Major Texts: Ps 8, Gen 2:15, Rev 4:11, Ex 20:8-11,1 Cor 3:16
One of the eventualities that emerge from the story of creation is that all living creatures on earth, indeed all living things on earth, share a common origin and a common journey through life. In other words, all life on earth had the same Originator, and all life is inter-linked in that it is lived out in a common biosphere. This interconnectedness is unavoidable and, to a very large sense, unalterable at least to the extent that no living thing can avoid the effects of its living on other things around it. At the same time, no living thing can find a place where it is immune from the effects of the living of other things around it. In short, all living things on this planet are doing life together. There are not a few implications that emerge from this understanding of things.
A second category of thought is that there are living things on earth that have what is called “sentience,” that capacity that allows for some degree of self-awareness and for a sense of the self-awareness of other beings. Certainly, there are degrees of sentience with humans sitting at the pinnacle of sentience. This important to consider because sentience is a mark of higher levels of thinking, even of the capacity for moral function. Those beings with higher levels of sentience have higher levels of responsibility, moral responsibility in particular.
Now comes to bear that familiar verse near the end of the Genesis account of beginnings where God left word to Adam and Eve that they were to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” and, further, that they were to have “dominion” over the fish, the birds, and over every living thing. This statement about having dominion is very significant. It has been variously understood in history. Quite often, it has been understood to support the notion that humans have a God-given mandate to do as they please with the earth and everything in it. This has caused some Christians to claim that humans can simply do whatever they want with the planet, including tear it up and use it however they please. Some had even thought that the earth will find a way to recover from misuse on Its own. The big question of this week has to do with whether or not this understanding of the relationship of humans to the rest of the biosphere is right and good.
Profitable discussion can be had around at last the items listed below:
- Notice that included in the creation story is the instruction for Adam to “keep,” or “watch over” the garden. What kind of stewardship is suggested by this instruction?
- If, in fact, the earth was the creation of someone else, what might that suggest about humans and their right to use the earth simply as they please? If the earth is not owned by humans, would that not place them In the position of being stewards, or managers, or another’s assets? How would you compare the actions of owners vs. that of managers? On what grounds would you fire a manager?
- Since all humans share the planet, and since all things are connected by virtue of creation, what kind of obligations do you see toward living in such a manner as to allow all other things to have space for their own being? What criteria might you use to determine when It Is OK for one form of life to Infringe on the living of another? What are the moral consequences of “killing” non-sentient life as compared to killing sentient life?
- Think of the Impact of your way of living on the rest of the biosphere? What might you change to ease the burden you create?
- Talk about the tensions that arise from the fart that, according to the biblical model established by creation, the earth is both to be “tended” and used for the purpose of producing provisions necessary for life.
- It is a sad truth that a person who is an atheist may well have more Interest in the well-being of the planet than a Christian because for the atheist, this is all there is and if the planet gets messed up, then life is gone. Some Christians think God will save them if the planet goes bad. How might this be changed? Do you not think that Christians, particularly creationist Christians, would be known for the most careful tending of the biosphere?
- What about the Sabbath-keeping as an environmentally sound practice?
- Think of vegetarianism as an environmental strategy. What if all peoples of earth were vegetarian?
- What do you know about the situation ofthe fish ofthe sea? At one time, humans thought the oceans to be inexhaustible In their ability to supply food. Are you aware that the oceans today are almost devoid of significant fish populations? The Atlantic cod are no longer fished for the population has nearly totally collapsed. Atlantic salmon are all but gone. Blue-fin tuna are at less than 25% of their 1952 population and they are in danger of collapsing. And do you know about the Pacific trash gyre that covers vast portions ofthe middle Pacific? What should the Christian response to all this be?
- How do you think a Christian should respond to the Issue of consumerism, always looking for and buying more? At what point should we be content with what we have? And what about packaging and its effect on the environment?
- Talk about sustainable agricultural practices. Do you know about ocean dead-zones caused by the run-off of artificial fertilizers?
- What does the Bible say about those who destroy the earth?
- What might the Implications be for the biosphere when species go extinct?