Having been a biology teacher, studying the origin of the universe, its processes and shape, along with being a theology teacher, believing in God as the Creator of the universe, these two disciplines complemented each other for me.
Prior to Copernicus and Galileo, little attention was given to science. Christians thought the earth was the center of the universe while God dwelt above in heaven with earth and hell below. However, after Copernicus, and the discovery of more galaxies, scientists saw that humans are only a small part of a much bigger ecosystem and universe. At that point, religion and science largely took separate directions. Accepting the truth of science meant rejecting the truth of God for many people. Only later were many religious scientists throughout the ages appreciated. Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014) wrote: “We need a new theology of the cosmos, one that is grounded in the best science of our day ... so that all the world turns sacred again ...”
For this reason, and because my interest blossomed as a result of participating in a spiritual program called JustFaith, I am concerned about what is happening to our natural environment or God’s creation. Today, a growing number of people are beginning to articulate how science and faith can be reconciled. Various Christian denominations have recognized publicly that climate change is a fact and serious change is needed in caring for the earth and the environment. They root their belief in God as Creator, and in the role of human beings as stewards of God’s creation, Genesis 1-2; 1:28.
For several decades now, Christian and other faith traditions have worked with their respective communities to address these changes as a result of understanding the meaning of stewardship and dominion. “Dominion”, rada in Hebrew, is associated with God’s own rule which ensured the well-being of all God’s people (especially the poor), and the right ordering of the land and all that it held. As images of God, humans are commissioned to relate to the rest of creation as God relates to it.
Church statements acknowledging climate change have come from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1993), the United Church of Christ (2007), the Southern Baptist Convention (2007), the Episcopal Church (2016), the United Methodist Church (2016), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (2016), the Quakers (2017), and the American Baptist Churches USA (2018). The Catholic tradition has published several statements. Among them is Laudato Si (2015), on the environment and human ecology, linking the care of the environment to stewardship and social justice. Earlier, the World Day of Peace Message #15 (1990) stated, “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.” Statements from the Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions exist as well.
In 1992, an interfaith group, Interfaith Power and Light, was founded by Episcopal priest, Rev. Sally Bingham. Its membership consists of Protestant ministers, Episcopal and Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, Evangelicals, Mormons, and Hindus. This group inspires and mobilizes people of faith and conscience to be faithful stewards of creation. They aim to protect the earth’s ecosystems, safeguard the health of all creation, ensure sustainable energy for all and support changes in environmental public policy. They are connected to 14,000 houses of worship in 40 states, including Texas.
All these churches and faith traditions identify climate change as taking place in the U.S. and the world. As people of faith they desire to make a difference in caring for the life of the earth. In following articles, I want to continue to explore the biblical notion of stewardship regarding climate change and our challenge to become stewards of God’s creation individually and in community.
Beatrice Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World (Crossroad Publishing Company: 1997), 13.