by Douglas D. Kaufman
Many Christians committed to sustainability know that our faith and our ecological commitments go together. But some of us struggle to know how to articulate that connection. How do the creation stories of the Bible form our faithfulness to the other creatures? How does our understanding that Jesus is the Word made flesh change how we view creaturely existence?
In The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), Richard Bauckham develops a nuanced and wide-ranging Biblical theology of creation. The subtitle offers the focus of his theology, which is to undermine the modern conception of humans as somehow separate from nature, or even above nature. He demonstrates again and again the biblical perspective that we are embedded within a community of creatures in creation.
Bauckham elucidates the basic creation passages of the Bible, such as Genesis 1 and 2, Job 38-41, and Psalm 104. But he also explores shorter creation texts as well, such as the creation theology of the prophets, especially Isaiah, and the “cosmic Christ” of Colossians 1:15-20. Everyone interested in creation theology needs to explore God’s concluding speech in Job because of the way that it de-centers humanity in creation and makes it clear that the other creatures are of value because of their relationship with God, not because of their usefulness to humans.
Of particular interest to me was the way that Bauckham demonstrates the connection between Psalm 104 and Matthew 6:25-33. Jesus, in calling for us not to worry about our eating and clothing, builds on what the Psalmist writes about God’s care for all the creatures.
Bauckham’s opening critique of stewardship is one of the principal reasons to buy the book. Stewardship gives humanity a prominent place that can seem to displace God’s. Similarly, it focuses more on human activity in creation rather than God’s. It puts humans over creation rather than within it; stewardship lacks specific content. Bauckham’s reading of Genesis 1 and 2 offers a view of human solidarity with creation and responsible use of the earth’s resources.
I recommend this book for all pastors’ libraries because of the way it can move our readings of creation texts toward a more responsible use of creation, and a more integral relationship with the other creatures. Bauckham offers a broad introduction to creation themes in the Scriptures that can then become part of teaching and preaching.
Doug Kaufman is director of pastoral ecology for the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions and Mennonite Creation Care Network. His work involves preparing retreats and curricula for pastors.