CREATION CARE IN A CARELESS WORLD
It was Ludwig Feuerbach who claimed that, “Nature, the world, has no value, no interest for Christians. The Christian thinks only of himself and the salvation of his soul.”1 On the contrary, “a recent college graduate observes that,
‘[Christians] claim that we have something worth living (even dying) for here:
we believe in a God who created this world, loves it and calls us to take care
of it; and the world today is in a mess.’ Might not creating a sustainable
society be a worthy goal for a church, a nation, the international global
community, as well as for individuals?”2
It would do us much
good to start thinking about the concepts of creation care and sustainable
living for biblical and environmental reasons, but also to answer the question,
“Why should we care?” Well, we care because:
Nature, the world, has no value, no interest for Christians. The Christian thinks only of himself and the salvation of his soul."
Genesis 1:1 tells
us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This dual
expression indicates that, “the heavens and the earth and everything that is in
between—all things—come to be as result of God’s creative Word and energizing
Spirit....“Through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made
that has been made” (Jn 1:3), i.e., both the regions of the cosmos (days 1-3)
and their various inhabitants (days 4-6). God cares for creation (Job 38 and
39) and sustains it.”3 “[Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and
the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful
word” (Heb. 1:3). Furthermore, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps.
19:1) and, according to Psalm 148, the sun, moon, stars, water, mountains,
hills, vegetation, animals, birds, and sea creatures all praise the Lord.
‘creation-care’ by our God, the material environment responds. It gives glory
to God. It sings to and delights in God’s love for it: “…The meadows are
covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with corn; they shout for joy
and sing” (Ps. 65:9-13).
When we realize how
much God cares for the earth and all its animate and inanimate inhabitants, we
cannot purposefully destroy it or even hurt it without directly hurting our
Creator who delights in the worship, shouts of praise, and joyful noise of the
meadows and the grasslands. As Bouma-Prediger points out, “From the
environmental perspective, by caring for the non-human created order we are
also worshipping God by allowing it to give glory to God as he intended it to.”4
Are Part Of The Earth
We are cognizant
that we are also a part of that same creation, moreover, of the very ground
that we walk on daily. The substance that we humans were created from is the
very soil that the earth is made of, and upon our death we return to this dust.
The opening chapters of the Bible teach us about the commonalities human beings
and the rest of the creation share. In Genesis 2:7, the same word is used to
describe how animals, birds and humans were ‘formed’ from the dust of the earth
(see also 1 Cor. 15:47). Humans and animals were created on the very same day.
Humanity also shares the same food given to the animals (Gen. 1:29-30) and the
same breath of life is given to all the new creatures alike (Gen. 1:30; 2:7;
6:17; Ps. 104:29.). The most extraordinary description in Psalm 104 shows how
humans and animals have the same needs and how God provides abundantly for all
creatures. As it is concluded by the authors of Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living, “To care for creation is therefore to care for a system of which
we are a part and upon which we utterly depend.”5
that, “In view of the overall pattern of the [creation] account, it is apparent
that the emphasis falls not so much on anthropology, that is, on the supremacy
of humanity, as on ecology, that is, the earthly habitation that human beings
share with other forms of ‘living beings.’”6
Care For Our Neighbor
We care for our
environment because, alongside our God, we care for our neighbor. Christians
are invited to love their neighbors and such love is not restricted to those
with whom we share ethnic, geographic or national identities. The Samaritan
story illustrates this well. We love our neighbors who are close and also who
are very distant on other continents or in abject poverty. “Space is not bar to
neighborly love. Nor is time.” As helpfully described by Spencer, White and
Vroblesky, “Just as those living on the other side of the planet are our
neighbors, so are the unborn, the men and women of future generations whom we
cannot see but who will inherit from us the consequences of our actions, and
flourish or suffer accordingly.”
We love people genuinely “from the other side of the planet to the other
end of the century.”7 Francis of Assisi, 700 years previously, said:
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of
compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow
Sabbath Teaches This
The Sabbath has a
clear environmental scope and impact. It is a reminder of the creation (Exodus
20:8-11), God’s ownership of the entire earth and that we are His stewards.
Deuteronomy chapter 5 indicates that God is interested that all of His creation
should find a Sabbath rest: “your son or daughter … male or female servant … ox
… donkey or any of your animals, … any foreigner residing in your towns, so
that your male and female servants may rest, as you do” (verse 14). The Sabbath
should be a way to protect the vulnerable as the Israelites remember that they
“were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there,”
(verse 5). This implicit inclusion of the livestock might seem odd unless we
recognize the environmental implications.
principle and its environmental impact is further clarified in the passages on
the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’ and the Jubilee principle by corresponding
legislation of the Sabbatical year in Exodus 23 and especially in Leviticus 25.
‘For six years you
are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year
let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get
food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your
vineyard and your olive grove. ‘Six days do your work, but on the seventh day
do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest.9
Spencer, White and Vroblesky
insightfully conclude that, “These verses make clear, there were environmental
and social concerns behind the Sabbatical Year. The land was not to be
exhausted by overuse. The poor were to be given access that would not otherwise
have been theirs. The law even allowed for wild animals to consume what the people left,
thereby suggesting that agriculture (and other human activities) should not be
permitted to destroy non-human life, ascribing value to non-human ecology, and
implying that awe and respect for God’s creation should not ‘give way to an
exploitation and managerial approach to nature.’”10
These verses make clear, there were environmental and social concerns behind the Sabbatical Year. The land was not to be exhausted by overuse."
shows how seriously God takes comprehensive creation care. If the Israelites
will not allow the land its Sabbath, “Then the land will enjoy its sabbath
years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your
enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.” God cares about
the Earth to the point of destroying those who destroy the Earth.11 If one truly observes the Sabbath, one
cannot remain satisfied only with one’s own redemption, restoration and
liberation. One must show concern for one’s neighbor spiritually and physically
along-side expressing genuine love toward the non-human created order.
Salvation Draws Near
Irresistible Revolution, Shane Clairborne said: “What
the world needs is people who believe so much in another world that they cannot
help but begin enacting it now.”12
God’s plan to
“reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven”13
speaks volumes about God’s desire and plan that will have its final fulfillment
in the eschatological sphere. Our desire needs to be to work closely with God
for the restoration and flourishing of creation (which is groaning for that
fulfillment and final redemption as much as our bodies are groaning),14
as part of our work for the kingdom of God in order to see that fulfillment of
the Lord’s prayer become a reality, that God’s “will be done, on earth as it is
The new earth,
restored at the final consummation of history will be the pristine garden of
delight in which there will be unsurpassed beauty and which will flourish with
continual crops of fruit and whose river and trees will continually produce
life giving leaves that will heal the nations and make the original vision of
God effective and real.16 This is not a far distant place on another
galaxy, or in far away ‘heaven’, but a place on the very earth we now live on
that will be purged of the sin—and all its consequences— and renewed. And the
dwelling for God’s people will be sustainable and healthy for eternity, just as
God desired it in the first place. We need to allow that kind of Kingdom of
Glory to penetrate into the here and now of the already inaugurated Kingdom of
Grace which, by proxy, we live in today and, furthermore, anticipate soon to be
fully realized in the second appearing of our Lord Christ Jesus.
A Christian would
do well to repent from the way s/he has thought at times about the
responsibilities towards God’s creation and to pray the prayer of Walter Rauschenbusch:
“…Grant us, we pray
you, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from
being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and
unseeing when even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of
1. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity
(New York: Harper & Row. 1957), 287.
2. Nick Spencer, Robert White and Virginia Vroblesky, Christianity,
Climate Change and Sustainable Living
Publishers, 2009), 219.
3. Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh, Truth is Stranger Than
It Used to Be, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 153.
4. Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of
the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care (Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Academic, 2001), 95.
5. Nick Spencer, Robert White and Virginia Vroblesky, Christianity,
Climate Change and Sustainable Living
Publishers, 2009), 86.
6. Bernhard Anderson, From Creation to New
Augsburg Fortress, 1994), 139.
7. Spencer, White and Vroblesky, Christianity,
Climate Change and Sustainable Living (2009), 91.
8. Saint Francis, In “Quotation Archives, All-creatures.org. http://all-creatures.org/quotes/francis+saint.html,(accessed April 6, 2013).
9. Exodus 23:10-12a.
10. Spencer, White and Vroblesky, Christianity,
Climate Change and Sustainable Living (2009), 139-140.
11. Revelation 11:18.
12. Quoted in Ben Lowe, Green Revolution:
Coming Together to Care for Creation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 11.
13. Colossians 1:20.
14. See Romans 8:18-24.
15. Matthews 6:10.
16. See Revelation 21 and 22. Furthermore, see more elaborate
exposition on this issue of the Adventist eschatological vision in Zdravko
Plantak, “For the Healing of the Nations: Repairers of Broken Walls and
Restorers of God’s Justice - Adventist Society for Religious Studies Presidential
Address 2009”, in Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol 48., No. 1. (2010): 1-11.
16. Walter Rauschenbusch, cited in The
Communion of the Saints: Prayers of the Famous, Editor, Horton Davis, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990).