The Bible, Joy and Creation Care

What motivates us for creation care and how does this relate to a biblical view of mission?

In ch. 12 of The Mission of God, Chris Wright gives a missional framework for creation care under the heading, Mission and God’s Earth. The subheadings do a good job of telling the story:

The Earth is the Lord’s

– The goodness of creation (A good creation can only be the work of a good God; Creation is intrinsically good);
– The sanctity (but not divinity) of creation;
– The whole earth as the field of God’s mission and ours;
– God’s glory as the goal of creation;
– God’s redemption of the whole creation

Care of Creation and Christian Mission

– Creation care is an urgent issue in today’s world;
– Creation care flows from love and obedience to God;
– Creation care exercises our priestly and kingly role in relation to the earth;
– Creation care tests our motivation for mission
– Creation care is a prophetic opportunity for the church
– Creation care embodies a biblical balance of compassion and justice

Often our care of creation comes from a sense of responsibility and stewardship, which is both biblical and necessary. But might joy be a spur to action as well?

Texts like the following have a kind of infectious joy about them:

There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. (Ps. 104:26)

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy,
before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. (Ps. 96:11-13)

Even Yahweh’s speeches in Job depict something of the joy God has in his creation, almost like a parent who never tires of showing pictures of their child.

My point is this: our responsibility towards God’s good creation should motivate us to care for creation, but so should our enjoyment of creation. Or, to put it another way, not just our enjoyment of creation but our joining with creation with its own enjoyment, both in the wonderful ways God has created it/us, but also in the way creation ‘enjoys’ and praises God.

(for more on these ideas of joy and creation see such writers as William Brown, Gordon McConville, and Terence Fretheim).

(This is ‘Green Week’ at Redcliffe. We are giving the care of creation a special emphasis as we consider what we could do more of and less of).

Old Testament and the Environment

One of the modules available on Redcliffe’s MA in Global Issues in Contemporary Mission is ‘The Greening of Mission’. Today I joined the class to look at some material on creation and the environment in the Old Testament.

I gave them three pieces of preparatory reading:

1. Read ch.4 of C.J.H. Wright’s Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Leicester: IVP, 2004);

2. Read Gordon Wenham’s article, The Bible and the Environment, which is available on the John Ray Initiative website;

3. Have a look at the Old Testament and Ecology blog. This is one I’ve recently discovered, which is written by a Justin Allison, a PhD student in Old Testament based in the States.

Here’s a quote from Wenham’s article:

Two terms are used in Genesis to describe man’s management function vis-a-vis the rest of creation. He is told to ‘have dominion’ (Hebrew radah) over other living creatures, fish, birds, cattle and creeping things and to ‘subdue’ (kabash) the earth. ‘Have dominion’ is quite a positive term for ruling. Whereas many people today have an anarchist streak, or at least an antipathy to those in authority, that was not the official outlook of the ancient Near East, who saw kings as essentially benevolent and concerned with their subjects’ welfare. Psalm 72 puts this message powerfully:

Give the king thy justice, O God,
May he judge thy people with righteousness
and thy poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
(Psalm 72: 1-3)

To ‘have dominion’ means to be in charge of something, e.g. workers (1 Kings 4: 24; 9: 23). To be sure some people may abuse their authority and exercise power harshly (Leviticus 25: 43), but that is clearly not the intention here. Man is created in God’s image, and so as his representative is expected to act in a Godlike way, and God throughout Genesis 1 and 2 is portrayed as a thoroughly creation-friendly deity.

Bible, Mission and the Environment in a Finite World

Encounters issue 28Issue 28 of Encounters, Redcliffe College’s missions E-journal, is now out. The theme is Mission and the Environment in a Finite World and contains papers from the 2009 Environment Day held at Redcliffe in January in partnership with the John Ray Initiative.

Of particular note for Bible and Mission enthusiasts are two articles by Dewi Hughes, Theological Advisor for Tearfund, who writes on True Wealth from the perspectives of the Old and New Testaments: True Wealth (Part One: Old Testament) – God’s blueprint for justice-based living and True Wealth (Part Two: New Testament) – Jesus’ radical Kingdom-ethics message.

I also contribute a book review of Ruth Valerio’s revised edition of her ‘L’ is for Lifestyle.

Please read, enjoy, reflect, and respond: Go to Issue 28 of Encounters