Cultural Implications of the Loss of Evil Forests in Nigeria: Application and Understanding Ecological Christology of Colossians 1:15-18

Cultural Implications of the Loss of Evil Forests in Nigeria: Application and Understanding Ecological Christology of Colossians 1:15-18

Ojo Olarewaju Paul (University of Uyo, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2574-6.ch002
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That there is a missing link between environmentalists' understandings of and the application of the supremacy of Christ and the church over creation cannot be ignored. This has warranted a negative view of this doctrine in the face of current global ecological problems. In traditional African communities there was ambiguous reception of the Christian church, with its operational base confined to certain dangerous and ecologically orphaned ‘evil forests'. It is from these evil forests that the church has positively produced the present educational and political elite who should in turn protect the environment. With this fact, the multi-dimensional approach to tackling the ecological crisis in Nigeria will be set on a positive course.
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That the earth is facing an environmental crisis has long been observed. Evidences still abound in the form of loss of animal and plant species, land degradation, depletion of energy resources, and climatic change to mention but a few. Climatic change is the concern of not only governments and environmental organizations (Omenyo, 2008); even individuals are feeling the effects of climatic change. In Nigeria there is desert encroachment in Northern parts, the drying up of lake Chad, the monstrous gully erosions that is now sweeping the Southern part of the Niger-Benue valley which most often lead to loss of human lives, and properties. As a result of the environmental crisis, there is the depletion of energy resources such as firewood, and crude oil, crop land and all other future consequences such as desertification of wild life and of fisheries, erosion has been the order of the day in Nigerian communities.

Various world bodies have noted this crisis with some of them responding in one-way or the order. Christianity, however, has been accused of contributing to this crisis. Some environmentalist have found problem in the Christian view that humanity was given dominion over the earth by God (Omenyo, 2008). They argue that instead of caring for the environment as servants and steward of God and with love, respect, justice, creativity and interest of other creatures, humanity has dominated creation in a marginalized way. The need for development has led to humanity plundering the creation for its selfish needs. L. White looking at the Christian doctrine of creation, for example, accused the religion of being the most anthropocentric religion the world has ever seen and as a result of this Christianity bears major responsibility for the ecological disaster (Omenyo, 2008).

On the surface L. White’s view sound factual, especially in Africa and other former colonized states where Christianity, colonialism and developments came bundled together in one package. In the name of development and civilization local beliefs and traditions, which for centuries had helped conserved the environment, were demonized (Oyewole, 2003). For many different reasons Christians have supported industrialization without considering its effects on the environment (Omenyo, 2008). It is for this reason that White accused the religion of bearing the blame of the present ecological crisis (Omenyo, 2008).

But as those who wrote after the publication of White’s work correctly noted, it is not the Christian sacred books that promote wanton destruction of nature by humanity (John, 2005). Rather it is the interpretation of the scriptures in the Western world that led to the ecological crisis.

It is on this note that this paper seek to buttress the innocence of the church, with the consideration of how in most parts of the traditional communities in Nigeria, the church was not welcome, and where she was, she was given certain areas that were ecologically orphaned to be used for worship, schools and other activities (Ayandele, 1966). This work examines the ecological Christology of Col. 1:15-16 and x-rays how the church as armed with the truth of this theology was able to convert the ‘evil forest’ to center of faith, civilization and development. The work also seek to show the missing link between the missionary work of the church and current ecological disaster that is been experienced presently in Nigeria.

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