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January 24, 2009

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Fogey permalink
    January 24, 2009 3:54 pm

    Had never thought of the covenant with Noah in context with man’s responsibilities toward the rest of creation. One could argue that to claim man could destroy creation is heresy, given that God has said He will cleanse the earth with fire, as surely as he already has with water.

    Oh wait, the politician in the corner tells me that the environment is fragile. Nevermind.

  2. Cameron permalink
    January 26, 2009 9:29 am

    Perhaps the connection is that the covenant is between God, man, AND all the animals of creation (vv. 10, 12, 15, 16, and 17).
    I also found the section on ‘account’ interesting. Not only will God demand an account for human blood, but also animal blood (v. 5).
    I’d be interested to read their book now. I think they’d have more to work with than just Gen. 9 given the way the bible uses architectural language for creation (Is. 40:22; Is. 66:1; Ps. 104:2-3,5; etc.).
    This is a great topic, thanks for posting!

  3. Justin Humphreys permalink
    January 26, 2009 3:15 pm

    Hey my Grandfather wrote some books on this topic. He was one of the first. They are out of print. His name was George Alder, you may get lucky and find an old book.

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