Creation Themes In Scripture
Fourth Theme: Humankind's Place and Purpose
The scriptures affirm that humankind has a special place and purpose within the created order and not apart from it. The biblical witness is varied as to what humanity's role is (e.g., steward, servant, disciple, partner). Although these roles may appear to conflict, it is possible to see them as complementary.
[See Genesis 1:24-31, 2:4-15; Psalm 8, 37:1-6; Micah 6:6-8; Wisdom of
Solomon 9:1-4a; Philippians 2:5-11.]
Fifth Theme: Sin and the Destruction of Creation
All is not well within God's created order. The scripture realistically and sometimes ruthlessly depicts human sinfulness: we forget the God who made us; we misuse and abuseothers, including the Earth and its creatures; we abandon our true vocation or calling. From the perspective of the Bible, human sinfulness affects more than the human species; it unravels the fabric of the created order, leading to environmental destruction. Sometimes scripture portrays God as one who uses ecological disaster to call people back to faithfulness (and therefore, God seems to cause or allow bad things to happen). More often, however, the devastation of creation comes as the direct or indirect result of humankind's sinful behavior.
[See Deuteronomy 11:13-17; Psalm 107:33-43; Isaiah 33:7-10; Jeremiah 4:22-26, 12:4, 10-13; Hosea 4:1-3; Romans 8:18-25.]
Sixth Theme: God's Re-creation
Sin and the destruction of creation do not have the final word, however-in either the Old Testament or the New. God's ultimate and still unfolding purpose is toward the blessing of all life, human and other-than-human. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel carry this blessing and promise through Abraham and Sarah. God's desire to renew all creation is linked to the renewal or recreation of Israel.
The New Testament views Jesus Christ as the one who brings God's blessing of recreation or resurrection to reality in a unique way as God's own Son, the promised Messiah. "For God so loved the world," John 3:16 says, "that God gave the only Son." Jesus embodies the promise made to Abraham and Sarah that God will bless them and, through them, bless the earth. Christ's life, death, and resurrection impact not only human life but the fundamental order of creation.
[See Psalm 145; Isaiah 11:6-9, 43:15, 18-21; Hosea 2:18-20; John 3:16-17;
2 Corinthians 5:17-18; Ephesians 1:8b-10; Colossians 1:15-20;
Seventh Theme: Sabbath
In the first account of creation (Genesis 1:1 - 2:3), the climax of creation isn't the creation of humankind (day six) but rather the creation of sabbath (day seven)-when God pauses to savor all that God has made. Pausing to rest and delight in God, God's creation, and the gift of life is central to Jewish identity and is reaffirmed throughout scripture.
If we pause to rest and savor, perhaps we will see, hear, or experience how all of life seems held together (apart from our daily efforts) by God-and how each and every part of creation fulfills God's purpose and blessing.
[See Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Psalm 131.]
Eighth Theme: All Creation Praises God
Scripture presents a vision of "shalom" or wholeness in which creation itself sings, dances, and even applauds God's greatness. To paraphrase Thomas Merton, a tree, simply by being a tree, praises God. Two people in love, simply by being two people in love, praise God.
[See Psalm 96, 98:7-8, 103:22, 148, 150; Isaiah 42:10-11; Daniel 3:74-83.]
There you have it-eight large, overlapping, recurring themes throughout the Bible that speak to the inter-relationship between God, humankind, and the non-human creation. The scriptures of the Old and New Testament have much to offer contemporary Christians as we look for guidance in how best to live in peaceful relationship with the creation (including its human creatures) that God loves. Within the biblical witness there is creativity and struggle, wisdom and folly, sin and brokenness, forgiveness and healing, suffering and-most importantly-hope and renewal.
Sam Hamilton-Poore is the Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality at San Francisco Theological Seminary, as well as Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality. He is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has served congregations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. His most recent book is entitled Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God's Creation, published by Upper Room Books.
Caring for Creation Study Guide