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Creation Care as Discipleship

Both the book of His world and the book of His Word help propel humans toward meaningful life. As children of God, and in all we do as worship to God (Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:17), we can express our thankfulness to Him by caring for all He has provided. As Wright notes, “Our treatment of the earth reflects our attitude to its Maker and the seriousness (or otherwise) with which we take what he has said about it.”11 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep what I command” ( John 14:15). God has commanded that His children treat His creation well; doing so provides an opportunity to demonstrate obedient love to Him.

Participating in God’s Redemptive Mission

Second, creation care provides an opportunity for believers to lovingly obey God’s mandate to participate in His redemptive mission. This, says Wright, involves “not only the salvation of human beings but also the redemption of the whole creation.”12 This work begins now but has its ultimate fulfillment (Psa. 96:10–97:6; Rom. 8:18–25) in a future day, as all things are reconciled to Christ (Col. 1:20). Meanwhile, as we wait for that day, God, who owns all things (Deut. 10:14), has authorized us to work out His mission here on the earth, the “grand arena within which the Bible’s grand narrative [of redemption] takes place.”13

God desires that all people (Psa. 29:1–2) and all creation (Psa. 91:1) would bring Him glory. But just as unredeemed humans cannot fully reveal God’s glory, neither can degraded creation. Conversely, humanity touched by God’s redemptive hand brings glory to Him, as does creation properly cared for. To engage in that process puts us in a place where we can obediently participate with God in what He has begun to do and will ultimately do, for His glory. As we care for the earth and nurture its fullness, we work toward the redemptive mission of showing God’s glory throughout all the earth.

Caring for the Poor and Vulnerable

A careless attitude by God’s children toward His creation is poor testimony to those who do not yet know Him.

Third, creation care provides a way for believers to love and serve God by loving and serving those He has created in His image—especially the most vulnerable. Just as care for our body and spirit impacts the quality of our entire being, so too, care for the earth impacts the quality of human life and contributes to overall planetary flourishing. The health of the earth directly impacts the health of its inhabitants. Often poor environmental conditions contribute to great suffering for the earth’s young and poor.

The Evangelical Environmental Network has several resources that raise awareness about these issues, such as how elemental mercury impacts the unborn14 and how climate change impacts the poor15 and vulnerable.16 Noah J. Toly and Daniel I. Block vividly describe this connection:

If the process of global warming continues, many millions living in coastal regions will be driven from their homes by rising ocean waters caused by melting ice and thermal expansion of the seas. Unless we address the problems of overcrowding and lack of sanitation in many of the world’s cities, premature death will rob their citizens of life; disease, poverty and unemployment will continue to dehumanize them and rob them of their dignity. Unless we manage the earth’s . . . resources well, . . . millions . . . created in God’s image will die prematurely.17

Mike Tenneson, biology professor at Evangel University, describes how everything in an ecosystem has the potential to impact human life: “Clean water, fertile soil and wholesome food are necessary for sustaining healthy communities. Even small acts of environmental stewardship can affect human populations.”18 For instance, seeming insignificant plants have led to the discovery of lifesaving medicines. Allowing or causing their extinction would have been our loss.

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2016

About the Author: Lois E. Olena, D.Min. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Jewish Studies and the D.Min. Project Coordinator at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. She also served as Executive Director of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (2011-2016). Her publications include Stanley M. Horton: Shaper of Pentecostal Theology (Gospel Publishing House, 2010), co-editor/co-author with Eric Newberg of Children of the Calling: Essays in Honor of Stanley M. Burgess and Ruth V. Burgess (Pickwick, 2014), and numerous book chapters, articles, and reviews. She is presently finalizing (with Margaret de Alminana) a co-edited/co-authored volume for Brill’s Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies series. AGTS Faculty page

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