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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"There is a truth which has claimed us. We do not possess it; it possesses us."

I just liked this quote from the Joint Commission on Church Union, The Faith of the Church, Melbourne, Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand, 1959 (one of the documents from the development of the Uniting Church in Australia).

Also in this document:

"We confess one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all things. All things have their being through the Word of His power; His rule is over all His creatures. It is His purpose that all creation should praise and serve Him."

Which is cool. Then it also goes on to call man the "crown of His creation", which I disagree with because I agree with Bishop George Browning and others who believe the crown of creation is in fact the sabbath, which was created after mankind, making it God's last great act of creation (which is the weak reasoning for why man is often called 'the crown of creation'). Also it says that God "entered into covenant with man that He would not destroy him from off the face of the earth", when actually the covenant was with all creation as well as humankind (Genesis 9:8-11).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The effect of Biblicism on Eco-Faith

I was reading through chapter 3 of Daniel L. Migliore's Faith Seeking Understanding (1991) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Michigan, today in preparation for class. The chapter is about the authority of Scripture and it mentions what is called the 'biblicist view' where "the Bible is authoritative by virtue of its supernatural origin and the direct identity of its words with the Word of God" (p47). It insists that "every book, every chapter, every verse, every word was directly inspired by God" (p47), as opposed to the traditional doctrine of the inspiration of scripture which "affirms that God the Holy Spirit accompanied and guided the human writers of Scripture, respecting their humanity in all its limitations and its conditioning by historical, social, and cultural context, yet conveying God's Word through those human witnesses" (p47). Basically, in the biblicist view the writers of Scripture were simply secretaries taking down the exact dictation of the Lord without any input of their own.

This view is interesting because it requires that the Bible be infallible. "The defense of the Christian faith thus becomes the defense of the doctrine of infallibility" (p48). Apart from the spiritual issues of this, I bring it up because of what it has been doing to the relationship between science and religion and the environment and religion within some areas of the church. When pushed to the extreme, the biblicist view says the Bible cannot err in anything it says, including any science it mentions. While I believe it is often our interpretation of the Bible rather than what it actually says that causes issues between science and religion (for example in Darwin's time when the Bible had been interpreted using our previous knowledge of science for hundreds of years and then Darwin's discoveries were seen as being in contest with the Bible. The contest was really about the traditional interpretation of the Bible and the science that interpretation was based on, not any particular clash between the Bible itself and the new science), if the Bible is interpreted in a literal way, and assumed to be inerrant, then the earth must have four corners (Isaiah 11:12, Rev 7:1) and edges (multiple references), along with several other things that are clearly not in line with our current scientific understanding, including a 6 day creation.

There are two ways to approach this: the Bible is inerrant and must be interpreted literally, thus the world has four corners; or there is another way to interpret these verses. Perhaps 'four corners of the earth' is a figure of speech based in the culture of the author of that section of scripture who was more concerned with getting across a spiritual message inspired by God than being scientifically accurate in every way for generations to come and scientific advances the author could never have dreamed of.

As someone trained in science myself, how anyone could cling to biblicism to the point of deciding that the earth has four corners and all our science is completely wrong is beyond me. Actually, maybe it is not. If your entire faith is based on this idea of the Bible as perfect, and you only know one way to interpret it, then perhaps the only way to hold onto your faith is to just put your head in the sand and refuse to listen to reason or science. What a shame though to have such a weak and inflexible faith! I can't help wishing such people would do just a little theological study - it tears down those ideas pretty quickly. It soon becomes obvious that we cannot base our faith on the idea that the Bible is scientifically or historically correct - because in parts it is neither. As Migliore says "a church with an infallible teaching office [such as the Pope] or an infallible Bible no longer allows scripture to work as liberating and life-giving Word in its own way. Insistence on the infallibility of the Bible obscures the true basis of Christian confidence" (p48). "Christians do not believe in the Bible; they believe in the living God attested by the Bible. Scripture is indispensable in bringing us into a new relationship with the living God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and thus into new relationship with others and with the entire creation" (p50).

It is my hope and prayer that those who do not believe in, for example, what science says about evolution based on their interpretation of the creation narrative, will stop using this as an excuse to stick their heads in the sand and refuse to believe anything else science tells them (eg. about climate change). I also hope that we will reconsider how we approach the concept of the Bible's inspiration/infallibility. Why should we be defending infallibility instead of faith? How many people have turned away from the church, turned away from a life-giving faith and salvation in Jesus, because someone insisted that to do so they must turn their brain off, forget all the science they ever learnt and believe in things that don't make any sense when taken literally? How many people falsely think that faith and the environment have to be enemies because of this one idea, this one concept of seeing the Bible and its authority? How many of them have no idea that theology based on other interpretations of the Word have lead to a rich and growing school of eco-theology that embraces science and the truth about God's creation? If we care about saving souls, then perhaps some thought on these issues is needed in certain sectors of the church. Happily, these issues do not affect most of the churches I have dealt with - courageous and inspirational groups fighting for God's creation.

The last point I want to make is that I think having to ignore science to hold up a view of the meaning of a couple of verses of Scripture is actually showing a lack of faith. If we have to protect the perfection of God by  ignoring the results of experiments designed using the best minds and technology we have, then we don't actually believe He is perfect. God Himself is inerrant. And the science that is being done today is rather good, and big ideas like climate change are not promoted until even the ultra-cautious and conservative leaning of the scientists is overcome by the weight of the evidence and astoundingly small confidence intervals.
So if the science is right, and God is definitely right, and we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and thus has value for us, then it begs the question - is our interpretation of the Bible right? Or is it too narrow?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The environment in Habakkuk

We had a talk the other day from Jeanette Mathews who has just finished writing a PHD on Habakkuk. Among many other interesting things, a couple of relations to the environment came up in what she told us:

The Earth is both a violated object (2:17) and a subject offering praise (2:14,20; 3:3) in the book. It, along with stones, rafters, the deep and the sun speak and act. Also natural (and military) imagery are used to portray God and His presence (sunlight, thunderstorm, lightning). Some of the natural elements are also used as deities (rivers, sea, sun, moon etc.).

Along with many of the prophets, Habakkuk obviously found the environment a useful source of inspiration and metaphor for his prophecy, and also saw the importance of the role the Earth plays as a subject of God and an actor in His drama.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Want to convert a climate skeptic? Empathy is the key

Interesting blog entry. Check it out at

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Support Sustainable Seafood Day!

SSD 11 poster imageSustainable Seafood Day is your chance to support sustainable fishing and help transform the seafood market, one meal at a time.

It's easy to take part in Sustainable Seafood Day

All you have to do is eat a dish made with MSC certified sustainable seafood on the day. It's that easy. Cook it at home, make a sandwich for lunch at work or grab a table at the many restaurants, cafes and workplace canteens taking part. Check out the list of restaurants, cafes and canteens taking part this year, and the retailers providing MSC certified seafood. 
Restaurants, cafes and canteens can show their support for sustainable fishing practices by simply putting MSC certified seafood on the menu. Find out how you can take part in this year’s event. 

When is it?

This year’s Sustainable Seafood Day is to be held on Friday 18th March, 2011.

What happened last year?

Last year, more than 29 participating caf├ęs, restaurants and canteens from across the country, served up an array of wild caught seafood, showcasing the wide range of sustainable options available for us to enjoy all year round.
Also, a number of international organisations in the seafood supply chain, such as Compass Group and John West, lent their support as did institutions such as Taronga Zoo and The University of Technology, Sydney.

Where can I find sustainable seafood?

All major supermarkets in Australia offer at least one MSC certified sustainable seafood option, and many offer dozens of choices. For a full list of all outlets for MSC certified fish see where to buy.

What does the MSC ecolabel mean?

All MSC-labelled seafood has been certified to the highest standard for sustainability in fisheries management. Fisheries apply, are assessed by independent, third-party certifiers and - if they meet our rigorous science-based standard - are allowed to put the MSC ecolabel on their product.

How does it make a difference?

By choosing MSC labelled seafood you can be sure you are supporting fisheries that are well managed and catching fish sustainably.
From the MSC Website

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent Stewardship Reflections

Invitation from the Eco-Justice program, NCC USA
During this season of Lent, we invite you to reflect on some of the many Biblical teachings that call us, as Christians, to be good stewards of God’s Creation and seek justice for all of our brothers and sisters.

This Lent, we will be sharing reflections on scripture that we feel speaks to the importance and role of eco-justice in our communities.

Each week, we will post these reflections on our blog. The scripture that we will be basing our reflections on are:
•    Week 1: Ezekiel 34:18-19
•    Week 2: John 20:21-22
•    Week 3: Acts 2:44-45 
•    Week 4: Mark 8:1-9
•    Week 5: Matthew 18:20 
•    Week 6: John 20:24-27   

More points of interest from my theology studies

Some points that may be of interest:

  • Genesis 9:15-17 is a "divine promise of covenantal faithfulness toward the creation for all time to come" (Brueggemann, 2003, p32).
  • "This way of beginning the Bible, moreover, by appeal to creation, prepared the way for the primal drama of the Bible, namely, redescription or the restoration and mending of a scarred, broken creation to the intent of the Creator. These chapters [Gen 1-12] thus make a fundamental theological affirmation, but they also prepare the way for what is to come. In God's own way God negates recalcitrant power present in creation to bring human creatures to obedience that makes the world livable" (Brueggemann, 2003, p33).
  • "The notion of the "image of God" is reinforced by the imperatives that follow, "subdue and have dominion" ([Genesis]1:27-28). These verbs have often been understood to mean that the man and woman in the image of God are free to use the earth as they wish without restraint (White 1967). Contrary to that notion that the Bible is thus a warrant for environmental abuse and exploitation, Wybrow has shown that the "rape of the earth" has emerged, not from the Bible and this imperative, but from the impulse of Enlightenment autonomy that lacks any covenantal restraint (Wybrow 1991). More plausibly that that misconstrual, which has been given wide articulation, this pair of imperatives intends that human persons in human community should be responsible for the care of the earth and its boundless, God-given fruitfulness for the benefit of all creatures. Thus the imperatives bespeak not unrestrained, indulgent freedom, but a mandate for the community to take responsibility for the well-being of the earth" (Brueggemann, 2003, p35).
  • "Its [the text of the creation narrative] purpose is concretely existential. Given that canonical reality about the final form of the text, it is self-evident that the text is not about "the origin of the world" as that phrase is usually employed, and thus it has no particular connection to the "creation versus evolution" debate or, more broadly, to the issue of "science and religion". Such expectations of the text, in my judgement, completely miss the point and function of the text in its original setting or in its durable canonical articulation" (Brueffemann, 2003, p36). 
Brueggemann, Walter, 2003, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, Westminister John Knox Press, Louisville p 32)

I recommend reading the whole of Chapter 2 Cosmic Miracles in Contradiction (Genesis 1-11) if you have access to the text. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sustainable development, RIP

The British government's 'vision' for SD make clears the intent to marginalise it the point of invisibility

Posted by 
Jonathon Porritt Friday 4 March 2011

First they killed the SDC. Now they are trying to kill off sustainable development itself.

The paper that Spelman put out on Monday, under the compelling title 'Mainstreaming sustainable development: The government's vision and what this means in practice', is without a doubt the most disgraceful government document relating to Sustainable Development that I have ever seen.  { }

Far from demonstrating how sustainable development will be mainstreamed across government (which was the commitment it made when it axed the SDC), it reveals that its clear intent is to marginalise SD over the next four years to the point where it will be all but invisible.

Even I did not think the coalition government could sink this far. Historically, the Tories have been pretty sound on articulating what SD means, going right back to the UK's first sustainable development strategy in the 1990s. No one will be more distressed at this derisory 'vision' than Chris Patten who was responsible for the strategy. And as for the Lib Dems ...

You probably ought to read it for yourself to see for yourself that I'm not exaggerating. Here are one or two highlights:

1. "Ministers have agreed an approach for mainstreaming SD which in broad terms consists of providing Ministerial leadership and oversight, leading by example, embedding SD into policy, and transparent and independent scrutiny."

However, the government has rejected out of hand the recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee that SD should become the responsibility of the Cabinet Office.

It will therefore stay within Defra – the weakest department in Whitehall, with the weakest set of ministers anyone can remember. Does anyone suppose that any other departments will pay the slightest attention when Defra "reviews other departmental business plans in relation to SD principles".

2. Spelman will apparently exercise her mainstreaming role via her (newly announced) membership of the Economics Affairs Committee.

One can only assume that Defra officials were having a laugh here as they crafted the words "to enforce the government's commitment to sustainability across policy-making".

And they must have been in hysterics in penning this little gem: "HM Treasury will support green growth and build a fairer, more balanced economy."

3. As I've said all along, there will be no comprehensive, independent scrutiny of government performance on SD. Here's what it says: "Independent monitoring of sustainability in government operations, procurement and policies by the Environmental Audit Committee."

Yesterday, at the SDC's valedictory event, Joan Walley, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, declared categorically that the EAC would not be able to carry out that function – especially as no additional resources had been made available.

The EAC is a parliamentary committee. Ministers cannot instruct parliamentary committees as to what they should do.

So, had officials checked with Joan Walley before issuing the 'vision'? Or was Spelman seeking to mislead or even deliberately deceive in allowing the document to go out with that wording?

4. Astonishingly, there is just one tokenistic reference to Scotland and Wales, where SD still has some traction: "We will continue to work closely with our neighbours in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sharing approaches and best practice in SD."

The reality is that there is now no UK-wide SD capability left. So who will represent the UK at the Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro next year? Will Spelman (or David Cameron himself, perhaps?) have the nerve to lay claim to that role?

The rest of it is just guff.

The role of the Lib Dems in this dismantling exercise remains startling. We already know that Nick Clegg literally couldn't care less about SD. Ditto Vince Cable. But what does this 'vision' tell us about Chris Huhne? About Norman Baker? About all those benighted and deluded Lib Dem MPs who always thought that SD was one of their greatest strengths – instead, now, of a source of enduring shame.

And how, I wonder, will our environmental NGOs read this? "Just one of those things"? or definitive confirmation that the next four years are going to be bloody – and that they had better get themselves prepared for that reality.

So, that's that. SD RIP.
• This article first appeared on Jonathon Porritt's blog

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Serpents of God

“Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.” Numbers 21: 6
Here we see the Lord using the serpents (snakes) for his own holy purpose. Not a particularly nice purpose, but still an example a) of how God can work through His creatures and b) of the fact that while the ‘serpent’ led Eve astray in the Garden of Eden, snakes are not essentially evil in any way. They were declared good along with the rest of creation when God created the earth, and in this passage they are chosen by God to serve his purpose and bring about his will and lesson to the people of Israel. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Water from a rock

Reading: Numbers 20: 7-8
Two things to note: firstly, the power of the Lord in bringing forth water from the rock. Moses is told to command the rock to yield water and it will do so. The power of the Lord, working through Moses, it able to create miracles within nature. It is unlikely there was a pool of water inside the rock, it seems rather that the Lord has simply created something out of nothing – which does not fit within natural laws and thus must be termed a miracle. Secondly, note that this miracle is expressly not only to provide drink for the people but also “their livestock”.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The land is mine

Reading: Leviticus 25:23-24
23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. 24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land." (Emphasis mine)

God commands the Israelites not to sell land permanently because it belongs to Him. This command forces them to live in a constant sense of being a tenant, a "foreigner" or "stranger" in their land. When something doesn't belong to us most of us feel a sense of responsibility to the owner to look after their belongings. When we rent a house we have to remain mindful that we can't make any major changes without asking the owner's permission and if we hurt or break something then the owner will have to pay for it to be fixed, and they might not give us our deposit back. We have to have a constant sense that we do not own the house in the back of our mind. 

This is even more evident when we borrow something from a friend or family member. If we borrow someone's shiny new car we feel compelled to drive even more carefully than usual to avoid damaging it, and we feel awful if we break something in a friend's house while we are visiting. Again, we are conscious of not owning these things. Our ownership of items gives us a sense of entitlement, the idea that if we damage the item that is ok, because it is only ourselves that we are hurting. 

I think we need to regain a sense of being strangers and foreigners in the land. God doesn't even think the renting metaphor is strong enough, no, He wants us to feel utterly un-entitled to the land that belongs to him. We are to remember that the damage we do to the earth is a failure in our responsibility and agreement with Him and might damage our relationship like hurting the belongings of a dear friend or family member. I think too many people have become comfortable enough with the world to feel like it is their home, they own it and they have the right to treat it however they want. God calls us to rethink this attitude to His planet. 

Next time you feel yourself forgetting that this is God's earth, try finding yourself some pictures in a table-book or movie (something like BBC's Planet Earth) that show the vast and spectacular nature of the world's wilderness, and indeed all of God's creation. It might help you remember that we are but strangers, grasses upon this earth that will soon wither and pass away. It is my hope that we might do something positive for God's creation while we visit.

Verses of interest

“All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30

“as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” Numbers 14: 21 (God speaking, making a promise)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blessings and curses

Blessing: Leviticus 26:3-6, 9
Curse: Leviticus 26: 14-21, 32-35
In Leviticus 26: 32-35 we see that the Lord thinks that allowing the land its Sabbath rest is so important that if the Israelites do not obey this command He will allow Israel’s enemies to lay waste to the country so that it will lie desolate so “it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it”. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Then the land will yield its fruit

Reading: Leviticus 25:18-22
 “‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. 20 You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” 21 I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. 22 While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in."

When God's people obey His laws He will bless the land and cause it to yield in abundance for them. This is made possible not only by God's power, but by the sustainability built into the laws God gave His people (as previously discussed). Thus by obeying God's laws the people were acting sustainably and ensuring their own prosperity.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some Eco-theology things I learnt today

I learnt some interesting eco-theology things and found some good quotes in my first day of theology study today and my first Introduction to Old Testament lecture with Dr Merilyn Clark. I thought I would share the following with you for your own edification:

  • I had to read a book of the Apocrypha and I found the following in Baruch
“Where are the rulers of the nations, and those who lorded it over the animals on earth; those who made sport of the birds of the air, and who hoarded up silver and gold in which people trust, and there is no end to their getting; those who schemed to get silver, and were anxious, but there is no trace of their works? They have vanished and gone down to Hades, and others have arisen in their place.” Baruch 3:16-19

  • I also happened to flick through a bit of the book I have on Narnia – found an interesting quote:
  • “Narnia reminds us that an essential part of the longing for paradise in the future is a healing of the old wound between man and beast.” Andrew Cuneo

During the lecture:
  • We happened to look at Genesis one and two, and I learnt that our old favourite, Gen 1:28 can be even more problematic than I thought. There are many writings addressing the issues around the word ‘dominion’ (radah in Hebrew) in this verse, but I had never before heard of anything addressing the word ‘subdue’ (kabash in Hebrew). Apparently kabash is an entirely violent word referring to conquest and rape and is later used to describe the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians. These words, part of God’s blessing to man, provide a rude shock after the very peaceful descriptions of creation which precede it. Merilyn said that she has been studying this verse for the last eight or nine years and while there are ways you might be able to get around radah (though the Bible later describes kings as negative beings that constantly take from their subjects – which doesn’t really fit with the benevolent ruler/stewardship interpretations often supported by eco-theology today), there is really no way to get around kabash, nor any other way to interpret its meaning. Her only theory is that maybe God said this in the blessing to man as a sad acknowledgement of what he knew humanity would do to creation anyway. Kabash is certainly an interesting challenge for those of us who believe in God's desire for people to care for creation. I am encouraged though by the fact that learning this has not discouraged me - I think my learning in eco-theology has finally reached the stage where I feel strongly enough that the Bible's overall message is for stewardship and creation that the setback of finding out that a verse I thought I had dealt with needs more thought doesn't bother me. 
  • I was also interested personally to note that the blessing specifically gives man dominion over “the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” NRSV. It then goes on to give us plants as food, but there is no mention of giving us dominion over the earth itself, its resources, plants etc. I’m not sure if this has any significance.
  • It was also interesting to be reminded that the Bible does not really suggest that creation came out of nothing at the beginning of the Bible. The formless void, darkness and deep already existed. Also, apparently the Hebrew word translated ‘beginning’ is not a definite article, so it could more accurately be called ‘a beginning’ or ‘many beginnings’ etc.
  • Another reminder, concurrent with what I have heard from Bishop George Browning was the idea that man is not the pinnacle of creation – the Sabbath is. To be honest it seems kind of absurd to base some kind of claim to supremacy on the mere fact we were supposedly created last, which isn’t even true if you count the Sabbath. Plus, I really like the idea that by this kind of reasoning it is actually woman who is the pinnacle of creation, not man – not because I think it is true, but because it highlights the absurdity of the argument.
  • Merilyn also confirmed the idea that in Eden mankind, and all creatures, were vegetarian.
  • Reading through the rest of the notes she gave us, I note that she says all living creatures are called nefesh hayya in Hebrew, “This is a very interesting choice of words. Nefesh is the Hebrew word that is variously translated as soul, breath, living being, or life. Hayya means life/living. On the basis of this some have pondered whether we can categorically deny animals have souls!!!”  (Clark, Merilyn (2011) Some Exegetical Notes on Genesis 1 to 3 (For editing practice and also for referencing practice.) for THL105 and THL408, AU 2011, St Mark’s Theological College, Canberra, p. 5).
  • She also includes an interesting quote from Walter Brueggmann in Genesis “These perception lead to two overriding theological affirmations. First, the creator has a purpose and a will for creation. The creation exists only because of that will. The creator continues to address the creation, calling it to faithful response and glad obedience to his will. The creation has not been turned loose on its own. It has not been abandoned. Nor has it been given free reign for its own inclinations… Therefore his sovereign rule is expressed in terms of faithfulness, patience, and anguish. Second, the creation which exist only because of and for the sake of the creator’s purpose, has freedom to respond to the creator in various ways. As the texts indicate, the response of creation to the creator is a mixture of faithful obedience and recalcitrant self-assertion.”
  • I also found the following interesting quotes in a reading for Christian Theology (McIntosh, Mark. ‘Divine Teaching and Christian Belief’. In Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology.Blackwell: Oxford, 2008, 37).
  • “the divine knowing and speaking, the Logos, echoes as the creative ground in every creature, thus providing a knowable rationale or idea according to which every creature exists.”
  • “how does the belief that God is Trinity illuminate Christian thinking about all the creatures? Thomas Aquinas argues that God reveals the mystery that God is Trinity because, for one thing, we wouldn’t otherwise be able to understand creation itself. This “was necessary,” he writes, “for the right idea of creation” because “the fact of saying that God made all things by His Word excludes the error of those who say that God produced things by necessity. [And] when we say that in Him there is a procession of love [the Holy Spirit], we show that God produced creatures not because He needed them, nor because of any extrinsic reason, but on account of the love of His own goodness.” “[quoted from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae]
  • “How does this affect our understanding of creation? It means that freedom is the very ground of every creature; everything exists not because it “has” to be, but rather because it is a freely made choice of God’s… thus each creature is in its own way an epiphany of divine joy and delight, and no matter what may befall each creature, it can fairly be said to be loved into existence and to live from a continual act of divine cherishing.” 

Green Bible Challenge Disclaimer

Readers of this blog will have noticed that I have not written anything under the ‘Green Bible Challenge’ tab for some time. My work in this area began to taper off as my concerns about the theological method I was using (I think the technical term might be my ‘hermeneutical approach’) grew. I had begun listening to some podcasts about theology and was convicted by their arguments on the importance of understanding how the original writers and readers of the text would have interpreted and understood it, then using this as a lens through which to apply the text to today. Strong arguments are made against simply picking up a text, out of context, and using it to confirm your own presuppositions and beliefs.

Though there are some who argue for a personal faith and the idea that ‘the Bible means whatever I interpret it to mean for me’, I did not want to become a part of this group. I also did not want people to be able to rightly accuse me of deliberately trying to force environmentalism into the Bible even where it is not actually within, or intended to be within, the text. These concerns have silenced me until now.

Since the beginning of these thoughts, however, I have acted towards addressing these concerns. Today I will begin a postgraduate diploma of theology. This will assist me in learning how the original readers would have interpreted the texts addressed in the Green Bible Challenge. While I am working on learning in this area though, I have decided to continue writing entries for the Green Bible Challenge. I write this disclaimer to acknowledge that these entries will not be using correct theological technique, and that my interpretation is very heavily influenced by my own beliefs about the environment and God’s will for us to care for creation. Yet I have decided that there may still be some value in what can probably more accurately be called my environmental reflections on the text rather than my interpretation of the text. I will not try to provide a correct theological interpretation of the text as a) I would have trouble doing so and b) you all have your own tools and resources to do so yourselves, including Bible commentaries, and there is little point me trying to reproduce these. With luck, you will be able to simply take my thoughts and add them to the mix of things you use in your own interpretation.

I hope that this disclaimer will ease the qualms any readers might have about my theology, particularly for those who have a greater understanding of the area than I do. I also hope that you can still find something valuable in my thoughts.
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+