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Ordinary Christians, extraordinary times

Why care for creation?

Our board member, Andii Bowsher, reflects on this question.

Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

Perhaps the simplest response to this would be Genesis 2:15 where we are told that the Lord God placed the human in the garden to work it and keep it.  This seems to be a human vocation that extends beyond the garden – even if harder.

There are a couple of things we could add to deepen the reflection on this verse. One is that some commentators suggest the word “earthling” for what I’ve just above Englished as “human”. The Hebrew word is “adam” which is related to the word – used earlier in the chapter – “adamah” which means earth or soil. There (v.7) we see the earthling being breathed into life from the shaped dust of the earth. This reminds us that we take our being from the same stuff as the planet we inhabit. So, we are genuinely kin to the rest of creation; our very molecules are shared with stars, seas and savannahs and all that lives from them. At the very least, caring for creation is a form of enlightened self-interest.

Another thing to notice is the phrase “work and keep” – or “till and guard” or … well, variations on that in different translations. The thing to notice is that underlying those various translations are Hebrew words translated in most other places in the Hebrew scriptures as “serve” and “guard” or “watch over” respectively. This conveys a sense like the fifth mark of mission which sums up a dimension of the Christian, indeed the human, vocation as to “Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the Earth“.

The dominion which Genesis 1:26 sees given to the human beings, is God’s dominion shared (leading some to talk of “stewardship”). When we consider the rest of chapter 1, we see God’s dominion in the teeming and flourishing and in the creating of contexts for life to be blessed and be recognised as good. Being made in God’s image, we are to share with God in blessing creation and to serve its flourishing, and its abundant goodness.

Add to these foundational considerations the following: There are laws in Torah which promote animal welfare and ecosystem health, these taken together point to creation care. Jesus clearly was at home in what we call “nature” and the way he speaks of it in parables and imagery indicates a respectful attention to the natural world and commends disciples to learn from animals, plants and ecosystems, this promotes care rather than disdainful disregard. Paul’s famous passage in Romans 8 about creation groaning indicates a sense that salvation involves all of creation as do other passages in the New Testament.

Why care for creation? Because God loves it and calls us to care for it, to attend to its flourishing and add to its abundance and in that, we too flourish and enter into God’s joy.