Aug 26 2012

Ecology and Creation

The story of Creation begins in the opening chapters of the Bible.  Most people are quite familiar with the biblical accounts found in the first two chapters of Genesis.  Once the story is told, however, it is certainly not forgotten.  Israel’s affirmation of God as Creator played a central role in the other writings of the Old Testament.  The doctrine of Creation continued to be a key element of the New Testament and the faith of Christians.  It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of the doctrine of Creation.  In so many ways it determines our understanding of God, ourselves, and the world we live in.  It also affects how we live our lives on this planet.

This past week I read a book entitled Creation by Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University.  In this beautiful little book McGrath talks about the many ways the doctrine of Creation affects our lives.  He wisely notes that understanding the earth to be God’s Creation not only affects how we think about the world but also changes the way we behave toward it.  He says, “It forces us to abandon any idea of the earth as our servant which we can exploit as we please.  Instead, we are forced to think of the world as something wonderful and beautiful, created and loved by God, which we are called to tend, as Adam tended the garden of Eden.”

McGrath goes on to offer four major implications for ecology that evolve from the Christian doctrine of creation:  1. “The natural order, including humanity, is the result of God’s act of creation, and is affirmed to be God’s possession.” 2. “Humanity is distinguished from the remainder of creation by being created in the ‘image of God.’  This distinction is about the delegation of responsibility rather than the conferral of privilege.  It does not encourage or legitimize environmental exploitation or degradation.”    3. “Humanity is charged with the tending of creation, in the knowledge that this creation is the cherished possession of God.”  4. “There is no basis for asserting that humanity has the ‘right’ to do what it pleases with the natural order.  The creation is God’s, and has been entrusted to us.  We are to act as its guardian, not its exploiter.”

Over the years some have tried to blame our modern ecological crisis on Christians.  They point out that many in the church have taught that humans are called to have “dominion” over the earth and that this means it is ours to do with as we please.  Unfortunately, many have, in fact, taught this. What we desperately need to do is make sure people realize that this is a distortion of the biblical narrative and that a proper understanding of the doctrine of Creation demands practices and a lifestyle that brings good to the earth, not harm.  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, if anyone should be leading the way in caring for the earth it ought to be Christians.  This has been our calling from the very beginning and will remain our calling until the very end.  Whether we live up to this calling remains to be seen.

–Chuck

(I took the floral images shown above this past Friday at a private garden in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.)