Living with other Creatures – review
Living with other Creatures: Green Exegesis and Theology, by Richard Bauckham, September 2011. Authentic Media, 250 pages, ISBN 978-1-8422-7740-9. RRP £15.99 (paperback), £11.32 (ebook)
This collection consists of two new and eight previously published essays ranging from the place of humanity in creation to that of the creation mysticism found in Matthew Fox and Francis of Assisi to issues of biodiversity.
The essays are written to encourage the church to recover eco-friendly perspectives present in the Bible and other Christian traditions. There is an underlying concern in them to unearth themes that have been lost in the course of intellectual history. Bauckham particularly identifies the “baddies” as ancient Stoic philosophy and early modern scientists such as Francis Bacon. For Bauckham their influence has led to a “domination” interpretation of texts such as Genesis 1:26-28. Also, he shows how such have led to the neglect of perspectives that show God as a Creator who values all creation and intends human dominion to be not of domination but caregiving.
While Bauckham’s defense of the Judeo-Christian tradition has much truth, I wonder whether placing the blame on intellectual movements is not missing the point of the fall narratives which surely reveal our rebellious tendency to see what we want to see and not how God sees it. The fall narratives uncover sins too close to home thus making them too unpalatable for our self-preserving natures. It strikes me that those of us who take for granted the comforts of living in an economically developed nation must take the blame for domination orientated readings. Like Cain we live life denying that we are to care for our brothers and sisters, and that includes non-human creation. In contrast to Bauckham, I suspect churches of all denominations and traditions cannot be so easily acquitted of their crimes against creation.
I want to finish this review by briefly observing some of the recovered eco-friendly perspectives Bauckham carefully identifies. One is the Bible’s teaching about the relationship between humans and other creatures in creation – God did not create the world and other creatures strictly for human use. God values all creation. Another is the observation of the Jewish Sabbath in which God sets restraints on humanity’s economic drive. Bauckham also asserts that the Sabbath year teaches human beings of their appropriate place within the created order, and their dependence upon God for his provisions. Another key theme in the Bible is that of all creation giving praise to God. For example, in the book of Revelation creation’s unified praise of God foreshadows the renewal of all creation and non-human creation praises God throughout the book of Psalms.
In sum, the reader encounters many biblical perspectives that assert that other creatures are our fellow-creatures and that we are neither lords nor priests of creation. All creatures relate to their Creator without human mediation. These perspectives should be sufficient to challenge each of us to walk more humbly and mindfully with our non-human brothers and sisters.
Comments on "Living with other Creatures – review"
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