Biblical Principles of Environmental Sustainability

January 18, 2023

We regularly discuss how what we do relies on us viewing God as the owner and us as the stewards. God owns it all because God made it all. 

Whenever the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, points out that the Lord is in control, mighty, steadfast, and dependable, it is frequently followed up by a mention of creation. Again and again, the Scriptures gently remind us that we can trust Him because He “created the heavens and the earth.” This is another way to say “all of it.”

Theologian Abraham Kuyper says it this way: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry,  ̒Mine!’ˮ 

We are on a journey from creation to new creation. There are trials and heartache, and perseverance and hope in between; this is human life, the Christian life.

Our Relationship With Creation

In his book The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation, Richard Bauckham makes the case very early on, and very provocatively, that we don’t think of ourselves correctly in relation to the rest of creation. Genesis 1 and 2 put us on a far more level playing field with the rest of creation than we do. Now, there are several important distinctions that make humans special.

Our Role as Image-Bearers

One explicit difference is that we are made in the image of God. We are the only creation that bears his likeness. This is a royal term. When an emperor would appoint a governor in a newly conquered district, the emperor would build a statue of himself in the center of the town. What he would say to the people is, “Whenever you forget who is in charge, remember that the governor is here under MY authority.” This is a great example of what it means to be made in His image. It’s a glorious purpose—but comes with a weight and a responsibility. 

Our Role as Protectors & Cultivators

The other difference is that we were given dominion over creation. This word “dominion” continues that royal language. 

Today, we often confuse “dominion” for “domination.” We think it means we can do whatever we want. We forget about God’s design and whose image we are bearing. When our view is misguided, we tend to ask ourselves, “How can I make my life easier and more comfortable?” This, unfortunately, often leads to the exploitation of the natural world around us.

Looking for profit or faster transportation or better solutions is not inherently a bad desire. The issue arises when we do so at the expense of creation—when we don’t cultivate the world we were made for. 

In Genesis 2, God makes man and places him in the Garden of Eden. He surrounds him with creatures, fruits, flowers, trees, rivers, and streams. He places him there to work and to keep it. “To keep” means to keep watch or to guard. We are to protect God’s creation, ensuring nothing is out of place. 

We are also meant to cultivate. God made wheat, and we get to make bread. God made grapes, and we get to make wine. We get to bring out the intentions of the created world — that’s what dominion means. 

It’s our first job. Our first human vocation is taking care of the world God made. Too often, we think we are above creation rather than in the midst of it. This arrogance leads us to believe creation was meant to serve us. 

Learn more about Biblical Principles of Generosity. 

Our Exploitation of Creation

We can think of the first sin in Genesis 3 in many different ways: a lack of faith in God, disbelieving that God is good, pride, giving into shame.

Another way to look at the first sin is to see how God told us all the ways he wanted us to take care of creation, and Adam and Eve chose the one way he did not want us to. They took what God had made and used it for their own end, regardless of how He would use it. It was an exploitation of creation. It was environmental mismanagement. 

Hope for a New Creation

So, where’s the hope in all this? We read in Romans 8 that creation is also in bondage. As we are groaning in wait for our full adoption, creation is right there alongside us. It’s evident just by watching the news or looking outside; droughts, hurricanes, forest fires, pollution. 

Even the first 3 verses in Scripture portray chaos in the environment. Then the Spirit hovers over it, bringing order. Just like Jesus calmed the wind and the waves. He walked on water. 

We rightfully know how much Jesus loves us. We unrightfully think we are the only thing He came for. He is coming for a new creation. Every square inch. 

An issue arises when we assume the Lord will “fix all this environmental stuff” in the new creation. We act like we can do whatever we want, and He will fix it. But that’s not how we think about other things. We vote, we exercise, we work, we raise children, we have hobbies, and we do it all in this finite, temporal, fallen but hope-filled life. Why? Because we believe this life actually does matter. All these things are a means but also ends to be enjoyed as they stand. Why can’t we do the same for creation? This new creation is a renewal, not a replacement of what already is. Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Not “all new things.”

Environmental Sustainability In Values-Based Investing

The environment isn’t just a playground where we can move sand from one place to another, build a castle, and knock it down. There are consequences. We ought to think about future generations and what they are going to inherit. 

This planet could continue to be home to billions of people for decades, centuries, or millennia after us. Are our actions today benefiting those who will come after us?

OneAscent looks at values-based investing through two lenses: elevate and eliminate. What do you want to see flourish? What do you want to see less of?

For example, we eliminate a particular multinational oil and gas company from our investment portfolios. For over 60 years, they have had operations on a large river in Africa. During this time, the company has spilled 500 million gallons of oil into the river, largely due to negligence. This has destroyed industries and livelihoods. 

Another example of a company we eliminate is a mining company that has an operating mine in Indonesia. This company dumps the excess from the mining refinement process into the nearby river because, in this area, it’s legal. This mining waste is filled with heavy metals and radioactive materials. This hurts riverbanks, ecosystems, soil content, fish, and the people who depend on the river for their drinking water. 

Neither of these companies are protecting the environment or the people in the communities they operate in. 

We also own several companies that have integrated environmentally friendly operations. We elevate companies that identify and try to address a problem through their product or process. One of these companies makes clear plastic aligners. 

In the last 15 years, we have produced half of all the plastic that has ever been made, much of which takes 400 years to decompose. This company has partnered with a recycling business to pilot a program in the US and Brazil to encourage customers to send back their used and unused aligners to be recycled. 

Even though their product uses plastic, they are actively trying to solve a problem that impacts the environment. We are proud to invest in their investment in creation. 

Reach out to us today to learn more about aligning your investment portfolio with your biblical values.



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