Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Desecrating Creation’s Holy Ground?
I recently read through Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, a book of essays centered around defending theistic evolutionism. I think it is important to read books from several different perspectives in order to test them and keep the good. I came upon an interesting quote in one of the essays on caring for creation:
For those who can see creation glorifying God there is an opportunity to get a glimpse of “his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20, NRSV) in the things he has made. Genesis presents the entire creation as a cosmic sanctuary where the Creator is present, glorified, and to be worshipped… If creation is God’s sanctuary, then when we desecrate creation for our short-term needs, we are desecrating holy ground. (Braaten, 422-423, cited below)
The notion that creation is God’s temple or sanctuary is one found in numerous studies on Genesis and its context. I find it to be a very appropriate way to envision creation as God’s ordered cosmos. I had not, however, thought of creation care in these terms. It seems to me to be correct, however. After all, if we really believe that all of creation is God’s temple, then the unwarranted and often greedy molestation of creation for monetary or other short-term gain is a molestation of God’s holy ground. It is a desecration.
How might we better approach creation and care for it as we have been charged to do? That is a difficult question–one I and others have explored elsewhere. However, I think it is time we as Christians stop ignoring the issues of caring for creation. We need to stand against the desecration of God’s temple.
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Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals– I write about creation care from a number of perspectives offered at a recent panel of prominent evangelical thinkers in this area.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Laurie Braaten, “May the Glory of the Lord Endure Forever! Biblical Reflections on Creation Care” in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited Keith Miller (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003).
Cal Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance have much to say on this issue. Worth reading.
Thanks for the recommendation! I had an awesome time a few years back at the ETS conference listening to Beisner on a panel with several other prominent evangelicals discussing the issue of creation care. I typed up my thoughts which you can read here, should you desire.
“I think it is time we as Christians stop ignoring the issues of caring for creation. We need to stand against the desecration of God’s temple.” — Amen to that. It is long past time. Thanks for drawing attention to the issue from a theological perspective.
1. A problem arises when “caring for creation” is equated with aligning ourselves with secular liberal environmental groups or concerns. It may or may not be the case that caring for creation will involve adopting the same concerns as secular liberal environmental groups. But the argument for that needs to be made, and not a simplistic equation of rhetoric like “caring for poor” = big government.
It may be that we should care for creation, and yet anthropogenic global warming is not a bonafide concern. The one does not automatically entail the other. It may be that we should care for the poor, and yet higher minimum wage laws should be voted against. My concern is that many people will jump on this phrase of “caring for creation” and read into that a whole lot of baggage without any warrant.
2. Per the quote itself, I believe Genesis does depict the creation as a sort of cosmic temple. But it also clearly limits that imagery. For instance, when God appears to Moses in the burning bush, Moses is told to remove his sandals because he is standing on Holy Ground. Does Braaten think this was actually a command for Moses to never wear sandals again because all ground is Holy Ground? If J. W. Wartick thinks all ground is Holy Ground, and we wouldn’t wear our shoes in the Holy of Holies in the OT Tabernacle, why does Mr. Wartick wear shoes today? Why does Scripture talk about this or that particular thing being holy if all things are already holy, per Braaten’s remark? When we are told in the NT that believers are the temple of God, is this just repeating mundane fact that is true of all creatures: I’m a temple of God, but so is my dog (since my dog is part of creation and creation is the temple of God)?
Clearly, the idea of creation as a cosmic temple is limited and shouldn’t be imbued with all the baggage that we might uncritically attach to it in our zeal for our pet environmental project.
Thanks for your comments. I think that the distinctions you’re arguing for are helpful. I think that it is indisputable that we must care for creation, but agree that what that looks like will be different depending on the situation, and we should be evidence-based in our decisions and approaches related to it.
In regards for the notion of all creation being Holy Ground, I again think your critique is largely correct. It’s not a 1-to-1 correspondence between the notion of creation as temple and the actual holiness of the divine presence, though God is omnipresent.
Thank you for your comment!