Thursday, December 18, 2008

Global greening vs. the economy

It isn't often that I will publish several posts within a given week, and I don't recall ever posting twice in one day. Unlike some bloggers, I have bills to pay and can't sit around typing for free all day. There are only two events that may draw me out of my busy schedule for repeated posts: terrible tragedy or hilarious comedy. Today, it just so happens that the subject is a rare mix of both. 

Penna Dexter, a self-described "conservative activist" with whom I am unacquainted, wrote an opinion piece that has been posted on the homepage of BaptistPress, the Public Relations department for the national headquarters of the SBC. The article, "Global Greening vs. the Economy" basically rehashes old arguments about how environmental policy is bad for the economy. In her mind, the economy should always win out. "Our care for the environment is a high value for most Americans," she writes. "But our economic survival is higher."

Perhaps this is a lesson for all of those who live in pollute-ridden inner cities. When the air becomes saturated with toxic particulate matter that childhood asthma rates reach record levels (as they have in some cities), make sure you protect the smog-producing, economically-critical companies lest we financially burden them. What about the fifteen states in which you could go fishing in the rivers and streams, but it would be illegal to eat those fish due to their high levels of poisons which come from upstream industries? Should we ignore that as well? Not in my book.

Dexter does, however, get it right in one of the waning sentences of the last paragraph when she says, "It's God's idea that man would tend the earth." Perhaps, if that sentence had been placed at the top of this article and the logical progression upon which it was built, readers would have walked away with a better understanding of the article's last three words: "GOOD--ENVIRONMENTAL--STEWARDSHIP."

Read the article and let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

"Our care for the environment is a high value for most Americans," she writes. "But our economic survival is higher."

What a crock....

Interesting however - there are many "Christians" ('conservative' and 'liberal')who are more concerned about their savings than they do about life, poverty, humanity and other related issues.

I honestly couldn't care less about the economy. If I lose all my retirement savings, my house, my car...and so on...that's OK. I still have 1. The LORD. 2. My life, & 3. My family.

The LORD takes care of His people...bottom line.

We are to care for those who need. Put others needs above our own....we care for others' needs and the LORD cares for ours. That's how it works in the Kingdom.

The saying "God helps those who help themselves" is one of the most un-scriptural heretical ideologies that has crept into the church and much of society. NO He doesn't.

If modern American Christians want to study what the Bible says about economy, do a word search of the verses that talk about greed and the lust for power, and then research everything God says about putting others' needs first.

It would also be interesting to see where Dexter gets some of her "facts" (such as paper consumption).

Seriously however, her article is pretty weak in its overall presentation. She's obviously not a writer - but rather, as pointed out, an activist and panelist - she isn't used to writing...just speaking her mind.

Proverbs 28:11
Prov 29:9
Proverbs 26:1-11

Jonathan Merritt said...


One of your better comments ever. Maybe best. I couldn't have said it any better. If there was a policy decision and it came down to improving the life of even ONE person or seeing the entire nation of America get wealthier, which do you think Jesus would pick. Money or people? I don't claim to speak for our Lord, but I tend to think the latter.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I wish I could be like Andrew Sullivan and blog full-time. But if my boss caught me blogging instead of working, I'd be in big trouble!

As far as Dexter's article, I'm not buying it (forgive the pun). Although we definitley need to fix our economic future (no kidding!), I believe taking care of what God has created should be the top priority.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Wow. Andrew Sullivan is crazy. He posts like 10 times per day.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Jonathan.

I agree - yes, the latter. I don't believe there is any scriptural basis for the preservation of any economy (other than the economy of the Kingdom of God).

It's kind of a "bug" of mine...people (Christians) voting and "activating" (if that's a term for activists) because of, and for economic issues. Economy is of man from man and for man. It has no eternal value.

Scripture speaks of money pretty poorly, I believe. At least, the desire and pursuit of money...

Common sense - whatever that is...would suggest take care of your needs first so that you can help people "unfettered". But that is simply not the way the Kingdom of God works.

Perhaps this post offers some perspective.

These 3 Biblical Truths

And this post.

Benjamin said...

Can "ecology" and "economy" be separated? Both words are inherently interrelated and refer to the notion of "house management."

Both terms and affairs are derived from the Greek word "oikos" ‘house’ + logy. In the context of "ecology" house management would relate to the study of all organisms and their surroundings. In the context of "economy" house management would relate to the careful management of available resources. It is in the context of creation care that both "ecology" and "economy" find equal importance because both are to be managed in light of God's glory. This something government as well as the church fails to understand and practice.

In light of God's greater glory and the imperative to glorify God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31; Col 3:16-17) both are valued and are to be pursued in excellence.

Just some thoughts!

Anonymous said...


...the careful management of available resources... This I agree with. Yes, God calls us to manage and be good stewards of all that He has given...All, encompasses both environment & economic statutes.

However, He has given economy not so that man can glory in his riches - but so that man can aide and help those in need....there in lies the issue of contemplation within modern Christiandom.

However, you allude to the idea that the Lord, in His Kingdom, calls man to preserve economy. I do not find that in scripture.

Greater good...or greater glory as you suggest - is a self-negating term. God does not have a grading scale for glory just as He does not have a scale for sin. Greater glory is synonymous with the term greater evil.

(Just my thoughts)

Benjamin said...


What I mean is that all that exists, does so in and through God. All things are His for the purpose of His glory! And, to work toward preserving the economy is to work toward manifesting God's glory in a manner consistent with how He acts toward His divine economy.

Also, I would argue that economy does not just relate to financial resources, which I assume you may be implying. I am not. I am just pointing out the interrelation between ecology and economy - both tied to the notion of stewardship and all things.

On the other point - I agree that God's glory does not need to be qualified by the term "greater." However, I do think their is a difference in how God pursues His glory and how mankind manifests that glory.


Jonathan Merritt said...


Good thoughts. While the words may be linked etymologically, they aren't biblically. In scripture, people ALWAYS trump possessions. Therefore, we always first ask "What is best for other people and their wellbeing?" Great conversation and really thoughtful stuff.


Anonymous said...


While I can not definitively say, I also am fairly confident that according to the Word of God...people also trump creation....

While, yes we are to be good stewards of what He has given and created...I believe we are to be better stewards of that with which He has made His covenant...

Benjamin said...


God is in covenant with nature (cf. Gen. 9:12–17; Hos. 2:18).

Also, mankind is a part of God's creation not separate from it. This is the biggest mistake of Western-Christianity, which tends to be directed by a dualistic understanding of man versus creation, science versus faith, etc. When you state, "people also trump creation" you are implying that man is not a part of creation. This is wrong and Mankind is a part of creation! Mankind is not transcendent over it either...

The following is a letter I had written to Jonathan a while ago. I hope it puts things into perspective concerning my thoughts on these issues. If you have further questions or comments feel free to email them to me directly at

There exists an ignorant blind faith towards a platonic dulaism within the modern Christian mind. What has happened, as a result of this dualism is that man has given into a non-biblical idea that mankind is transcendent over and above creation. The argument is based upon the "imago dei" within the Genesis narrative. Personally, I do not think "imago dei" means transcendence, but rather entails our worth as a result of a moral compass intrinsic to us. Related to the intrinsic power of moral responsibility is mankind's role and function within the mission of God.

Rather than being transcendent over creation Genesis seems to indicate that we are servants of creation in the sense that our dominion as stewardship is unto the greater glory of God. Author and Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemman says that God placed man in the garden (His presence & rest) to be a blessing to creation and offer it back to God in a communal way. Schmemman argues that man-pre-fall-was created to live eucharistically as a type of priest whereby man's function and role in the garden (to cultivate & keep) was an act of worship and obedience. Hence, theologian John Sailhamer’s and ethicist Mark Liederbach’s argument that “cultivate and keep” actually mean “to worship and obey.” It is no coincidence that “to cultivate and keep” in Hebrew means “to worship and obey.”

Is mankind of more worth than creation - yes, but in the sense of the importance or preciousness of something and the usefulness of something considered in respect of a particular purpose.

Imago dei does not mean value as quantitative value because quantitatively all of creation is considered good. In fact, before the creation of man God declared creation good many times. While the apex of His creation is mankind, the climax of God's creative agency was when He found satisfaction in the good creation He created (Sabbath). Why? Because it was out of Himself that such creation could be good.

Essentially, mankind and creation both individually and collectively are capable of glorifying God. However, mankind-with his power of moral responsibility- is able to manifest God's glory in distinctive ways (i.e. horizontally: to others, via love, via seeking and acting justice, etc.), not just vertically through existing per se.

Again, It is the power of moral responsibility and the true meaning of value that distinguishes us. The foundation for biblical value is based on the importance or preciousness of something and the usefulness of something considered in respect of a particular purpose. And our distinct purpose is to manifest God's glory to others as well as in the role of being dominions as stewards unto His glory.