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The Greening of the Church

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2024


Two years ago the West German Green Party described itself like this: ‘We are for an economic system orientated towards the vital requirements of people and of future generations, towards the preservation of nature and the judicious handling of natural resources.’ This awareness of the environmental dimension to economic problems led to its getting 8.5% of the West German popular vote in 1987.

We may ask ourselves where Christians have been while this awareness has been unfolding. Is Christian anthropology inadequate to care for the earth? Or have the followers of Jesus somehow lost the delicate balance between taking from the earth what is necessary and caring for this planet?

The problem seems to be with the balance. A key biblical text is Genesis 1:28, which the R.S.V. translates ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’. Other translations have ‘conquer it’, ‘have dominion over it’ and ‘dominate it’. Yet the idea Genesis is conveying is that man is God’s viceroy commissioned to care for God’s garden, which is ‘very good’. C.H. Moule observes,

He is meant to have dominion over it and to use it... but only for God’s sake, only Adam in paradise, cultivating it for the Lord. As soon as he begins to use it selfishly, and reaches out to take fruit which is forbidden by the Lord, instantly the ecological balance is upset and nature begins to groan.

Research Article
Copyright © 1987 Provincial Council of the English Province of the Order of Preachers

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