Re: Principles of land ownership for Christians

Douglas Hammerstrom (
Mon, 24 Jun 1996 00:37:27 GMT

At 09:48 PM 6/20/96 +0000, you wrote:
>In a regular attempt to put my creation stewardship beliefs into action, I have
>been honing a set of principles of land ownership for Christians that is
>consistent with science and biblical Christianity. I don't believe I have
>put them into this forum. In the light of our discussion on Christian
>environmental ethics (not exactly a barn burner!) I thought it would be
apropos to put them out for a critique. Are these scientifically and
>sound in your opinion?
Then followed the numerous principles.

I have no objections to the principles and found them to be well
thought out. A prologue might be useful showing the foundation of these
worthy ideas in Scripture.

1) I would start out with the commandment against theft. It is easy in
our ownership and development of land to steal from those who are around us
or who come after us. This theft might result from diminishing the land's
capacity to do whatever it is meant to do (agricultural use, housing,
industrial use, recreation) or diminishing the value of neighboring land by
ground, water, air or visual pollution. This concept of theft is not a
theoretical consideration, but involves real dollars and real work to
reverse the results of the theft.

2) The commandment against murder can also be a consideration, albeit a
lesser one. Any degree of pollution that results in the death, premature
death or illness of people should be such an anathema to a Christian that it
should be understood in this context to be outside such principles.
Unfortunately given my contact with "Christian" businessmen and scientists
it might be wise to bring these concepts to their attention.

3) I would give attention to the concept of aesthetics, pointing out
that God delights in his creation and his creatures (Genesis, Job) and that
to diminish them should be done with fear and trembling. Paul also directs
us to mediatate upon the good, the true, the noble, the beautiful, etc. We
should realize that God is reconciling ALL THINGS and put these meditations
into practice in our families, job and onto the land.
(Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if
anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever
you have learned from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God
of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8-9)

4) Finally, it must be recognized that humans cannot live and work on
the land and do all the other things we are commanded by God to do, without
impacting it.
I like to consider our use of the land in the way that a farmer might
use his land. Different areas have different uses. Some areas like the lawn
and garden around his house will be kept immaculately beautiful. Other areas
like his fields will be used hard to provide an increase in his wealth.
Other areas will be "sacrifice areas" where livestock might be concentrated.
In those places considerable pollution might accumulate from the livestock
and the beautiful grass that might have been there at one time will be eaten
and hooved into mud or hardpan.
So it is with our world. People have to live somewhere, but we should
not try to concentrate people or industry into our most beautiful or
agricultrally productive areas. People need a certain amount of stuff. It
should be produced in an area that is even less desirable. The pollution
that results from the production and use of that stuff should not be spread
around anymore than the farmer would try and bring the animal wastes into
his house. (The analogy breaks down quickly there, for of course this high
nitrogen containing "pollution" also makes great fertilizer.)
Christian principles of land ownership and use need to make room for
responsible use of the land, recognizing that different places are obviously
suited for different uses.

Rejocing that all of life is redeemed,

Douglas Hammerstrom, MD