6 Reasons Why Ecology Matters to the Church

Many Christians would say: Ecology has nothing to do with the gospel. Wrong!

Say ecology, and eyes glaze over. People think: science—technical stuff—boring and irrelevant.

I argue: Say ecology, and people should think of the Bible. This could revolutionize theology.

Why think Bible? Because ecology comes from the hand of God and reflects his glory. God created a world of immense beauty, variety and complexity which is most fully understood through ecological categories.

For many Christians, this would represent a worldview shift. I suspect many Christians would say: Ecology has nothing to do with the gospel. Wrong!

Here are six spiritual-physical facts about ecology. Combine them with Scripture, and you have a fuller biblical worldview than in traditional theology.

What Is Ecology?

Ecology is popularly defined as “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.” Since life is more than physical, I expand ecology to mean the study of all life forms in relation to each other and their surroundings, both physical and spiritual. Christians know that the realities and influences on our lives are spiritual as well as physical.

An ecosystem is “a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.” Expanded Christian version: An ecosystem is the totality of all living things within a particular context in their interdependence with one another and with their physical and spiritual environment.

Ecosystems range from tiny to cosmic: all that God has created. But not even the tiniest is inconsequential, for ecology is all about the interrelationship of everything, no exceptions. Nothing excluded.

Six Spiritual-Physical Facts

1. Life and energy. Ecology is about life, and life is about energy.

Physical fact: Ecosystems are living systems. Whenever any life form is born or dies, the ecosystem changes in some manner.

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Spiritual fact: All energy comes from God. In creation, God mysteriously infuses his own life into the created order—initially and continuously.

Spiritual-physical fact: Humankind is a combination of matter and spirit in constant interaction. Not one or the other. We are physical-spiritual-social beings. In God’s reality, spirit and matter are not opposites or aliens. Physical reality is a dimensionally limited part of spiritual reality.

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Howard Snyder
Formerly professor of the history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary (1996-2006); now engaged in research and writing in Wilmore, Kentucky. Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, 2007-2012. Formerly taught and pastored in São Paulo, Brazil; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois. Howard Snyder’s main interest is in the power and relevance of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom for the world today and tomorrow. He has written on a range of topics including church history, cultural trends, globalization, worldviews, evangelism, and various cultural issues.