Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Stewardship, Conservation, Environmentalism, Creation Care

As I read through Almost Amish (see yesterday's review), one of the notes from the Authoress on their non-profit organization was that they worked to promote "Creation Care".

I had to stop for a moment and compose myself.  If there is a word combination that will set me off, that is it.

Once upon a time - within my lifetime - we discussed caring for the world as "stewardship of the Earth".  The concept, which had somewhat improved itself from the old understanding of "have dominion over the earth" in the bad sense of "use it all up without thinking of any of the consequences" was more or less commonly understood as a Biblical concept as the concept of stewardship was pretty wide understood in Christian circles.

In secular circles, the word was "conservationist" - again, a word I remember being used within my early lifetime as the only word used to discuss the concept.  The conservationist was one that worked to conserve the environment for future generations, much like the concept of stewardship.

In time that term also fell by the wayside and what we were left with was "environmentalist".  Working hard to avoid any pejoratives, environmentalism encompassed the concept of environment first and only.  There was no sense - at least in the early days that I recall - of any allowance of the human race as a either a participant of value or as a manager.  Humans had done awful things to the environment (in fairness, they had in some but not all cases) and so, sotto voce, they were unworthy managers of the world they lived in. 

Unfortunately as the past 30 or so years has demonstrated, an unmanaged environment is an uncontrolled one.  Population imbalances which result in die offs or disease, invasive species which destroy entire ecosystems, unmanaged forests that become fire holocausts waiting to happen - there has to be a balance of preserving the environment as well as managing it with people in the world.

After the effective fall of stewardship and the rise of environmentalism, Christian theologians (apparently) went back to the drawing board. One of the elements of environmentalism which can come to the fore is an effective worship of the environment.  To the Christian, the world and the environment are a creation of God, but not the Creator.  Thus - perhaps - the term "Creation Care" was born.

"Creation Care" seems to encompass many of the concepts of the old stewardship:  managing things for future generations, preserving existing wilderness, making things better than what they were.  So in theory, it is an acceptable term, correct?

I hate it.

The term "Creation Care" represents, at least to me, just another example of the Western Church infantilizing a Christian concept - in this case stewardship or conservation.   Whenever I hear the term, I almost immediately expect a show with brightly covered shapes, happy music, and some sort of childlike figures named "The Tubbie Wubbies" to come out and cavort about.  It is the sort of term that may be appropriate to introduce as a concept to young children, but not as a serious discussion among adults on such weighty matters.

It reflects a trend, at least in my own mind, the trend of making Christianity "more accessible" to the masses not by than lifting people's education and intelligence up to meet the loftiness of God and Scripture but by making it simple and "modern".  We rightly decry the denial of Scriptures to individuals in their own languages which was a policy at one time and which was modified to allow people to lift up God in their own tongue and understand Him through their own tongue.  The Church now makes the same error, by taking difficult and weighty concepts and somehow managing to reduce them to an almost cartoon-like status.

What term do I prefer?  Environmental stewardship is a good one to me, as stewardship implies that we manage something for someone else (God in this case), not our selves.  Conservationist I find is equally good or better - again, the idea that we are conserving that which we have (oddly enough, we are encouraged in the modern world to conserve many other things - energy, fuel, food.  Why this one thing is different is beyond me).

But what do we call someone that follows creation care?  A "Creation Careist?"  Besides just being a made up term, it would seem to be an issue either for discussions or to represent the panel - imagine, if you will, a debate on a matter where we have "Professor X, Environmentalist" and "Bob Y, Creation Careist".  Sometimes we Christians set ourselves up for failure.

Besides - it underlies yet another weakness in modern Christianity (and indeed, modern society):  this need that we have to label and package everything in such a way that we can then point to how we are doing it - the hideous cancer of "virtue signaling".  Should Christians be 100% about caring for the environment and managing it both because God created it and it is a fantastic example of showing our love for our fellow man by helping to preserve and provide such a thing?  Absolutely.

But please, let us refrain from the need to have catchy concepts designed to inspire programs, conferences, and merchandise, or design entirely new terms and things to cover old, practical concepts because it is "hip".  Christ never said "Go and design Thou a program"; he said "Go and do".


  1. Anonymous5:51 AM

    My Brother and I inherited a small piece of family ranch that we are keeping as pristine as possible. Was offered a good amount of money for exploratory oil / natural gas, but we turned it down. They bulldoze a 100 foot wide lane for an 8" diameter pipe and we could not bear to see so much land go to waste. The two of us use it for hunting, camping and hiking.

    But my wife points out with none of our children or his taking an interest in those activities, the ones who will eventually purchase it will do what they choose. Raising livestock on 166 acres - probably not economically feasible. Most of the land is brushy scrub, far more scenic than range feed. And a well with windmill would have to be dug - no natural water sources unless rain fall occurs.

    But we are doing what we can and appreciate what we have.

    1. Similar story here: My parents have an approximately 90 acre Ranch that my sister and I are now caring for. It has cattle on it from someone there that has kept cattle for years.

      We had it assessed earlier this year, but the intent - if it all works out - is that I will keep the Ranch and she will keep the rest of the estate. If I am so fortunate as to get it, I will likely do exactly as you have done: maintain it in as pristine a condition as possible. But likely I may very well be faced with the same decision as yours, as my children do not have the attachment to land I do.

      That said, one thought I might suggest - if preserving the land is truly an interest - is going through an organization such as a local land trust or Permies ( The local land trust could insure the land, even if sold, could only be used for limited purposes (and not development) and Permies has, among their many programs, one that seeks to match people that want to live on land with those that for various reasons have land that their family is no longer interested in.

    2. Anonymous12:19 PM

      That is a good thought. I would be far more comfortable having the future land owner protect it from development. The good thing is the nearest edge of property from a public road is about 1/4 mile. So easy access to it is not available, at least as it is now. This 1/4 mile is owned by another family.

    3. It is a consideration for me as well - a way to honor the property and those that came before me, even if it does not remain in my immediate family.

  2. I had never heard the term creation care until this morning. Like you though, it makes me shudder.

    One of the things I have really appreciated about the Catholic religion is that they don't dumb things down. In fact, it was only two weeks ago that after decades, I learned that the Immaculate Conception wasn't about the birth of Jesus but rather the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus. I had head that same sermon on the subject probably a hundred times over the years and never made the connection until a young priest fresh out of seminary filling in for our normal priest taught it in a different way that made sense.

    1. Ed, consider yourself fortunate. It has been all the rage in the non-denominational Evangelical Community.

      The resistance to "dumbing it down" is something I appreciate about both the Catholic and Orthodox Traditions (and, frankly, Luther's original writings). The Church should be lifting people's minds and intelligences up, not down. The Church used to be the repository of learning on many subjects, but not so much anymore.

  3. I remember when that started. I saw it as just another worldly concept awkwardly brought into a religious context. The command to Adam, and the sabbath years and jubilee years would be three witnesses to God's desire for conservation. But what started as environmentalism is an elevation of the earth over mankind. As far as I can see, it's earth worship. Romans 1 talks pointedly about that. After showing the downward trajectory of man, verse 25 states they "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." From verse 18-32 you see the true nature of man, not the "there is good in everyone" fable.

    Bringing earth worship into the church is idolatry. I may be forgetful, but I don't remember the great commission being about plants and animals.

    I do believe as strongly that we should "husband" the earth. That is the original intent. God has supplied us with what we need to live here and subdue the earth. Trashing the place out isn't scripturally sound either. We humans have a real difficult time with balance. We either flop one way or the other, always to extremes.

    A good workman takes care of his tools. I guess I see the earth as a tool God has entrusted to us.

    1. PS: You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.

    2. STxAR, it is thinly veiled earth worship at best.

      Scripture has some wonderful admonitions about Nature's relationship to God: "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1); "Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad; Let the sea roar and all its fullness; Let the fields be joyful and all that are in it; Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord" (Psalm 96:11-12). But never once does it say "Worship nature instead of God (or in place of God)".

      Perhaps a way to think of it is as any gift that we give to another: we want them to use it, but we also expect that they will take care of it appropriately. God's will for us in Nature seems no different.

      Balance: Luther once compared the Church to a drunk that, getting on the horse from the left and falling off concluded that getting on the horse from the right would be better - but which also included falling off the other way. The problem was not the side the horse was mounted on, but rather the rider.

      To your P.S.: I cannot think of a time where the Church becoming like the world made the Church a better place, nor the world a better place.


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