What’s Christianity Got To Do With The Environment?
by Matt Humphrey
The Bible has quite a bit to say about the environment – far more than can be fit into a tidy article! Nevertheless, at the risk of painting with too big a brush, here are a few important biblical themes that lay the groundwork for an ethic of Creation Care:
1. What is humanity’s place in Creation?
Throughout Christian history we have tended to read the Bible as though human life was all God was interested in. However, the biblical vision is one of all Creation flourishing with human beings as God’s appointed stewards and safeguards of it all. Our “caring for and keeping” the garden (Gen 2:15) and our “ruling over and subduing” Creation (Gen 1: 26-28) are the fitting actions of a human life rightly oriented towards God, our neighbors, and all of Creation.
This world belongs to God and was created out of love. “The whole earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” declares the psalmist (24:1), building on the Genesis account of God delighting in all of Creation and declaring it “very good.” The praise which the psalmist offers to God in worship is the fitting response to God’s gracious work of creating and sustaining all that is. We are born into a world in which all of our needs are provided for by the hand of a generous and loving God. And not just our “needs” – if God were only interested in our “needs” we would have a far simpler world! Consider the sheer variety of finches and fish. This is not about necessity but abundance! And the Bible clearly proclaims this abundant world was made and is everywhere sustained by a God who loves it.
2. What is the problem?
The reality of human disobedience and brokenness – what the Bible calls sin – is not just about disobedience to God, but also the fracturing of our core human identity. Our relationships with God, other humans, and all Creation are now broken.
Hosea 4:1-3 puts it cogently: “Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel; for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness, no love of God, and no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing.”
This motif of havoc is echoed by many prophets. While human beings have the great and holy role of being stewards and safeguards of Creation, their failure to do this leads quite quickly to the chaos the prophets envision, a chaos we can relate to today as refugees from environmental degradation reach historic levels and the land lies polluted under our feet.
3. What is our hope?
The New Testament offers a hopeful vision of redemption. Colossians 1:15-20 states, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus), and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, having made peace through the blood of His cross; whether things on earth or things in heaven.” It is explicitly clear–God is reconciling all things to Himself through Christ.
God’s redemption and reconciliation is not just about humanity – it is cosmic in scope! Paul writes in Romans, “Creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the children of God” (8:19). God’s New Creation is in the process of being born right now! God is at work in the world “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Our great fortune is participating in that work and bearing witness to the life and ways of Jesus in all that we do.
The future which New Testament writers anticipate is “a new heaven and a new earth” —one cleansed from the effects of human sin and violence, reconciled to God, and with redeemed image bearers walking in the ways of Jesus. This, I suggest, is the heart of the biblical vision of earthkeeping. If God’s future promises the reconciliation of all things, then we have work to do in the present caring for all things the way God does. We respond to the great hope of Christ’s resurrection and give our lives towards this vision of all Creation restored, reconciled, and flourishing.
Matt and his wife Roxy serve as Community Life Coordinators and are passionate about Brooksdale’s internship program, fruit trees, chickens and slow food.