So, I’m working on a class called Theology of the Pentateuch. As part of the format for this class, I have to participate on a discussion board a certain number of times. I posted a thought today and I’m curious on your thoughts. Here’s the question:
In their book, Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship, authors Van Dyke, Mahan, Sheldon, and Brand argue on the basis of Genesis 9 that the environment is an issue of great moral importance for Christians. The argument goes, “God’s saving grace through Christ not only pays the price for people but redeems an oppressed creation.” If Genesis 9 is a covenant that includes creation, should caring for the environment be a priority in our mission on earth? Provide scriptural evidence for or against the argument that caring for creation is a crucial part of being a follower of Christ.
And my response:
This question rises up in me conflicting views. I certainly agree that God has made us stewards of our habitation and we should care for it (even though we have been expelled from the garden, I do not see where Adam was relieved of his duty “to work… and keep” the land (Gen 2:15)). Common sense and good manners also says that if one is given a gift (such as life and a place to live it) that the gift should be taken care of. Scripture even states clearly that we are righteous if we care for the animals in our care (“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10 ESV). Romans 8 is certainly more a discussion of our relationship with Christ rather than our relationship with creation, but Rom 8:18-25 does put some equation between our standing waiting for redemption and creation’s waiting for redemption. Again, good manners and common sense would say to take care of those who are in a similar position as you.
My internal conflict is that I struggle to see how Gen 9 itself indicates how “caring for creation is a crucial part of being a follower of Christ.” God blesses Noah to be fruitful and multiply (vv 1 & 7). Everything in creation is given to Noah and his sons (vv 2-3). Blood in animals is not to be eaten (v 4). Shedding the blood of man is judged (vv 5-6). God makes a covenant with man and all living creatures that He will not destroy them again with a flood (vv 8-11). God then describes the sign of the covenant and the significance the sign will have (vv 12-17). Verse 18 and following continue with the narrative of Noah.
Where in Gen 9 is there a moral imperative for the follower of the God of the Bible to care for creation? To respect life by not eating animals’ blood? Where is the connection between being given everything and taking care of all? I ask these questions not out of rhetorical point-making, but more out of an honest trying to understand the argument (not having read the book mentioned in the original question). God does indeed make a covenant with man *and* everything else (this point is emphasized multiple times in vv 8-17)… but the covenant is to no longer destroy the earth by flood (v 11 & 15). I struggle to see how we move from absence of a type of destruction to the moral significance of care-taking.
I certainly agree that Christ’s work will redeem an oppressed creation. I just don’t see how we make that connection when looking at Genesis 9.