One area of life in which to serve Christ is Biblical Earth stewardship — what I also call “godly dominion,” drawing on the language of Genesis 1:28 “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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
The annual return of “Earth Day” (April 22) challenges all of us to consider whether we’re exercising godly or ungodly dominion. Over the past few decades, many Christians have thought a lot about that.
I’ve been one of them, working with the Coalition on Revival in the 1980s–1990s, writing three books (Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity , Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future , and Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate ) and many articles and lectures, and teaching on it at both Covenant College and Knox Theological Seminary.
In 1999, I worked with a group of about 35 scholars on the ethics, science, and economics of environmental policy to put together a brief, principled statement of concerns, beliefs, and aspirations. What we eventually titled The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship was soon endorsed by over 1,500 leaders around the world (see a few prominent ones here) — most of them evangelicals — and released in early 2000. In 2005 it became the founding document of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, the ministry I lead, whose motto is “Bridging humanity and the environment through faith and reason.”
A coalition of theologians, pastors, ministry leaders, scientists, economists, policy experts, and committed laymen, the Cornwall Alliance is the world’s leading evangelical voice promoting environmental stewardship and economic development built on Biblical principles. We seek to magnify the glory of God in creation, the wisdom of His truth in environmental stewardship, the kindness of His mercy in lifting the needy out of poverty, and the wonders of His grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Cornwall Alliance integrates the work of theologians, scientists, and economists to promote, simultaneously, these three things:
- Godly dominion over the Earth: not selfish abuse of the Earth, and not just recycling and using low-energy light bulbs and reducing toxic emissions, but men and women, created in the image of God, working together to enhance Earth’s fruitfulness, beauty, and safety, to the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbors, thus addressing simultaneously the two Great Commandments: to love God, and to love our neighbor.
- Economic development for the world’s poorest — think in terms of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America — by promoting God-given rights to religious, civil, and economic liberty with the combinations of political institutions like property rights, voluntary trade, and limited, accountable government to protect those rights.
- Proclamation and defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ — justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead — in a world permeated by an environmentalist movement most of whose worldview, theology, and ethics are unbiblical, whose science and economics are often of low quality, whose policies therefore often fail to protect the natural world effectively but harm the world’s poor by slowing, stopping, or reversing economic development, and whose teachings on God, creation, humanity, sin, and salvation offer a false hope to sinners in need of salvation and societies in need of justice, freedom, and decent standards of living.
Over the years, Cornwall’s scholars have produced hundreds of articles and several major papers. We take the inerrant Word of God as the most important standard of truth and integrate the insights of theology, science, and economics to produce creative analyses of and solutions to significant problems. Some of our more prominent papers are
- The Cornwall Stewardship Agenda — a growing document setting forth basic principles and practices of godly dominion, economic development, and the social institutions that promote order, freedom, and justice.
- A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming — supporting the view that climate change is largely natural and benign rather than manmade and dangerous, and that efforts to reduce future temperatures by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and use of the fuels they come from (coal, oil, and natural gas) would do more harm than good to both humanity and the natural environment. The Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, based on this, has been endorsed by hundreds of evangelical leaders and thousands of laymen. (The Renewed Call to Truth followed two earlier papers on the same subject, available here and here.)
- The Cost of Good Intentions: The Ethics and Economics of the War on Conventional Energy — appraising calls to switch from “fossil fuels” to “renewable energy” sources like wind and solar, and particularly critiquing the effort of one evangelical “creation care” organization to portray support for one environmental regulation as “pro-life” at the risk of obscuring the meaning of “pro-life,” dividing the pro-life movement, and undermining attempts to protect the unborn from abortion. A public statement, Protecting the Unborn and the Pro-Life Movement from a Misleading Environmentalist Tactic, was based on this and endorsed by over 30 major evangelical pro-life leaders.
Our 13-part video series, Resisting the Green Dragon, with 12 lectures by 9 scholars, plus a documentary, and our book by Christian physicist and environmental theologian Dr. James Wanliss, Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death, have been used by many churches in Sunday school classes and small groups, and by home and private schools. The video series was shown in its entirety on the National Religious Broadcasters’ television network.
While we focus on education and public policy here in the United States, our sister ministry, Churches & Villages Together, puts boots on the ground pursuing our aim of economic development for the poor. Working together with other ministries like Africa Christian Training Institute, led by Dr. Henry Krabbendam, CVT helps American churches and indigenous pastors in East Africa to cooperate in a combination of evangelism, church planting, pastoral training (more on that in a moment!), micro-enterprise startup and development, and basic environmental restoration and protection projects.
About that pastoral training — it’s like nothing you seen before! It features training in Bible, theology, preaching, pastoral counseling, and other subjects that are part of a normal seminary education, of course. But to equip pastors to serve desperately poor, remote African villages, it adds teaching and equipping pastors to become self-sustaining agro-entrepreneurs.
A year ago I returned from Uganda, where I witnessed some of CVT’s cooperation with local pastors and Christian leaders who were doing these things in remote villages.
Edward Kasaija, a veteran entrepreneur, pastor, and leader in the Presbyterian Church in Uganda and the Tentmaker Project, is a model. His integrated agricultural enterprise raising chickens for meat and eggs, cows and goats for meat and milk, pigs, and vegetables, fruits, and grains not only feeds his multi-generation family but also provides products he markets and — the fruits, grains, and vegetables — feeds his livestock.
Pastor Edward’s brilliantly designed enterprise is entirely cycle-through, with rainwater from roofs stored in cisterns for the livestock or sluiced to wash manure into fields for fertilizer. Nothing goes to waste. Even the chicken litter not only fertilizes fields but also feeds cattle and pigs.
The profitable business enables Pastor Edward, as everyone calls him, to pastor First Presbyterian Church of Kampala without burdening it financially.
But best of all, it also enables him to train others to start and grow their own integrated agricultural enterprises, support themselves while planting and pastoring churches in poor villages, and train yet more to do the same. The self-replicating cycle reflects Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “what you have heard from me … entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). It also models how profit-seeking entrepreneurs can lead a whole society out of poverty.
So on this Earth Day I invite you to come to www.CornwallAlliance.org and read some of our papers, articles, and blog pieces, sign up for our free educational newsletter, and join the conversation on our three Facebook pages: Cornwall Alliance Group, In His Image, and Resisting the Green Dragon. And if you want to learn more about how you can get involved, write me at [email protected].
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
Publication date: April 19, 2013