On the heels of his important book entitled The Bible and Ecology we now have a collection of essays by Richard Bauckham entitled Living with Other Creatures. Green Exegesis and Theology almost all of which have already appeared in journals over the last few years (with the exception of the opening and closing reflections of Richard in this book). The essays are diverse, dealing with both OT and NT texts and the basic thesis is simple— while we have a vertical relationship with God (hence a hierarchy) we have a more horizontal relationship with our fellow creatures on earth and need to treat them more equitably.
I am all for humane treatment of animals in this world, and for loving and caring for animals in general, but I am not persuaded that we have a horizontal relationship with ‘all creatures great and small’. I do think that being the only creature created in God’s image who is called to fill the earth and subdue it, means that our relationship is more vertical than horizontal when it comes to other creatures.
I am however in full agreement with Richard about the importance of conservation, of care taking of our planet in our role as image bearers. This includes working to get away from fossil fuels which continue to poison our air and streams. As you read through Richard’s interesting interpretations of various Biblical passages, I think you will find some of the exegesis convincing, some intriguing, and some stimulating but unconvincing.
The idea here is Richard is trying to help us see the Bible through a different and more eco-friendly lens, and this is a good thing. I am for instance not convinced there is any sort of consistent argument in the Bible against eating meat, or in the NT about avoiding particular kinds of meat (say pork barbecue). What I do think is that Christians need to think ethically and theologically about their world, including about what they eat, and prayerfully and carefully ask how they could be better caretakers of the only earth we have. Cue several verses of St. Francis’ famous hymn “All Creatures Great and Small’.