It is not uncommon to find that Christians are blamed for contributing to the destruction of the environment – a view that derives from the Biblical precept that ‘man was given dominion over the earth’ (cf Gen. 1:28). The current state of the environment indicates that humankind has indeed ravaged the earth, but it could be argued that this has occurred through greed, covetousness, materialism, competitiveness and short-sightedness which are specific human traits in conflict with God and Christianity. Furthermore, the true significance of the ‘dominion over the earth’ tenet is invariably overlooked. Having dominion over the earth means that man has the responsibility of representing God on earth; of ruling as His co-regents or, put differently, acting as His stewards or custodians of His creation. It is argued that environmental stewardship is a dimension of the Christian stewardship ethic that is inherent in the Christian faith.
This article reports on research undertaken with ministers, lecturers and students of the United Reformed Church in Southern Africa who were asked to provide their views on Christian stewardship as a requisite component of their role as leaders and aspirant leaders in the Church. Perspectives on environmental stewardship as a dimension of the Christian stewardship ethic were also probed. The research showed that respondents were unanimous in their understanding that Christian stewardship is Biblically founded and mandated and that environmental stewardship is part of that ethic. However, environmental stewardship is inadequately provided for in Church teaching and seminary training programmes. This article examines respondents’ views on the above and puts forward ways in which environmental stewardship could be enhanced and promoted.
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