Marveling as we “leave no trace”

The conversation below is almost verbatim from a leadership team meeting, and one that our guys found really helpful to sorting out how they should biblically think about environmental responsibility:

“Let’s open tonight’s topic with a look at Psalm 8. Tom, would you please read?”

“OK, Guys, please turn to Psalm 8, a psalm of David.

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord,how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

“Thanks, Tom. Note how David worships the Lord through marveling. He marvels at what God has done. What does it mean to marvel? It’s not a word we use often apart from comic book heroes.”

“Surprise.” “Joy.” “Wonder.” “Amazement.”

“When we marvel are we thrilled or terrified?”

“We’re thrilled.”

“Great! Now, what causes David to marvel?”

“The heavens!”

“Good. What else?”

“That God cares for us.”

“Good. What else?”

“That God trusts us with what he’s made.”

“Wonderful. There’s the point I want you to seize upon.  Marvel with David that God trusts us with what he’s made. Be amazed. Note also that our charge to steward the Earth, Genesis 1’s Dominion Mandate, precedes all other commands given humanity, even the prohibition given Adam to not eat from the tree. Creation care was the first commandment given humanity. Loving God is the Greatest Commandment; loving his work was the first.”

“Let’s move practically. The seven principles of Leave No Trace, or ‘LNT’, ethics have been composed by a consortium of wilderness organizations. Let’s go around the room, taking turns reading each of the principles and its explanation.”

  1. “Prepare and plan ahead…”
  2. “Travel and camp on durable surfaces…”
  3. “Dispose of waste properly…”
  4. “Leave what you find…”
  5. “Minimize campfire impact…”
  6. “Respect Wildlife…”
  7. “Be respectful of other visitors…”

[The link to the full list is provided below for complete document]

“This list comes from a non-biblical source. So, let’s pass this through the Scriptures to see if we can or should embrace them. Do the Scriptures contradict any of these principles?”


“Which are affirmed or consistent with David’s call to marvel, and Adam’s commission to steward?”

“All of them.”

“Can we subscribe then to LNT principles, and why?” “Yes. They practically express our responsibility to steward and marvel. Furthermore, I’d assert we should be the best of LNT campers because we have a better motive. Theologian Francis Schaeffer wrote, ‘If I love the Lover, I love what the Lover has made… If I don’t love what the Lover has made–in the area of man, in the area of nature–and really love it because he made it, do I really love the Lover?’ Most LNT proponents are motivated by the pragmatism of protecting nature for the enjoyment of all. That’s a worthwhile motive for Creation Care, which we should not dismiss. The same could be said for protecting beauty for beauty’s sake. None of us likes finding trash in the wilderness. But, the Christian is called by a still higher motive: to love what our Lover has made.”

Captain’s comment: The Church erred in the 1960s when awareness was growing for the adverse effects of industrialization on the environment. It could and should have led the culture, as some Christians did with Abolition 100 years earlier. Instead, the Church was largely disengaged, and environmentalism became a wholly secular movement. Today, Christians’ aversion to liberalism too easily rejects and belittles environmentalism because of its connections with other movements with which we disagree, or the atheism or stridency of some environmentalists. I encounter too many Christian youth who are armed only with simplistic derision towards “tree-hugging.” The culture rightly dismisses a young Christian armed only with derision. We should be teaching our guys biblical discernment. When non-Christians arrive at biblical conclusions, as with LNT, we’ve opportunities for bridge-building conversations with the world around us, even when we disagree with the presuppositions that led them to their conclusions. Furthermore, we’ve opportunity to unabashedly live out our life of marvel, rightly attributing worship to the Lover due all praise. Marvel boldly!

For further reading:

Leave No Trace  I print this page for the above noncom training session.

On-line training (free). We may disagree with some of the rationale, but the practical applications are worthwhile, and consistent with our ethos.

Francis Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man. This short book was written 46 years ago, and remains the seminal Christian thinking on the subject of creation care.

Rob Niewoehner, CAPT, USN (ret), PhD, serves as Brigade Chairman and elder Annapolis Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, MD. He’s on the faculty of the US Naval Academy where he teaches Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Leadership. You can reach him at

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