Saturday, July 29, 2006

The One Body of Christian Environmentalism

The One Body of Christian Environmentalism

Raymond E. Grizzle

Randall Environmental Studies Center

Taylor University

Upland, IN 46989-1001

 Christopher B. Barrett

Department of Economics

Utah State University

Logan, UT 84322-3530

August 1996

Abstract. Using a conceptual model consisting of three intersecting spheres of concern (environmental protection, human needs provision, and economic welfare)
central to most environmental issues, we map six major Christian traditions of thought. Our purpose is to highlight the complementarities among these diverse
responses in order to inform a more holistic Christian environmentalism founded on one or more of the major tenets of each of the six core traditions.
Our approach also incorporates major premises of at least the more moderate versions of biocentrism, ecocentrism, and anthropocentrism. We label this holistic
approach "humble anthropocentrism." We argue that only such holistic environmental perspectives where societal needs are more directly coupled with envnvironmental
protection are capable of successfully addressing the complex issues we face today. We note that at the international level in particular, Christian thought
and secular environmentalism already have been moving in such a direction.

Keywords: Christianity, environmentalism, holism, biocentrism, ecocentrism, anthropocentrism, global, environmental ethics


We thank the Pew Charitable Trust through its Global Stewardship Initiative, the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, and Taylor University for supporting
this research. This paper was approved as UAES journal paper no. ###


In a seminal paper at the dawning of the contemporary environmental movement, Lynn White, Jr. (1967) laid much of the blame for modern environmental problems
on Christianity. An extreme anthropocentric perspective in Christianity, White argued, underpinned dominionistic attitudes that resulted in environmental
degradation. White's paper opened a period of prolific, and perhaps unprecedented, Christian reflection and writing on environmental issues. In this paper
we take stock of the ensuing three decades of Christian thought on environmental science and policy. We point out that there is no single "Christian environmentalism."
Indeed, there is a rich diversity of Christian beliefs about creation and humanity's place in it.

Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 12) motivates our work; we see the various parts of contemporary Christian environmentalism as many parts of one body. Each offers
some fundamental truths, but we suggest that each also has shortcomings. In the next section we briefly describe six distinct Christian environmental traditions.
In trying to succinctly summarize the key features of each we likely do a disservice to the richness of these bodies of literature and thought. The point
of that section, however, is to provide the building blocks for the following section, in which we try to outline the intersection of the different traditions.
There we articulate what we label a "humble anthropocentric" perspective as the basis for a holistic Christian environmentalism that consists of key elements
from each of the six separate traditions. Our perspective also includes the major tenet of each of at least the more moderate versions of biocentrism,
ecocentrism, and anthropocentrism. A brief concluding section highlights what we see as the critical next steps for Christians concerned about the environment
and environmental science. We also briefly discuss implications for public policy.


Our analysis is guided by a simple conceptual model drawn as a Venn diagram (Fig. 1). Each of the three spheres (shown two-dimensionally as circles) relates
one of the three major components of most environmental issues: environmental protection, basic human needs provision, and economic welfare. We map the
relative positions of the six major Christian traditions in our analysis with respect to this model. The area at the center of the diagram is, by construction,
the least narrow and most holistic region because it is where all three spheres overlap.

The model was first proposed in the context of a call for environmentalists generally to consider humans more fully as a part of nature (Grizzle 1994).
Later, we developed it as a tool for assessing the long-term sustainability of different kinds of movements active in contemporary environmental policy
debates and for advancing a preliminary version of the "humble anthropocentric" approach as a basis for development of sustainable public policy approaches
(Barrett and Grizzle, 1996).

Humble anthropocentrism, which is discussed in more detail in section II, recognizes that humans have legitimate needs
for survival but that we should behave in ways that minimize our impacts on the earth and its nonhuman inhabitants. Humility is a fundamental Christian
goal for humans arising from the notion that we are fallible and sinful, and along with the rest of creation in need of redemption (Romans 8). Humble anthropocentrism
offers a holistic view because it incorporates all three lines of creaturely relationships (each of which is derived from an overarching theocentric perspective)
with which Christian theology traditionally has dealt: human-human, human-other creatures, and human-environment (abiotic components). The model, with
its humble anthropocentrist basis, will be the lens through which we view and assess the various parts of Christian environmentalism.

Before proceeding further, we feel it appropriate to set our analysis in the context of environmentalism broadly. Our overall complaint about contemporary
mainstream environmentalism is that it is too disconnected from other societal issues. The foundational ecological premise of the interconnectedness of
all biotic (including human) and abiotic components of the world seems to be widely (although by no means universally) ignored by environmental activists.
We are very concerned about pollution, habitat degradation, biodiversity loss, and other pressing environmental issues. But these in no way diminish our
parallel concerns about human hunger, disease, poverty, armed conflict, and other forms of human suffering. All of these issues can be found in the mainstream
environmental literature, but we feel the interconnections between the two broad areas they represent have been given insufficient and superficial treatment.
Moreover, environmentalists, including many Christian environmentalists, do not seem to be moving towards correcting the problem. In other words, we feel
that as environmentalism -at least in high-income countries -has developed over the past thirty or so years, ecologists, social scientists, theologians,
ethicists, and others have not really cooperated with one another to the extent needed.

One manifestation of the neglect of human needs by many environmentalists -- or perhaps the cause of it -- is a blatantly anti-human perspective on environmental
issues generally. Some environmentalists' explicit objections to primal consideration of human needs may be traced to their conceptualization of humanity's
relation to other parts of nature. Many simply do not consider humans a legitimate part of nature (e.g. ). Or, humans are deemed pathologically destructive
(e.g. BioScience article??). While humankind has done undeniable injury to the broader biosphere (as well as to itself, especially its weaker members),
this reaction is theologically akin to hating both the sin and the sinner, not just the sin.

We believe instead, following Genesis 1and 2, that God is the ultimate "cause" of the cosmos. God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them,
including humanity. Our evolutionary history is inextricably intertwined with other components of creation. Nonetheless, God gave humans dominion over
creation and called upon humanity to employ the fruits of creation to sustain life. While humans are always fallible in the exercise of this dominion,
we can be redeemed by God's grace and be vessels by which God's love can be brought to all creation. Humanity is specifically charged to care for all of
creation, itself included.


Much of the early Christian environmental literature was aimed at discrediting White's (1967) criticisms. This seems to have been largely successful. Though
some environmentalists still denigrate Christianity, the prevailing opinion seems to be that exploitative and dominionistic attitudes attributed to Christianity
are at most only part of the problem. Many branches of Christendom have made substantial progress towards not only developing theologies of creation that
squarely address major environmental issues, but also actively participating at all levels in solving related problems.

There is, however, no single "Christian environmentalism" today. Despite substantial, common reliance by most Christian environmentalists on the broader
environmental literature, a rich diversity of Christian environmental philosophies has evolved. Invoking Saint Paul's metaphor (I Corinthians 12), this
section analyzes six distinct "parts" of what we claim is one "body" of Christian environmentalism. Different branches of Christianity have approached
the issues from different directions. Each enjoys important scriptural support and has made positive contributions. But as human traditions, each is also
fallible, narrow, and prone to disturbing excesses. Nonetheless, when considered collectively, the result is a robust environmentalism that we believe
is sufficient to provide a realistically holistic perspective on humanity's place in God's whole creation as well as the basis for public policy that can
successfully address pressing environmental and social problems.

In the following subsections, we briefly describe six major traditions relevant to modern environmentalism. None is based on a uniquely Christian worldview,
but each has been a focus point for Christians. We do not mean this to be a comprehensive taxonomy. Nor, for reasons of space, do we provide the full description
that each tradition richly deserves; we encourage readers to plumb the associated references themselves. Each of the first three falls most completely
within only one of the three spheres of the model (Fig. 1). The next three are explicit attempts at holism, with most proponents addressing at least two
of the three spheres.

Subjectionism. For most of its history, the Christian church has emphasized human-God and human-human relationships; non-human components of creation have
been given little attention. The subjectionist
perspective, which has a long history within Christianity, derives its primary inspiration from the first chapter of Genesis:

"So God created man is his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be
fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living
thing that moves upon the earth.' " Genesis 1:27-28

Subjectionists typically take this passage from the creation story as a call to bring the nonhuman environment into subjection for the purpose of facilitating
human expansion. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that more conservative branches of Christianity, -notably fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals,
-most commonly favor this perspective, which is essentially based on a "selfish anthropocentrism" of the sort lambasted by White (196

Subjectionist arguments are varied, but most lodge three major complaints against environmentalism (see Wright 1996 for review). They dispute scientific
claims of environmental degradations, profess environmentalism to be essentially "new age" thinking and therefore anti-Christian, or they emphasize the
substantial economic costs of environmental protection policies. With respect to the model depicted in Figure 1, the common thread in these writings is
concern over the economic welfare of humanity.7 It is perhaps an illustrative semantic point that Christian economists from this tradition invariably speak
of "resource" economics, rather than "environmental" or "ecological" economics. To them, the nonhuman components of the earth are merely resources to be
subdued and managed for the benefit of a sovereign humanity.

Economic concerns are sometimes considered the antithesis of environmentalism, by both subjectionists and others. Hence the traditional perspective (in
high-income countries) of a contest between environmental protection and economic growth.
Our three-sphere model suggests that this longstanding view is inaccurate. Over any period measured in generations or centuries, long-term economic well-being
is an essential component of environmental protection and vice versa. The precise dynamics of the relationship between the two is complex and poorly understood,
but they are not antithetical to one another.
Therefore, although some criticisms of some aspects of mainstream environmentalism by subjectionists may be valid, from our vantage point the narrow subjectionist
emphasis on economic welfare is excessive.

Social justice. Many Protestants would place social justice advocates at the opposite end of the theological spectrum from fundamentalists. The Roman Catholic
and mainline Protestant churches have longstanding, laudable traditions of social activism. But in the context of Christian perspectives on environmental
issues, social justice is another form of selfish anthropocentrism. Instead of focusing, as subjectionists do, on human well-being as measurable in a money
metric (what we label "economic welfare" in Fig. 1), social justice advocates emphasize the universal satisfaction of basic human needs such as food, shelter,
and clothing. Within the social sciences and philosophy, disagreements between subjectionists and social justice advocates find expression in sometimes
vitriolic debates over how best to gauge human well-being (Nussbaum and Sen, 1993). Like the subjectionists, social justice advocates believe humans are
the part of creation about which God is principally concerned; nonhuman creation ("resources") exists to help satisfy those needs.

Unlike the subjectionists, however, social justice advocates emphasize social action to redeem humanity's sinfulness. The relatively recent Catholic tradition
of liberation theology (e.g. Gutierrez, 1973; Boff, 1985; Berryman, 1987) is an especially energetic expression of this perspective. As a consequence of
their activism, social justice advocates sometimes find themselves allied politically with some environmentalists (e.g. Environmental Justice and Eco-Justice
advocates) in opposing status quo, even though they may disagree whether people or the earth come first. This alliance is fed by the growing recognition
that there exists a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental destruction in contemporary society. Many of the world's most pressing environmental concerns
- (e.g., biodiversity loss, deforestation, desertification) -follow from excessive exploitation of renewable resources in low-income, tropical countries
by the approximately one billion people currently in poverty, particularly in rural areas (Perrings, 1989; World Bank, 1992; Boyce, 1994; Cleaver and Schreiber,
1994; Karshenas, 1994; Munasinghe and McNeely, 1994; Barrett, 1995 and forthcoming; Barrett and Arcese, 1995). Many social justice advocates, thus, are
leveraging emerging concerns about environmental degradation to advance an inherently anthropocentric agenda. As we argue in the next section, however,
it is instead the symbiotic relationship between environmental protection and improved human well-being, whether measured in terms of economic welfare
or basic human needs provisioning, that deserves emphasis politically and theologically.

Creation care. Oelschlaeger (1994)
provides a book-length argument for the creation care (or "caring for creation") perspective, some variant of which is articulated in all major world religions.
Indeed, of the six movements discussed in this paper, creation care is probably the most congruent with mainstream environmentalism in high-income countries.
The appeal of this perspective within environmentalism is broad.
Creation care stewardship
has been defined in a variety of ways, but the essential component is the belief that God designated humans as stewards or guardians over God's creation,
and thus care for all of creation is appropriate and necessary. Creation care traditions are thus centered in the environmental protection sphere of Figure

The Christian creation care movement arose soon after White's (1967) criticism of the church, particularly his charge that Christianity is the most anthropocentric
of religions.
A major argument Christian environmentalists use against White (and other critics) is that his (their) interpretations of Scripture are faulty. As a result,
there has been a major effort over the past two decades to develop environmental philosophies based on biblical passages that describe the goodness of
God's creation and include mandates to care by responsible human stewards.

With this background in mind, it seems reasonable to view creation care as a corrective aimed at reminding the church of its duties to all of creation,
instead of to humanity exclusively, and indirectly to those parts materially affecting humans.
Unfortunately, this approach is often carried to excess, inadvertently ignoring traditional Christian emphases on spiritual and social justice issues (Grizzle
and Cogdill, 1993/94; Grizzle, 1994). The nexus between poverty and environment goes largely unacknowledged within the creation care movement, often provoking
tension between social justice advocates and creation care adherents.

Moreover, the common creation care claim that all creation is "good" and that humans must therefore protect all components of the environment is theologically
equivalent to asserting there is no evil, or at least that everything that is not good in the world is purely the product of human behavior. Clearly, God
pronounces that creation is "good" repeatedly in Genesis 1. And we in no way intend to trivialize these passages. However, this should not be taken to
mean that everything about creation is to be valued and protected, and simply declared "good." For instance, should we strive to protect the AIDS or Ebola
viruses so they do not go extinct? Are all species really equal and "good?" Extreme biocentrists sometimes declare this to be the case, but this kind of
thinking is clearly not making much headway today. Likewise, should we thank God for sending wildly destructive storms and earthquakes that destroy humans
and other creatures, and declare them "good" because they are a part of creation? Common sense tells us that creation in its present state is not unequivocally
"good." Moreover, many of the insights that ecology has provided into how nature functions reveal a creation that is far from some of the romanticized
notions that seem to be widespread among envrionmentalists (see Nash 199 for further discussion; also Grizzle and Cogdill 1993/94, and Grizzle 1994). Very
few environmentalists, Christian or otherwise, have satisfactorily confronted the "bad" or harsh side of nature. And few theologians have dealt to the
extent that is needed with the notion that Jesus came to redeem all of creation.

Environmental justice. Environmental justice is a recent movement with roots in both the creation care and the social justice movements. The United Church
of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice (1987) issued the landmark statement in this movement. Bryant (1995, p. 6) summarizes environmental (equity and)
justice as focusing on "...ameliorating potentially life-threatening conditions or on improving the overall quality of life for the indigent or people
of color." Environmental justice issues were initially raised in the early 1980s in connection with siting of solid waste facilities (Bullard 1983, 1984).
Studies find that lower socioeconomic classes and minorities, in the United States and around the world, tend to be exposed to greater levels of environmental
pollution, particularly contaminants from hazardous waste disposal facilities (Wheeler, 1996). The result has been a nexus of civil rights, social justice
and environmental protection proponents for the purpose of advocating and equitable distribution of the burdens of environmental hazards and of the fruits
of efforts to ameliorate pollution and other forms of environmental degradation.

Some environmental justice proponents explicitly consider their views as "holistic." For example, Bryant (1995, p. 33), referring to the movement as corrective
for existing public policy, says: "We need to take a holistic approach if we expect to solve the most pressing social and environmental problems confronting
us today." However, many topics central to mainstream environmentalism, like biodiversity, habitat destruction, and endangered species, cannot be found
in the environmental justice literature, which is heavily oriented toward the problems of urban and peri-urban slums.

Eco-feminism. Like the environmental justice movement, the eco-feminist movement is not identified principally with the Christian church, but nonetheless
finds expression through several prominent Christian proponents (McFague, 1987; Ruether, 1992).
The core charge by eco-feminists is the need to shift from a hierarchical view of nature and culture that leads to problematic dualisms of various sorts
(e.g. male domination of women and nature) to a view based on equality and holism. This kind of view naturally leads to a creation care perspective, which
is a major link to mainstream environmentalism. Some eco-feminists also talk of "sin" as a basic human problem that must be addressed, thereby touching
upon a major concern of traditional Christian theology that largely has been ignored, or only mentioned in a cursory fashion, by many other Christian environmentalists.

It does not seem, however, that eco-feminism has received the attention that it needs in order to be fairly assessed and thus more adequately assimilated
into Christian environmentalism (or mainstream environmentalism either). For example, Fowler (199 , p ) has stated that the predominant response in many
quarters to eco-feminism has simply been to ignore it. Our particular concern is with what seems to be an almost blanket notion among eco-feminists that
all components of creation are equal; our above comments concering the "goodness" of creation and similar claims of equality by extreme biocentrists apply
here as well.

Eco-justice. A rapidly emerging vein of Christian environmental thought takes the label "eco-justice".
It was one of the first of the Christian environmental movements (Baer, 1966; Anderson, 1968), and it has grown rapidly in acceptance in recent years.
Eco-justice proponents explicitly call for both environmental protection ("ecological justice") and social justice, or "ecological health and wholeness
together with social and economic justice" (OGAPC, 1990, p. 73).
Eco-justice represents the expansion of longstanding concerns by mainline Protestants and Catholics for social justice to include justice for all of God's
creation. In a spirit similar to eco-feminists, eco-justice advocates highlight the similarities between the vulnerability of the human poor and of nonhuman
creation to the excesses of contemporary, consumerist society. Eco-justice advocates emphasize the oneness of creation (Psalm 24:1, John 17:21-23) and
Jesus' commandment to love one another (John 15:17).

These points are captured in the four pillars of the eco-justice movement : sustainability, participation, sufficiency, and community. According to this
view, as articulated in OGAPC (1990, p. ) natural and social systems must be able to thrive together indefinitely; all persons must have a fulfilling place
in those systems and must work to tame consumptive excesses and to emphasize the unity of all creation through the triune God.

Among Christian environmentalists, proponents of eco-justice have attempted to forge what we consider the most holistic of environmental philosophies. Hence,
the movement is placed closest to the central region of intersection in Figure 1. Indeed, many eco-justice people would probably argue that their efforts
do in fact strongly consider the economics sphere and thus belong in the centermost region (Nash, 1996). Perhaps, although we sense that many eco-justice
advocates have reduced the difficult task of caring for humankind to the satisfaction of basic human needs. Yet Jesus directed us not only to show special
care for the least among us -- a preferential option for the poor in contemporary theological terms - -- but also to grow the economic resources given
to us in a wise fashion (Matthew 25:14-29).
Social scientists, philosophers and theologians have struggled in vain to find some unidimensional representation of human welfare (Nussbaum and Sen, 1993).
We don't believe the exclusive orientation on poverty reduction provides a truly holistic vision; it neglects the legitimate aspirations of most of humanity.
Christ calls us to show a preferential option for the poor, not an exclusive one. Just as Jesus called tax collectors his friends and just as the Gospels
celebrate the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea's care for Jesus on Good Friday, so must Christians show compassion toward all persons and things, not just the

Our major complaint with the eco-justice movement is that it has slighted the spiritual dimension, paticularly the role of evangelization. But this has
long been a point of contention among mainline Protestants and evangelical Protestants: What should be included in the process of evangelism? For example,
one of the principal eco-justice declarations states "by definition, eco-justice is part of evangelism ... working to save our rich natural resources and
securing a more just distribution of these resources is a work of evangelism" (OGAPC, 1990, p.87). We don't question the need to save natural resources.
However, we fear, as Erickson (1994, p.46) has stated, that... "evangelism has been twisted to mean preaching eco-justice rather than saving souls."


In the above sections, we discussed the major emphases of each Christian response to the environmental movement and noted what we perceive as deficiencies
in each. In this section, we synthesize the positive aspects of each movement into what we consider to be a holistic Christian environmentalism. It is
our contention that when considered collectively, the six major Christian responses described above represent an extremely robust kind of environmentalism
capable of providing a spiritual and intellectual base sufficient to support public policy and private action that can successfully address our environmental
problems. Ours is by definition a pluralistic approach, wherein each of the perspectives outlined earlier is accorded a measure of deserved respect, but
not to the exclusion of the others. Like Norton (1995), we see monistic approaches to environmental ethics and spirituality - "the view that a single theory
suffices to support a uniquely correct moral judgement in every situation" (Norton, 1995, p.342) - as ultimately ineffective and impractical.

We begin by defining our notion of humble anthropocentrism. Environmental ethicists generally can be divided into anthropocentrist and non-anthropocentrist
camps, with the latter being the dominant group in contemporary secular environmentalism. Like several prominent anthropocentric environmental ethicists
(Shrader-Frechette, 1981; Sagoff, 1988; Norton, 1991, 1995) we believe traditional, anthropocentric approaches to moral philosophy can accommodate environmental
concerns. However, we also share the concerns of those who feel that selfish (or "extreme," or "severe") anthropocentrism - wherein only humans have intrinsic
value and only our needs and wants are important - is deeply flawed and should be resisted. Humble anthropocentrism, by contrast, recognizes both the value
and needs of all of creation while placing humans at the center of both the source and solution of environmental problems.

Humble anthropocentrism is based on an overarching theocentrist perspective. Recalling the Venn diagram in Figure 1, a holistic environmentalism attends
to the legitimate concerns of humanity - as manifest in both advances in economic welfare and the satisfaction of basic human needs - and to the pressing
needs of the nonhuman, biophysical environment. Some may mistake this as a call to serve many masters, against Jesus' warnings (Matthew 7:24). But if one
understands that "the earth is the Lord's and all the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein," (Psalm 24:1), this approach fosters service
to God by mandating attention to all of his creatures. Indeed, we believe a humble anthropocentric approach offers a check on both the pantheistic tendencies
of contemporary environmentalism, including some Christian variants thereof, and the dominionistic subjectionist approach of traditional anthropocentrism
of the sort attacked by White (1967).

Humble anthropocentrism explicitly synthesizes the core beliefs of (at least moderate versions of) biocentrism, ecocentrism, and anthropocentrism. We consider
all individual species to have "inherent value," as do biocentrists (Regan 1983). All of creation gives glory to God. As Hill (1991, p.170) puts it, "Nature
serves something beyond human purposes and as such must be respected and honored." Furthermore, we consider all collections of individuals and even the
physicochemical environment to have moral standing and value, as do ecocentrists (Callicott 1987, Rolston 1988). We also believe that humans are made in
God's image and enthroned by God as rulers of all creation. God entrusted humanity with dominion over the earth, not to satisfy our own desires but to
give glory to God. This point about the stewardship responsibilities of dominion has been well-developed in much of the post-White Christian environmental
literature. Humankind is both within and above the broader ecosystem. God accords humanity awesome power over the rest of nature, but this privileged place
in creation brings with it disproportionate responsibilities (Luke 12:48). Moreover, because we sin (environmental destruction is but one manifestation),
we must act humbly. These beliefs lead us to label as "humble anthropocentrism" an approach to environmental ethics and spirituality which emphasizes human
authority over and responsibility to nature, neither to protect nature nor to enrich nor sustain humans as moral ends, but to balance these sometimes competing
objectives as a means toward glorifying God. Christians, in particular, have a heavy burden to bear in this respect. The Scriptures teach that Christian
have priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles to play. As "priests," Christians are called on to intermediate between God and all creation, human and nonhuman.
This vests us with authority although it does not make us superior to the rest of creation. Our priesthood also emphasizes that we minister to God's creation.
He is the owner of all, not we, so an arrogant approach to nature is inappropriate (Hill, 1991; Barrett, forthcoming). As "prophets," Christians must identify
sin and caution our neighbors about the consequences of a failure to repent. This is a call to activism and to learning. Applied to environmental concerns,
Christians' role as prophets necessitates articulation of an environmental ethic, critical scientific inquiry and recognition of personal and collective
responsibility for the sinfulness of human desecration of God's creation. As "kings," we must be wise and just rulers, as typified by Solomon.

Foundational to Christianity is the notion that God sent Jesus to show us how the Lord of all loves all creation and all sinners, while nonetheless despising
sin and evil. Humanity is at least potentially capable of redemptive rule, over itself and over the rest of creation if only we follow Jesus' instruction.
To Jesus, greatness meant servanthood, as evidenced in the footwashing (John 13:3-10), in his instructions to his disciples at the last supper that the
great serve the rest (Luke 22: 24-27), and above all in the crucifixion. As priest, prophet and king, then, Christianity places humans at the center of
creation, bestowing upon us unparalleled earthly authority that brings with it responsibilities to learn, to repent, to minister, to restore, and to serve.

A detailed and practical synthesis of these beliefs will be a major challenge for ethicists and theologians, not to mention for environmental policymakers,
and it certainly exceeds our ambitions in this paper. When one considers the undistinguished history of human humility, the prospects may look bleak. Nonetheless,
we contend that this is the challenge that must be met if environmentalism is to succeed in adequately protecting the earth that provides our sustenance
and that of the rest of God's creation. With God's grace the challenge can be met.

To conclude this section, we will attmpt a synthesis of the six Christian perspectives discussed above into a holistic environmentalism. We believe each
makes important contributions to the one body of Christian environmentalism. Elsewhere we have outlined initial steps as to how environmental policies
and the debates surrounding those policies can be guided by a humble anthropocentric approach (Barrett and Grizzle, 1996).

Subjectionism contributes important emphases on the instrumental value of nonhuman creation, as a means to assure and advance the welfare of humans crafted
in God's own image. It particularly emphasizes the prerequisite of more fundamental spiritual reawakening if humanity is to repent from sin, including
its environmental manifestations. Social justice advocates add the crucial reminder that the advance of human welfare must include a preferential option
for the poor, and that individuals are obliged to act on their beliefs. The creation care perspective contributes recognition of the intrinsic value of
all God's creation. The environmental justice, eco-feminism and eco-justice movements offer creative efforts to merge attention to social justice and environmental
protection through an emphasis on the inherent unity under God of all humankind and, more broadly, all creation. In this view, sin against God can be manifested
in one's relationship to other people or to the nonhuman elements of God's creation.

Our holistic Christian environmentalism emphasizes environmental protection as but one obligation of the human community God places at the center of creation.
Christians baptized as priest, prophet and king must recognize and bear witness to the richness of creation and the disparate needs associated with that
diversity. Then we can give glory to God through acts of humble service, love, and mercy, as well as through faith, hope and prayer.

Perhaps more radically, our holistic Christian environmentalism explicitly recognizes the deep and pervasisve need for redemption by all creation, not just
humanity (Romans 8; Colossians 1; see Rolston 199? ). We thus reject the overly-romantic notions so commonly espoused by both mainstream and Christian
environmentalists. We concur with most Christian environmentalists that we have an important role to play in the overall redemptive process. We fear, however,
that the pervasive and all-encompasing need for the kind of redemption that only God through Christ can bring has not been fully addressed. Related to
the need for redemption is the Christian concept of love.
God is "love" and God "loves" all of His creation, regardless of imperfections. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes
in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God sent Christ to redeem a fallen cosmos, creation in its entirety, not just humankind.
In light of such love and sacrifice, all of creation certainly has inherent value despite ubiquitous imperfection. Finally, related to love is justice.
God calls us to love all His creation and so to honor the goodness in all persons and things through justice and kindness.

In sum, these considerations lead to an explicit, uniform concern for all three spheres in the model depicted in Figure 1: environmental protection, human
needs (social justice), and economic welfare. The humble anthropocentrist perspective calls for a qualified prioritization of human needs broadly, but
such an emphasis also requires environmental protection and economic welfare. In other words, even when humans are given priority the other spheres of
concern must be addressed. The most holistic of approaches, and as we have argued previously the most sustainable in the long-term (Barrett and Grizzle,
1996), are those that fall closest to the center where the concerns of all three spheres are adequately and appropriately met. The trick will be in achieving
a proper balance.

We believe the challenge will be to break from the intellectual and spiritual constraints that adherence to any particular school of thought (whether in
Christian environmentalism or otherwise) imposes, in order to forge a holistic environmentalism adequate to the complexity of the problems we face. There
are encouraging signs that many are making this necessary break. First, there is a growing awareness by mainstream environmentalists that it will be essential
for religious communities to join in the overall effort of solving our environmental problems.
In the US, Christianity predominates, heavily influencing individual and collective values (Gallup and Jones, 1989). Thus, regardless of historical antipathies,
Christianity has much to offer environmentalism, and vice versa. Second, scientists, theologians and laypeople increasingly recognize the inextricability
of meeting basic human needs, advancing economic welfare, and environmental protection (Kaplan, 1994; O'Riordan, 1995; Barrett, forthcoming). Finally,
the increasing globalization of both environmentalism and Christianity more closely links Christian environmentalists of the high-income "north" with those
of the "south". Commentators and policymakers in the low-income nations of the tropics have long recognized the inextricability of human needs, economic
welfare and environmental protection. Moreover, religious faith has not been divorced from science and public policy in the south nearly to the extent
evident in the north. Environmental movements in low-income countries tend to have a religious core, sometimes based on traditional (polytheistic) beliefs.
Moreover, other major religions (e.g., Buddhism, Islam) do not separate religion and science, or humans and nonhuman creation the same way contemporary
Christians of the north do (Wersal, 1995). While it should be anticipated that many people will remain pious to narrower visions of Christian environmentalism,
we think it essential that the many parts of the one body begin to work and communicate together, and we are encouraged by tangible movements in this direction.


"For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not
make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less
a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as
it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many
parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary,
the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor,
and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving
the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member
suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26

As the contemporary environmental movement has grown and evolved, so have several distinct traditions of Christian thought on humanity's place in and responsibilities
with respect to God's creation. In this paper, we have identified the key concerns and beliefs underpinning distinct traditions, not so much to provide
a complete characterization of each, which we surely fail to do, but rather to inform a more encompassing vision of the one body of Christian environmentalism.
We label this attempt at pluralistic holism a "humble anthropocentric" approach. Each of the many parts has an important role in the necessarily pluralistic
endeavor of caring for the whole of God's creation, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are not so naive as to believe that sin will
not always lead to sometimes bitter partisanship by one or several parts of the body. Regrettably there will always be discord within the body. Yet the
sincere concerns of each part for the protection of one or more elements of God's creation are inherently synergistic. A holistic Christian environmentalism
can be a light unto the world, helping to tame the excesses of narrow secular and religious movements.

While the Christian response to environmental issues has been diverse, and robust when considered collectively, the one body of Christian environmentalism
is lacking one major part - an "organ system" in anatomical terms - critical to its proper functioning. It lacks a nervous system that provides communication
among all body parts, and thus optimal functioning of the body as a whole. As we read the literature on social and environmental issues and as we speak
with friends, clergy and fellow congregants, we are struck by the degree to which Christians fail to communicate clearly with one another on these issues
central to mortal existence. Moreover, lack of communication often begets disrespect. We are not the first to point out this problem, and there are clear
signs that such communication is emerging.
Pope Paul VI (1965) eloquently argued that the true Church is dialogical, that no one party has all the answers, that all must be willing to listen to
and work with others. Our hope is that by articulating a holistic Christian environmentalism founded on core beliefs from disparate traditions, this paper
will call Christian environmentalists to communicate more frequently and openly and to become evangelists in the secular world for our collective message.
Moreover, the inevitable tensions among distinct Christian and secular two can be healthy and stimulative. Science and religion reinforce and check each
other in a pluralistic setting (Barrett and Grizzle, 1996).



1 Ours extends Brian Norton's (1991) two-compartment model, with which he tries to represent the way environmental issues are approached in industrialized
countries where typically only environmental protection and economics are considered.

2 If one views humans as an integral part of nature, one might alternatively label this "holistic ecocentrism".

3 Defining "human needs" is itself be a considerable task. Following the basic human needs literature of the 1970s and early 1980s (Streeten et al. 1981),
we define human needs as universally adequate standards of nutrition, health, shelter, water, sanitation and education.

4 Fowler (1995) reviews the broad spectrum of Christian (mainly Protestant) responses to White (1967). See also Sheldon (1992) and Bakken et al. (1995)
for annotated bibliographies with helpful introductory essays that provide historical overviews.

5 The term "subjectionist" was.... etc. (e.g. refs, etc.) White (1996) recently surveyed

6 This and all subsequent scriptural references are drawn from the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version (May and Metzger, 1977).

7 Christian subjectionist critics that emphasize economic aspects include Beisner (1990) and Burkett (1993). All three complaints are discussed in detail
by Wright (1995See, for instance, the two-compartment model in Norton (1991).)

8 See, for instance, the two-compartment model in Norton (1991).

9 Well-known recent examples of economists' attempts to map the relationships between economic welfare and environmental protection include World Bank (1992),
Antle and Heidebrink (1995) and Grossman and Krueger (1995) .

10 Bush (1993) offers a nice review of this worldview, as does Neuhaus (1971). See Bakken et al. (1995, pp. 4-5) for a brief but interesting discussion
of the social justice resistance within a contemporary mainline Protestantism.

11 Oelschlaeger has been a part of mainstream environmentalism for most of its existence, and as such had been a critic of Christianity. In his book he
explains his "conversion" to the importance of religion in moving us to change our ways in order to save the earth, and argues the creation care perspective
will be the key.

12 Among Christians, this perspective includes Roman Catholics (Pope John Paul II, 1987, 1990), and many mainline Protestant groups, but it has been developed
in most detail by an active cadre of evangelicals (Schaeffer, 1970; Wilkinson, 1980, 1991; Squiers, 1982; DeWitt, 1991, 1994).

13 See Fowler (1995, pp. 76-90) for a succinct review of the stewardship movement.

14 The term stewardship is widely used, and not always to represent similar thought traditions. Many "creation care" adherents identify their movement with
the term, but so too does the recent Episcopalian "environmental stewardship" movement, which we identify below as falling into the "eco-justice" tradition.

15 Schaeffer (1970) and Barnette (1972) are two of the earliest major evangelical responses.

16 Cal DeWitt, a leading evangelical in the stewardship movement, has indicated (personal communication, March, 1996) that his personal view of the movement
is along this line.

17 Important exceptions to this conclusion include Nash (1991) and Rolston (1994), which offer insightful discussion of an imperfect creation, and the need
for redemption through Christ.

18 See Fowler (1995, pp. 123-140) for a good review of Christian eco-feminism.

19 Labeling is difficult here. We use the term "eco-justice" as an umbrella for many Christian movements, including some that do not identify themselves
by that term (e.g., the Episcopal Church's Environmental Stewardship movement).

20 Bakken et al. (1995) offer an informative introductory essay on the eco-justice movement.

21 Recall that the talents in the parable were a currency in Jesus' time.

22 The term "humble anthropocentrism" may be original, but others have argued similar perspectives. For example, Norton (1984) proposed the term "weak anthropocentrism"
to describe a form of anthropocentrism he considered as an adequate basis for most environmental protection efforts. Nash (1991) proposed that humans be
viewed as "altruistic predators" and considered such a view to be a combination of some of the tenets of biocentrism, ecocentrism, and anthropocentrism.
The "personalistic organicism" of Ferré (1994) also seems similar.

23 Hefner (1994) and Nash (1991) have dealt with the Christian concept of love as foundational for development of an environmental ethic.

24 Perhaps the most important "bridge building" effort thus far has been the letter published by Carl Sagan (1990) and signed by ten leading scientists
calling for a "joint commitment in science and religion" to work on our problems. Largely as a result of this call, the National Religious Partnership
for the Environment was formed to provide educational and other materials designed to engage local congregations in environmental issues.

25 The multidenominational and multidisciplinary National Religious Partnership for the Environment and the Global Stewardship Initiative of the Pew Charitable
Trusts, which helped support this work, are prominent examples.



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