Fifteen Theological Foundations of Stewardship from ‘A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship’
Acton Institute Powerblog

Fifteen Theological Foundations of Stewardship from ‘A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship’

Since its publication in 2007, the Acton Institute’s Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition has been one go-to source for religious thought on environmental stewardship. The following list gathers information from “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” an essay from the book that offers the Christian perspective on humanity’s place in nature.

1. God, the Creator of all things, rules over all and deserves our worship and adoration (Ps. 103:19—22).

2. The earth, and, with it, all the cosmos, reveals its Creator’s wisdom and goodness (Ps. 19:1—6) and is sustained and governed by his power and loving kindness (Ps. 102:25—27; Ps. 104; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3, 10—12). Men and women were created in the image of God, given a privileged place among creatures, and commanded to exercise stewardship over the earth (Gen. 1:26—28; Ps. 8:5).

3. The image of God consists of knowledge and righteousness, and expresses itself in creative human stewardship and dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26—28; 2:8—20; 9:6; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).

4. The exercise of these virtues and this calling, therefore, require that we act in an arena of considerable freedom–not unrestricted license, but freedom exercised within the boundaries of God’s moral law revealed in Scripture and in the human conscience (Exod. 20:1—17; Deut. 5:6—21; Rom. 2:14—15).

5. These facts are not vitiated by the fact that humankind fell into sin (Gen. 3).

6. Rather, our sinfulness has brought God’s responses, first in judgment, subjecting humankind to death and separation from God (Gen. 2:17; 3:22—24; Rom. 5:12—14; 6:23) and subjecting creation to the curse of futility and corruption (Gen. 3:17—19; Rom. 8:20—21); and then in restoration, through Christ’s atoning, redeeming death for his people, reconciling them to God (Rom. 5:10—11, 15—21; 2 Cor. 5:17—21; Eph. 2:14—17; Col. 1:19—22), and through his wider work of delivering the earthly creation from its bondage to corruption (Rom. 8:19—23).

7. Indeed, Christ even involves fallen humans in this work of restoring creation (Rom. 8:21).

8. When he created the world, God set aside a unique place, the Garden of Eden, and placed in it the first man, Adam (Gen. 2:8—15).

9. God instructed Adam to cultivate and guard the Garden (Gen. 2:15)–to enhance its already great fruitfulness and to protect it against the encroachment of the surrounding wilderness that made up the rest of the earth. Having also created the first woman and having joined her to Adam (Gen. 2:18—25), God commanded them and their descendants to multiply, to spread out beyond the boundaries of the Garden of Eden, and to fill, subdue, and rule the whole earth and everything in it (Gen. 1:26, 28).

10. Two groups of interrelated conditions are necessary for responsible stewardship. In one group are conditions related to the freedom that allows people to use and exchange the fruits of their labor for mutual benefit (Matt. 20:13—15).

11. These conditions–knowledge, righteousness, and dominion–provide an arena for the working out of the image of God in the human person. In another group are conditions related to responsibility, especially to the existence of a legal framework that holds people accountable for harm they may cause to others (Rom. 13:1—7; Exod. 21:28—36; 22:5—6).

12. Freedom, the expression of the image of God, may be abused by sin and, therefore, needs restrictions (1 Pet. 2:16); but governmental power, necessary to subdue sin and reduce its harm, must be exercised by sinful humans, who may also abuse it (Ps. 94:20; 1 Sam. 8).

13. This means that it, too, needs restrictions (Acts 4:19—20; 5:29).

14. Such restrictions are reflected not only in specific limits on governmental powers (Deut. 17:14—20), but also in the division of powers into judicial, legislative, and executive (reflecting God as Judge, Lawgiver, and King [Isa. 33:22]); the separation of powers into local and central (exemplified in the distinct rulers in the tribes of Israel and the prophets or kings over all Israel [Deut. 1:15—16]); the gradation of powers from lesser to greater (Exod. 18; Deut. 16:8—11); and the vesting of power in a people to elect their rulers (Deut. 1:9—15; 17:15).

15. All of these principles are reflected in the Constitution of the United States. Also crucial to the Christian understanding of government is the fact that God has ordained government to do justice by punishing those who do wrong and praising those who do right (Rom. 13:1—4; 1 Pet. 2:13—14).

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.