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
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
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.
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