Christians of all times and places have been called to culture war, but the way humans interact with our world is one of the flashpoints in the modern conflict; like a military war, the conflict has philosophical, social, and scientific dimensions. A primary evolutionary assumption and doctrinal position within philosophical materialism is that man is not above the rest of creation but is “plain member and citizen of it”, to quote Aldo Leopold, considered one of the fathers of modern conservation.
Man is just another organism
The implications of this are massive and have resulted in mass cultural confusion. If we have no more intrinsic worth than animals we are either justified in treating humans like animals or we have a responsibility to treat animals like our conscience ordinarily tells us we are to treat humans.
We restrict slaughtering horses for food, presumably because they’re considered a companion animal, but who’s to say? Why should that ideology be imposed on someone who wants to eat horse meat? What do you have against the French? We flirt with giving Nature standing to sue. We argue that peas are sentient beings and maybe they should have rights, too. We have scientists advocating for the adoption of an “ecological ethic” in which decisions are made about who lives and who dies based on carrying capacity, even praising China’s one-child policy as a solution to the pseudo-dilemma of overpopulation.
But in an ultimate irony, someone has to play God and determine that carrying capacity and how best to stay under it. We empower social workers to imprison mothers and confiscate children for a dirty house out of concern for the rights of the child while we kill millions of unborn babies every year and marginalize any who would restrict this “right”.
Bioethics in a godless world?
Peter Singer, Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, has been awarded Australia’s highest civic honor, Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia, “for eminent service to philosophy and bioethics as a leader of public debate and communicator of ideas in the areas of global poverty, animal welfare and the human condition.” Singer has argued from his ivory tower that parents should be free to euthanize their children up to about 9 years of age, to allow enough time for a determination of whether that child will be a productive member of the world community. He also supports bestiality, and why not? It is entirely consistent with his worldview.
Western culture is adrift in meaninglessness, and suicide rates for all age classes are high and increasing. Euthanasia in Europe has exploded and professors there believe the right to die should be extended down to the age of 12 or below without parental notification. This culture war is deadly serious. “What is the nature of man?” is an ancient question that remains valid in the 7th millenium.
Is Christianity to blame for Environmental Exploitation?
The nature and role of man relative to natural resources is equally contentious. Christians are often credited with being the originators of a faulty worldview which promotes environmental exploitation, if not destruction. The first modern published articulation of this idea was by Dr. Lynn White in a journal article in Science in 1967 titled: “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis”. In it, Dr. White claims that the Judeo-Christian view of nature is that nature exists to serve mankind, that this promotes an arrogance toward nature which results in exploitation, and that because the Christian worldview is largely responsible for the underpinnings of modern science and technology Christianity is therefore responsible for all misuse and abuse of nature.
Wormwood would be proud. This is a skillful twist. Man was created to glorify the Creator. Man was tasked with tending the Garden. God gave to man the fruits of the earth to sustain him and frustrated the cultivation and collection of that fruit post-Fall. We do not always exercise dominion faithfully and selflessly. White was right when she said that the Christian worldview is responsible for the underpinnings of science. Jonathan Witt, in “The Icon of Materialism — Why Scientism’s Cherished Progress Narrative Fails” (March 2015 issue of Touchstone magazine, http://www.touchstonemag.com/) points out that “it is now well-established among historians of science that modern science is largely a Christian invention, and one substantially based on theological ideas.”
Cosmos not Chaos
Chief among those theological ideas is the “belief that nature is the rational and orderly work of a divine mind” and can therefore be studied and tested. We can expect repeatability, one of the tenets of the scientific method, precisely because the universe is ordered and predictable. Humans, generally, must own our abuse of the Creation. Christian theology need not be blamed when orthopraxy doesn’t follow orthodoxy, i.e., isn’t ortho (‘right’ or ‘correct’). We need a biblical stewardship ethic which will glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, result in human flourishing, guide Creation care, and help us navigate the challenges of the 21st century. More on that later.
Tip says about his work, “I am convinced that range- and pasture-based livestock production is the most sustainable form of agriculture and that our culture has a responsibility to pursue means of food production that sustain natural plant communities and soils which also produce many less tangible ecosystem goods and services; I work to help meat & fiber producers improve their ability to achieve the triple bottom line: economic, environmental, and social sustainability.”