Pollution and the Death of Man

“Pollution and the Death of Man”

By Francis Schaeffer & Udo Middelmann

Copyright 1970

(Quotations used by permission of Crossways Books,

a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL)

  This book written by Francis Schaeffer in 1970 in response to articles by Lynn White, Jr. and Richard Means which had presented the opinion that the Christian worldview held by the West places man in dominion over nature and provided the basis for our abuse of nature.  As a solution to our environmental problems, they indicated the need to reshape our culture to the alternative worldview of Zen Buddhism, where both mankind and nature are of one “essence.”   Schaeffer refutes that pantheistic view, reminding us of the inherent dignity of both man and the rest of creation; God, who is transcendent, rather than a part of nature; the concept that nature has been fundamentally altered by the Fall; and man as having the ability to chose actions that are morally right or wrong.  Schaeffer also chastises the Church, as neglecting its stewardship responsibility to create order in a fallen world.

  Francis Schaeffer


(page number)

9          Near the end of his life, Darwin acknowledged several times in his writings that two things had become dull to him as he got older.  The first was his joy in the arts and the second his joy in nature.  This is very intriguing.  Darwin offered his proposition that nature, including man, is based only on the impersonal plus time plus chance, and he had to acknowledge at the end of his life that it had had these adverse effects on him.  I believe that what we are seeing today is the same loss of joy in our total culture as Darwin personally experienced … The death of “joy” in nature is leading to the death of nature itself.

73        the church has not spoken out as it should have done throughout history against the abuse of nature.  But when the church puts belief into practice, in relationship to man and to nature, there is substantial healing.  One of the first fruits of that healing is a new sense of beauty.


22        Aldous Huxley, in his last novel, Island [wrote], “Elementary ecology leads straight to elementary Buddhism.”

31        the unity of everything that is is expressed with some form of the religious connotation word pantheism, or with purely secular terms, in reducing everything to energy particles. … Pantheism gives you an answer for unity, but it gives no meaning to the diversity. … A man who begins to take a pantheistic view of nature has no answer for the fact that nature has two faces: it has a benevolent face, but it may also be an enemy.  The pantheist view nature as normal.  In this view, there is no place for abnormality in nature.

32        in Camus’s The Plague … “if he joins with the doctors and fights against the plague, he is fighting against God, or if he joins the priest and does not fight against God by not fighting the plague, he is not being humanitarian.”

34        a pantheistic stand always brings man to an impersonal and low place rather than elevating him. … eventually nature does not become high, but man becomes low. … In the Eastern countries there is no real base for the dignity of man. … there is no reason to distinguish bad nature from good nature. … What is, is right.


47        if we return to the Reformation’s view that nature is worth painting, so the nature which we paint is also worth something in itself. … All things were equally created out of nothing.  All things, including man, are equal in their origin, as far as creation is concerned. … man is separated … from nature because he is made in the image of God.  That is, he has personality, and as such he is unique in the creation; but he is united to all other creatures as being created. … man is made in the image of God, who is personal; thus he has two relationships – upward and downward.

54        we should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God made it. … The value of the things is not in themselves, autonomously, but that God made them – and thus they deserve to be treated with high respect. … we certainly cannot think the material low when we realize that God created it. … To think of them as low is really to insult the God who made them. [emphasis added]

58        our conscious relationship with God is enhanced if we treat all the things He has made in the same way as He treats them. … Modern man has no real “value” for the ocean.  All he has is the most crass form of egoist, pragmatic value for it. … The man who believes things are there only by chance cannot give things a real intrinsic value. … As a Christian, I am consciously to deal with every other created thing with integrity, each thing in its proper sphere by creation.

61        [Gen 9:8-17] “I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living created thing.”  So God says this, His covenant, was with mankind, but equally with all creation. … God makes a promise here that embodies all creation.

64        [Rom 8:20] “creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God [the Christians].”  What Paul says here is that when our bodies are raised from the dead, at that time nature too will be redeemed. … the blood applied to the doorposts saved not only the sons of the Hebrews, but also their animals.

67        the Christian who believes the Bible should be the man who – with God’s help and in the power of the Holy Spirit – is treating nature now … the way it will be [after Christ returns] … we should establish a substantial healing here and now, between man and nature

68        In Novum Organum Scientiarum Francis Bacon wrote: “Man by the fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature.  Both of these losses, however, even in this life, can in some part be repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences.”

68        Man has dominion over the “lower” orders of creation, but he is not sovereign over them. Only God is Sovereign Lord … In the parable of the talents, told by Jesus (Matthew 25:15ff.), the talents or money did not belong to the man with whom they were left.  He was a servant and a steward, and he held them only in stewardship for the true Owner.  It is the same when we have dominion over nature: it is not ours.  It belongs to God, and we are to exercise our dominion over these things not as though entitled to exploit them, but as things borrowed or held in trust.  We are to use them realizing that they are not ours intrinsically.

73            Christians should be Y dealing with things according to the world-view and basic philosophy of the Bible, they can produce something that the world has tried, but failed, to produce.  The Christian community should be a living exhibition of the truth that in our present situation it is possible to have substantial sociological healing – healings that humanism longs for, but has not been able to produce.

82        it usually takes longer to treat the land properly.  … factors that lead to the destruction of our environment: money and time – or to say it another way, greed and haste.

84            Science today treats man as less than man, and nature as less than nature.  And the reason for this is that modern science has the wrong sense of origin; and having the wrong sense of origin, it has no category sufficient to treat nature as nature any more than it has to treat man an man.

Udo Middelmann


100     The urgency of the immediate perils addressed by many environmentalist groups have often obscured the fact that the loudest advocates of change have also wanted to change our view of the human being, and of life itself, away from the Biblical basis of our culture and our moral concerns. … they went to the root of what we know as Western civilization – the value of each person under God, even in a fallen word characterized by a broken nature.  Not only the acts of man should change, said these environmentalists: man’s understanding of himself should be radically redirected to a more Eastern view, where man merges with everything. [emphasis added]

101     Man is the crown of creation.  Males and females are stewards responsible to God, not to nature. … Western culture, with its high view of individual responsibility, its drive to advance itself technologically and democratically, has its roots in the Bible. … is now blamed for all the evils of society – even though without it none of the problems would have been noticed and fought against in the first place. … For the environmentalist to deny the Biblical notion of individual worth, and to prefer the Eastern view of man, is to saw off the branch on which he sits.

102            technology and rationality having taken the place of spiritual values – evidence of a lack of moral concern in a world reduced to the pursuit of profit and technological advancement.


105     their own worldview and nationalistic fervor were often the greatest hindrance to development and a concern for their citizens.  Once we put aside the myth of equality of all cultures and religions, the darkness and frequent inhumanities of non-Christian worldviews become clear.  An older form of pollution, resulting from disregard for human life and a resignation to natural suffering, surfaces in many native and non-Christian cultures.

106            restraint must go hand in hand with a reexamination of worldviews whose traditions have not lamented the loss of life, but rather have accepted it as normal – merely one more spin of the wheel of fate.

109            [Schaeffer] was forever against any survival program for nature or for an impersonal future “humanity” when that program denied the value and needs of real individuals living today. … there were for him “no little people”

110     Man is not to be wrapped into a larger eco-system.  That would only prevent him from making those critical judgments about the world and himself which life in a moral universe requires of each of us. … In the actual teachings of Eastern religions and in the practices of cultures bound to their outlook about man in the cosmos, human beings have not fared well. … human and social pollution from lack of sanitation, short life spans, and arbitrary legal rights have created an unacceptable and unnecessary mountain of human suffering. … neither human beings nor nature are treated with any great sympathy.  Nature suffers together with man quite unnecessarily.


111     The Biblical answer that we live in a fallen world without easy solutions is the most sympathetic and concerned answers – and the only one which motivates people to resist an abnormal nature. … These orientations are all impersonal.  None of them justify an moral concern for the environment, or even for the rights of individual persons.  This explains why movements addressing pollution as well as other moral concerns have originated in the part of the world historically most influenced by Biblical thinking.  And it explains why our scientific data and eyewitness report of the worst form of pollution now come from the Second and Third Worlds.  [emphasis added]

113     When nature is [wrongly] viewed as the will of God, when circumstances are animated by spirits … human death and natural pollution are accepted as just consequence of life itself [part of the natural “survival of the fittest” struggle]

113     The only adequate basis for environmental activism was laid in the teachings of historic Judaism and Christianity. … Only capitalism can afford making investments toward a protected earth for the sake of protection human life. … But viability is not the result of nature left to itself, but of human effort to tackle problems. … great foresight is necessary to foster both effort and restrain, both use and preservation, both consumption and restoration.  To protect both man and nature requires a high view of human beings … Solid reliable laws, based on a comprehensive philosophy of life and not subject to democratic whims under short-term goals, must reflect this high and long-term perspective. [emphasis added]

119     rather than seeing himself as out of tune with an impersonal, uncaring “Mother Nature,” he sees himself as being loved by the God in whose image he is made.  Nature no less than man, suffers under the tragic results of the Fall. … And this is why the Bible speaks of the need to live not only by bread, nuts and berries, which nature might provide.  Instead, every word from the mouth of God is to given direction, correction, and encouragement. … that word alone tells us of a reality not readily apparent in … birth and death.  [emphasis added]119     For the death of man can not only result from a polluted earth, but also, and much sooner, from the acceptance of a worldview which does not treasure the life of persons.