Biblical Foundations for Christian Environmental Stewardship
God as creator, sustainer and redeemer of all things is foundational to Christian theology. Yet many Christians today believe the environment (God’s creation) is an exploitable commodity, given to us to use as we see fit. Christian environmental stewardship, also known as “Creation Care” takes a different view, reminding us that we cannot honestly declare that we love God, nor love Jesus, while at the same time destroying His creation, which He declared to be good and exists to glorify Him.
Just as God is creator of all things, so Jesus fulfills the same role as God’s son. John’s gospel conveys this – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him and without Him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3)” Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians that Jesus Christ as creator and sustainer of all things, but also as redeemer – “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (COL 1:19-20)”
Two Books Theology
Old and New Testament scriptures abound with references to God’s creation, not only to declare His glory, but also to remind us to care for His creation. Over the last 30 years or so there has been a renewal of interest in creation care among those who are believers in Christ. References to “Two Books Theology” are now finding their way into the literature, media, and the classroom. In this paradigm, proponents tell us that God can be known not only through His word, but also through His works.
Long before the notion of a two books paradigm was named as such, the apostle Paul wrote the key scriptural foundation for this understanding – Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So they [non-believers] are without excuse……. (ROM 1:20).
Iranaeus (ca. 120 – 200 CE), one of the first leaders in the Christian church, recognized that “The initial step for a soul to come to knowledge of God is contemplation of nature.”
Saint Augustine (ca. 354 – 430 CE) encouraged appreciation for God’s creation stating that “Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Read it.”
The words of the apostle Paul and other founding fathers of the Christian church clearly identify God’s works as a source of understanding and inspiration. But more powerful perhaps are the words of Job. After God’s lengthy discourse with Job (see JOB chapters 38 to 41), in which He clearly establishes the grandeur of His creation, Job replies very humbly – I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (JOB 42:5-6).
If we are careless in our stewardship of God’s creation, we not only destroy that which He has made for His glory, but we also deny others the opportunity to see with wonder and awe God’s creation.