If you care about the environment, invite God into your thinking - Dr Andy Steiger

“Do you care about the environment?” I was once asked this question as I came out of a bookstore. I was greeted by a friendly college student wearing a Greenpeace T-shirt and holding a clipboard. Delighted to hear that I did, he explained to me how people are destroying the planet but that I could do something about it by making a donation. Before I opened my wallet to support this global cause, I wanted to pursue the question deeper. So, I asked: “Why should I care about the environment?” It was obvious from his silence and blank stare that I had identified something of a cultural blind spot. After pondering my question for a while, he responded: “We should care about the environment for future generations.”

Dr Andy Steiger, Author of Reclaimed
Dr Andy Steiger, Author of Reclaimed

The answers “future generations” or “world heritage” seem to capture the most common responses I hear from those confronted with why they reduce, reuse, and recycle. These are good answers but notice that the logic of environmentalism is established in the value of people. Intuitively we understand that we don’t owe a rock anything, even one the size of a planet. This is because one’s moral duty is owed to persons, not things. It’s why we walk on rocks and not people.

Without persons the environment presents a very depressing perspective. This is where modern philosophy continues to undermine environmentalism. For example, the chair of the philosophy department at Duke University, Alex Rosenberg, succinctly summarizes the foundation of modern thinking: “The physical facts fix all the facts.” This seems to sum up the secular perspective and leads philosophers, such as Rosenberg, to the following conclusions: “What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is. What is the purpose of the universe? There is none. What is the meaning of life? Ditto.”

I expressed my concern over this physics-only worldview with the man from Greenpeace by asking: “Why bother caring for the environment or future generations?” He looked perplexed, so I offered an explanation: “Physics tells me that the sun is dying and as it does it will expand until the earth is consumed in fire. If my life and the planet are destined for destruction and are ultimately meaningless, I might as well get what I can while I can.” With a mix of profanities, he said, “That’s messed up.” “I agree.” I told him; “but why?”

I find it odd that so many universities today teach that the physical facts fix all the facts and yet you should still recycle. Environmentalism is not a physical fact. What do I owe a meaningless universe? Nothing! Yet, that is surely wrong and justifies this man’s revulsion. What’s the alternative? Rethinking our worldview. Perhaps we know the environment matters with or without future generations because our planet exists in relationship to a person—God. Why do the environment and future generations matter? Because God matters. As a Christian, my responsibility to the environment and future generations is grounded in my relationship to God, who also gives life and the universe meaning, purpose, and value. If you care about the environment and future generations, I encourage you to invite the person of God into your thinking.

Dr Andy Steiger, Author of Reclaimed


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