The earthly Jesus
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Date: 18 February, 2004

Bishop James Jones. Picture: Christian Ecology Link

'How we treat the environment around us depends on how we view God's creation.”


Tim Cooper listened to the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, who said that to desecrate the planet was not just a crime against humanity but blasphemous as well

Enough of this transient Earth. Think on he who came that we may have eternal life. Indeed. And yet in this God-man "all things hold together" and through him God was pleased "to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Col 1:17, 19). On earth?

Speaking at the recent Christian Ecology Link conference, the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, suggested that to desecrate the earth is more than a crime against humanity and future generations.

It was, he said, "a blasphemy, because it is to undo God's creative work in and through and for Christ." And in his latest book, Jesus and the Earth, he argues that Jesus is the saviour not only of humanity but also of the planet and the whole cosmos, which came into being through him and for him.


Historically, the case for Christian engagement in environmental debate has been rooted in the Genesis mandate (Gen 2:15) and a theological model of stewardship based on the principle that God 'owns' His creation (Ps 24:1) and we humans are as tenants.

More recently, however, there has been interest in a Christ-centred approach. In Earth Spirituality: Jesus at the Centre, Ed Echlin describes how Jesus "was attuned to the natural world and uncommonly sensitive to its ways."

James Jones notes that although Jesus affirms the acclamations of others that he is the Son of God, he himself exclusively uses the phrase Son of Man, which in Hebrew (Ben Adam) means 'son of the one hewn from the earth.' The importance, Jones suggests, can hardly be overstated: "Because of us, the earth is cursed. How can the earth be relieved of the curse? Only through Adam's successors being ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. The future stability of the earth depends entirely upon the repentance of the human family."

This link between conditions on the Earth and our response to God's call echoes the message in the Old Testament. The Israelites were faced with favourable or adverse conditions for growing food depending upon whether they obeyed God (Lev 26: 3-5, 18-20). Likewise today our behaviour impacts upon our surroundings.

Paper cup

How we treat the environment around us depends on how we view God's creation. Thus according to James Jones: "If you believe that the earth is as expendable as a discarded paper cup which will be finally consumed in some cosmic combustion, then you will probably be inclined to milk the earth for all it is worth while there is time.

"If, on the other hand, you believe that the earth has a destiny in a renewed form and that the material has a place alongside the spiritual in God's eternal purposes, this will induce a more cautious attitude...Your attitude to creation moves away from indulgence and exploitation to care and reverence."

How, then, do we consider the destiny of the Earth? When we contrast the prophetic words of Peter (2 Pet 3.10-13) with the imagery of Isaiah (Is 65:17-25) do we foresee cosmic combustion, or the refiner's fire? Total destruction? Renewal? Perhaps, even today, we can see hopeful signs - on Earth - of the coming of the King's kingdom.

To buy a copy of 'Jesus and The Earth' by Bishop James Jones, click here.

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