One of the most controversial issues facing the world, and the church, today is that of environmentalism. Unlike the world which develops its views pragmatically, or politically, or scientifically, or rationally, the church should always begin with the Word of God. What God says should be the reference point from which all other considerations are analyzed. This is exactly what Chris Cone is attempting to do in this book concerning ecological concerns. How the Christian, in particular the evangelical community, should view the environment and handle its various crises ought to emerge from a thorough understanding of what Scripture says on the subject.
Cone spends a great deal of time interacting with Lynn White Jr.’s views (see pp.4-9; 27-55), especially a paper written in 1967 entitled, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crises.” White indicts evangelicals as being “a primary culprit for environmental degradation,” primarily because they have accepted a worldview based on the Genesis creation account. Either evangelicals change their worldview or continue to behave in an anthropocentric way which is environmentally destructive (p. 6). In response Cone examines the pertinent biblical accounts, especially Genesis 1, 3, and 9, to determine what Scripture actually teaches concerning the interplay between the environment and mankind. He posits four views found within the evangelical community:
· Despotism (or dominionism): man has been given a lasting dominion for his own purposes and that places him over nature (p. 22).
· Stewardship: A milder form of dominionism, most common among evangelicals, this view sees mankind given a mandate to be stewards over God’s creation (pp. 24, 82).
· Citizenship: “Man is designed to be considerate co-citizen with all other aspects of nature, and that ‘anthropocentrism’ itself is man’s original sin and is responsible for the famous fall” (p. 25).
· Redacted dominionism: A doxological rather than anthropocentric model which recognizes that all things exist to glorify God, and this function is not a responsibility only of humanity. All creatures have only instrumental value (p. 26).
Cone rejects the first three views and spends most of the book developing exegetical arguments in support of redacted dominionism. On a practical level Cone argues that redacted dominionism, with its theocentric perspective, “has the added advantage of motivating humanity to a much less selfish existence in which we would be unwilling to abuse and even destroy the ‘kinds’ (Gen 1:21) around us” (p. 89).
Given the recent discussion of the so-called cultural mandate within the evangelical community, Redacted Dominionism is a needed and most helpful entry into the discussion. I believe that Cone demonstrates that redactive dominionism is the biblically correct understanding of the scriptural records. He is right that, due to the Fall, man is no longer qualified to govern creation as before sin entered (pp. 95-103). Mankind has now been given a new, redactive mandate espoused not in Genesis 1:26-28, but in Genesis 9:7 (pp. 100-103).
Any evangelical interested in the environmental and cultural mandate discussions should carefully read Redacted Dominionism. I would like to see a follow-up volume interacting with popularizers of the cultural mandate within the evangelical community such as Nancy Pearcey, Francis Chan and David Platt, not to mention Brian McLaren and those involved in the “missional” church movement.
Gary E. Gilley, senior pastor, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, Illinois