‘Green Awakenings’ and Missing the Point of God’s Story

A booklet recently came my way, distributed through the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Titled Green Awakenings, the booklet offers a report from “Renewal”—a movement of “students caring for creation.” Introduced as “stories of stewardship and sustainability” from Christian colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada, Green Awakenings celebrates the quickly growing attention to creation care among the rising generation of Christian students. Before peering at this booklet’s version of creation care in the light of the gospel, let me briefly and straightforwardly affirm the sincere efforts of students to deal responsibly with the God-given gift of the earth. Consider these activities, all described in the booklet:  cleaning up local highways and waterways, finding creative uses for discarded clothes and paper products, creating and supporting local organic gardens, restoring prairies, conserving water and electricity, re-using landscape and kitchen organic waste products. . . there’s nothing wrong and a lot right about such stewardship of God’s creation. As one who interacts regularly with college students, I wholeheartedly appreciate their efforts to undo some of the habits of waste and excessive consumption they have observed in the generation before them.

The language of this booklet, however, quickly reveals a view of these efforts as far more than a diligent, worshipful response offered by believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. These efforts are described on a number of pages as gospel enterprises in themselves. Here are four observations, in light of the biblical gospel, concerning the presentation of creation care in Green Awakenings.

(1) This booklet co-opts language of the biblical gospel to articulate the work of creation care.

In the foreword, for example, Matthew Sleeth—executive director of the Blessed Earth organization—celebrates Renewal as a fulfillment of “what God promises us about young people standing up for Christ in the last days.” The foreword begins with Acts 2:17, where Peter quotes the prophet Joel’s promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, so that “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” It must give us pause, at the least, to see that here is matched the grand promise of Pentecost—the indwelling Spirit of the risen Christ who empowers the church for gospel life and witness—with the fulfillment of environmental activism. Sleeth ends his foreword with exalted language: “I pray that God’s Holy Spirit continues to pour out upon this rising generation of leaders, and that they will turn to the Bible for. . . .” How might the Bible itself lead one to end that sentence? Perhaps with “the way to know the Lord Jesus Christ and make him known”? No, Sleeth ends his sentence with: “solutions to today’s most challenging environmental problems.”

In the same foreword, the language of mission and the Great Commission is recruited to describe not sharing the gospel but rather spreading the good news of creation care. It’s a “vital mission,” we read, which “millions more must join.” Today’s Christian young people are commended for not giving in to the temptation to “look at others and see their sins clearly, while remaining blind to our own.” This talk of sin sounds like the gospel—until it hits us that we’re talking about “sins” against the environment. Once we have dealt with “our own use of the earth,” we read, we “can then go into the world and share. . . .” How might the Bible lead one to end that phrase? We might think of the call to go into all the world to preach the gospel. No, the phrase concludes with: “our stories of a simpler life.” The Great Awakenings of gospel history are changing before our eyes into the “Green Awakenings” of environmental progress.

One advertisement in the back of this booklet quotes Genesis 2:15 as saying, “And the Lord God put the human in the garden of Eden to serve and protect it.” That’s an interesting translation. The English Standard Version reads: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Of the several significant differences, the one to which I would point is “serve” vs. “work.” The Hebrew word abad, according to the ESV Study Bible, connotes here the ideas of “preparing and tending.” That same word can be translated serve—particularly in a context like that of the priests serving in the temple. However, work is the more common and seemingly appropriate translation here, especially as that word resonates throughout these early chapters as, first God’s activity, and then man’s—in God’s image. To say that human beings are created to serve the earth suggests a different connotation indeed. That different connotation emerges in a second and related observation:

(2) Green Awakening’s articulation of renewal suggests, at times, a replacement of the transcendent God of the Bible with another god: the earth itself.

One senses indeed a bit of a pull to serve the earth with all one’s heart and soul and mind—as opposed to the Creator God who made the earth.

The term “spiritual retreat” might lead to expectations about closer communion with God through his Word; one university reports on a “spiritual retreat to an organic farm,” with a focus on “students’ connection to the land and each other” (42). The consistent goal seems less to hear or spread God’s voice and God’s Word, and more (as another university reports), to “work toward justice by giving a passionate voice to the planet and its people” (6). Is this simply good and lively imagery—after the manner of Psalm 19? I suppose the answer to that question depends on whether or not we hear the planet declaring the glory of the God of the Scriptures and pointing us into those Scriptures, that perfect law that revives the soul. I suppose it depends on whether or not we define “justice” biblically, i.e., flowing from the very nature of God himself. I suppose it finally depends on whether we believe that God is speaking through his creation, or that we creatures can give the planet its passionate voice, making it say what we think it should say. If we believe the latter, then, in aiming to serve the earth and give it a passionate voice, we are ultimately serving ourselves and listening to our own voices.

When our eyes are on the earth instead of on God who made the earth, our whole perspective changes. Think, for example, of our view of redemption—that work of God to make new his fallen creation, through the perfect life and death and resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider one university’s report that, as its students work to create a community garden, “they are taking part in redeeming a broken relationship, between each other, creation, and God” (20). Such an emphasis on humanity’s part in redemption, in giving the planet a voice, and so forth, suggests the third observation:

(3) The renewal presented in this booklet defines the role of human beings differently from the way the Bible defines it.

On the one hand, the Renewal view would raise humanity to quite a high level, as the emphasis is consistently on what we can and must do to restore the planet—not on what God has done to redeem it. Multiple references to our current environmental “crisis” call for repeated human actions to avert this crisis. One wonders whether it would help simply to read just a bit farther in Genesis, to recall why and how all of creation is fallen. We human beings are not the solution; we are the problem—and not because we have misused creation, but because we have disobeyed our Creator.

On the other hand, this Renewal view lowers humanity, often failing to distinguish human beings in any way from the rest of creation. Page after page describes efforts of students to reclaim valuable waste products and to put them to good use—all this to “show how much we value God’s creation” (24). What shall we think when we see our college students devoting such a huge output of energy to save non-human waste, when there is no such movement in an organization like the CCCU to save human waste?

Let me explain. As many have noted, and as this booklet reflects, the environmental issue has become the cause du jour on college campuses in general. On Christian college campuses, this rise in popularity for the color green has corresponded with a plummet in concern about abortion. That hot issue belonged to the previous generation of believers, who argued it to death without solving it, and who also willfully participated in messing up the planet. That issue has cooled and been set aside—not because many Christian young people do not believe abortion is a grievous evil, but because their passion has been channeled to a seemingly more urgent and addressable need.

And they’re off to meet it—not looking back often enough to see the connection, to realize the significance of the transfer that has been made: from a concern to save human beings, to a concern to save the planet. Granted, the stated goal is to preserve future generations of human beings by saving the planet. However, ultimate goals often justify immediate mistakes. Does it make sense to preserve future generations, while at the same time killing them and throwing them away by the millions? This is the human waste to which I refer and which is receiving relatively little attention on college campuses.

At the center of the booklet, where one finds a chart which marks 45 different institutions of higher education in 18 different categories of stewardship and sustainability (recycling, gardening, earth day events, etc.), wouldn’t it be amazing to see a column reporting initiatives to save unborn babies? The point is that many students are being led by various shapers of the environmentalist agenda to value the preservation and potential of what is not human, as much as or even more than what is human. In fact, as we all know, many radical environmentalists view human beings as the problem to be eliminated so that the creation can flourish.

A biblical perspective sees human beings as the special creation of God, uniquely made in his image—fallen and broken, yes, but offered redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. Creation care advocates often mention creation’s groaning, referencing Romans 8. However, not often enough do such references acknowledge that, according to Romans 8:19, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” Yes, all of creation will be made new, but the pinnacle of that renewal is found in those redeemed human beings who in Adam died but who in Christ have been made alive. Some current voices would almost seem to turn this truth on its head, urging Christians to believe the real story is all about the sons of God waiting with eager longing for the revealing of creation in all its perfected beauty. This glance toward the end of redemptive history leads to the final, summary observation:

(4) This articulation of Renewal skews the whole biblical story, from beginning to end—because it misses the central point.

These voices celebrate creation, but the central subject and actor in that first passage (even the first sentence) of the Bible is too quickly passed over, in favor of the beauties of his visible creation. A lack of emphasis on the personal God connects inevitably to a similar lack of emphasis on the persons of Adam and Eve as God’s special creations. In light of all this, it does not seem surprising to find this headline in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “Why God Did Not Create the Universe.” Authors Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow are simply taking us to the logical conclusion of this train of thought—a train speeded by the influence of evolutionary theory, in which the emphasis lies on the material processes of the universe.

That train is perceived by many to be on a collision course, headed for that impending environmental crisis about which so many are warning the next generation. It makes perfect sense that a view looking back and focusing on the material aspect of creation should look ahead and focus on the material aspect of the end of the world. “The planet is in crisis,” cry the voices in this booklet, and we need to save it. The pressing future goal is that “the generation reached by the powerful ministry of Renewal will inherit the earth” (3) . . . that this new generation will “restore God’s creation” (3) . . . “that all God’s creatures, as well as future generations, can have a healthy environment in which to live” (51).

We might be led to think of the many instances in the Gospel of John in which Jesus points to visible material reality in order to connect it to invisible, spiritual reality—and of the many instances in which people don’t get the connection. “Sir, give me that water,” the Samaritan woman says. “Enter again into the womb and be born?” Nicodemus asks. “Give us this bread always,” demands the crowd for whom Jesus had multiplied the loaves. Jesus was revealing creation’s witness to the Creator, but the people couldn’t hear it. Jesus was revealing creation’s witness to himself, but the people couldn’t see him. Oh how we all must pray to have eyes to see him.

Ultimately, what is missing in a vision of renewal such as we find in Green Awakenings is a clear, openly stated understanding of the centrality of Jesus Christ. Such a vision can never clearly articulate the beginning of the story without the starting point of the second person of the Trinity as the one through whom and for whom all things were created. Such a vision can never clearly articulate the story’s climax of redemption without celebrating the Redeemer promised from the beginning, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Such a vision cannot conceive of the true crisis looming ahead, which is the coming of Jesus Christ to judge the world. That coming will indeed bring an environmental crisis, as “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10). That coming will also bring the eternal realities of both the new heaven and earth . . . and hell.

The whole story of Scripture tells us what to do about this coming crisis. The biblical gospel, with Jesus Christ at the center, must be at the heart of everything we do—even at the heart of our loving care for the world God made and gave to us to fill and subdue and work, until Christ comes again. There are indeed young people who believe the biblical gospel and who aim to offer their environmental efforts as one of the many ways they serve the Creator God as his redeemed sons and daughters, all for Christ’s glory and for the advancement of his kingdom. As we communicate this gospel perspective to the next generation, may we communicate it clearly and biblically.

UPDATE: Kathleen Nielson considers the power of words and response to this article.

  • Pingback: Green Is Not the Gospel – Justin Taylor()

  • Mark

    While there is certainly a faction of the environmental movement that we as Christians should be concerned about, I don’t see what all alarm bells are about here. Mr. Sleeth simply states that part of the Christian mission should be creation care. Nowhere does he say it is the gospel or in lieu of the gospel. And just as we are called to care for the poor, widows, the weak, aren’t we also called to care for and respect God’s creation? And isn’t it the poor, weak, and oppressed who suffer the most from pollution, environmental disasters, and other environmental ills? Aren’t we empowered by teh Holy Spirit to do more than just witness to others?
    I can’t help but feel that many Christians objecting to the belief that we have a duty as Christians to protect the environment is nothing more than a vieled attack on political views they don’t agree with or don’t understand. Why can’t you be opposed to abortion and for protecting the environment? In regard to the younger generation’s rejection of the political issues of their parent, maybe the younger generation is tired of their parents politicizing every issue and not actually doing something hard like adopting an unwanted baby or staying married when a marriage gets rocky.

  • Pingback: Green Is Not the Gospel : Talk About Miracles()

  • AllenD

    I like the message of this article. I am one of those young recently out of college Christians and I care greatly for the environment. But I agree with this article that we need to be caring for creation for the right reasons, not making creation the end to our means, but rather our care for creation coming out of a response to who God is and what he has done. I believe if we have the right view of God and are following after him, we can’t help but care for what he has made.

    About the abortion idea Mark mentions, I totally agree. Some Christians are more political than they are spiritual, perhaps identifying with a political party or ideology more than they identify with being a follower of Christ. I am frustrated by the previous (or current) generation’s focus on outlawing abortion but seemingly not caring about actual woman who struggle with keeping a baby and the idea of adopting those unwanted babies. It clearly shows that the focus is on fighting for an issue for the sake of fighting, and not truly caring for these woman and babies. Similarly, the idea goes for fighting against same sex marriage laws, but not fighting to protect marriage in other arenas (divorce, putting off marriage for the sake of career, etc). I digress.

    Back to the point, I love God’s creation. I see so much of his glory in it, and it is one of the things that causes me to worship him the most. That’s why I want to be a good steward of what he has made. I think that is a good simple reason for creation care.

  • Pingback: ‘Green Awakenings’ and Missing the Point of God’s Story | musings in montage()

  • Ben Lowe

    My name is Ben Lowe and I headed up the Green Awakenings project that Kathleen Nielson reviewed.

    Its okay to criticize our efforts. Being relatively young, we do make mistakes and need to learn and grow from them. I do wish, however, that she had tried to contact us first, to seek clarification on the parts of our report that troubled her. Its easy to both communicate things poorly and receive communication poorly. Either way, had she talked to us first, she would have learned that there is little or no disagreement with our testimonies and her above-stated views.

    Renewal is a Christ-centered movement with a high view of the centrality of the biblical gospel and the authority of scripture, and built on such texts as Col 1:15-20. We wholeheartedly affirm that while the stewardship we offer is intended to benefit God’s creation, the offering itself is directed to God. Many of us are also actively involved in additional efforts (not just rhetoric) to nurture human life such as opposing violence and unjust wars, fostering human rights and religious freedom, protecting the unborn, and more. Furthermore, many of us are missionary kids or missionaries-in-training, and we serve on church missions committees and verbally share the gospel with those we know. So, while I’m sure Nielson meant no harm, its hurtful to be mischaracterized so publicly and confidently without a chance to clarify or dialog first. And it does hurt our effort to represent Christ.

    I sometimes get called a “treehugger” by fellow Christians. I really wish I didn’t get the name calling (just like I wish all the name calling of non-Christian environmentalists – like “enviro-nazis” – wasn’t in the above comments. I’ve experienced firsthand the damage it does to our Christian witness). But if the name calling won’t stop for now, then please know that we hug trees because of Jesus, and we hug trees for Jesus.

    (For those who may be interested, I wrote a book about the growing creation care efforts around the country titled Green Revolution (IVP) that shares more about what motivates many of us and includes write-ups by folks associated with the Gospel Coalition such as Ajith Fernando. I’ve also contacted Kathleen Nielson directly to share my response.)

  • http://boycecollege.edu Owen


    Would you be able to articulate your understanding of the gospel? This isn’t a sniff test. I would like to hear how you conceive of and present the gospel. Your book sounds stimulating, but for now, can you give us a sense for how creation renewal fits in the gospel message?

    I’m interested also in a bite-sized exposition of Ephesians 1:15-20:

    “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places”

    How does environmental activism factor in, exactly, to the Christocentricity of the gospel? Personally, I would say it does, though I would note that the gospel is a message of salvation which carries obvious implications for all of creation. Creation is renewed by the Messiah King, to be sure, so that the people of God bought by the blood of God may live and reign with God for all eternity. How does activism fit into the work of redemption–primarily spiritual, with nevertheless clear physical outworkings–which Christ accomplishes?

    There are many who embrace what’s called “creation care” on a number of fronts while trying to keep issues of life-and-death at the forefront of Christian ethical activity. I like recycling, not driving wastefully, and not littering. Can you outline how you see believers carrying out “creation care” while continuing to uphold the cause of the unborn (and marriage and other less au courant causes)?

    These are good-faith questions. Appreciate your interaction.

  • Pingback: Dr. Niel Nielson » Blog Archive » “Green Awakenings” and Missing the Point of God’s Story()

  • Jacob Rodriguez

    Hey all,

    As a close friend and former roommate of Ben, and as a Wheaton grad who once heard Dr. Nielson give a chapel message that really inspired me (Feb, 2007; I still have my journal entry for that day; Dr. Nielson, thanks for encouraging us students!), I would like to offer a few thoughts.

    First, as an anecdote, I can say that Ben’s lifestyle reflects the gospel he believes in. He currently lives in a low-income neighborhood where several families barely got by on public aid. I’ll never forget the day that a young man came into our apartment asking for prayer because he wanted to get his life back in order and quit his alcoholism. We preached the gospel of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, and then prayed for him. What prompted him first to come to us was that we loved him as a neighbor. Love for neighbor was inextricably linked to our gospel proclamation.

    I know that one of Ben’s main motivations for creation care is love for neighbor; how we treat the earth has large scale ramifications for those across the world. The places most affected by climate change are those nations of the Global South, who don’t have the resources to adapt to climate change. For example, Niger is currently in danger of mass starvation, due to desertification and lack of rainfall. Christian NGO’s are planting trees in Niger; these trees can literally stop the desert from expanding. In short, hugging a tree can save a life and feed a mouth. Is this not part of our calling as the Church? (cf. Luke 3:11; Acts 6:1-7; James 1:27; 2:14-17).

    Second, Dr. Douglas Moo, a well known Reformed scholar who argues cogently for the Christocentricity of the gospel and classical doctrines like penal substitution—he is often quoted by Gospel Coalition pastors and teachers—has written a good piece on creation care and Christian eschatology

    He argues for an eschatological renewal rather than destruction of the cosmos, and he even engages the 2 Pet 3:1-15 pericope with this conclusion. His exegesis yields the following points for Christian praxis: 1) Since the world will be renewed by God’s eschatological work (a “not yet” reality), we as the church can be involved in this work at the present (an “already” reality). Moo argues that this is not Green Utopianism, but rather an “enthusiasm to be involved in working toward those ends that God will finally secure through his own sovereign intervention.” 2) Moo argues for “new covenant ethics” that are centered on loving God and loving neighbor. As mentioned above, our environmental decisions affect our global neighbors. While Carson and others may be right that “loving God” and “loving neighbor” are not the content of the gospel proper (Jesus Christ came to save sinners), these are indispensible to an effective witness of the church. Given the current state of global climate change, caring for creation is a crucial way for the church to love God and love neighbor, thus bolstering our gospel witness.

    Third, whatever our eschatology, as the Church we are called to be a picture of the kingdom that is coming. In the locus of the Church the new creation is supposed to be alive and active. Is it not a powerful witness to work toward renewal of creation as a foretaste of the complete creational renewal of Revelation 21-22?

    I am a “young-restless Reformed” missionary to the core (I’m heading to Ethiopia with a missions organization to train pastors in biblical exegesis), and the Gospel Coalition has really blessed me in the past. I would hope that TGC’s evaluation of social-justice-oriented movements like Ben’s would not alienate young activist evangelicals from groups like TGC that preserve the gospel entrusted to us.

    • Cindy Udall

      My husband and I would love to make contact with you. We also have begun a ministry of pastor training in Ethiopia. So far we have taken 2 teams to Hawassa (Awassa). Check us out at http://www.gospelforethiopia.org

  • Rebekah

    I am currently a student leader in the Renewal organization. I have witnessed first hand Ben Lowe’s and the other leaders strong commitment to Jesus Christ and his gospel message. I think the problem here is one of miscommunication, not actual differences in opinion or Biblical stance.

    From what I have seen of the leaders all of us agree that the reason we are concerned about creation is because God commands us to love and care for it and because it directly affects people in so many ways. We do not worship creation in its own right, we are amazed by it but our ultimate worship is directed toward the God who made it. In fact caring for something that God clearly labels as good before the fall is an act of worship to Him. It is also a way to share the gospel through our actions. Justin Taylor (http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2010/09/20/green-is-not-the-gospel/) claims that the ‘Green is not the gospel’ and I think everyone in Renewal would gladly agree with him. Caring for creation is not salvation. However I think the gospel is very much ‘green’ as it involves the redeeming and renewing of all things, including creation.

    You would find no arguments from us that people are more important than the rest of the created world. That is one of the things that drives us to care for creation in the first place. In our society we are so separated from the environment that we often forget that the poorest and least of us are those that are affected by environmental problems the most. Those that can’t afford to move away from areas with high pollution suffer its affects the most; those that have only one water supply are affected deeply by a tainted water source. So often environmental problems affect people. And part of our goal is to address these issues and give the people a voice they otherwise would not have.

    I suppose we may not have articulated this well enough in the booklet, so let me clarify if I can. We are not missing the central point of the Bible. We are deeply committed to loving and following God and as a result loving people and loving the rest of the created world. We believe that salvation is found in only one name, Jesus, and that because he loved us and forgave us we are called to do this as well. We are called to love and redeem others as best we can as humans and I think we are also called to love and redeem creation as best we can as well; although certainly not at the expense of people. To us Jesus and his message of love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, salvation and life are always the center of His message; renewing creation is just one spin off of many important threads that involve doing the things God calls us to do.

    I really think we share far more common beliefs then differences. We should always strive to come together for these and remind each other when we stray. Thank you for pointing out some of our communications problems, I think we will take these issues to heart and make sure we are clearer about our mission in the future.

    God Bless

  • Bill

    One interesting point that is not often discussed is what do we do with the fact that good, rational, spiritual Christians disagree with each other over about what what constitutes reasonable environmental involvement. We even disagree on solutions. While it is appropriate to say that the Bible tells us to be concerned about the environment, the larger the issues the more we get into opinions and political perspectives. I think that both sides could use more humility.

  • AllenD

    I just want to say that after reading these comments and understanding what the Renewal organization is about, I really like what they are doing and, more importantly, why they are doing it. I am encouraged by how each of the commentators representing Renewal have replied to this article in a humble way. This is a great example of how Christians with different views can dialogue in a edifying Body-building way. I’m going to be looking into Renewal and learning more about what it is you guys do.

  • Pingback: Environmentalism and The Christian Faith « Insomniac memos()

  • KT

    I want to echo what AllenD said about the humble, edifying dialog present in the comments here. It has been encouraging and refreshing. Thanks to all and SDG.

  • Pingback: ‘Green Awakenings’ Reconsidered – The Gospel Coalition Blog()

  • Pingback: Saturday Links | Study Your Bible Online()

  • http://renewingcreation.org Gretchen

    Dear Kathleen,
    As the national coordinator for Renewal I am writing in conjunction with several colleagues to formally respond to your original blog post about our organization entitled “ ‘Green Awakenings’ and Missing the Point of God’s Story,” and your second post responding to readers’ reactions entitled, “ ‘Green Awakenings’ Reconsidered.”
    Let me start by explaining a little more about our organization. Renewal is a student-led creation care movement. We were founded in 2008 following a gathering of student leaders and recent graduates. Renewal’s core, a student leadership team (SLT), meets each year to brainstorm and plan programming to meet identified needs. The SLT commissions the national coordinator (myself) to help them plan and implement our activities, including an annual day of prayer, service, and advocacy.

    Renewal joined Christians for Environmental Stewardship in 2010, and together we provide three complementary programs for Christian communities—Renewal, Restoring Eden, and the Creation Care Study Program. Renewal reaches out to university students who are trying to increase awareness and action concerning stewardship issues. Restoring Eden focuses on advocacy work, and the Creation Care Study Program provides undergraduate environmental education.

    My fellow colleagues and I work very hard to fulfill the ministry we are called to, which is to mobilize students in Christ-centered stewardship of all God’s creation. For us, creation care is a blessing and an invitation to live in right relationship with our Creator. This means taking care of everything that God so lovingly creates and sustains—the earth and each other.

    To effectively do our work, Renewal intentionally develops student leaders who are able to engage the environmental issues of our time with Christian character and a biblical worldview. Therefore, as an organization we decided to respond to your writings, and their impacts, from the perspective of what it taught us about Christian leadership.

    The first lesson reinforces what we first learned from trusted creation care leaders such as Dr. Cal DeWitt, Dr. Loren Wilkinson, Dr. Ellen Davis, and Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger, to name just a few. They taught us that serving Christ in creation care ministry requires integrity and fidelity to the biblical gospel in word and deed. We appreciate this is your primary concern for Christian environmental organizations too, and we wholeheartedly agree with you.

    Given our mindfulness of the damage that results from falling into the theological and spiritual pitfalls you mentioned, Renewal strives not to go astray on these issues. Therefore, the second lesson confirms the wisdom of diligently building a good reputation. In our case we are grateful for the articulate support of people who know us well enough to defend our Christian character, integrity, and fidelity to the gospel. To put it another way, if Renewal did not stand for the gospel in word and deed, no one associated with us would be upset by allegations that we were wishy-washy (our term, not yours) on these important issues. But people were upset, and they felt they needed to defend our Christian reputation and integrity on these matters.

    The third lesson is despite our best attempts, misinterpretation between fellow believers and gospel allies is unavoidable. Before this event Green Awakenings had only received praise. You saw the good we were doing, which you stressed, but you also saw significant problems that others did not see. We can’t explain why many faithful believers read our report without detecting problems with it, and yet your reading did, but what we do know is that we were misunderstood.

    As with anything one writes, one has to consider who the main audience will be and write for that audience. Concision is also a virtue; therefore a writer needs to rest on some assumptions. For us we assumed our readers would be Christians familiar with the precepts of biblical creation care. Therefore, we didn’t think we needed to cover some of the basics that you wrote about. Our report was dedicated to being a series of 50 news updates about what students are doing on their campuses; it wasn’t intended to be an apologetic to persuade Christians caring for creation is a biblical mandate, or to explain how that fits into God’s story and the gospel. Maybe we should have thought to cover such issues, but we didn’t. Either way, the lessons we take away from this experience are we need to do our best to communicate the fullness of truth; we will get it wrong sometimes; and despite our best efforts there is always a possibility for being misunderstood.

    This leads us to our final lesson learned: when there is a misunderstanding we must do our best to reconcile with our Christian sister or brother. To that end it is clear we share the belief that creation care is a legitimate biblical ministry. We also agree on the theological and spiritual pitfalls which lurk in our arena of ministry if one is not careful. However, we regret that Renewal was made a public example of those errors when as a whole that is not true of who we are, or what we believe.

    In today’s new media world it is impossible to stop the dissemination of information once it has gone public on the web, so we have to accept what happened and pray that we are not adversely affected. We are also grateful that you bolstered your public support for Renewal in your second article. We believe that will help readers put our original article into proper perspective and also mitigate negative opinions of our ministry and organization. Finally, we would like to invite you to support an event that could help us further mitigate any potential negative impacts on our ministry, and that is to co-host a student forum at Covenant College involving respected speakers and Renewal staff and student leaders on the biblical basis of creation care. Why Covenant College? Because the president of Covenant College re-posted your article on his college blog, it is clear he shares our concerns, yet he has a venue and an opportunity to constructively contribute to our work by hosting such a forum. In addition, one of Renewal’s current student leaders attends Covenant College, and it would be an investment in her leadership if Covenant College hosted such a forum. Finally, I believe such a co-hosted event would be a wonderful witness and sign of God’s goodness and redemptive grace.

    God bless and keep you,

    Gretchen Peck,
    Renewal National Coordinator

  • http://williamlanderson.blogspot.com/ William Anderson

    I will lay out one of the biggest problems I have with the whole movement: calling it “Creation Care.” According to what I call “Garden Theology,” God creates this wonderful garden, and now He is angry — very angry — that those things he made (people) are walking on the grass. Creation involves not only what we call the “natural environment,” but all people as well. WE are part of “creation,” like it or not.

    While I am not going to attack Ben personally, and I would imagine that he is a wonderful young man who does seek to serve Christ, nonetheless he is part of a movement that holds that God cares more about trees and lakes than He does people. Furthermore, although I myself went through my radical environmentalist stage nearly 40 years ago, I understand now that the world is a much more complex thing, and that ideas of “stewardship” need to be tied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the Gospel of Al Gore.

    Our primary mission on earth as believes is not to “save the earth” from having someone drill for oil or burn coal somewhere. We are here to serve God in all ways, from bringing others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to doing justice and living as servants to others.

    There is no way to “Christianize” the environmental movement as it exists in this country and in Europe. It is a movement which at its core is hostile to Christ and His Kingdom and reverts to pagan deities for religious symbols. The environmentalists will let the Christians along for the ride, but sooner or later a real choice becomes apparent, a choice between following Christ or following a pseudo-gospel.

    In the past 40 years, I have been confronted with a number of “ecological crises.” In 1975, Newsweek declared that we were headed for another Ice Age (because we burn coal for electricity), in 1980, acid rain was supposed to strip our trees bare and destroy American agriculture. Environmentalists moved on to tell us that we were about to be blasted by UV rays as the ozone layer around the earth was in dire danger of being obliterated by chemicals.

    Now it is “global warming” which has morphed to “climate change.” The “creation care” evangelicals simply ignored what was exposed in the so-called “Climategate” emails in which some of the main scientists of the movement demonstrated that they not only had manipulated data but also were bullying others who did not agree with them. At the present time, almost all funding for environmental research comes from governments that have an agenda, and anyone who disagrees generally is labeled as an “industry stooge.

    These are things that the “creation care” evangelicals either ignore or they join the crowd in claiming that only an “industry stooge” could disagree with the current environmental zeitgeist. The truth, after all, is not useful when it comes to environmentalism. And at some point in the future, the “creation care” evangelicals also will find that they are no longer useful to the environmentalists and will have to choose between Christ and the secular movement. My guess is that most will choose the latter because environmentalism by then will have become their polestar.

  • Pingback: Weekly Eco-links (5/27/11) — Wanliss dot Com()