Biblical Foundations for Earth Care. An outline by David Rhoads

Love God, Love your Neighbor, Care for Creation

The Human Vocation according to the Bible

Seventeen Biblical Foundations for Earth-Care


1. We have mistakenly read the Bible:

            1. Anthropomorphism: Salvation history: God is concerned only for humans. God made the world for humans—crown of creation. Now see that it is creation history. All one world. No separation.

            2. Domination: Humans have the right to dominate nature for human use. “Have dominion.” God created humans to take responsibility for. Life of their own.

            3. We are only pilgrims in this life: God will save humans for heaven. We are on the earth but we do not belong to it. This life is a pilgrimage in a land we pass through on the way to heaven. Now see that Jesus returns to a renewed earth. Vision of Revelation. Garden restored in the city.

4. Now read out of our context of concern: Now we need to reads it through a Green Lens. Give principles how to read and your own.


2. Humans belong to the earth.

“ a stream would rise from the earth” . . .Then the Lord God formed a human (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being.” . . . “out of the ground the lord God made to grow every tree.” (Genesis 2:4-9).

We are rooted in the earth like trees are rooted in the earth. And we are dependent upon earth every bit as much as animals are dependent upon the earth. Adam was made from the dust of the earth. The name Adam is the masculine form of the Hebrew word adamah, which means soil or arable earth. So Adam is earth man who belongs to the land and who is responsible to the land. Dust you are and to dust you shall return. (2:4-9).

● I am a mammal: civilization is a veneer. Get off the sidewalk. I want my cousin—kinship.

● We think we live on the earth. Trees and beetles—spiritual problem of alienation from earth and our rooted-ness/ embedded-ness in it.


3. Creation was not formed for human beings alone.

“God saw everything that God had made, and indeed it was good.” (Genesis 1:1-31).

After the third day (plants and trees). After the fourth day (Sun and moon). After the fifth day and sixth days (animals of the air, sea, and land). Finally and God saw everything that God had made . . .”

● When God formed the earth in seven days, (Genesis 1:1-31)—waters, land, seasons, plants, trees, fish, birds, cattle, creeping things, wild animals of every kind, and people, after each day (and not just after humans were created. Declared good before human being were created. Good in its own right.


4. God wants all creatures to thrive.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” (1:22; compare after the flood 8:17). “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (1:28). God gave to humans “every tree with seed in its fruit” for food. To the animals and birds God gave “every green plant for food.” (1:29-30).

We tend to read Genesis as if God said only to people: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (1:22; 8:17). No God said it to the fish and to the land animals and birds. God wants all creatures to thrive.

● As for humans, we have already done this. Like a viral infection, we take over. We are like an alien invasion, an infestation that takes over and threatens every other life form. Natalia’s textbook. Now it is time for us to create the conditions for plant and animal species to thrive and to teem.

● No sense of limits: unlimited resources from the earth, unlimited place for trash, unlimited air pollution, unlimited economy. Si9mple living.


5. Hence, God loves creatures for their own sake.

O Lord! How manifold are your works. In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures . . .These all look to you to give them food in due season.” (Psalm 104:10-30).

● Instead of creating the rest of the world for human use, God created humans to serve and care for the earth. God loves all creation for its own sake and wants all creation to thrive. The Psalms show God delighting in all creatures. God made the springs of water for the wild animals and the grass for the cattle and the crags for goats. (Ps 104:10-30). God delights in all creatures and provides for them. God calls humans to their right to life and their well-being.

● As we claim for humans, Animal rights to food and well-being

● Animals were here long before humans and would be here long after.

● Give a voice to them. Process in J-term class.


6. Human beings were created at the end so that they could take care of the garden earth God had created, indeed so that they serve and preserve it.

“Have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over the cattle and wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Genesis 1:26).

● They were to have dominion. The Hebrew word for dominion does not mean domination or exploitation but to take responsibility for, to protect and to serve with earth as the domain for which humans were responsible. As a ruler over Israel would have responsibility to see that the people were protected, that justice was done for the poor, the widows and the orphans, so humans are to care for the earth.


“The Lord God took the human and put him in the garden of Eden to serve it and to preserve it.” (Genesis 2:15).

● This same vocation is rooted in the command to till and to keep (Genesis 2:15). Actually, the words for till and to keep mean to serve and to preserve. Humans are to serve the land, not dominate over it. We are to preserve creatures and plants so that they survive and thrive. In a sense we are all farmers, called to care for the land so that we preserve it in a sustainable way for future generations. Reversal!


7. We see the same responsibility for creation in the Noah story, when Noah was commanded to rescue all the creatures from extinction by flood.

“As for me I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendents after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you . . .  “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature.” (Genesis 9:12; see also Hosea 2:18).

● At that time, God made a covenant not only with humans but also with humans but also with all the animals. The rainbow was a sign of the covenant: “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creatures.” (Genesis 9:12; Hosea 2:18). The story of Noah has been called the first rescue of endangered species. (we are losing species of plants and animals at 100 a day. Like Noah, we are to preserve the diversity of plant and animal species God has created.

● God promised not to destroy the earth, but all bets are off for humans!

● Covenant theology. Not just the covenant with Abraham and Moses but also the one with Noah.


8. We also see the human responsibility to care for creation in the Sabbath laws of the land of Israel

But in the seventh year there shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for the Lord.” (Leviticus 25:4)


● for Sabbath days of the week and for sabbatical years. Just as the laws seek to bring justice and humanness to relationships between humans by giving rest and forgiveness of debts and restoration of appropriated lands. So animals are to rest on the Sabbath—oxen, cattle, donkeys, and so on. Are to rest on the seventh day. Furthermore, the land itself is to lie fallow every seventh year so that it may be renewed. Humans are not to overwork the land, Nor are we to exploit the animals and treat them inhumanely.


9. All of life is sacramental.

“The whole earth is filled with God’s glory.”

● The Psalms also make it clear that God did not create the world and then withdraw from it. Just as God continues to live and move and be manifest in humans (in with and under), so God is present in all of life. Ongoing creation.

● The whole earth is filled with God’s glory. All of life is sacramental. Psalms have a text of reverence. Reverence theology.

● My relationship to food. Native Americans.


10. Like humans, all creation is called to praise God.

“Worship the lord in holy splendor: tremble before him all the earth. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice. And let them say among the nations, “the Lord is king.” Let the sea roar and all that fills it; Let the field exalt and everything in it. Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the lord” (I Chronicles 16:29-34; Psalm 148).

“Let all creation praise the Lord.”

● We humans are called not just to thank God for creation but to praise god with creation. Imagine how our worship like might change if we praised god with creation! “Let all creation praise the Lord.”

● Dream of cathedral. LSTC windows.


11. The biblical books of wisdom show us that humans learn from creation:

“But ask the animals and they will teach you; the birds of the air and they will tell you. Ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you. Ask the fish of the sea and they will declare to you. Who among all these does no know that the hand of the lord has created this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being. (Job 12:7-10).

● The book of Proverbs, the Psalms, and Job especially (Solomon) show us that nature reveals to us God’s ways in the world. We humans depend on nature for these insights.

We have lost this connection. Consider Annie Dillard, Gary Snyder, Wendell berry.


12. Human justice is related to justice toward the earth.

“I brought you into a land to eat its fruits and its good things, but when you entered you defiled the land and made my heritage an abomination. “ Jeremiah 2:7).

“The earth dries up and withers. The world languishes and withers. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the land.” (Is 24:4-7; compare Joel 2:2-20.).

● The Bible talks not just about human history but about creation history. The earth is so tied to humans that when humans carry out justice the land flourishes. However, when humans sin against one another, the land withers.

● Eco-justice. Homes are connected. Coffee. James Cone.


13. The kingdom of God restores all creation.

“The kingdom of God has arrived.” (Mark 1:14)

Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10).

“And he was with the wild animals and the angels were serving him.” (Mark 1:13)

● The New Testament reminds us often that God is “the Lord of the heaven and the earth.” (Acts 17:24). When Jesus announced the “rule of God has arrived, this was a proclamation about the restoration not just of humans but also of all creation. We pray “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heave.” In his temptations, Jesus was with the wild animals—he was not a threat to them even as they bore no harm toward him. Jesus vision of the kingdom recalls the OT vision of a time when the “Wolf shall lie with the lambs, and the lion will lie down with the kid.” (Is 11:6-9).


14. Jesus died for all creation.

“For in him all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth of in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).

● Not just Jesus’ life and message but also his death was for the restoration of all creation. The author of Colossians writes. We are called in turn to be reconciled through the cross to and show love for all things on earth and in the sky. [Story of African church].


15. All creation is groaning. 

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the spirit, groan inwardly as we await the adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:19-23).

● Paul recognized the cry of nature in response to the human crimes against it. All nature longs for the revealing of the children of God who will care for creation and free it from degradation and decay.

Read the Bible with new eyes and see all the places where creation/nature is present. Also see the implications of the love of God for humans also extended to all creatures—given the threat to them in our day. The least, the outcasts, the oppressed, the lost, the children, etc.


16. The Book of Revelation portrays the most amazing experience of the unity of all creation:

“I heard the whole creation, everything in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea, say, ‘Blessing and honor and glory and might be to our God who sits upon the throne and the lamb, forever and ever.’” (Revelation 5:13).

● John condemned the treatment of earth—humans and the rest of nature—by the Roman Empire. He prophesied: “The time has come for God to destoy the destroyers of the earth.” (Rev. 18:11)

● John envisions a time when the old destructive/oppressive order is gone and there is a renewed heaven and a renewed earth when the “the river of the water of life” will be “free of charge” for the poor, when the tree of life will yield ample fruit all year around, and when the leaves of the trees are a healing for the nations.” (Rev 21). John calls people to live in that vision in the present.


17. The Bible calls us to a vocation of care for creation.

“The ecological teaching of the Bible is inescapable. God made the world because god wanted it made. God thinks the world is good and God loves it. It is God’s world; God has never relinquished title to it. God has never revoked the conditions . . . that oblige us to care for it. If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or caring for it? If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be . . . justified in destroying it?” Wendell Berry, What are People For?


When we see the full force of the biblical mandate to care for the earth, we realize that care for creation is not just one contemporary issue among others/many. Rather, it is part of our fundamental purpose as human beings and it should affect the way we do everything. As the Bible shows, creation-care is an integral dimension of our calling as humans. We are to love God, love our neighbor and care for creation.


Let us hear God’s call and make a profound commitment to fulfill our human vocation to be earth-keepers. Let us be motivated by grace everywhere to change our spirit as well as our actions. Let us be different so that we can make a difference, for God’s sake.