Christian teachings on stewardship and creation
There are many problems with the fuel sources that we use at the moment - Christian teachings on stewardship and creation introduction. Recently we have acknowledged the amount of destruction upon the environment due to the use of these fuel sources, but still even with this knowledge we carry on using these polluting fuels. Both the non-religious and the religious communities have started to speak up against this. They believe that these non-renewable resources should be cautiously and limitedly used.
Non-renewable resources are sources of energy that occur naturally in the world but because we use them all the time as energy (for heating, electricity, fuel for transport etc. ) they become depleted and they can not be replenished naturally because they are being used up so quickly. Therefore they become scarce and non-renewable. Examples of these are: oil, coal, natural gas, and fuel wood. Oil is the most common non-renewable fossil fuel. It is used because it holds large amounts of energy and it can be moved easily from place to place.
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However, already more than a quarter of the earth’s supply of oil has been used up over a period of 120 years. There are many problems with using oil as an energy source because it gives out many toxic gases that harm the atmosphere and can cause premature death and illness in humans. Extraction of oil causes considerable environmental pollution, and burning oil contributes to problems of acid rain and the greenhouse effect. Acid rain is linked with damage to and the death of forests and lake organisms in Scandinavia, Europe, and eastern North America.
The main effect of acid rain is to damage the chemical balance of soil, causing leaching of important minerals including magnesium and aluminium. Plants living in such soils, particularly conifers suffer from mineral loss and become more prone to infection. The minerals from the soil pass into lakes and rivers, disturbing aquatic life, for instance, by damaging the gills of young fish. Lakes and rivers suffer more direct damage because they become acidified by rainfall draining directly from the surrounding area.
The greenhouse effect is when solar radiation is trapped by the earth’s atmosphere and the radiation is re-emitted into the earth causing the earth’s temperature to rise. The reason why the radiation stays within the atmosphere is because of poisonous gases such as carbon dioxide, which come from the burning of oil, methane and CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons). In the near future the greenhouse effect will increase the average temperature yearly, it could cause flooding in low areas, and crops would be affected by the change of climate.
However, another view is that the world will go into another ice age within the next couple of hundred years. The problems of the carbon dioxide emissions could be dealt with by removing the gas from the rest of the emissions and store it under great pressure, though the energy needed to do this would amount to a fifth of the planet’s electricity. In addition, the waste is bulky and must be disposed of safely. Another non-renewable source of energy is nuclear energy; this is an energy that is produced by nuclear fission.
Known resources of uranium are such that nuclear power can provide energy for many hundreds of years. Unlike fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, only a small amount of energy is needed to produce large amounts of energy. However, problems that come from using nuclear power are health problems that could lead to premature death, various cancers and birth defects. There are also problems that would affect the environment, such as nuclear waste. There is no known way of disposing nuclear waste safely, some have half-lives that can last for thousands of years.
Some dumping of nuclear waste has already happened in the arctic sea and the deep Marinas Trench off the Philippines, but an international treaty now forbids this. Now high-level waste has to be kept in specifically designated sites, but already leaks of radioactive material have been reported. Nuclear waste affects the environment by killing animals in the surrounding area; this usually tends to be aquatic life, birth defects of new born animals, as well as, causing similar cancers that plague humans when around nuclear waste.
There are many renewable sources of energy that do not harm the surrounding environment such as solar power, hydroelectricity, wind power, and geothermal power. The amount of solar energy reaching the earth in just forty minutes is equal to the amount of energy used in a year by the whole world. However, even though this energy is ‘free’, the energy densities change rapidly and the amount of energy produced from using the solar panels is very small compared to fossil fuels and nuclear power. This makes it harder to produce the same amounts of energy, so large structures are needed to make the relative power produced.
Also, efficient capture of sunlight is needed to make these structures cost-effective. This is why only 7% of the global energy demand is met by renewable sources of energy. Despite their low running costs, their high installation cost and low power output have meant that solar heating is used for domestic purposes in many parts of the world, and is an important renewable source of energy. Wind energy has been used for thousands of years for pumping water and milling grain. Today electricity is generated from using wind generators to capture the energy from wind in many countries including Europe, India and the USA.
Even though the beneficial effects outweigh the detrimental effects, some people believe that the wind generators are an eyesore on the countryside (if there is a ‘farm’ of the generators) and also they may be quite noisy and take up a lot of space. There are many advantages of using renewable sources and many disadvantages from the effects of using non-renewable sources. The effects have been and do cause problems to the environment. Many people already try to help the environment but who does the responsibility of the environment fall upon? Christians believe that they should take care of the environment and steward the world.
This means that they believe God gave them the responsibility of caring for the earth. The Assisi declaration, made at the Assisi Conference in 1986, is an ecumenical statement that describes what the overall religious population of the world should be doing to help conserve nature and the environment. The Assisi Declaration holds the Christian view (as well as other religions: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu) upon the global problems and how Christians must act to save and recreate what we have lost through our want of material excess, greed, and also through neglect to our responsibilities for the up keep and protection of the environment around us.
In I Timothy 6:10 money is counted as the root of all evil. This suggests that as many big businesses make money from the environment and never give back to the world, this is the cause of non-renewable resources. Therefore, Judgment will not only be taken on how humans acted with kindness to each other, but also, how as stewards to God’s creation, humans interacted with kindness and love to the environment around them and animals who live among them.
Humans are chosen as stewards to the world not only because humans are made in God’s likeness, but also, while all creatures are ‘blessed’, God ‘speaks’ to humans (Genesis 1:28). Humans are capable of responding and can be responsible. The Bible teaches us that we must be good stewards; this can be seen in the laws of the Old Testament that deal with the treatment of animals and land when farming. Deuteronomy 25:4 describes the owner not being allowed to prevent a farm animal from eating some of the crop while working.
This clearly shows that humans should not exploit nature ruthlessly when nature is a carer and provider to humans. God created this world so that only necessary things were incorporated into it (no excess materials were used), this shows that God does not want us to take resources in unnecessarily because material possessions in excess are worthless as well as not being generous towards the needs of others (Luke 12:13-21). In the Assisi declaration, St Francis of Assisi is used as an example, to show Christians how humans must have a symbiotic relationship with the environment and all who live within it.
This means that if we hurt the world or wipe out a species, then we are not only destroying humankind and bringing chaos, but we are also hurting God because God is the divine creator of the earth and the universe around us. This is the overall view of Christians, however, all aspects of different denominational views must be taken into account when trying to understand Christian teachings on stewardship and creation. Most churches hold similar views but branch out into slightly different views on how the environment should be treated; this is due to the different interpretations of the Bible and scriptures.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain believe that humans have stewardship over the earth. The way in which we are disrespectful to the earth is a matter of urgency to the Baptist Union because it is obvious that we have large problems with a variety of pollutions, ranging from air pollution to the destruction of natural habitats, as well as, having energy resource problems. They believe that stewardship means the responsibility of the maintenance of the many species of the world and the habitat in which we all live in. They also believe that our failure to acknowledge this will lead to harm for humans and creatures alike.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that God made the world and gave it to human beings as a gift. The whole universe, all which lives in it, and that which is still continuingly developing, is the ‘work of God’s fingers’ (Psalm 8:3). This means that humans have stewardship over the earth; however, it is borrowed and not owned by humans. This suggests that we are helping the continuation of further evolution of the earth for generations to come. All people should share the earth’s resources and they should not be preponderated or exploited.
The products of the earth are to be appreciated as well as consumed, however, there should be a balance between consumption and conservation. Our actions can have large effects upon others and the earth’s resources. Therefore careful planning and consideration should take place before any destruction or harm to the wildlife so that we may use the resources accordingly without harm to wildlife. However, in Deuteronomy 20:19, in this scripture it states that we should not chop down fruit trees because it holds more value if we use the gifts it gives us.
This scripture can be used to describe how we should use the resources within the Amazon rainforest. Examples of the products that the Amazon rainforest gives us are: produces oxygen, rare medicinal plants grow only in the forest, it is the habitat for some of the world’s most rare species, particular tribes work and live within the rainforest, and is also used as a food resource around the world. The Church of England believe that the issues of the environment and the stewardship of the environment should be under discussion and put into practice allowing dioceses to do what they can to help the environment.
They believe that the Earth’s energy supply should be used wisely, similar to that of the parable of the servants with the master’s coins (Luke 19:11-27). This also means that more people should use renewable energy sources such as solar power or reuse resources by recycling. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England believes that the world’s population should be stabilised so that humans can live in sustainable harmony with the rest of the natural world. Even though these are the churches views upon what should be done about the world’s resource problem, many churches do not follow or even know their denominations opinion.
There are many Christian environmental agencies, which try and increase awareness upon the resource problem of the world. The ECEN (European Christian Environmental Network which used to be the Environmental Issues Network of the CCBI) is concerned with the issues related to non-renewable/ scarce energy resources. They try to promote churches to care for people, creatures, and environment as well as promoting Christian people to do the same. They use the scriptures and the ethos of the Bible to point towards how Christians should help the environment.
The ECEN believes that environmental responsibility is part of a Christian’s life and that environmental issues should become part of all Church education and training programmes as well. They ECEN deem that, “God is an eternal God who has cared for those in the past as seen in the scriptures and whose care is carried on through the Holy Spirit for the present and future generations”. Through this they believe that we should not use a large amount of the energy resources in just a few generations, or to leave the earth scarred by pollution for future generations.
In Exodus 13, when Moses gave the option of life or death on the threshold of the Promised Land, the choice of life would mean the responsibility of stewardship of the world. The ECEN states that all Christians should manage their church lives with respect for both humanity and the environment. They recommend that we should use raw resources sparingly, to protect the environment and reduce costs and that all church activities should be subject to environmental checks. Jesus said in Luke 12:21-23 that we may live our ‘lives in fullness’, however he did not suggest that we should live in material excess.
This leads the ECEN to suggest that all churches should reduce their energy consumption yearly, refuse (for example, to buy paper that is not made from recycled paper), reuse (for example, use china instead paper cups and plates), and recycle (for example, recycle printer cartridges). In the ECEN’s “Inaugural Theological Statement” it is said that the world is a gift from God as seen in Psalm 24 1-2, and as a gift it must be cared for and because of this we may take what we need for enriched lives. This does not mean by taking excess of materials. This points directly to the resource problem of the world.
Dioceses are told by the ECEN to start becoming environmentally friendly by first tackling the use of the actual church building. Churches in general are large, old and listed buildings with sporadic patterns of use; this can lead to a waste in energy. The Church of Scotland introduced the world’s first energy efficiency scheme for churches in 1978. The churches that used the scheme found that they were making substantial savings as well as reducing the use of energy. Cutting down the amount of energy used not only cuts down on the energy bill but also saves people and the earth itself.
This is because use of burning fossil fuels has been a direct cause to the global climate change. The ECEN is encouraging the bringing of environmental education into church life. The church’s consciousness on environmental issues should be raised because of the seriousness of the energy dilemma. Preservation and stewardship of creation should have a more leading role in church work. They suggest the added topics to training programs, so that we will become more environmentally conscious to the energy crisis and take action.
These ideas include looking into technologies that are used to reduce pollution, conserve energy and resources. The ECEN emphasise the phrase ‘living simply so that others may simply live’. This concerns the use of non-renewable resources because many of the scarce resources are fossil fuels and damage the environment by changing the climate, this will change the lives in third world countries more than in the West. The ECEN obviously shows that through the application of scriptures to environmental problems there can be changes.
They are effectively trying to use the teachings of the bible to help with the resource problem and are helping churches to cut down their yearly resource consumption. This is a prime example of how Christians can help raise awareness on the resource problem. 2) Give your response to the view that: “Religious people are no different from anyone else when it comes to using up the world’s resources. ” Give reasons for your answer, showing that you have considered another point of view. The Church shows many ways in which it tries to get actively involved with environmental protection, this includes awareness of the resource problem.
One way in which Christians try and produce a greater affect on the environment is through Christian organisations that deal with environmental action; one charity that speaks out against the use of non-renewable resources, as well as other environmental issues, is the ECEN. The ECEN promotes use of renewable resources, such as solar power, and spreads education on non-renewable resources and ways of reducing the use of them. At the moment, the ECEN has a large scheme on energy saving and education on non-renewable resources. The energy efficiency scheme is used within the church buildings itself.
Before the scheme many of the churches wasted a lot of energy trying to keep the buildings lit and heated. About 3000 churches had surveys done to see the amount of energy used and where cuts could be made. Five years later there was another survey and nearly 60% of the original churches made substantial savings on energy. There are growing numbers of churches taking part in this scheme every year and there are books given to churches so that there is help on how to reduce the amount of energy consumed, for example, “Heat and Light – A Practical Guide to Energy Saving in Church Buildings”.
Through the use of energy saving in the church will promote energy saving in the home, therefore more Christians are getting to know the Church’s view on resource problems and stewardship of the world. Many local Christian Environmental organisations help to encourage the use of renewable resources and awareness of non-renewable resources, for example the Guildford Diocese Department of Social Responsibility held recently a day of “exploration on Churches responding to environmental concerns”. Many of the larger Christian Ecological Charities were there to give education and respond to queries about stewardship of the world.
Even though these groups work at a small scale, with the help of the other larger charities, they cover the globe and can assist in the introduction of the Christian view on stewardship and what Christians can be doing to help with reducing the use of non-renewable resources. Numerous churches help in various ways to promote knowledge about the resource problem, one way is through sermons on the environment made by the priests, the churches also produce newsletters weekly that usually includes environmental updates and advertises local environmental Christian group events.
This shows that many churches try and get the congregation involved in environmental issues. Also, we cannot forget about the Assisi Declaration from 1986 when all the churches came together and produced a document on how Christians should approach the resource problem as well as other environmental problems, this obviously shows that the churches feel the need to reach out to the congregation and tell them it is a Christian’s duty to take care of God’s gift to them.
However, I agree with the statement because there are more non-religious charities that try to promote awareness of the resource problem and fund far greater projects than those set up by the Christian organisations. Also, these non-religious environmental charities are more widely known globally compared to the relatively few, unknown, Christian environmental aid organizations. Another problem with the Christian organisations is that they are not centred on the resource problem but usually cover a large amount of environmental issues.
This can cause problems when trying to find information on how to help the environment on certain issues using scriptures. There are quite a few non-religious charities set up that only dedicate themselves to one environmental issue within the resource problem, for example, National Energy Foundation, National Society for Clean Air, Waste Watch and the World’s Resource Foundation. As the Christian charities are relatively unrecognised the Christian organisations can be hard to get in touch with as well, which decreases the impact these charities have upon the resource dilemma.
One of the main problems is that the churches themselves do not promote their views on the environment and are rarely in current affairs fighting for awareness of resource problems of the world. To find further information on how churches are promoting awareness of the earth’s resource problem I conducted a short survey over a variety of Christian people. The information found is shocking in comparison to how the church sees the Christian population as helping the environment by the use of scriptures. I found that only 36% knew of their churches beliefs and those who did mainly heard the view from a sermon or from a Christian organisation.
The Church credits its ministers and priests on their consideration and help on the awareness of the environment, yet only 20% have ever heard a sermon on the environment. This again indicates that Church’s are not getting their view across. How can the Church expect Christians to go out and help the environment when the congregation is hearing not enough of the education on the environment? Another point that agrees with the above statement is that many Christians interpret the stewardship of the natural world from the bible negatively.
There are many scriptures that do point towards the stewardship of the world as being respectful and that Christians should be careful of the limited resources that we have: but there are also scriptures that hold the view that as Christians we have the right to do what we want with the world and its resources. In my survey I found that 14% of the Christians did not recycle. If this percentage was put into context of the world’s Christian population, who believe that the world was given to them to use as they see fit, then this is a staggering amount and shows that religious people are no different from anyone else in the world.
Out of the 86% of Christians that do recycle only 9% actually recycle because of their church’s beliefs on the environment. This brings forward another reason that shows that religious people are the same as the rest of the world’s population as society has been aware of environmental problems for the past thirty years, while only just recently the church has shown any interest in our natural habitat.
Society and culture dictate that recycling and all ‘green’ resources should be used whenever possible also, society has a greater affect locally compared to the Church due to the use of the media to get across to the people whether religious or non-religious. There are usually local non-religious environment newspapers, adverts the television, on the radio, and in large mainstream newspapers. My conclusion is that religious people are no different from the rest of the world’s population.