Retailers reported brisk sales in environment-friendly products over the past holiday season. Recycled wrapping paper sold well. So did Christmas cards made from vegetable-based dyes. Consumers dreaming of a green Christmas selected solar-powered radios and organic-fiber clothing. As stocking stuffers, they gave cosmetics made from herbal ingredients and wooden toothbrushes with natural bristles. For the kids there were endangered species card games and a stuffed globe called Hug-a-Planet. Economic analysts predict green shopping will grow even more popular in the years ahead. For Christians, this is a welcome trend. We ought to be the first to support products that respect God's creation. But unfortunately, many people in the environmental movement don't see the world as God's creation. Many environmentalists are pantheists, who think the solution to our ecological problems is to regard the earth itself as divine. If only we recognized that we are all children of Mother Earth, they say, then we will treat the wolf and the tree as our brothers. But pantheism doesn't really give a solution. Francis Schaeffer, in his book Pollution and the Death Of Man (just reissued by Crossway Books), says the root of our ecological problems is a moral problem. People have been irresponsible; they have been greedy for material goods without regard to the consequences. The solution, therefore, must also be moral. People have to realize it is morally wrong to plunder God's creation. The problem with pantheism is that it gives no basis for making moral distinctions. You see, if God is identified with nature, then our only standard is what is natural. The beauty of a sunset is natural—but so are floods and fires. Life is natural—but so is death and disease. If nature is the ultimate reality, then we simply have to accept these things. Good and evil are just opposite sides of a single coin. That's why pantheistic religions, like Hinduism, lead to an attitude of passive resignation. Life and death are part of the wheel of karma, rolling on forever in an endless cycle. Only Christianity gives a basis for making real moral distinctions. The Bible teaches that God created the world good. It wasn't meant to be a place of evil and destruction. These things are alien intrusions into God's original creation. When Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus, He wept with sorrow at the sickness and death that have distorted His once-perfect creation. Within the biblical framework we have a moral basis for saying, This is not right, this is wrong. We have a basis for vigorous moral activism—the kind we need if we're really going to solve our environmental problems. So by all means, become a green shopper. Natural-fabric clothing and herbal cosmetics can give Christians a sense of being closer to God's creation. But we should never make nature an idol. We must stand firm against the pantheism that sings its siren song through so much of the environmental movement. For Christians, creation is a garden; it is not a god.


Chuck Colson



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