Bridging The Gap: Christian Environmental Stewardship And Public Environmental Policy -- By: Fred Van Dyke

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 18:2 (Fall 1997)
Article: Bridging The Gap: Christian Environmental Stewardship And Public Environmental Policy
Author: Fred Van Dyke


Bridging The Gap:
Christian Environmental Stewardship And
Public Environmental Policy

Fred Van Dyke*

We differ from other states in regarding the man who holds aloof from public life not as “quiet” but as useless; we decide or debate, carefully and in person, all matters of policy, holding, not that words and deeds go ill together, but that acts are foredoomed to failure when undertaken undiscussed.

—Pericles, Funeral Oration, in honor of the Athenians who fell fighting Sparta1

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning… Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

—Frederick Douglas2

Webster defines “policy” as “prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs; a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions.”3 And when it comes to issues of public policy, Pericles’ assessment of the uninvolved citizen is correct. The person who holds aloof from public life, discussion, and debate is useless in matters of formulating, implementing, and enforcing issues of public policy. However, Pericles does not speak from a Christian tradition, but from a pagan one. And even in its golden age, Athens was never the City of God. A minimal level of involvement in politics and policy is required of all people in their duties as citizens, and a maximum for those who make such work their vocation. But Christ does not require his followers to commit to

* Fred Van Dyke is Assistant Professor of Biology at Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa.

political involvement. Such is not a requisite for salvation and cannot rightly be demanded by unbelievers to prove the sincerity of a Christian’s faith. Neither is God himself supremely concerned to “make the world a better place.” God is under no obligation to keep a fallen world happy, and his ultimate intention is to train disciples whose hope is heaven and whose destination is the City of God.

For Christians, then, Pericles’ assessment, however accurate and realistic in a sinful world, is not the final word. When Christians consider involvement in shaping public policy, significant tension exists in two dimensions. Within the Christian community, and particularly among evangelical Protestants whose various origins share many common root...

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