Ecology and Spirituality: Humanity’s Role

While God has never said that any part, other than humanity, is sinful, this does not mean that the creation was unaffected by the original sin. The first proof of this is found in Genesis, when God is dolling out punishments.

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

As a result of the first man’s disobedience, the land would cease to be responsive to his authority. It almost reads as if God gave creation more power than it had previously had. Now, not only would creation move and flow in harmony with itself, but it would also have the power to overtake man’s work to tame it.

But, in doing so, man would become frustrated. That was his punishment. No longer would man and nature live in harmony. Working the ground would no longer be a joy. It would be a burden. And creation would, therefore, be subject to man’s frustration. We see this clearly expressed in Romans.

For the creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his children, because the creation was subjected to frustration, though not by its own choice. The one who subjected it did so in the hope that the creation itself would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom of God’s children. (Romans 8:19-21 ISV)

But God did not leave it this way…or at least He didn’t intend for things to stay this way.

Just like people are awaiting redemption by God Himself, creation is waiting for redemption by God’s elect. Christians are to be the incarnation of God not only to other people, but also to all of creation. The redemption of plants, animals, trees, and people is God’s plan.

So what does this mean for humanity? What is our place in creation?

Unlike what is taught by Deep Ecology, mankind does indeed have stewardship over the rest of creation. Despite his falling from original grace, God never revoked His command for mankind to rule over the earth and to take care of it and watch over it and keep it. He made it a harder task, but He never changed His mind about man’s responsibility over what He had made.

In light of creation’s intrinsic value, this means a vastly different thing than we commonly associate with the idea of having dominion over the creation. Since creation is valuable to God despite us, and since we are made in His image, we should treat creation the very way that He would. Creation should be valuable to humankind without regard to how useful it is to us. Like God, we should see the creation and simply acknowledge its goodness. And then, when we see it in distress, we should do everything in our power to redeem it.

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