- Christian Tradition about Creation Care
Biblical Foundation for Creation Care
- Human role toward creation: Subdue and Rule; Serve and Keep Genesis 1-2
God gives commandment in Gen 1:26-28 for man to “subdue the earth and rule over the rest of creation”. God made man and woman in His image with all the skill, intellectual, emotional capacity and capability. The meaning of subdue in Genesis 1:26-28 does not imply to “abuse” or “violence”. And the meaning of rule over in the verse is a responsibility of human beings entrusted by God to exercising authority and dominion over the rest of creation. Men and women exercise the authority with wisdom, power, goodness, grace, compassion, faithfulness, provision, protection, justice and and love1.
Another mandate that God gave to human is in Gen 2:15 “to serve it and to take care of the creation”. The word “to serve” means doing hard work in order to serve so that it would persist and flourish. The words “to take care of it” comes from Hebrew word “samar” means to keep something safe with protection, care and watchfulness. It indicates a task of loving, caring, sustaining kind of keeping the Earth. This implies that men’s role of ruling over the creation is for the earth's benefit-- to care and protect for its best interest2.
- Creation is Created for God's glory
God created the earth, and everything on it, is for God’s glory. In Psalm 24:1 stated that “the earth is the LORD's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it”. The earth is not ours but God's, it is not about “my land” but God's land. Psalm 19, Psalm 148 also implies that all the creation praises God. The purpose of the creation is to praise and glorify God. When we care for the creation, we are sharing in this creation's great purpose of giving praise and glory unto the LORD.
- Human life and creation are integrally bound together
All creature are intertwined each other. The meaning of Hebrew name for Adam :”ground or soil”. The earth provides for us, for our survival and food, but the earth also suffers with us. Human wickedness and greediness produces ecological stress which is suffering for the creation. Whatever we do in this earth, for good or for ill, will have ecological impact because of the integration between human life and all other life on earth.
- All things reconciled by Christ
Colossians 1:15-23. it is talking about the whole of created universe (15-17). It sketched out about God's grand plan for the whole universe emphasized and centralized on the cross. We are redeemed as part of the redeemed creation
- Conclusion : Christian ought to be in the forefront of caring for creation. Christian should seek to live on the planet in ways that are now generally approved as “green”
- Historical Theology & Church Position-Denomination’s Stand
Augustine of Hippo (354–430),
In Western theology, the view that “spirit is perfect and matter is imperfect” became deeply imbedded through the writings of Augustine of Hippo (354–430), whose theology was strongly shaped by neo-Platonic thought3. Man and woman bear God’s image and the rest creation is the secondary imaging of God’s glory. Though Augustine did see creation as displaying God’s glory, he did not seem to value the very materiality of creation as God’s good gift4.
God created living and non-living entities in relation to one another to achieve their common good—the internal sustainability of the world. Natural dominion is based on the human ability to know and to will good outcomes that are consistent with the orderly universe God created. Thus, humans should be cooperating with God by carrying out God’s plan for the world.
Most of Church position-denomination's stand about creation care:
- It is hard for the evangelicals to take the environment seriously. Evangelicals are 'gospel people', and the gospel is focused on the salvation of people from sin.
- Some of evangelical community do not believe that the Bible teaches creation care as an essential part of the Good News of Jesus Christ, or that it must be an indispensable part of faithful Christian witness
Our stumbling block to Creation’s Care
There are some reasons by Christians to withdraw from the problem of creation. This stumbling blocks impact our discipleship related to caring for the creation. Some of the main stumbling blocks are5:
- This world is not my home. I am just passing through
- Caring for creation gets us too close with new age movement
- Respecting creation gets us too close with new age movement and pantheism
- We need to avoid anything that looks like political correctness
- There are too many worldly people out there doing environmental things
- Caring for creation will lead to world government
Our root problems about Creation Care6:
- The inheritance from Greek philosophy
In a step away from biblical teachings, Christian theology came to view the material world as separate from and strictly inferior to the spirit world. In what became classic Christian theism, God, as pure spirit, was seen as unchangeable and impassive. The Christian ideal was to deny or escape from the material world into the world of the pure spiritual contemplation of God.
- The ideal Christian life in medieval Christendom—
The natural world was a mere symbol, a metaphor pointing towards a higher eternal spiritual reality. It had little value in itself. Spiritual growth was therefore, self-evidently, a journey of ascent from the material to the spiritual.
- Enlightenment rationalism --over-reliance on reason
Human beings were subjects examining “objective” nature. The natural world was increasingly objectified—something to be studied, subjected to technique, and used for human purposes.
From the beginning, critics of capitalism warned of two major negatives: Its power to enslave and exploit the poor (especially laborers) who had no capital and therefore little economic power, and the power of wealth to enslave the wealthy. Human beings are corrupted by sin and will therefore use the freedom and power they possess to selfish ends and to exploit others.
Today individualism is further compounded by consumerism and materialism. Much of society is dedicated to the promotion, purchase, and then speedy replacement of brand-name products whose prices bear little relationship to the actual cost of manufacture.
- Uncritical patriotism.
A fifth ingredient in the mix that undermines a sense of environmental stewardship is unreflective patriotism. Nationalistic patriotism leading to arrogance, empire-building, and an exploitive attitude toward other nations and peoples seems to be a constant of history.
- Neglect of the biblical doctrine of creation.
Evangelical theology often lacks a robust biblical theology of creation. Evangelicals have rightly emphasized God as the source of the created order but have not reflected deeply on the nature of the created order and the mutual interdependence it implies between humanity and the physical environment.
- Premillennial dispensationalism
Premillennial dispensationalism beliefs that the earth and all the material creation is going to be destroyed. If destruction is sure and imminent, it is pointless to be concerned about creation care.
- Scientific and Social Studies about Deforestation
Deforestation is clearing Earth's forests on a massive scale, often resulting in damage to the quality of the land7. Deforestation is one of the major cause of global warming, global climate change. Forest is being cut down for human need. Trees absorb greenhouse gases and carbon emissions. They produce oxygen and perpetuate the water cycle by releasing water vapor into the atmosphere. Without trees, forest lands can quickly become barren land8.
Based on the data from World Resource Institute in 1997, Indonesia had lost 72% of their primary forest. The main reason is because expansion of pulp and plywood industry which has already ongoing this 20-30 years. More than half of timber raw material comes from illegal logging because of the deficit of wood supply. Illegal logging produces 1.8 billion cubic feet of logs annually, resulting in Indonesia financial losses of approximately $3.37 billion9. This large amount is enough for basic service for all poor people in the country for their health and education service.
Palm Oil and Deforestation
Palm Oil plantation is one of the major caused of deforestation in Indonesia and 26 million hectares are projected for 2025. Rainforest area the equivalent of 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour 10. Food and cosmetics companies are driving the demand for new palm oil supplies, partly for products that contain non-hydrogenated solid vegetable fats.
Some of the facts about palm oil11:
- Netherland is the biggest importer of Palm Oil in Europe followed by England
- 90% of the world export Palm Oil comes from palm plantation of Malaysia and Indonesia
- The demand need of palm oil globally will be increase twice on the year of 2020
- more than 100 million tons of vegetable oil produced every year, and 30 million tons of it is from palm oil
- Relationships found
There are some relationships found in the case of deforestation:
- Industrial need—economic need (also greediness)
- Poverty and injustice for local people
- The low level of awareness of the society
- The low level of government ability to manage the forest
- Disorder of local and national government policies related to Forestry
- Inadequate education for local people to understand their problem
- The silence of the church
- Problem in Christian's doctrines
- Method of Decision Making
- Deontological method:
Creation belongs to God and part of God's plan of redemption in Jesus Christ. Creation Care is part of our mission task in this fallen world. Christian ought to be in the forefront of caring for creation
- Teleological method: The condition of environment destruction is urgent to resolve and it needs Christians involvement as salt and light
- Start from the church. The involvement of Christians (as individual and as church) to resolve this sector (as prophetic witness)
- produce steward disciple not the careerist
- involvement in political and environmental ethics
- prepare young generation to understand about environmental issue and how to deal with
- prevention is better than cure
- Decision Making for conflict between economical industrial need, environmental issue and local people
- promote sustainable development “green” Industry
- promote economic justice for local people
- promote the awareness of the society, educate community (local-regional-national) to understand their problem
- Increase the ability of the government to manage the forest
On the case that Sarah faced about deforestation in the mission field village that she lived, we could give some recommendation for her toward her ministry. Some of the main recommendations are:
- She must to set up her blue print/platform of her ministry in the village, how to integrate the ministry and the issue problem of local people.
- She could be involved in promoting environmental care in the village as part of her integrative mission to the local people. For example build the awareness of the society and educate community (local-regional-national) to understand their problem. She could start it through the church activities personal or communal. She could approach the leaders to have the same vision and understanding about creation care. The church also can be a model of how Christians take care of Creation as it is mandated in the bible.
- If she is not capable on her background study about deforestation, she could invite friends who are expert in this area to give training and education to local people. Also they could promote the involvement of members of the church related to this issue.
- She also could motivate the local people to ask and use dialog with the company and investors to promote social justice to local people. Every company have Community Development program for local people, and they can ask dialog about the policy to have green sustainable development for industries built near the village. She also could build friendship networking with NGO who already established and ask the involvement of this NGO to protect the right of local people.
1Christopher Wright, The Mission of God's People, Grand Raphid: Zondervan, 2010, p. 50
2 Ibid, p.51
3 Howard A. Snyder, Salvation means creation healed: creation, cross, kingdom, mission. Paper on Kingdom Conference, Asbury Theological Seminary, 2005
5 Calvin B DeWitt, Creation’s Environmental Challenge to Evangelical Christianity, Evangelical Review of Theology Vol 17, No 2, April 1993. P.143-146
6 Howard A. Snyder, op.cit.,
11Surjono Hadi S, unpublished presentation, Institute Pertanian Bogor, 2010