Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sanctity of life.

I have been reflecting on one particular lecture given at the Prague conference. David Gushee (Prof. of Christian Ethics, Mercer University) challenged us about applying "sanctity of life" to the whole of creation. In a closely argued paper he challenged the dominant idea of humans "stewarding" creation by ruling over it, and argued instead for a servant leadership that is open to earth-keeping, creation care and protection of the integrity of creation. Sadly, in the past many evangelicals have treated such environmental matters as "liberal" non-essentials.

Ranging over biblical teachings, he invited us to re-read the creation narratives (Gen.1-2) to "see" non-human life and its value, to reassess God's ongoing covenant with all creatures (Gen 9:8ff), to mine the legal materials, creation psalms (such as Ps 104), wisdom literature and prophetic teachings which value highly the ecosystems and creatures of creation. Especially, he emphasized the theology of cosmic redemption and the reconciliation of all things in Christ. While some Christians assume that this world can be discarded, Scripture sees it as part of God's ultimate master plan. (Incidentally, in my devotion this morning Jonah 4:11 jumped out: "and also many animals"!)

This big cosmic picture particularly interests me because I am shortly beginning a sermon series on Colossians. As soon as you open Col. 1, you see Christ as "the source and glue and destiny of all creation." Christ comes to reconcile and reclaim all creation (Col 1:20). I shall seek to keep God's big picture for all creation in focus.


Anonymous said...

So if we are to value ecosystems, which ones do we value? Does this mean that creation as we live in it is a static reality? Do we try to go back and recreate an earlier ecosystem?

That's my problem with these teachings. What is it that we are supposed to do? Does this mean we can't change things or have any impact on them? Even animal and plant life can enhance or harm (really read, change) an ecosystem. Do we not plant adequate food crops even because this will change the ecosystem?

I think that we are better with the idea of stewardship as wise use. This doesn't rule out change but does suggest avoidance of damage.

As with humans, as you pointed out, the new earth and heavens will be accomplished by God in Jesus. It's not our job to make this happen because we can't.

What we can do is follow our Lord in the remaking of our very beings so that when we are changed finally we will be ready to live in the new heavens and earth.

Anonymous said...

The "stewardship" model is so ingrained in the thinking of believers that it is difficult for many of us to get our arms around a "servant" model and its practical impact. In my mind, it need not be backward looking so that it requires that we try to recreate an earlier ecosystem. Prospectively, however, it does, it seems to me, create a different framework by which we define our relationship to the rest of God's creation and our interactions with it. Further, it generates in me a greater respect for the centrality of God as Creator. It is, after all, His creation, not ours. I'm not sure how this alternate perspective translates into the mundane. A little help here?