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Creation Is Watching

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By Paul de Vries, NY Divinity School

Here is a fascinating literal quotation from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the people “in Rome who are loved by God” (Romans 1:7):

19The Creation waits in eager expectation for the time God will reveal who his children really are20 The creation was unwillingly subjected to pollution [mataioths = worthlessness], and this was allowed so that in hope 21the creation itself will be freed from the bondage of depletion [fqora = decay, depletion] and into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.   – Romans 8:19-21

These amazing words in context makes it clear that if we now call ourselves children of God—especially as we desire to see and show the evidence that we truly are his children—we will serve God and labor to free Creation from its pollution, its “subjection to being trashed.”  We will also labor to release Creation from its “bondage of depletion,” in the knowledge of the powerful presence everywhere of the love of God.  Then creation herself will then clearly see “who God’s children really are.”

Notice that the two key issues of pollution (“subjection to being trashed”) and depletion of resources (“slavery of depletion”) were issues for Paul and the Holy Spirit already 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter to all the people “in Rome who are loved by God” (1:7).  Perhaps we are now able to measure the consequences more easily, but the actual abuse of Creation has always been evident to anyone who honors and loves God and lives in gratitude for his splendid Creation.  Even before there were scientifically measurable consequences from pollutants and resource depletion, errors of ungodly attitudes toward the Creator’s workmanship were evident enough to wise observers.

Care for God’s splendid, resourceful creation is a HUGE theme in the Bible.  In fact, it is a HUGE theme on four powerful fronts – each front strengthened repeatedly from Genesis through Revelation, the full scope of the Bible text:

  • Front #1: Justice: Everything God made is good, so that “all pollutants are resources out of place.” So, we should look for and try to use the good in whatever “trash” that we are now throwing away.  Whatever harm there is in Creation also distorts its inherent goodness.  Therefore, if we messed it up, we should clean it up.
  • Front #2: Accountability: At the very beginning, the Creator defined men and women as his stewards, to do as he would do for Creation, and to “improve and protect” his earth. This stewardship and accountability were communicated very shortly after the creation of the original man and woman.
  • Front #3: Love: The Divine royal law “Love your neighbor as yourself” should define our relationships with all people, everywhere, present and future.  To love others is to want and to work for a healthful environment for all people to live and prosper.
  • Front #4: Vigilance: The Creator takes personally our treatment of his world, because he is the LORD. He is Life himself. And he is the “Cosmic Glue”TM that holds it all together.  In all the ways we care for God’s Creation, the Creator takes our actions personally.

Wow!  Our work surely matters to God!  “But why would God give humanity any responsibility at all?” is a valid question going right back to Genesis 1 when he designed us humans as his appointed stewards.  If we trust the Lord’s wisdom, we can assume he has deep purposes putting so much of his work at risk, but in our hands.  Only by giving us the gift of free will and the control over creation could God show us how desperately we need him—and also allow us to love him, to repent, to do good, to achieve greatness, and to become more like Him.

And by the way, it does not ultimately matter whether all the climate scientists and ecology scientists are right about present crises.  Creation-care is a precious opportunity and commitment, at any time.  In terms of decisions we must make, we face a kind of “wager” in our choices now.

  • If we practice Creation-care and most of the present climate scientists are right, everyone benefits, in the present and future generations, on every continent!  If most of these scientists are wrong and we still practice Biblical Creation-care, the environment is better anyway—for present and future generations on every continent, with less pollution, less disease, more access to needed resources, and such like. Moreover, our Creator is honored and pleased.  Either way, Creation-care is worthy, whether most of the climate scientists are right or wrong.
  • If we do not practice Creation-care and most of the present climate scientists are right, there is hell to pay by us and by others, even on different continents.  If these present climate scientists are wrong and we do not practice Creation-care, we have still made the environment worse for others, and ourselves, including our children and grandchildren on every continent, with more pollution, more disease, less access to needed resources, and such like. Moreover, our Creator is dishonored and displeased. He has made his principles clear enough.  Either way, Creation-care is worthy, whether most of the climate scientists are right or wrong.

Therefore, ultimately Creation-Care is not primarily about climate science.

  1. It is about holistic Godly consciousness, character, conscience and conduct that honor the amazing Creator most of all, and personally express our gratitude to our living Creator as well.
  1. It is also about achieving sustainable positive results for people and Creation – not jumping on aimless bandwagons. For example, with the production of exceptionally clean and cheap natural gas, any blind ideological resistance to it simply because it is a hydro-carbon fuel becomes very unwise.

May Creation take note that we are working for her in good faith today, and may she be able to recognize that there are many true children of God among us (Romans 8:19).

Paul H. de Vries, pauldevries.com, is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, author, and speaker. He is a specialist in biblical hermeneutics and in biblical applied ethics.