3.3.3 Scriptural texts relating to ecological responsibility

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Unit 3 Contents

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Don’t rush with the next readings, which may take an hour or so.  You are asked simply to read some of the main texts in the Bible that can help to form a Christian view on ecological responsibility.  You may indeed have looked at some of these when doing the last exercise.

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Reading (c.12pp)

As you read from Scripture, make notes of what strikes you and questions that you find are raised.

The links below will take you, in the NAB, to the start of the chapter in which each reading begins, so scroll down (and move to the next chapter) as needed.

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Passages in the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament:

Gen. 1.1–2.4a  This is the first of the two passages in Genesis telling the story of creation. Part of this was a reading in Unit 2 (2.2.3)

Gen. 2.4b–2.25 This is the second of those two passages.

Gen. 6.5-9.17  This is the story of Noah.  Biblical scholars refer to all of Gen. 1-11 as ‘the primeval history’, because it gives accounts that seem very different from historical events as we know them.  Notice that, taking the primeval history as whole, humans are created to be vegetarian (1.29-30), and it is not until after the flood that God permits them to eat meat (9.3).

Psalm 8  This mentions the dominion God gave to humanity.

Psalm 19.1-6  This echoes Ps 8.

Psalm 65  This speaks of God’s abundant provision in nature.

Psalm 148  Here all kinds of creatures join in praise of God.

Isaiah 24.3-6 and Isaiah 35  The prophet speaks of ecological devastation in chap. 24 and of restoration in chap. 35.

Three passages in the New Testament:

Matthew 6.19-34  This is part of the block of Jesus’ teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).  You could compare this passage in Matt. 6 with Luke 12.22-34 which is similar.

Romans 8.18-28  Romans is St Paul’s longest and most theological letter.  Chaps 1-3 (up to v.20) give Paul’s diagnosis of the sinful human condition.  Chap. 3.20 to the end of chap 7 is his exposition of what God has done for the world through Jesus Christ.  In light of this, he gives in Chapter 8 an exultant statement about what follows for how Christians should see themselves and the lives they now live.

Revelation 21.1-22.5  A vision of the new heaven and new earth. This is significant especially because, like Romans 8, it indicates that the final salvation which Christian faith proclaims is a renewal of creation.  It is not a matter of disembodied souls floating in a purely spiritual ‘heaven’.

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Optional reading (4pp)

Daniel 3. 51-90

Note

This passage, which is called the ‘Song of the Three’, starts: “Then these three in the furnace with one voice sang…” (NAB).  I mention this as the verse numbers for it are not the same in all editions of the Bible.)

This passage is in Scripture as used in the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches.  However Protestants see it as ‘deuterocanonical’.  (For what this means, see e.g Wikipedia entry on ‘Deuterocanonical books‘.)  For this reason, if you are using the New Revised Standard Version, you will find it separately, in the part headed ‘Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books’.

This text is like Ps. 148 but much longer.  It is a great call to praise by all the different kinds of creature.

The ‘Song of the Three’ has been used a great deal in the Church’s liturgy, including in many musical settings.  In this context it is often known as ‘the Benedicite’ (from its first word in Latin, pronounced either ‘benedi-kite-y’ or ‘bene-dissit-y’).

Some scholars argue that its frequent use in medieval worship shows that Christianity then had a clear recognition of all the different kinds of creature as valuable and as standing with humans before God in worship – a vision that was lost with the emergence of the modern, mechanistic world-view.1

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The next short reading is by Pope John Paul II.  He refers to and comments on some of the Scripture passages you have just read.  This is one of several important statements that he made about ecological issues.  It is from 2001, in the later part of his papacy.

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Reading (2pp)

Pope John Paul II, ‘God made man the steward of creation

General Audience, 17 January 2001

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Reflection

In that statement, Pope John Paul said (#4), “We must therefore encourage and support the ‘ecological conversion’ which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading.”

What do you think of this idea of an ‘ecological conversion’?

Are you converted?  What do you think it means for people in practice?

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End of 3.3.3

Go to 3.3.4 ‘In the image of God’: introduction

 

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  1. See e.g. R. Bauckham, ‘Human Authority in Creation’, in God and the Crisis of Freedom: Biblical and Contemporary Perspectives, (WJKP, 2002), 140. 

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