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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tamarisk Trees

Reading: Genesis 15-21

"32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba. So Abimelech rose with Phichol, the commander of his army, and they returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days. (emphasis mine)"

This can explained by the following quote:

"Why did Abraham plant a tamarisk? Trees were often used as memorials for great men. It is therefore appropriate that Abraham should honor God by planting the tamarisk. It would be a permanent memorial of the covenant between the two."*

In the same way, we should preserve forests and habitat for God's glory and plant trees to restore his creation in honour of Him and in memory of our recognition of our role as stewards of creation.

Note also that Abraham planted a tamarisk tree- a tree common in the Beersheba region- not a great Cedar or some other plant that may have seemed appropriate but was exotic to the region. We should also remember to do our research into the plants that actually lived in our area before planting. Thus we can prevent mistakes like planting forests where naturally there was in fact grassland (trust me, it has happened!).


Friday, January 30, 2009

"the Lord, God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth"

Reading: Genesis 14

The title of this post is how Abram named the Lord to the king of Sodom in verse 22.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Overusing Resources Causes Strife

Reading: Genesis 13

Today's chapter discusses Abram (Abraham)'s inheritance of Canaan and his agreement with Lot.

After leaving Egypt Abram and Lot run into some trouble due to the size of their wealth in livestock, silver and gold.

"6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (emphasis mine)"

Though unsaid, it is likely that Abram and Lot's decision to split up was also influenced by their sense of stewardship and a desire to not to harm the land.

It is interesting however that the reason given is a desire to prevent strife over scarce resources. This is quite an interesting topic. The fact is that we live in a world of limited resources, and strife and conflict often accompany the distribution or claiming of these resources. Countless wars have been fought over resources such as water, oil and gold. It is disturbing to predict what kind of conflicts may be caused in the near future by our ever expanding population as developing nations begin to demand the lifestyle of the west. The harsh reality is that there are not enough resources for everyone to live as we do. We are faced then with an ethical dilemma- how can we continue to consume at a rate that would take several planets to support if everyone did the same, while others go without? And if we ignore the inequality that exists in the world will we be forced by war or strife to defend what we have?

One of the many reasons I think we should have switched to renewable energy sources years ago is because I wonder what will happen if we reach peak oil unprepared. What will happen to the global economy, stability and peace when we suddenly realise we are about to run out of oil? What will powerful countries like America do to obtain the last stocks of oil? And what will happen to those countries, and places unlucky enough to have oil stocks? When America can already be accused of going to war over oil twice and has a rampant debate over drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge(!) not to mention the incredible forests they are destroying with the previously unviable sand oil mining. What's next? Oil drilling in the Great Barrier Reef? We are going to allow shark finning there to make a bit of money in spite of the ecological concerns so why not?

Then there is climate change. As precipitation patterns change worldwide and masses of environmental refugees are created by sealevel rise and starvation we can likely expect wars- especially over water and arable land.

Economics was created as a method of distributing resources in an 'efficient' manner; using scarce resources to meet unlimited wants. I confess deep disappointment however in our modern systems of economics however as by placing value only on that with a price we have massively overlooked nature. The world's ecological systems provide billions of dollars worth of what is known as 'ecosystem services' (clean drinking water, decomposition of wastes, genetic diversity) each year. Yet as there is no price on the use of these resources they are given little value and have been abused- some beyond recovery (at least on local scales). We are beset by problems like the 'Tragedy of the Commons' and the 'Prisoner's Dillemma'. Impacts upon the environment are simply labelled 'negative externalities' and undervalued or not even counted.

Unfortunately the solution available to Abram and Lot is not available to us. We cannot simply split up and find new pastures. We only have one planet, and we have to live with what we have. We cannot delude ourselves that we can move to Mars or some other planet- the problems we are facing are too urgent and the technology to do so to far away. Besides, how ethical is it to destroy this planet then move on to another? Are we to leave behind a string of planet-sized wastelands? Don't tell me we wouldn't. It would be uneconomic and would require time and effort to clean up the Earth after we moved to Mars. I don't think it would happen.

One more verse I want to discuss:
"10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. (emphasis mine)"

Don't you find it interesting how our view of the land is always linked to where we come from, and often where our family comes from as well? It seems to me that you will always picture the land as it was where you grew up. For example, if you mention a tree to me I will think of one of the red ironbarks near where I grew up; if you mention a forest I will think of the open sclerophyll forest those ironbarks made up with the understory of acacias and pea flowers. Yet if you mention hills or farms I will picture something green and rolling like the pictures I have seen of English or Irish countryside. I hate that I think this, and enjoy this picture, as I want to think of Australian grasslands- yet this is a leftover of my family history, and perhaps too much TV. Many people who move to Australia never quite come to terms with the harshness and often dryness of the landscape. Indeed, this inability to adapt has destroyed vast swathes of our land. The colonisers simply couldn't seem to get it through their thick heads that Australia was not England. Hence the crops they grew, the way they grew them and the animals they raised. Hence the introduction of rabbits and foxes, and the war against our native wildlife. Hence their view that land was only good if it was 'improved' (clearfelled, stumped and left open to erosion, monoculture and weeds). This was the worst possible expression of a deluded group of settlers and a 'dominion' mentality. Let's hope we have learnt our lesson.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Genesis 6-12

Reading: Genesis Chapter 6-12

Sorry about the delay updating, I have been moving house.

These chapters are a reminder of how proud and stupid man can be at times. In chapter 6 the Lord despairs of mankind and decides to destroy it, save one man and his family. In chapter 7 he sends a great flood to destroy all living things but those in the ark. Note though that even in his anger God made sure that a pair of every species was included in the ark, that none should become extinct. In chapters 8-9 he remembers His creatures, rescues them and makes a new covenant with them. Chapters 10-12 offers lessons in history, and the humbling story of the Tower of Babel.

Let's look at the flood a bit more closely.
"the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence" (Genesis 6:11).
God was displeased with His creation, so he delivered judgement in the form of a flood.

" 17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive." (emphasis mine)

God's commands to Noah concerning the ark are interesting. It is obvious He considered no species surplus or unimportant enough that He was willing to let it perish. Can you imagine then how God must feel about all the species we have allowed to become exinct? The modern day ark that is the conservation movement is a very leaky one indeed. Rather than saving all species it often focuses its resources on saving the 'cute', 'cuddly' and the 'useful'. This is, of course, due at least partly to a chronic lack of resources; but it is also due to a lack of will. If the public cared for creation like most care for their bank balances, the future of many species would not look so dim.

After the flood has covered the earth for 150 days "God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark."(8:1) He makes the waters recede and Noah offers him burnt offerings.
"21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
22 “While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.” "

With this promise God has established the natural laws. He will not destroy every living thing or curse the ground for man's sake again. Also, the natural cycles of the seasons, days, temperatures and planting times are now to never cease.

Animals are now given to man as food and God makes a covenant with "you, and your descendants after you, and with every living creature with you".
11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. "

It is important to note that this covenant was made not only with man but with all living things. As Redeeming Creation** says "An understanding of this covenant is of more than historical or theological interest. It is foundational to understanding an authentic value for life that God has placed in the world, and of his determination to preserve it."(p74)

What does this mean today?
The following quote from the website of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change*** (ARRCC) (this website is well worth a look!) is useful in discovering the importance of the story of the ark in relation to today's world.

"The story of Noah's flood is common to Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. It is a story of divine punishment of humans for their wickedness and depravity in the form of an enormous flood. God saved only Noah (a righteous man) and his family, and pairs of all the animals on earth. They took refuge in an ark which Noah had built, while the waters rose around them. The symbolism of Noah's flood seems very appropriate, given that our sea levels are rising and may rise further as global warming causes Arrcctic ice shelves to melt. But more than this, the ark is a reminder of God's covenant with the ancient Israelites. The Israelites understood that God's relationship with them also included the natural world. The Israelites were to act justly with each other and to steward the land. If they did not, then their wrongdoing was manifest in environmental disaster - such as droughts and floods. The whole earth suffered the consequences of human action.

After the waters subsided, God promised never again to cause such a flood. It is not God who is causing the problem of climate change - it is humanity failing in our responsibilities to each other and to all creation."

Peter Illyn in his blog DeepGreenCoversation**** sums up how the chapters of Genesis we have read so far make the case for protecting species:
"The theology for protecting species is unambiguous: Plants and animals have an inherent right to be fruitful and to thrive as God has commanded them. In Genesis alone, we read that God created the different species and called them good. God blessed them and told them to fill the earth. God protected the different species by bringing them to the Ark. And lastly, God covenanted with Noah and “with all life on earth for all generations to come” (Genesis 9:12)."

Question for thought:
As the church, do we have a responsibility to provide an ark for the forgotten species?

**Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship by Fred Van Dyke, Davic C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon and Raymond H. Brand, published by InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove Illinois 1996

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Genesis Five

I cannot detect any verses concerning the environment within this passage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The blood of your brother cries out!

Reading: Genesis chapter 4

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how this chapter relates to the environment though. I am interested though in the way verse eleven - twelve says "So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you." It is almost as though the earth itself has a sense of justice and rejects Cain for his sin....

Anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Fall of Man and its Consequences for the rest of Creation

Reading: Genesis 3

I am sure there have been entire books written about the Fall of Man and its implications. Obviously I cannot get into such detail here. What I am really interested in though is what the implications of the Fall are for creation and our relationship with the environment.

The Fall interrupted the relationship between man and the rest of creation. Instead of the land producing food for mankind freely, man now has to toil to eat 'by the sweat of your brow' and fight with the thorns and thistles to produce food. Man had trespassed on the providence within Eden and was now kicked out.

With sin came death; and death came to more than just man that day- in verse 21 we are told that God created clothing for Adam and Eve of skins.

Our broken relationship with God meant that we no longer instictively understand how He wishes us to relate to His creation. Our rebellion against God began with the Fall and it continues in our revolt against His will in relation to the care of creation. As Redeeming Creation states* "The sinful nature of humanity is nowhere more evident [than] in a world in which we possess the means to care for creation but not the will."(page 63)

"The biblical doctrine of creation assures us that mission is not truly holistic unless it includes the church's mission to and in behalf of the earth. In the biblical vision, God acts in Jesus Christ not to save men and women out of their environment, but with their environment. The biblical vision has always been God's people serving God's purposes in God's land.
The theological truth here is based in both creation and fall. God created man and woman in harmony with himself, with each other, and with the created world. Man and woman were at peace (shalom) with God, with themselves and each other, and with the plants and animals God had made.

Sin, however, brought disruption in a fourfold sense. As Francis Schaeffer pointed out years ago, human disobedience brought alienation between 18 humans and God and as a result an internal alienation within each person (alienation from oneself), alienation between humans, and alienation from nature. All derive from sin; all distort God's good purpose in creation. These are all concerns therefore of the gospel of reconciliation, and they clarify the church's mission agenda. Faithful Christian mission focuses on healing the four alienations that have resulted from the fall. Creation care, therefore—working for reconciliation between humans and the created order—is an indispensable element in Christian mission. It is part of the gospel.

The argument here is both theological and strategic. Theological, because a fully biblical view of mission will necessarily include the dimension of creation care. But also strategic and pragmatic, because a holistic theology and practice of mission that incorporates creation care is much more persuasive. Do we want people of all nations and cultures to come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world? Then we should proclaim and demonstrate that Jesus is the renewer of the whole creation, the whole face of the earth. Salvation is that big. This is a grander portrayal of Christ than we sometimes present. It both honors our Savior and makes the gospel more persuasive and attractive when we present a gospel of total healing—the healing of creation; the restoration of all things. This is truly the whole gospel for the whole world." (

All creation suffers for our sin, though innocent. As Romans 8:20 says:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who are the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV emphasis mine)

"Until God finally brings the new heavens and the new earth, the creation groans, suffering the effects of the fall and of ongoing human exploitation. It is our responsibility to care for creation, to work to relieve its suffering. The disorder and suffering that entered the world through human sin is not the final word, and it is not God's final intention. Like our own gardens and house plants and pets, the creation depends on us to see its need and to respond with God's compassion and care.
In great measure, God's other creatures depend on us for their well- being and survival. Increasingly, in fact, we see that the whole biosphere is more dependent on human nurture and care than we would have imagined. We need to recover the biblical sense of why creation exists, how it proclaims God's glory, and of how all nature will par ticipate in God's salvation. Since all God's creatures reflect God's glory and have a place in God's plan, they are part of legitimate Christian concern. If God cares for and about the creatures, so should we." (

Despite the Fall, there is hope, because the redemption offered to us by Christ's sacrifice is also offered to creation. Yet as seen in Romans 8:20 the redemption of creation is linked to our own freedom as the children of God. I believe it is God's will for Christians to take a leading role in caring for creation and in restoring the world, that God might finish the renewal at the end of time. To do so would perhaps go some way to making up for the Fall.

Tomorrow: Genesis chapter 4

* Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship by Fred Van Dyke, Davic C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon and Raymond H. Brand, published by InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove Illinois 1996

Monday, January 19, 2009

To Tend and Keep

Reading: Genesis 2

Genesis 2:15
Many would say that Genesis 1:28 should not be read without also consulting Genesis 2:15 "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." I tend to agree. There can be no clearer statement of what God meant by "rule" or "have dominion over" than Genesis 2:15.

I believe that as God's servants and children we should be ashamed of what we have done to the earth. The only parts of creation we tend and keep are those that have some value to us. It makes me think of Matthew 24:45-51 'The Faithful Sevant and the Evil servant'.

45 "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
48But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'
49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Just a quick note- notice the use of the word 'ruler' in verse 47. This clearly does not mean that the servant owns his master's goods or that he can neglect them, simply that he is made steward over them.

Also, do you think it is plausible to include animals among the 'fellow servants' in verse 49? And to equate eating and drinking with the drunkards with the waste of resources and gluttony embodied in modern consumerism?

It is significant to note how early in the piece we were given this responsibility to care for 'Eden' by God. It was not until much much later that we were given the 10 Commandments, let alone the Great Commission. Why is it then, that Christians see the Great Commission as so much more important than creation care? I'm not saying evangelism is not important, but could it perhaps be a case of "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23)?

Genesis 2:4-6
I just wanted to quickly point out this verse because it intrigues me. I know I said I would not get into the evolution debate but note here it says that:

"This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground." (emphasis mine).

Note that the plants have already been created in chapter 1 verse 11, yet here is says that after creation there had not been any plants of the fields grown.

Genesis 2:18-20

"'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him. Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name."

Two things to note:
1. God says Adam should not be alone, so he creates the animals.
2. Adam is given the privilege of naming each creature.

The first note points clearly to the fact that the Lord does not want us to wipe out every other species on earth so that we will be alone again. It is good for us to have other species present. Perhaps an illustration of this is the fact that studies have shown people who own pets live longer than those who don't.

The second note is interesting. If you give a child a toy, when does it become really special to them? Usually when they name it. If it is just 'that toy' the child will have little ownership or care for the item; but once it becomes 'teddy' or 'blankie' it suddenly becomes important and the child wants to look after it (as well as they can) and play with it.

Redeeming Creation, one of my favourite Eco-Theology books says of Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 says, "In this context, the term subdue is apparently God's instruction to Adam to continue to bring what God has created into conformity with his ways and purposes... Certainly, Adam's first act of subduing (and perhaps, tragically, his last) was to name the animals. Here we see Adam cooperating with God in continuing to order what God had made. It was God who brought order out of chaos. But now, not out of need but out of love, he involves a human being in the continuing work of the ordering of creation. In the mind of God, this was what it meant to subdue" (page 91)*

This blog post is interesting if anyone would like to look at this further:

Last note: Redeeming Creation also points out that as Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed they did not need to wear furs or skins.

Tomorrow: Genesis 3 and the Fall of Man

* Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship by Fred Van Dyke, Davic C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon and Raymond H. Brand, published by InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove Illinois 1996

First Ever Five Leaf Eco-Award Basic Certificate presented to Port Melbourne Uniting Church Today!

Before I sign out for the night; today I presented the Five Leaf Eco-Award Basic Certificate to Port Melbourne Uniting Church. As members of the Melbourne Pilot, Port Melbourne received the first Basic Certificate ever. Presenting the certificate was a moment of great honour and joy for me, and I would like to congratulate the Port Melbourne congregation and particularly their green team lead by Janet Hoare, on their achievement.

I will post more information about what Port Melbourne did to earn the award and a photo of the presentation soon.

For those of you who know me, I finished my part-time position in Melbourne on Friday and I am now looking forward to returning to Canberra and university in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned for Genesis 2 tomorrow...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the beginning...

Reading: Genesis 1
(I am using the New King James Version)

The beginning of a story sets the scene for the rest of the action and can be essential to understanding the relationships between the characters. Genesis is no exception. Genesis chapter one is possibly the most important chapter in the entire Bible when it comes to the relationship between man and nature, nature and God and God and man.

Let's take a look at some of the significant passages:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Simple, but very important. The earth is God's creation; his workmanship and craft. Just as you can learn about a person by studying their work, we can learn about God by studying the earth.

God then creates light, separates day and night; divides the waters with a firmament; and creates dry land from the sea. Basically, God creates the conditions needed for his next creation - life. He begins with plants "grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit". He then creates the sun and moon and sets them to "rule" over the day and night (I will get back to the significance of this in a minute)

Now he creates the animals, and he blesses them, saying "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the waters in the seas...". Afterward he "saw that it was good". This is important - remember man has not been created yet. This timing refutes a belief held by many people (both Christian and non) about where animals obtain their value. This belief is that animals receive their value from their usefulness to man. Therefore cattle are more valuable than wild kangaroos, edible fish more valuable than inedible, and predatory species that occasionally take human lives should be killed.

This worldview influences even our conservation efforts. We often justify the preservation of rainforests by stating that there is a chance the ‘cure for cancer’ could be found in one of the plants or animals living in that environment. We justify the conservation of species and habitats in developing nations by noting how it helps the poor. We may even allow the hunting of endangered species by indigenous people for cultural value. Value to mankind seems like a reasonable way to decide upon our actions towards God’s creatures.

But look at the passage again. You will note that God declares the animals good before he even creates humans. He does not wait until the animals are of use to humankind and then declare them good. No! According to God, animals are good. They have intrinsic value, in and of themselves, completely independent of mankind. The value of animals comes from God, and from being a part of his creation- much the same as ours does.

Finally, God creates man. "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over....every living thing." (emphasis mine)

This passage is famous for the contention surrounding it and for being blamed by many as the reason Christians have exploited and abused the earth for at least the last 200 years.

So, the first thing I have always wanted to know about this verse is what is the exact translation of the hebrew word here quoted as dominion. I took the opportunity a few years ago to ask the (then) Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburne- George Browning- about this. He explained to me that the hebrew word in verse 26 translated as dominion or rule is the same word used earlier in verses 16-18 where God "made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night." (emphasis mine) I was quite inspired by this idea of ruling earth. It inspires the kind of leadership where a monarch serves his people, consistant with the servant leadership demonstrated by Jesus. For the sun does not take anything from the earth, rather it provides light and energy to enable life to thrive. It is my belief that humanity should contribute positively to the earth and not negatively or even neutrally.

How do you think we might achieve this?

The other really interesting thing about this verse is the phrase "in our image". That we are made in God’s image and likeness, is a big clue as to how we are to rule the earth. We need simply look at God and how he treats the animals. There are many answers throughout the Bible, but perhaps the best illustration can be found in Psalms 104. This entire Psalm tells of God’s provision for his creatures, but the following passage is a nice summary:

10 He sends the springs into the valleys,

They flow among the hills.
11 They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.
13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.

This is an interesting contrast to the Snowy Hydro scheme I visited on an excursion one year. They had placed a dam on a raging stream; completely swallowing it up. They just took the stream away to water crops and make electricity. Now the trees and animals have only a dry streambed.

The well known passage of Matthew 6:25-34 in the Sermon on the Mount also tells of God’s provision for his creatures- clothing the lillies of the field and feeding the birds of the air.

Before I finish I would like to note two more interesting things about Genesis 1.

Firstly, have a look at verse 29-30 "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food." Likewise for animals. Yes, as a vegetarian I am pointing this out slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it would seem that before the fall all people and animals ate only herbs and fruit. I understand why many people find the decision to become vegetarian too difficult; which is why for me it is a personal choice and not something I would impose upon others. However, it is undenyable that we would use considerably less resources in the western world if we were to at least significantly cut down on our meat consumption. In the defence of meat-eaters though, do not let vegetarians lord it over you too much. Our oh-so-environmentally-friendly tofu burger is probably made from soybeans grown in what was the Amazon and cooked in palm oil to make sure we kill the orang-utans as well.

Lastly, one theory I have heard about why some Christians avoid the environmental movement is because of the debate over evolution. Apparently they think that since they disagree with scientists about the evolution vs creation issue, they have to disagree with scientists about everything- including climate change and environmental issues. All I can say is I disagree with my best friend on lots of things- that doesn't mean I don't agree with her the rest of the time, or that I don't trust her word.

I am not going to go any further into the evolution debate- it has been done many times and I don't want to cover such old ground again.

If anyone would like to make a contribution to this commentary on Genesis 1 comments are most welcome. This blog is not just about me talking, it is about learning from God's word together. After all, I don't have any qualifications in theology and I am writing this blog as much to learn myself as to teach.

Please also feel free to reproduce anything in this blog and change it to make it appropriate for your church group or Bible study.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Crown of Thorns - The symbolism

In case you are wondering why I chose the name "Crown of Thorns" here are a couple of the reasons:
  • Personally, I find the idea of a crown of thorns an appropriate metaphor for the role my environmental conscience in my life. It is a burden I carry all the time, a constant irritation that reminds me that everything I do has an impact on the planet and the creatures in it. My crown of thorns reminds me to buy recycled, Fairtrade and low-energy products; to reuse, share and recycle things; or better yet, to avoid buying things at all. It pushes me to establish programs like Five Leaf in an effort to make a difference; and to learn all that I can. I am far from perfect, and sometimes I wish I couldn't feel the thorns, but my conscience is my constant reminder and motivator- a force that makes me live for more than myself.
  • On a more theological note I think the Crown of Thorns is also appropriate because "In Christian symbolism, thorns and thistles represent the fall of man, sin, sorrows, trials, snares, adversity, enemies, temptations, the wicked, and the Passion of Jesus Christ. Thorns came upon the earth when the Lord cursed the ground to punish Adam's transgression (Gen 3:18). Christ, therefore, wore the symbol of sin and punishment as He atoned for our sins." * The Crown of Thorns reminds us that the fall of man has subjected all of creation to futility and pain and that upon the revealing of the sons of God "creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God"** Our sins and temptations have lead us to add to the suffering of the earth, and in recent years the groaning has become almost audible. But this symbol also provides hope, reminding us that Jesus has atoned for our sins and we are the forgiven children of God.
  • I just want to pause at Romans 8:19 quickly- "creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." Isn't it interesting that creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed so that it can be freed from the bondage of corruption? It is not just waiting for Jesus's sacrifice, but rather for the sons of God to reveal themselves somehow. I believe it means that creation is waiting for the Church to take the lead in environmental care and restoration. After all, who should care for the father's work/creation more than his children? And how better can creation recognise the sons of God than by seeing those who care for His creation as befits those who love God?
Tomorrow I will start the Green Bible Challenge with the chapter that begins it all and I will have a look at some of the most interesting environmental verses in the Bible...

Stay tuned, and let me know if your church mentions an environmental Bible verse in church tomorrow.

** Romans 8:19-22

Welcome to My Blog!

Greetings and welcome to my new blog - Crown of Thorns.

I have created this blog as a tool for discussing Eco-Theology and Church Greening through the Five Leaf programs. There will be two main focuses to this blog:

1. The Green Bible Challenge
Inspired by the release of the Green Bible (see for more information) I have decided to read through the entire Bible highlighting the passages concerned with creation and how it relates to God and man. I am challenging everyone to join me and to multiply the impact of the study by highlighting an extra Bible to donate to their church. My hope is that seeing how many verses there are in the Bible about caring for creation and discussing their meaning will inspire others to join me in the campaign to green the church.

2. As founder of Five Leaf Eco-Ministries I want to share my stories about the struggles involved in running a church greening program. I want to keep those interested in the program up to date on what is happening and to share the highs and lows. I also hope that my stories might provide inspiration and knowledge that will help others to begin greening their churches or to join the Five Leaf programs.

I will also add comments about any important environmental news and the findings of my research into church empowerment.

I hope you enjoy the journey,

Yours Sincerely,


Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+