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Catholic-Animals
THE ARK

A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals

 

Selections From The Ark Number 204 - Autumn/Winter 2006

SUGGESTION FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL BIBLE STUDY

Jennifer Brown, an Anglican deacon who attended the ecumenical retreat this summer, offers a suggestion for a Bible study

BY JENNIFER BROWN

What does the Bible teach us about the role of mankind in relation to the environment? Unfortunately, until recently, much of the Church’s teaching on creation has been based on a belief in the impermanence of the earth and even more on the belief that the earth and everything in it exists for our use and pleasure.

Bible study

Read Genesis 1.27-28.
Discuss: Do you think that this makes people special and different from the rest of creation? If so, in what way?

Read Genesis 2.7-9 and verse 15.
Discuss: What is the role of humankind? Why was the garden created?

Consider the following:

In Genesis 2.15, the Hebrew word abad is usually translated as ‘to work’ or ‘to till’. However, when it appears elsewhere in the Old Testament, it is translated as ‘to serve’.

Now look at Colossians 1.15 and Philipians 2.6-7.
These passages show us that Christ is the only true, uncorrupted image of God, and that he did not consider equality with God to be grasped, but became a servant of those ‘lesser’ than himself.

With all of this in mind, re-read the passages from Genesis.

Discuss:

Following Christ’s example, what does it really mean to be created in the image of God? What type of dominion does this imply God gave to mankind? And if Genesis 2.15 can (or should) be translated, ‘and God put the man in the garden to serve it and to keep it’, what would this imply about how we should treat the environment and creatures other than ourselves?

Conclusion

The Church (most, if not all, denominations) through the ages has traditionally referred to humanity as the pinnacle of creation, and has claimed for us special status because we have been created in the image of God. But everything we know about God tells us that God is one who loves and cares for His creation. Psalm 65:9-13 says about God:

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

This describes a creation abundantly provided for, renewed and filled with joy and life. Christ demonstrates what it truly means to be created in the image of God: he does not grasp his equality with God, but lets it go to become the servant of all. Surely this means that we cannot grasp our being made in the image of God as some sort of preferential status. Rather we need to see that the real image of God, revealed in Christ, is to be a humble servant. God put the man in the garden to serve it and to keep it. We need to become servants of creation and thus reveal in ourselves the true likeness of God.

Prayer

Lord God,

We thank you for creation: its beauty, its diversity and its bounty provided for all. We thank you that the fullness of creation is evidence of your great love. Help us, Father, to live in your likeness, not grasping the status given to us, but emptying ourselves and becoming the servants in your garden. Fill us with a childlike joy and wonder at all that surrounds us, and may our service to creation bring us ever closer to you.

Amen.

Some references

Andew Linzey and Dorothy Yamamoto [editors], Animals on the Agenda. London: SCM, 1998.
Lewis G. Regenstein., Replenish the Earth. London: SCM, 1991.
 

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