The Religious Approach to the Environment


  • The foundation of ethical approach to the environment for Christians is the Bible
  • We are given dominion over all creatures
  • “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds in the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth'” – Genesis 1:26

Australian philosopher Peter Singer poses for an portrait at Yale University Press office in London

  • Peter Singer criticised this approach, labelling it anthropocentric 
    • According to Dominant Western tradition, the natural world exists for the benefit of human beings
  • However the creation story is up for interpretation, and many see it as celebrating the entirety of God’s creations
  • He seems to value the natural world, seeing all of his creations as “good” and instructing them to “go forth and multiply
  • This suggests that the natural world has intrinsic value because God created it
  • St Francis of Assisi amongst others understood that the natural world is inherently good & a sign of God’s goodness
    • Suggesting that while dominion values the role of human beings in the world higher than the role of other creations, the world can still have intrinsic value


  • Dominion, despite its recognition of the beauty & goodness in the natural world, advocates for its use by human beings however they choose
  • According to Singer this is the root of our environmental problems – that we view the world as something to be tamed & controlled for human use
  • The second creation account in Genesis 2 suggests that man is put in Eden to protect and preserve it, and thus to protect & preserve the natural world
    • The Lord God took man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it” – Genesis 2:15
  • Humans may be the peak of creation, but part of this comes with the role of stewardship – as we are made in the image of God with rationality we have a duty to protect the earth
  • The world has intrinsic value as it is created and maintained by God, therefore it must be preserved & protected
  • As ultimately Christian ethics is rooted in a good relationship with God, to avoid dishonesty, exploitation & using the world for selfish gain (as happened in the garden of Eden) is beneficial
  • It shows God man is repenting & changing his ways

End Times Theology 

  • Some Christians follow Singer’s “worst case scenario” interpretation of creation & mankind’s role in the world
  • End times theologians believe that man has utmost dominion over the world, essentially meaning that they can do with it what they please
  • Believers in this theory have no concern of the consequences of mistreating the natural world – as God has promised the rapture & the eventual end of times, there will be another new world, the Kingdom of God, for all those who follow him
    • Therefore it doesn’t matter how humans treat this earth


  • Pastor John Hagee says that the environmental & social catastrophes of today are portents of the Rapture; when all Christians will be taken up into heaven
    • All over the earth graves will explode & their occupants will soar into the heavens

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