Richard Shumack on the extent to which Christianity is to blame for the devastation of global ecology.

Unquestionably, the pursuit of human prosperity has devastated global ecology. Habitats are lost, species extinct, oceans choked, and soil contaminated.

Seminally, historian Lynn White laid much of the ‘ecoblame’ upon Christianity for having ‘not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends’.

Yet anthropocentrism has a long history. Middle Eastern deforestation began with the rise of civilisation and Australian species loss goes back millennia to the arrival of humans.

But this doesn’t get Christianity off the hook. Genesis 1:28 does command humans to ‘subdue’ the rest creation to their purposes in their special, supranatural role as divine image bearers. Christendom has used this idea as a mandate for eco-abuse – especially on the back of Western colonialism.

But before we find the biblical God the criminal mastermind here, it is worth noting that Genesis has much more to say. In fact, the very next ego-deflating sentences tell humans we are made of dirt – dirt breathed miraculously into life by God for sure, but dirt, nonetheless.

Genesis’ anthropology, then, is richer than imagined: viewing us as both extraordinary and mundane; as both God-like and bestial; with awesome planet-shaping specialness, but akin to our animal neighbours – and indeed the earth itself.

Ecoblame of Christians is well deserved, but don’t pin it on the Bible’s bifocal anthropology which, if embraced, should lead to truly humane humanity.