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Redeeming Creation: Will We Follow God’s Command?

The alleluias of Resurrection Sunday are still resounding in our ears, and Eastertide comes clothed in spring’s finest attire.

It is not surprising that tradition has brought the joyous news of our Savior conquering death to align with the bursting forth of new life in creation.

A seventh-century English monk, The Venerable Bede, helped Christians figure out how to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus over against some of the pagan celebrations of nature’s fertility.

Yet, as the first new thing since the beginning of creation, this history defining event cannot really be separated from the natural world God so fully embraced as Word become flesh.

Biblical writers compare Jesus’ death to a single seed sown, which dies to produce abundant harvest (John 12:24; 1 Corinthians 15:37ff). A beloved Easter hymn echoes this perspective:

“Now the green blade rises from the buried grain.

What that in the dark earth for many days has lain.

Love lives again, that with the dead has been:

Love is come again like wheat that rises green.”

The promise of Scripture is that the resurrection of Jesus portends cosmic redemption. The Christ who gives eternal life to mortal humans will also liberate creation from its groaning.

Indeed, our resurrected life, presaged in our baptism, has significant implications for the flourishing of the rest of creation.

The new horizon of the children of God grants hope “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

Nevertheless, the very ones to whom God delegated the care of creation are those most responsible for its current degradation: human beings.

Even though we live in hope of the divine consummation of creation, we cannot abandon what is uniquely ours to do. As stewards of creation, we stand in for God who chooses not to do it without us.

Unfortunately, Christian theology’s preoccupation with humanity, its privileging of spirit over body and earth, and its apocalyptic eschatology with fiery scenes of earth’s destruction have contributed to a trifling concern about God’s will being done on earth.

Compared to environmentalist groups, the church is rather silent about the stewardship of natural resources.

We may have an occasional sermon around Earth Day, but consistent teaching and ecological practice are not of primary concern for the majority of congregations.

The largest threat to the continuation of life on our planet is no longer nuclear warfare, even with North Korea’s brinksmanship.

It is the negligent erosion of our biological-natural environment that endangers our planetary home and all those with whom we share it. The other creatures – and all forms of life – are counting on us.

We are suffocating in our ever-higher piles of garbage; living creatures are forced from plains and wetlands so that we might “develop” these areas; we use resources with profligacy; species are becoming extinct, not through the grinding process of cosmic evolution, but through human violence or simple indifference. Our life-denying practices have consequences already.

While there is much more that we can do, Central Baptist Theological Seminary continues to seek ways to conserve energy.

In addition to very efficient heating and cooling, we have motion sensitive lights, thus large sections of the library or halls or even classrooms are not lit unnecessarily.

We make the most of natural light in our chapel and common areas, which helps trim utility costs.

Our educational delivery makes it possible for many to attend class without heading to the gas pump to fill their cars. If one professor has his way, Central will be one of the first theological schools to have electric charging stations. Stay tuned!

When we do have to print documents, we copy double-sided, a considerable savings. Water bottles and coffee mugs help limit our use of plastic and paper, resources too quickly being depleted.

In large measure God has entrusted the care of creation to us, and we participate in its ultimate redemption through our actions.

As the apostle exults, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). May it be so.

Molly T. Marshall is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS) in Shawnee, Kansas. Her writings can also be found on her blog, Trinitarian Soundings. You can follow CBTS on Twitter @CBTSKansas.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series for Earth Day 2017 (April 22).

The previous article in this series is:

When You See God’s Creative Grandeur on Display