In class, we read “Christianity and Ecology” by John F. Haught, and he posed the question, “Precisely why should we care about the nonhuman natural world?” After reading this paper and pondering this question for myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that Haught has a pretty good grasp on the sanctity of the Earth and speaks a lot of truth. He gives us three different ways in which we can look at environmentalism and Christianity. These ways include the Apologetic, Sacramental and Eschatological approaches to create a type of “environmental theology” as Haught calls it.
In the Apologetic approach, theology examines the Bible in order to search for scriptures that prove that the bible does, in fact, give some indication that Christians should care about the cosmos and the Earth in general. As Haught says, “At its most simplistic extreme it does little more than recite the psalms and other biblical passages that proclaim creation as God’s handiwork”. From the description in the paper and our discussion in class, I understand the apologetic approach to be merely a defense of the faith. Since God gave us dominion of the Earth, that alone should be reason enough for us to care for it and help ensure its survival.
The next approach is the Sacramental approach to ecological theology. This approach views the natural world as a “symbolic disclosure of God”. Haught described this approach as one that more readily accepts scientific thought into the theological aspect of spirituality. In fact, he points out that this approach is more sympathetic to evolutionary theories and physics. From the paper’s description, I also felt like this view accepted the fact that the earth had a spirit as well. We discussed the Sacramental approach as being very creation centered, and being that the Earth was created by God, we have a duty to take care of it. In Genesis, God declares His creations to be “good”. In this context, good means sacred. Using this understanding, all that God creates is good, sacred, and deserves our respect.
The final approach is the Eschatological Approach, and it deals with the promise of future fulfillment. From the viewpoints of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that the earth will ultimately be resurrected and perfected to be the final dwelling place of those who attain the Celestial kingdom. This, to me, is a good interpretation of Haught’s eschatological approach to Christian theology. What better motivations do we, as Latter-day Saints to take care of the Earth than to know that God’s promises will be fulfilled if we are faithful and endure to the end?
I really loved reading and pondering this article, because I think it is important that every person do his or her part to take care of the world. However, in order to do so, each of the three approaches needs to be implemented in the world. In class, we talked about how various religions retain strengths in the various approaches. Some religions such as Buddhism are wonderful at accepting the sacredness of the cosmos and the spirit of the earth. They support the Sacramental approach. Those of the Jewish faith tend to be excellent defenders, and therefore are sympathetic to the Apologetic. Just as all of the religions in the world retain facets and elements of truth, likewise all of them view the world in a way that, when combined with other religious views, will enable us as a planet to better care for and show proper stewardship over our final home, the Earth.