Environmental Studies

What role should believers have in caring for God's creation in light of Genesis 1:26-28 and Romans 8:20-22?

Photo Credit: Sam Cox - Flickr

Reflection: Eco-theology as International Development

WCIU Journal: Environmental Studies Topic

March 16, 2015

by Andrew Ray Williams

creation groaning.jpg

Although few today would dismiss the notion that is important to take care of our planet, environmental and ecological troubles are one of the world’s most hazardous threats. It is also true that the environmental problems of the world in large have their origins in the industrial nations of the West. Considering that for the last few centuries before shifting to the Global South, Christianity was for the most part considered a “Western religion”, it is evident that Christians have not adequately addressed the need for green theology and application. As Christ-followers who take the goals of international development seriously, we must be prepared to address the roots of this human problem theologically and practically.

As the Apostle Paul asserted in Romans 8:19-25, creation was not subjected to decay by its own choice, but by humanity’s decision to engage in sin. Creation is now groaning in expectation for its liberation from its frustration and to be “brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (v. 21). Ever since the Spirit of God was poured out in Acts 2, the Spirit of God has been engaged in a cosmological and eschatological work. This same Spirit that was “hovering over the waters” in creation (Genesis 1:1) is now renewing the face of the earth in the “already” of the “not yet” of God’s Kingdom. Creation, along with humanity, is eagerly waiting for the day that God establishes his “new heaven and earth” (Revelation 21) in the consummation of all things.

However, Christians should not wait around for this coming hope to reverse the ecological crisis. Not only is God’s Kingdom future, but also present (Luke 17:20–21). It is through partnering with the Spirit’s work in creation that change can begin to happen now. Gregory of Nyssa once wrote that the “Spirit is a living and a substantial and distinctly subsisting kingdom…”  Within this understanding, it is through engaging the Spirit of God as the Kingdom that brings the reign of divine life to all of creation.

Today for Christ-followers, one of the major endeavors of international development must be to address the ecological crisis by partnering with and following the Spirit’s activity. This includes practically caring for the environment and attempting to “ease the groans” of creation by providing care and concern to all of God’s creation.