Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Eco-Theology: Part 2, Responsibility
Is it the church's responsibility to care for the earth?
That's the big question that must be answered by all churches in order to move forward. It seems most Christians and churches assume no, it's not our responsibility. If this question is answered in the affirmative, that yes, God desires that his poeple care for the earth, it's animals, plants and geology as well as its people, then we have a lot of work to do. If the answer is no, then all we have to worry about is people, that's a lot easier. In the past it was easy to say we should care about people because they have souls, and that's it, people were assumed to matter eternally, not anything else. Today, even those who do not beleive the creation is worth caring for (are there really people like that?) are realizing that creation care effects people, not just plants and animals. It seems that people are literally dying due to global warming which is causing crop failure, drought, excessive rain, and maybe even things like hurricanes. And of course air and water pollution is hurting us all. If these things are really happening due to an increase in greenhouse gasses we must all begin living in ways that are sustainable for the sake of our neighbors and ourselves.
That said, scripture and my man Karl Barth lay out a theological framework for creation care that points the church toward a serious care for all of God's creation, not only for the sake of people, but for the sake of every animal and every plant that has been put on this earth by God. We beleive God did not create out of anger or chaos. The world we live in, its plants, animals, mountains, streams, seas and valleys are intentional acts of love flowing from the creative mind of God. If we believe in God as creator we have no choice but to respect all creation as under the Lordship of Christ.
Colossians 1:15 says all things have been created through Him (Jesus) and for Him. From the context we know that this verse is placing Jesus as Lord over all of creation, seen and unseen, even powers and governements. First in this partial verse we are told that creation came to be through Jesus, making him the one whom all things belong. We are borrowers, tenants, caretakers, stewards, of this earth - it's not ours, it belongs to Jesus, and he's coming back to claim it. It also says that creation is FOR Jesus, not for us! This is contrary to what I hear Christains saying all the time, that Jesus gave us the earth for us to use, drill, cut, burn, etc. No, the earth is not ours, it belongs to the triune God, it was made by him and for him. This is scarry, what will Jesus say when he comes back in power and majesty to take his bride? It may be like expecting a grand cathedral for a wedding, but finding the wedding was moved next door to the fire hall. That's what we're telling Jesus when we, his bride, says we don't care about the earth. Instead of using Jesus' return as an excuse not to care for the earth we need to be doing the opposite, caring for it in a with expectation of his return, hoping that the physical aspect of creation will be beautiful for the eschatolgical wedding of Christ and his church.
Barth says, “ethics must venture the thought that ‘dedication must be extended not only to man but also to creature, and in fact to all life that exists in the world and enters the sphere of man.” Here Barth begins the theological work needed to create a framework for eco-theology. I hope and pray that the church is not too late. I hope we can still be witness to the Lordship of Jesus through our humble stewardship of this earth.