From the opening chapters of creation in Genesis to the final vision of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, the Bible is filled with descriptions and insights about the larger natural world, the value placed on the natural world, God’s relationship to nature, and nature’s relationship with God.
Perhaps even more important, the Bible has a lot to say about our human relationship with the rest of creation and our human responsibility to care for creation.
Unless we see that creation as a whole has a central role in the biblical story, we will not have understood the full dynamics of that story.
The central role of all creation has been in the Bible all along. However, in our interpretations of the Bible throughout the history of Christianity, we have tended to focus on human issues to the neglect of the rest of creation.
The current ecological crisis has brought to the fore the critical role that the whole Earth ecosystem plays in the condition of humanity and our future.
It has also made us aware of the ways in which the state of the environment impacts issues of human peace and justice.
In addition, the ecological crisis has made us humans acutely aware of the importance of valuing all of nature as precious and wonderful in its own right—and not just for what it can do for humans.
2.0 CARE FOR CREATION
When we read the Bible with new eyes, we realize that care for creation is a religious issue. We discover that care for creation is not one social issue among many for which we are seeking support.
In fact, it is not even a social issue at all. Rather, care for creation is foundational to what it means to be human.
Humans are but one part of creation, albeit a critical part. God has created all of life, calls it good, and values it in its own right.
This means that our love of creation and our care for it is a matter of faith. God has a relationship with all of creation and we are called to care for creation.
2.1 God is concerned about all creation
We see that God is concerned with all creation—humans, animals, plants, land, seas, and wilderness. God called all creation “good,” even before creating humans.
And God created humans to tend the garden Earth and preserve it. As such, there is not a separation between humans and the rest of creation. It is all one world of God’s love and caring.
2.2 Humans are to take care of all creation as God does
Humans are “to take responsibility for” the arena of creation. And we learn in the creation story that this means “to serve and to preserve” the earth.
God created other animals and plants for their own sake; and God loves them for their own sake. So their value does not fundamentally reside in what they can do for humans.
To call humans the “crown of creation,” then, is not to grant humans the right to dominate but to show that being created in God’s image means that humans are to care for all creation as God does.
2.3 God’s investment in the present and the future of this world
God has invested God’s self in the present and in the future of this world that God has created. Almost all of the Old Testament was written without a belief in life after death.
When Jesus announced the arrival of the kingdom of God, he was not talking about an other-worldly kingdom. The kingdom of God has arrived here in this life.
As expressions of that kingdom, Jesus healed the sick, forgave sins, exorcised demons, welcomed outcasts, preached good news to the poor, and blessed the children.
Furthermore, Jesus prophesied that the son of man would return to earth for the consummation of time.
Paul speaks of all creation groaning in birth pains as it awaits the revelation of the children of God.
The author of Colossians says that Jesus died to reconcile all things in heaven and on Earth.
The author of Revelation has a vision of a renewed heaven and a renewed Earth with God dwelling in a New Jerusalem among the people.
In the Bible, there is a clear promise of eternal life after death, and there is an affirmation of the restoration and redemption of all creation.
This world is not just a passage to another. In fact, the assurance of life after death is promised in Scripture as a springboard for action and commitment in this world, here and now.
These are some reflections about the Bible that may help us in our time and out of our faith to address the ecological crises we face. We need to be united in our efforts to recover what the Bible says about creation and to fulfill our human responsibility to care for it.