How the Trinity Changed my Mind on Creation Care
I am taking a break in my series on Global Voices to share two short articles I wrote for the Evangelical Environmental Network.
Ten years ago I faced a crisis of faith. I’d been raised to believe that there was a pecking order to God’s love: our eternal souls first, our physical bodies a distant second, and creation a very distant third. Life and faith were evaluated through this criteria screen, and creation almost always paid the price.
What caused me to question this flawed filter was my Trinitarian theology. In considering God’s triune nature I reached a point where I could no longer accept that God cared less about how we treated his creation than by how we treated one another. I wasn’t sure where to go next, but I was determined that the Trinity would prevail in wherever this took me. I began by stepping back and looking again at creation through the lens of relationship and not utility. Let me explain.
We believe that our God is triune in his very nature. This means that the nature of God is defined by relationships at the most profound level. It also means that he created a world that would feature relationships as its defining mark. Quantum physics, the Genome Project and a wide array of scientific discoveries continue to affirm that our universe is an amazing display of interrelatedness and interdependence. In this way creation declares the glory of its Creator. When humanity entered the scene, God continued the theme, created us male and female for the highest form of created relationship. And he immediately placed us in a garden with the command to tend it.
We witness four levels of relationship that are established in Genesis 1-2; our relationship with God, with our self, with our neighbor and with creation. How else would a triune God create than by establishing everything in the context of relationship? We were meant to live in whole, meaningful and mutually fulfilling relationships at all four of these levels.
This relational understanding of creation is critical if we are to grasp the breadth of the devastating impact of the fall. Scripture tells us that the fall brought brokenness to these relationships at all four levels. Our relationship with God was broken, requiring the mediation of priests, temples and sacrificial rites. Our relationship with our self was broken, requiring us to find meaning and purpose in a life now dominated by sin and its consequences. Our relationship with our neighbor was broken ushering in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. And our relationship to creation was broken, relegating us to work the earth and produce a crop from the sweat of our brow.
With this Creation-Fall backdrop understood in Trinitarian terms, I turned to Christ’s work of atonement. There is a powerful moment in The Passion of the Christ is when Mary works her way through the crowd to come to Jesus’ side as he falls under the weight of the cross. There Mel Gibson takes Jesus’ words of victory and hope from Revelation 21:5 and has him speak them to his mother on the way to Calvary, “I am making everything new!”
Indeed he was. Our understanding of the atonement must be as comprehensive and inclusive as that of creation and the fall. We are told that everything that was lost in the fall was restored in Christ. The broken relationships at all four levels were taken up into Christ in the Incarnation, healed by his wounds on the cross, and restored in his resurrection. Paul tells us, “Just as one sin resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in the justification and life for all people.” (Romans 5:18)
Here was the critical moment in my journey. If God created us for whole, loving, and fulfilling relationships at these four levels, if we then lost everything in the Fall, and Christ subsequently bought all of it back for us in his life, death and resurrection, then it follows that God has given back these relationships to us saying, “Take care of these, they are not yours. You lost them and I bought them back for you. It cost me the blood of my Son. These are precious gifts. Steward them out of your love for me.”
That settled it for me. My commitment to creation care became the unquestionable result of my Trinitarian faith. The moment I realized that all of life’s relationships at every level of my existence were precious gifts from God, my understanding of faithful stewardship was expanded further than I ever could have imagined. For me the most radical expression of that steward responsibility was a redeemed understanding of my call to care for God’s creation.
So as a result of this Trinitarian journey, here are my newfound commitments.
- I care for creation because I love the triune God, the Creator.
- I care for creation because God loves me and created me in His image for this work.
- I care for creation because in doing so I reflect God’s relational nature and His image in me.
- I care for creation because Christ has redeemed me with his blood, and that redemption includes my relationship to the world he created and called ‘good’.
- I care for creation because to do so is an expression of my love for my self and my neighbor.
- I care for creation because it is not mine, it is God’s, and I am its steward, created and redeemed for this work.
- I care for creation because to do less would be to deny God’s intent in creation, pour contempt on the cross and disdain the free gift God has made possible for me through Jesus Christ.
- I care for creation because as a child of the triune God and a follower of Jesus Christ, I can do no less.