad and their narrow contexts. He argues for a tri-perspectival approach, which seeks to uncover the normative principles contained within God’s inspired Word (the normative approach), understand the contemporary circumstances to which those principles apply (the situational approach), and elucidate how God desires for us to respond in obedience (the existential approach). The normative-situational-existential approach to ethics reminds us that God’s Word does indeed provide all of the normative principles that we require to engage in a robust Christian ethic, that we must apply Christ’s wisdom in understanding how those principles apply to our situation, and that the indwelling Holy Spirit guides us into faithful obedience in our ethical lives. Again, this tri-perspectival approach will be helpful when we apply the Ten Commandments specifically to environmental ethics.

III. Environmental Ethics, the Doctrine of Creation, and the Cultural Mandate


Before considering the impact of the Ten Commandments themselves upon Christian environmental ethics, it is necessary to begin at the beginning. A Christian environmental ethic must start with a doctrine of Creation. The universe is God’s, and everything within it. Genesis 1 speaks clearly of God creating the heavens and the earth ex nihilo – out of nothingness (a creation account which, incidentally, coheres quite closely with contemporary astrophysical models of the origins of the universe). Whereas other Ancient Near Eastern creation myths involve the gods taking pre-existent matter and forming or shaping it, the Hebrew creation account uniquely insists that Yahweh made the stuff itself. All of Christian ethics must begin here, with a firm doctrine of God as the Creator and sustainer of all that is; but it is particularly important than environmental ethics begins at this point. When we talk about ‘sustaining’ the earth, or ‘protecting’ the environment, we need to acknowledge that we are not seeking to maintain something which we have created, or something which is just randomly here, or something which is itself the lifeforce of the universe. Rather, we are seeking to protect, sustain, or maintain something which is the unique and special creation of the Lord God Almighty.

Indeed, we endeavor to do so because God has commanded us to do so. In Genesis 1:28, after creating human beings, God commands them to: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue (or control) it. Rule over (or reign over) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the creatures that walk along the ground . . .’ [again, forgive the rough paraphrase]. This passage is often designated as “the cultural mandate,” and involves a multifold imperative given to mankind. (1) Be fruitful and multiply – enjoy the sexual reproductive capacities that God has endowed you with. (2) Fill the earth – it is not a bad thing to have many children. (3) Subdue or control the earth – we are not only permitted, but even commanded, to take charge, and to actively subdue the earth. This has immense implications for environmental ethics. Many people are inherently opposed to the building of dams on rivers, as it impedes the migratory path of spawning fish, and affects sedimentary buildup in the riverbeds. I sympathize with the concerns (more on that shortly), but must also insist that the cultural mandate suggests that the building of dams, which reduce the frequency and destructiveness of flooding along major river systems, is generally pursued in accordance with the cultural mandate. (4) Rule over (reign over) the fish of the sea, etc. Man is not simply to control or subdue the earth; man is to exercise sovereign leadership over all of creation.
Secular environmentalists often insist that Christian theology gives a carte blanche to environmental degradation and destruction, because of the cultural mandate. After all, they argue, Genesis 1 gives us permission to “rule over” the rest of creation. First off, let me acknowledge that they are entirely right – Scripture not only gives us permission to rule over the rest of creation, but explicitly commands us to do so. However, the understanding of sovereignty or lordship which secular environmentalists have in mind is (or at least ought to be) fundamentally different from a biblical understanding of lordship. What does it mean to rule over creation, from a biblical perspective? What is our theology of Lordship?

(1) First and foremost, our lordship over creation is not absolute, but is rather derivative. We are not the absolute sovereigns of the earth. Our sovereignty is given to us by God, and He is the ultimate ruler of all that is. We are underlords, not overlords.

(2) Second, biblical lordship is not destructive or self-oriented. Jesus provides us with the picture of biblical lordship in John (10?), contrasting a Godly model of leadership with the model of leadership followed by fallen man. ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; not so with you. Rather, he who desires to be the greatest must be the servant of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is the ultimate example of biblical lordship; and his lordship is not oriented towards himself or his own needs. Rather, it is a self-sacrificing, self-giving, other-oriented leadership. Sadly, the effects of mankind’s fall into sin (Genesis 3) has a powerfully destructive effect, not just upon our relationship with God, but also upon our relationship with fellow human beings and with the created order itself. Thus, the exercise of authority within the fallen human order is often selfish and destructive. Examples of totalitarian political regimes have proliferated throughout human history, but the 20th century saw the rise of perhaps the most destructive totalitarian regimes ever witnessed – Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, and Maoist China. Other totalitarian regimes have presided over injustices and oppression in central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Southeast Asia. For many contemporary proponents of secular environmentalism, therefore, the notion of ‘lordship’ or ‘ruling’ over creation brings to mind purely negative connotations. They perceive authority through the negative framework of fallen human political structures. Thus, we need to recover and promote a biblical meaning of lordship in order to stress that the cultural mandate of mankind as a ruler over creation is not a mandate to pillage, rape, and destroy.

(3) Third, Biblical lordship is nurturing and other-oriented. God is Lord over the lives of Christians, but we understand that God does not rule over us in order to oppress us, or to prevent us from achieving our own good. Rather, we acknowledge that God has our best interests at heart, and indeed He alone knows what is best for us. Thus, God rules over us, commanding us in the ways that will lead to life, and forbidding us from paths that lead to destruction. God’s lordship is a loving sovereignty, and provides the model for biblical human authority and rule. The kings of Israel were commanded to have the best interests of the people at heart, and not to rule selfishly. They didn’t work that out very obediently, for the most part; but the ideal was clear and evident to them. When we seek to construct a Christian environmental ethic, we must insist that our cultural mandate is enunciated along those same lines. We do not have the right to degrade God’s created order for our own selfish purposes. Rather, we have the responsibility to exercise stewardship over what God has created and graciously entrusted to our care. Yes, we are commanded to subdue and control the earth, and to rule over it. But that is not a green light to pursue our selfish interests at any environmental cost. Quite the contrary.

(4) Finally, the cultural mandate commands us to respect the environment as God’s creation, and to sustain and preserve it. Just as a biblical husband is to exercise authority within the home, but not in a domineering, abusive, or selfish manner; so too humanity corporately is to exercise authority over creation, but not in a domineering, abusive, or selfish manner. Husbands are to love their wives; mankind is to love creation. Husbands are to nurture their wives; mankind is to nurture creation. Wives are not the property of their husbands; creation is not owned by mankind.

With the framework of a robust doctrine of creation and an appreciation of the cultural mandate in hand, it is time to turn to the Ten Commandments themselves, and assess how they apply to environmental ethics.

IV. Environmental Ethics and the Ten Commandments


It is important to keep in mind that the Ten Commandments are strongly intertwined, and have a bearing upon one another. Nonetheless, my discussion of environmental ethics will focus on the first and tenth commandments, with brief discussions of others.

A. Avoiding the Excesses of Contemporary Environmentalism: The First Commandment


The first commandment states simply: “You shall have no other gods besides (or before) me.” In Matthew 6:24, Jesus reminds his audience that no man can serve two masters. Bruce Thornton, an irreverent and contrarian agnostic, argues (in Plagues of the Mind) that the ecological movement has become explicitly religious. He is certainly not alone in making that observation. The avowed atheist, Carl Sagan, regularly spoke of nature with the divine capital letter (“Nature”); primary school textbooks regularly talk about the importance of cherishing and protecting “Mother Earth.” The influence of native American religious traditions has been powerful in urging contemporary environmentalists towards a spiritual understanding of rocks, trees, animals, and the rest of the created order. Even when talking about the weather in casual conversation, people will often comment on the ‘mood’ of ‘mother nature’ or ‘nature’, as if nature were personified.

Certainly, a lot of such talk is innocuous and innocent, and bereft of explicit theological undertones. However, it must be acknowledged that in many circles, such talk has explicit religious meaning. Panentheism (God in everything) and pantheism (God is everything) are prominent worldviews within contemporary culture, but are nowhere so evident as in environmental activist groups. As Christians, we share with environmentalists a dedication to exercising caring stewardship over creation; but we must part ways when it comes to our understanding of what it is that we are caring for!

The first commandment concerns the nature of God, and hence also addresses the nature of nature itself. Nature is not God. There is a qualitative distinction between Creator and Creation. God is not contained within what He has made. When we exercise environmental stewardship, we are not taking care of God Himself; rather, we are caring for what God has made and entrusted to us, in obedience to His cultural mandate to us.

Thus, we must be careful as engaged Christians in how we talk about our environmental goals and pursuits. We must not allow the unbiblical worldview of non-Christian environmentalism to affect us; we must keep in our conscious mind the sharp distinction between God and Creation. This includes the obvious narrow implication of refusing to worship Creation. But it also involves a broader extrapolation from the first commandment and the third commandment (‘Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’). The third commandment prohibits us from using God’s name in vain. This would include, I would argue, speaking of things other than God with terms we ought to use only for God.

What words do we use to refer to our environmental concerns? What terminology do we utilize? From my observations, we often fall into the contemporary default of referring to ‘the environment’, ‘nature’, ‘the earth’, ‘ecology’, or even ‘mother earth’. All of these terms, I would argue, are either explicitly or implicitly governed by the assumptions and definitions provided by panentheism and pantheism. Hence, we should not regularly use those terms. Instead, we should consciously use the more appropriate Christian terms: ‘creation’, ‘created order’, ‘God’s world’. Even in expression the goals of our environmental ethics, we should consciously differentiate our position from secular or pantheist ecologists, by talking explicitly about ‘stewardship’ or ‘lordship’ rather than simply ‘protection’ or ‘maintenance’. Ideally, our ‘Christian environmental ethics’ should not be called that at all – rather, we should talk about being engaged in ‘Creation stewardship’. Yes, this will require a regular definition of our terminology, but is that such a bad thing? After all, it will ensure that we are being faithful to God’s commandments (we are honoring His name, and not referring to His things in irreverent ways) and will offer opportunities to explain our deepest Christian convictions (we are stewards, caretakers, of what God has made). Thus, precision in our terminology can open the door to Christian witness, and helps us resist the temptation to slide into casual secular conversational terminology.

B. The Implications of the 4th, 6th, and 8th Commandments


My focus in this essay is upon the first and tenth commandments. However, each of the Ten Commandments has a bearing upon Christian environmental ethics, and it is worthwhile to note how three commandments in particular apply.

The fourth commandment has been discussed briefly earlier in this essay – “Honor the Sabbath Day. For six days you shall labor and do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” The Sabbath commandment is an ordinance of God’s created order, given originally in implicit form at the beginning of Genesis 2, and expanded considerably in God’s covenant with Israel. The Sabbath is connected to God’s act of creation, and his resting on the seventh day; it is also connected to God’s bringing the Israelites out of Egypt in the Passover event. The notion of ‘rest’ is crucial to the Sabbath – completing our work in six days, and engaging in a holy rest on the seventh day. Of course, the Sabbath anticipates the eschatological Sabbath, wherein our earthly labors will be complete and we will enter our eternal rest prepared for us by God. But our exercise of Sabbath here and now is not merely an anticipation of the eschatological Sabbath; it is also integral to how God has created us and the rest of the created order.

A part of the larger extrapolation of the Sabbath was a Sabbath for the land. God commanded the Israelites to practice ‘crop rotation’ – to grow crops on their land for six years, but on the seventh year to allow the land to ‘rest’ from its labors. Modern agricultural practice has acknowledged the inherent wisdom of the Sabbath approach, and crop rotation is a common practice in most Western nations today. Sadly, crop rotation is not practiced in many developing countries, where the pressures to produce crops now compels subsistence farmers to clear land, plant crops, and continue to grow crops until the soil is no longer capable of sustaining plants. Lack of crop rotation leads to soil exhaustion and environmental degradation. This is not only an environmental catastrophe; it is also a violation of the 4th commandment. A robust Christian ‘Creation stewardship’ ethic will include the notion of environmental Sabbath – something which can apply not only to crop rotation, but also to fishing and hunting.

The 6th commandment is fairly straightforward in its narrow application – ‘Do not murder.’ John Frame argues that the prohibition against murder does not preclude the taking of another human life in all circumstances, noting that (1) the very next chapters in Exodus include specific case studies of an Israelite killing an intruder, and (2) the Old Testament is replete with discussions of warfare, wherein Israelite soldiers kill enemies without apparently violating the 6th commandment. I appreciate the Anabaptist commitment to pacifism and avoidance of taking others’ lives even in warfare (as exemplified, e.g., by Stanley Hauerwas); nonetheless, I must admit that Frame’s analysis is correct. There are (very rare) times when individual humans are authorized to (regrettably and regretfully) take the life of another person, and there are also (more frequent) times when human authorities (governments, judiciaries) are authorized (regrettably and regretfully) to take the life of others.

Nonetheless, the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions are agreed that the 6th commandment involves a radical call to the preservation of life. We are to respect the life of others, for human beings are made in the image of God, and are created and loved by God. We are to do all we can to avoid taking a life. This extrapolation of the 6th commandment applies to Creation stewardship ethics in two ways.

First, we are to acknowledge that certain human actions have negative environmental consequences which may (possibly or probably) result in the death of others. For example, clear-cutting the entire forest cover of the Canadian Rockies would almost certainly result in a proliferation of floods and mudslides in both the mountains and the foothills, as the land would be far less capable of absorbing large amounts of precipitation. Those floods and mudslides would most likely result in a large loss of property and of life. Hence, a respect for the 6th commandment, which compels us to avoid causing the death of others to the greatest extent possible, requires us to acknowledge the sinfulness of total or widespread clearcutting. The Christian argument is not simply that clearcutting is ugly (though it is that), that it is economically unsustainable in the long run (though it is that) – rather, the practice is an actual violation of God’s express command to protect and nurture life.

Second, the commandment to respect, cherish, and protect life extends beyond our fellow human beings to the other living creatures which God has made. The creation mandate of Genesis 1 calls upon us to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, etc. While Christians certainly do not believe that animals have rational souls capable of sinning against God and experiencing redemption through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ; we nonetheless acknowledge animals as fellow members of God’s Created order. Moreover, we acknowledge that we are their stewards, their sovereign lords. Just as political ‘lords’ are biblically intended to rule in the best interests of their human subjects, so too we as ‘Creation stewards’ are to rule in the best interests of the animals that are entrusted to our care. Thus, many Christians are committed to a vegetarian lifestyle out of principled conviction. Others avoid eating meat because they are appalled at the way that animals are treated in chicken farms or large cattle operations. It is easy to abuse or misunderstand this aspect of the 6th commandment, but we must acknowledge (with Hauerwas) that sometimes vegetarianism will be an authentic act of obedience to the 6th commandment.

The 8th commandment prohibits stealing from our neighbor. As time and space are running short, I must limit my observations of this commandment to the following: to what extent do our economic and environmental practices ‘steal’ from current and future generations of human beings? If British Columbia were to build further dams and reservoirs on the Columbia River, diverting its waters before it can flow into the United States, I argue that we would be ‘robbing’ our southern neighbors of their water supply. Similarly with the Jordan River in the Middle East. As fresh water becomes more scarce and precious, disputes over the flow and control of rivers will become increasingly contentious. We must acknowledge that the 8th commandment has a strong statement upon our responsibility.

C. The Heart of Creation Stewardship: The Tenth Commandment


The tenth commandment might seem an odd one to label as the heart of Creation stewardship (environmental ethics). “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or oxen, . . .” However, I argue that the prohibition of covetousness actually strikes at the heart of the major cause of environmental degradation today – materialism and consumerism. The prohibition against coveting our neighbor’s possessions does not merely forbid our actively seeking to take what rightfully belongs to our neighbor (as in the moving of boundary stones or using false weights). Rather, as the Westminster Confession notes, it involves further things. When Jesus applies the Ten Commandments to his audience in Matthew 5, he always brings the outward commands to bear upon the inward state of our heart. “Do not murder … I tell you do not be angry with your brother without cause. … Do not commit adultery … I tell you that he who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The Ten Commandments are not just speaking to outward obedience to the letter of the law. Rather, they speak to the condition of our heart, and the source of the outward obedience (or lack thereof). Thus, the Westminster Confession acknowledges that the 10th Commandment speaks to the primary motivations of covetousness: greed and envy. In common parlance, the problem is that of ‘wanting’ – not just wanting to have what belongs to somebody else, but always wanting more. I remember reading of a major CEO, I believe it was either Iacocca or a Rockefeller, who was asked by a journalist (concerning their incredible wealth), “How much money will be enough?” His response: “Always just a little bit more.” This nicely encapsulates the fundamental sin of the human heart – covetousness; always wanting a little bit more than we have right now. The newer car; the newest electronic gadgets; the newest fashion lines; the bigger house; the bigger car; the vacation home.

The excess of human ‘wanting’ has wreaked havoc upon God’s created order. We now possess the technological capacity to extract more resources from Creation, and produce more consumable goods, than ever before. The positive consequence of this has been a steady and remarkable rise in the living standards of most people around the world – a lower proportion of the world’s population lives at a subsistence level today than ever before. The negative consequence has been a steady degradation of God’s Creation. Fisheries around the world are exhausted, depleted by unconscientious fishing strategies and policies. Several species of birds, reptiles, and mammals have been hunted to extinction, their feathers or hides or fur being coveted for fashion accessories (or innards being valued for medicinal or superstitional benefits). Human agricultural has been pushed out to the margins of arable land, using techniques that have exhausted the soil and resulted in increasing desertification. The root cause of much environmental degradation, in a word, is materialism. Human greed, the constant ‘wanting’ for more, has serious environmental side-effects. I am not ignorant of the positive contributions of that same human technological advance; here I merely point out the consequences it has had upon God's creation.

The cultural mandate to be faithful stewards of God’s creation commands us as Christians to live differently, and to consume differently. Do we really need Al Gore’s 6000 square foot home? Can we responsibly justify the consumption of energy and resources that it requires? We are neither commanded nor permitted to ‘want, want, want’. Indeed, the biblical mandate is twofold: (1) Be content with what you have, whether little or much; and (2) Do not let the love of money (stuff) become a snare. Regrettably, many in the Western church have been consumed by consumerism; materialism has such a strong sway over us. Creation stewardship requires us to renounce the ways of the world, including the drive to accumulate and consume more, in favor of a simpler, more contented lifestyle.