The Bible and anthropocentrism: putting humans in their place
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Can religion contribute to a better, more ecologically balanced treatment of the environment? Since a seminal essay by Lynn White, this question has often been answered in the negative. There he exposed the dominant anthropocentric reading of the biblical tradition that has characterized the worldview of Western Christianity. This worldview provided the conditions for human exploitation of the environment. This paper will challenge the common anthropocentric reading of the Bible, arguing instead that the Bible is the product of a theocentric worldview. Humans may be singled out in the Bible for particular attention, but they are not separated out from the natural world in which they live. In the theocentric worldview of the Bible, humans and all other creatures are dependent upon God for creation and subsistence, and all alike are valuable to God as part of his creation. The world, inclusive of humans and animals, trees and plants, land and seas, belongs to God because it is God’s creation, and it is in relation to God that each part of creation has its value and worth. A non-anthropocentric reading of the Bible—putting humans in their place—provides an appropriate framework for valuing the natural world, not simply as resources for human use, but rather as the creation of God.
KeywordsAnthropocentrism Bible Lynn White, Jr. Environment Theocentrism
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