What In the World Are We Doing?

Four professors give a seminar on Christians and the environment

By: Becky St. Clair

In Portland, on January 18-20, four WWU faculty members presented a weekend seminar entitled, “What on Earth Are We Doing? Christians and the Environment.”  The presenters were Jon Cole (professor of engineering), Jim Nestler (professor of biology), Dave Thomas (dean, WWU School of Theology), and Alden Thompson (professor of biblical studies).

Thomas presented a theological reflection on the basis for Christian involvement in environmental issues.  Drawing from the biblical creation account, Thomas presented a biblical mandate for Christians to be concerned with the care of what God made.  He pointed out that there is actually a greater mandate for Christians to be active than there is for other groups.

In addition to his responsibilities in the engineering department, Cole is also the director of the Natural Resources curriculum at WWU.  His expertise in this field gave him plenty of information for his presentation on the effects of global warming, during which he shared the very negative effects of people over-using the environment. 

“So far, humans have always been able to rescue themselves from ecological disaster by the appearance of some new technology,” says Cole.  “For instance, the use of irrigation or artificial fertilizers.  But such rescues are always temporary because they always have side effects.”

The concern is, Cole pointed out, that someday we will come up against a situation and discover no new technology by which to rescue ourselves.

Nestler’s interest in the causes and effects of Earth’s ever-increasing temperatures led to him being asked to present during this seminar.  His presentation was entitled, “Dominion Over All the Earth: How Should Christians Respond to the Global Warming Craze?”

During the course of his presentation, Nestler explained what is causing Earth’s temperatures to rise so much higher and faster than ever before.  He spoke of gases such as carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere, trapping the sun’s heat energy, and how these higher temperatures are affecting humans.

“Some religious groups still doubt that a change in climate is real, is caused by humans, or will have any repercussions,” says Nestler.  “However, the Christian community is beginning to realize the problems that humans are causing, and are beginning to act.”

Nestler also mentioned that Christians have begun to team up with scientists and government agencies to raise awareness and to decrease the effects that humans have on the Earth’s climate and temperature.

“Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through Whom and for Whom creation was made,” Nestler says emphatically.  “This is God’s world, and any damage that we do to it is an offense against God Himself.”

All presenters felt that the weekend seminar was very well-received. 

“Those who attended the seminar were quite involved,” says Thomas, “and very well-pleased with the presentations.  Our assessment as presenters was that the seminar’s overall effect was quite positive.”

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