by Joy E. Rancatore
Should Christians be concerned with pollution in the world’s atmosphere and oceans, extinction of thousands of species and the environmental toll of using fossil fuels?
John Baden, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), and Tom Rowley, executive director of A Rocha USA, would answer with an emphatic “yes.”
Two days after the nation observed Earth Day, the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a symposium titled Creation Care: Practice and Issues. Baden and Rowley shared with the audience from their years of experience in the environmental arena as strong believers.
Bruce Little, director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and professor of philosophy at Southeastern, summed up the central message of the symposium in a brief sentence: “We don’t worship nature…but we do worship the Creator.” The symposium is one result of a grant that was awarded to Southeastern in October by The Energy Foundation, in an effort to promote better care of God’s creation through increased awareness and increased opportunities to get involved.
Rowley’s organization, A Rocha, is a conservation organization that encourages Christians as individuals and groups to take simple, solid steps to caring for the creation around them. Founded in 1983 in Portugal, A Rocha now has a presence in 18 countries on six continents.
In his lecture, Rowley told listeners the most qualified people to take action in conserving creation are those who serve and obey the Creator. He said anyone can choose to campaign for conservation; but, without the understanding that conservation is both a command and a privilege ordained by God, they will not be totally committed to it.
“What we believe about the world sets the tone for how we behave,” Rowley said.
He said a true love for God pours over into a love for others which then pours out into – not only a concern with how poor environmental conditions will affect others – but also with a resolve to correct those issues.
As a result, Rowley continued, a commitment to creation care can provide Christians a wonderful opportunity to witness to others about the great power of the Creator God.
Baden, who began a conservation club at his school in fifth grade and has dedicated his life to studying and teaching political science, economics, environmental policy and forestry, laid out more of the nuts and bolts of how creation care should be handled by institutions.
He told stories of how a government agency and a private company both caused damage to the environment in order to better those institutions and supply incentives for people employed by both.
“If we care about creation care, we’ve got to pay attention to institutional arrangements. Good intentions will not suffice,” Baden said. “Vigilance is an essential part of [creation care].”
He emphasized that creation care means sustaining the earth God created.
“Whatever else creation care implies, it certainly implies we have a sustainable environment. At its root, sustainability is a moral obligation to those in the future. I think we have not been impoverished by our parents and grandparents; and so we have a very strong obligation not to do that to our grandchildren,” Baden said.
Little was encouraged by the lectures of the two speakers as well as the interaction of the audience during question and answer times.
“These two men bring a reasoned voice of sanity to this discussion and both help us to see what some of the foundational issues are. John Baden gave information that is not heard in most Christian gatherings on this subject, the perspective from economics, and that was balanced nicely by Tom Rowley's voice on Christian theology and ethic. It was great to see the two men interact with each others’ statements,” Little said.
He said Christians often get so caught up in confusion with some of the larger environmental issues that are not “clear-cut” and allow that to hinder them from doing the small, practical tasks anyone can do on a daily basis to care for creation.
“There is no substitute to having an opportunity to personally interact with men of this caliber and to learn much which will not be gained by reading a book. It provides the opportunity to expand one's view and to hear facts without all the political rhetoric that is so often present. It is also an unparalleled opportunity to hear from men who have studied the issue, worked in the issue and become experts about the issue. Lastly, it gives ideas and possibilities for actually being involved in creation care,” Little said.
This symposium is the first of three creation care events hosted by the Center this year. A colloquium, Perspectives in Dialogue, will be August 28 and will feature two speakers—E. Calvin Beisner and Michael Northcott. On October 30-31, a conference, A Theology of Creation Stewardship, will feature Steven Bouma-Prediger, E. David Cook, Calvin DeWitt and Rusty Pritchard.
The colloquium is free to the public, and the conference’s registration fee is $35 with a student discount available. All of the events are continuing efforts to promote better care of God’s creation among God’s people.