@Jake; creation theology and ecology

February 19, 2009

Usually it is said that if your comment become as long as a post, better get your own blog and post it there. So, in response to Jake’s question to me, this is what I’ll say:

What will the church of the future look like? What do be need to focus on? Well, I believe that one thing that needs to get some serious attention is a theology of creation. How do we think about the world in which we find ourselves in light of our reflection on God, how do we think about God’s act of creation, and what about God’s continous acts of creation?

Turn to the classic creation narratives (remember not the only ones we find in the Bible), Genesis 1 & 2. Was the earth perfect before the little incident with the evil snake in Genesis 3? A bit of background is in order. We have two totally different creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2. The first probably from a priestly source, talking about creation in 7 days with rest on the last, the second probably from a non-Jerusalem common-folk source. The first point to the cultic rythm, showing that it is inherent in creation, the second the the task of looking after the land, working on it.

Then in Genesis 3 we have the snake and apple incident. What traditionally we call “the Fall”. The Fall, from total perfectude, to total depravity, so we were taught. My problem is that the two creation narratives, and especially the first, doesn’t prepare me for the coming fall. Genesis 1 teached that all living things is created, each to its specie. Everything, the whole system exist in Genesis 1. Genesis is similar, and Genesis 3 talk about the relationship between man and earth, man and creation, being broken. The only hardship spreading out that is not directed at man, is directed towards the snake. But this “total depravity” doesn’t talk about nature turning against itself, does it? Not in these texts at least?

Jesus’ message was clear, the kingdom of God is at hand. The gospel of John makes it even clearer, Jesus came to give life to the full. It is not something for someday. To take the Isaiah 11 text literally, would beg to ask why in living out believe in God’s continues creation and re-creation of creation, we are not taking part in making this true. As David Bosch would have said, if God’s idea of heaven mean that wolf and lamb dwell together, then surely God would want it for earth as well? (Think the Lord’s prayer?).

So, in response to your question Jake. I think we need to focus on man’s broken relationship with creation. Genesis 3 doesn’t seem to point to an inherent brokenness in creation, but simply brokenness because of the relation to man. I see deep theological value for our current conversation on ecology! In taking part in the coming of the kingdom here, we should restore the relationship of man to creation, and so restore creation.

I believe that this still leave a lot of unanswered questions. But this is my 2 cents worth for now…

4 Responses to “@Jake; creation theology and ecology”

  1. Jake Belder Says:

    Just a few thoughts in response: I think Gen. 3:17ff. make it quite clear that creation suffered in the Fall as well (God curses the ground, and talks of thorns and thistles rising up). I believe that there was some sort of ecological system in place before the Fall, certainly. Genesis 2 is pretty clear about that, speaking of the mist/dew that rose up from the ground to water the earth, and the rivers that watered the Garden. And it also mentions that the earth was relatively undeveloped, that God planted His Garden, but intended man to cultivate the rest of the earth.

    I agree with you, Cobus, that man’s relationship to creation is broken. We don’t live in harmony. Severe weather–droughts, floods, hurricanes, avalanches–claims the lives of mankind all the time. There’s always droughts and famines.

    I know you’re wanting to steer the conversation towards ecology, and that’s good, but we need to remember that Creation, properly defined, is not merely the physical, natural earth, but encompasses everything that God created.

    So I would reiterate what I said in my comment on my own site. We certainly have a responsibility to think about how we relate to they physical creation, and we have a responsibility to be stewards of that creation, as God intended us to be. But insofar as trying to heal that relationship, I think we are severely limited. We can do our part to lessen the effects of pollution and what not, and we should, but there are some things we just cannot control.

    As to our role of healing man’s relationship to the other aspects of creation, however–culture, our relationship to other humans, sexuality, etc.–those are certainly things we can and must do.

    Anyway, it’s past midnight here so I need to get to bed, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

    Really enjoying this conversation!

  2. cobus Says:

    Genesis 3 talks about the snake, the woman and the man. Because of what the snake has done, he will sail around and get his head crushed. Because of what the woman has done, she will have difficulty bearing children, and her husband will rule over her (mmm, hasn’t Jesus already changed that by liberating woman? There is now no difference between male and female, Jew and Greek…). Because of what the male has done, he will have difficulty producing food. The earth will make it difficult for him to produce food.

    I’m not sure how far we can go in linking anything more, thus your reference to the circle of life, to this. As for other aspects, I believe certain cultural and sexual aspects are found in the relationship between male and female messed up in Genesis 3, and that we do attempt to redeem, then why not nature?

    But a few questions which I believe is critical for this conversation:
    1) What is the relationship between pre-Genesis 3 creation and post-resurrection creation?
    2) If creation is more than the physical, what is it then?
    3) And then of course, what influence may the modern sciences have on our theology of creation?

    This is an important conversation!

  3. Jake Says:

    Indeed it is. I’m glad we’re having it.

    Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t attempt to redeem the physical creation. It’s just that nature is so much bigger than us and has such incredible power over us that we are limited in what we can effectively do.

    Anyway, to your questions. As I understand it, the pre-Fall creation and the post-Resurrection creation are similar. Free from sin, in perfect harmony with God. Parts of Romans 8:18-25 talk about this future glory, and speak of the creation being set free. While it will return to perfection, paradise, it will be better I think, in that it will be more developed and cultivated. I think the imagery of the magnitude of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 lead us to thinking this way.

    For Creation as more than physical, I mean that it also encompasses all the norms that govern all of creation. Not just physical laws and norms, but also norms for culture, politics, the family, and so on. But I’m actually just going to leave it at that because we’re talking about ecology…

    As for the question about science, that field is one I know very little about. However, if we want to talk about worship in a theology of creation, I think modern science can help us do that. As it reveals to us the incredible intricacies of nature, it drives us to worship God as we come to realize that only He could create something so incredible.

  4. cobus Says:

    This conversation is getting me to recognize how much more we need to think through these ideas.

    If we take science seriously, then we see a world created in violence, that was violent right through.

    Genesis talk about a world in harmony. I see this as a theological reality! Theology in narrative form communicating something within a certain context (excile/post-excile Persian empire for Genesis 1, rural Israel peasant community for 2, but whatever, that’s not important now).

    This theology had an influence post-resurrection in developing the implication for an early persecuted church on what the post-resurrection reality might look like.

    Now I’m seriously going to let my presuppositions out:-)… all of this theology (which is what it is) gets written from the perspective of the current… and now I’m not sure where I’m getting to…I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to attemp to understand in how far the idea of these narratives was to change the current to reflect these theologies more, and to what extent it was to create hope in a future.

    OK, I’m going to start rambling now… but I think that we’re going to find different ideas in different parts of the Bible. Some expect these ideal images, whether talking about the original creation or the new creation, to be possible within this world, others consider it impossible. Isn’t that where the tension in our eschatology, a healthy tension I think, come in?

    So, back to ecology. As theologians we need to consider this general eschatology, and ecology will fall within this. And our hope for the world of nature can be as much as our hope in a world where war ends… theologically… I think.

    Still lots that I’d need to think about though

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