In a conversation this weekend, I was asked to clarify my thoughts on creation care, and since my answer provides some background to my previous post I thought I would jot down my answer.
My theology of creation begins with Colossians 1:16 “for in him [Christ] all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.” This simple hymn (whatever its origin) is a distillation of the theology expressed in Genesis 1 and John 1. Namely, God through and with the Word (later incarnate) created all of creation and has due dominion over creation. This is pretty straightforward and is believed by most people who claim Christianity.
The next bit is a bit more confusing, but stay with me. I look to Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul wrote this to Philippi, a Roman colony, the Philippians were colonists originally of Rome and now of Heaven. What is the purpose of a colony (think American history) to spread the glory, honor, and culture of the homeland. The Philippians (and ourselves) are to spread the culture of heaven.
What is the culture of Heaven we are to spread? Several things, but for our present purposes: that the earth through Christ is being (and will be) restored to the purity of Eden cf. Revelation 21 & 22.
This is a roundabout way of saying I take Genesis 1:28 seriously that God gave humanity responsibility over fish and fowl and beast. God gave us the responsibility to look after God’s creation (Psalm 24:1 & 1 Corinthians 10:26) as God desires. Having dominion does not mean we rule over creation as we see fit; rather, that we are custodians of creation helping to guide it into the shape God desires. We as humans must act like a grounds crew, positively developing the environment to get the maximum use. (please do not stretch that metaphor too far).
Wrapped up into one streamline idea: “God created the universe (Col. 1:16) and maintains ownership of the universe (Ps. 24:1, 1 Cor. 10:26); God has placed humanity on earth as colonists (Phil. 3:20), with the mandate to work at making creation into what God desires until the time that Christ comes again and the earth is completely restored (Rev. 21-22).”
How does this play out? I don’t know about you but this is how I see my responsibilities.
- Cleaning the local environment- If I declare that this is God’s creation and that I am to take responsibility for making it what God desires, then I must clean trash when I see it, whether it is my own making or not. This means picking up litter and other debris when it negatively impacts creation. Along the same lines, I need to consider how much waste I put into the environment.
- Advocating for clean air and water- God desires a healthy creation and so we must strive to clean these systems which most impact the health of created beings (including ourselves). Now I understand the modern life is bound to have an impact on creation (civilization impacts nature that cannot be helped). Yet, some industries impact creation more than others and have an economic incentive to do so. (Mining for instance greatly impacts the environment and companies can achieve higher profits by not reclaiming the land after). These individuals who profit the most and have the greatest impact on the environment must be held to high standards. And each of us has a responsibility to ensure these standards are being met. This goes double in the cases where companies want to be easy on the environment. Those companies which make claims about wanting to be positive for the environment should most welcome standards which help them hold to that claim.
- Responsible hunting and fishing- I know this is somewhat controversial and perhaps not for everyone; but, food chains are a fact of life. I have grown increasingly aware of issues within wildlife population related to overpopulation. As someone who lives on an omnivorous diet, I will eat meat. Responsibly taking select game out of the environment has two benefits. First, it frees up food and shelter for those individuals of the species which remain in the wild. Taking a deer out of the environment frees up resources for other deer helping them to grow healthier. This is even more necessary as we eliminate other natural predators. Second, by taking and eating a wild animal, I lessen the burden on commercial farming.
There are other ways in which my belief that I am to take care of creation plays out, but, these are three major ways. The astute reader will notice that I am not building my case on climate science or political talking-points. I am attempting to work outward from a Biblical framework to develop an ethical platform on which to live. For me, it is of little concern how much of climate science is legitimate; in fact, it is of little concern if the climate is changing. The important matter is am I living out my command to maintain God’s world?
Anyone interested in what I am talking about can start with one of these resources: