Summary Of “POLLUTION AND THE DEATH OF MAN” by Francis Schaeffer


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In his book Pollution and the Death of Man, Schaeffer’s focus is so timely and insightful that even though this book was written over 30 years ago, the relevance is poignant in a time where “saving the earth” is so dear to so many.  The following are the insights captured.

First, the earth’s ecology is suffering because man, instead of being a good steward of the earth, is ravaging it.  According to American historian, Lynn White, the Christian worldview is responsible for said crisis.  With its theology of dominion and this mentality still reigning, a religious solution must be sought because the plight is grounded in a belief (i.e., a “religious belief”).  Thus a pantheistic solution is suggested by Richard Means.  This worldview holds that “We’re all one essence” and as such, could solve the problem.  But is it true?

First, Schaffer argues that rather than being a solution to the ecological problem we face, pantheism’s base has no categories for particulars.  This means that if all is one, then One is all.  This means that no distinctions can be made.   Thus to argue or berate the Christian worldview (which emphasizes distinctions and Means caricatures) is self-defeating.  One must not also forget that nature is not always “kind” but often ruthless.

Again this distinction only obtains in categories that pantheism does not permit, when the moral problem is only a pragmatic one, the baselessness of the assertion slips down a slippery slope.  Relativism here wins the day and an elite hierarchy is poised to dominate the masses through manipulation.  This ought not to be.

Second, while pantheism is not the answer to our ecological crisis, neither is a Christianity that is “so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good.”  A Christianity of this ilk will not value the creation as intrinsically valuable because God created it.  Instead it will unfortunately make the unbiblical Platonic bifurcation that only the spiritual is valuable, but the material of no eternal good.   Protestant Reformation Christianity however understood that God spoke in both Particular (i.e., Bible) and General (i.e., Nature) Revelation and as such gave unity to all of creation.

Third, the Christian answer is that the God who is there created all things.  While the order of each creature/creation is distinct, it is nevertheless interdependent for flourishing.  Now while the creation is good and reflects God it is not an extension of His essence (i.e., of “What” God is).  Nevertheless, because the creation comes from God the good creator, it has intrinsic value and as such must not be despised.  The Platonic view of matter (i.e., its evil) is antithetical to the Biblical view of creation, to God’s covenant with the creation, to our future resurrected bodies and to how God has ordered the good.  Believers must come under Gods view of creation and live in the balance of its non-autonomous dependence.  While there are distinctions, there’s also unity.  Remember this!

Fourth, a substantial healing is to guide the believers cause as Gods agent on the earth.  Christ’s work inaugurated the future kingdom in this present evil age.  After the fall of man, Christ would come to rectify our separation from the creation and the creator.  This would be accomplished through Him justifying the many, through sanctifying His own, and through the implications of those two realities as God’s people interact in this world in a truthful, humble, loving, and courageous way.

Schaeffer accentuated therefore that believers must see othemselves as stewards over all of God’s creation, live in its order (including marriage) and speak up when injustice occurs because the world will.  Doing this, will bring about a beauty for the world to savor and behold.

Lastly, the critiques of White and Means while they touch on some important issues regarding our religious views and how they practically impact the ecologic dance we’re in, it seems to me that they both missed the issues of: the Fall and our rebellion, God’s simultaneous transcendence and immanence, White’s lower story/upper story tension (i.e., “Fact of evolution –where’s the person?”), Means utilitarian bent though true in some respects ultimately removes distinctions between nature and humans, and clearly both caricature the Christian position “mastery” vs. “stewardship” of the earth.  This is huge.

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