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Given both the quantity and quality of research on the global ecologic crisis, we no longer need to find scientific justification for environmental remediation. The question now focuses on the kinds of actions we can take to meaningfully address ecological harms. People from all backgrounds offer their time, money, and expertise to combat environmental degradation, but the scope of the problem always requires greater numbers of willing participants. However, one group of people sometimes finds it difficult to contribute to a call to protect the Earth: Christians occasionally face accusations that the doctrines and teachings of their church caused the ecological crisis in the first place. They describe Christianity as a religion focused solely on human beings, a faith that teaches us that God gave the world to mankind to use and abuse as we please, and ultimately a religion that focuses on life away from the material earth after death. Not all environmentalists hold such dark views of Christianity, but Christianity is sufficiently suspect within environmentalist circles to justify closer examinations of the faith. This project focuses on the scripture and doctrines of the early Christian Church to determine whether Christian teachings support environmental destruction. The project relies on research from leading biblical scholars, as well as primary sources both from the Bible and early Church theologians. A summary of Lynn White's classic essay, The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, represents the majority of environmentalist attacks on Christianity, with the analyses of scripture and doctrine addressing the criticisms. The research suggests that Lynn White and subsequent detractors of Christianity within the environmental movement misinterpret the fundamental teachings of scripture and doctrine that underlie the modern Church. Conscientious attention to biblical and early theological texts reveals a religion focused on God, not on humanity. Church doctrine ultimately fosters a sense of responsibility towards the Earth, rather than a sense of entitlement. White and his successors mistakenly conflate Christian doctrine with the actions of nominal Christians. Too often, some people overlook the teachings and works of Christians that support creation stewardship and focus instead on the harms caused by individuals and communities who call themselves "Christian." A clarification of Christian beliefs and theologies can address the animosity that some environmentalists feel towards communities of faith and allow collaboration in the global efforts to remediate environmental damages.
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Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment