Greening Our Faith
Going green is all the rage. But what does it really mean? For persons and communities of faith, it’s more than just changing light bulbs, although that’s important. Going green at its core is about recognizing our right relationship with both our Creator and the creation.
It revolves around the question: What’s the purpose of creation? Or even more importantly: Who or what is at the center of creation?
If you answered “me,” you’re not alone. We tend to have a pretty ego-centric or anthropocentric view of things. Even in the church. (Jesus died for “me.”)
As if we humans are at the center of the universe and the rest of the creation exists simply for our sake.
The Bible doesn’t hold that same view.
According to Genesis 1-2, we humans are not the center of creation; we are the stewards of creation. That’s an important distinction. We’re told to multiply and fill the face of the earth. But so are the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.
The difference between us and them is that we’re to have dominion over them. Dominion does not mean dominate, defeat, or deny. It certainly doesn’t mean to make extinct.
Instead, to get at the meaning of dominion, think domain. God’s ruling authority over the domain of creation has been extended to us. We are authorized to rule in such a way that the “goodness” of creation is nurtured and cultivated. Not extinguished.
You might call this view of creation biocentric. It’s the creation that is the center of God’s focus—of which we are a part. An important part. But not the whole enchilada.
Everything has a right to exist simply because God created it. (That brings to mind the question of mosquitoes. But where would bats be without them?)
In other ways, the Bible’s view of creation is decidedly Christocentric. Consider this passage from Colossians 1: 15-17: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That’s a high view of both Christ and creation.
In the final analysis, though, the Bible is breathtakingly and unapologetically theocentric: “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6 Even sea monsters and stormy wind fulfill God’s command. (Psalm 148) God is both the center and circumference of all that is. All our living, loving, worship is ultimately to be directed toward God.
So what’s our right relationship with Creator and creation? To praise God with our being and our actions. And to be a good steward of creation, so that by its very being, the creation can also praise God.
We would do well to recover these biblical perspectives on creation.
Humanity has now become a force of nature—through our massive population growth, our extensive technologies, and our unsustainable ways of living. We are overriding the delicate balances of the natural world. The consequences are disastrous.
Through the burning of fossil fuels—coal for electricity, oil, and gas for fuel and transportation—we have pumped enough carbon dioxide into the air to raise the earth’s temperature and to change the earth’s climates. Dramatically. Something no other human civilization has ever done.
As a result, air temperatures are rising. Oceans are warming. Ten thousand year old glaciers are melting. Permafrost is thawing. Antarctic ice sheets are breaking up. Ocean levels are inching up. Extreme weather events are the new normal as forests are burning up. The earth is crying out to us.
We who have been charged with being stewards of creation have somehow become sinners against that creation. The National Council of Churches reported in a 2005 letter to Church and Society that the earth is crying out to us.
What can we do in the name of going green? Change light bulbs. Move away from a “consumeristic-throwaway-approach” to life. Drive more fuel-efficient vehicles. Eat lower on the food chain. Support women in developing countries to gain control over their own lives so that birth rates go down. Reduce individual and congregational CO2 footprints.
But chances are these actions will be no more than knee jerk reactions if our understandings are not grounded in Scripture and theology.
Going green doesn’t start with the energy bill. It starts in the reading of Scripture. It builds through recognition and repentance. It’s underscored in the pulpit and the prayers of the people. It takes root in a growing awareness of our right relationship to Creator and Creation. It culminates in changed lives—and changed light bulbs.
Join me for a free seminar, How to Create a Culture of Renewal, in which you’ll learn the barriers to achieving renewal, the miracles renewal can bring, and how to take your next step—a “must attend” for church leaders.