The Old Testament: Three Principles of Care for Creation
- God is the creator and owner of the world in all its richness, diversity and order. He remains active in sustaining creation.
- The Old Testament recognises the special place of the human being in creation.
God created man from earth – in Hebrew “Adam” expresses man’s organic relation to the earth. Adam is also given a special dignity by being made by God in His own image and likeness: man is a facsimile of God – we are like God in that we are a person and we have intellect, free-will, and an eternal destiny.
- Human beings are stewards of creation.
The Lord entrusted responsibility for all of creation to us: “to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). The Hebrew word for “keep” means to nurture, sustain and care for creation, not to exploit or dominate. The prophet Ezekiel criticises the Hebrews when they cease to care and instead exploit:
“Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of the pasture with your feet? Is not it enough for you to drink the clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18)
The New Testament: Creation is Reconciled to God
Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s plan for us and for creation.
Jesus coming into the world is the definitive action by which God offers salvation to all humanity and to the cosmos.
Through Christ, humanity and creation are reconciled to God and destined to undergo a radical transformation and purification. The Passion and Resurrection inaugurated a New World in which new relations with God, with one another, and with creation are established:
“Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now” (Romans 8: 22-23)
In His life, Jesus made use of the elements of the natural world, especially in the parables which represent nature as harmonious and in tune with the Will of God.
The New Testament concludes with a vision of a new heaven and a new earth.
Care for Creation in the Teachings of the Church
Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection, and all are interdependent and share a universal solidarity.
Nature must not be reduced to a mere instrument to be manipulated and exploited.
The greater our scientific development, the greater the need to ensure the proper application of our power: to conserve and nurture nature, rather than degrade it.
Our responsibility to creation extends to future generations to bequeath a healthy and viable earth.
Economic development must respect the integrity of creation and protect the common good, especially for the poorest regions of the world.
Proposed solutions to environmental problems must not consign millions of people to poverty: there must be Just development and a Just transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
A change of lifestyle and mentality is required – we must reject our culture of disposable consumerism.
We must instead establish a culture that seeks truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others.
Each person and group must take responsibility for action at the personal and local level – the principles of Subsidiarity and participation.
A spiritual response is also required – our orientation towards creation must become one of awe, respect, and gratitude. This can only emerge from an acknowledgement of our world as created: without God, nature is emptied of its deepest meaning.
Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ focuses on Integral Ecology which connects care for the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people.
Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, our neighbour, and the natural world, can we face the challenges before us. This calls for a profound change to our current economic, political, cultural and social model – and to make present in its stead the Kingdom of God.