A 3.3.1 Response to Exercise

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There are a number of things in the Bible you might have thought of.  Given that Lynn White’s critique focused on the idea, found in Genesis 1, that human beings are given ‘mastery’ or ‘dominion’ over other creatures, you might have asked if White was interpreting this correctly.  Is there in fact a different and better way of understanding it?  Many scholars now hold that there is – and we shall look at this in a few moments.

Apart from questioning what ‘dominion’ really means in that sort of way, you might have thought of some of the following:

In Gen. 2.15, a task is given to the man God creates – “to till and keep” the Garden of Eden.  Gen. 3.23 makes clear that it remains humanity’s task “to till the ground” even after human sin has meant that Adam and Eve are driven out of Eden.

Also in Genesis, there is the narrative of the Great Flood in chapters 6 to 9, in which God instructs Noah to save all the different kinds of animals.

There are also a few passsages in which different kinds of creature – the sun and moon, the animals, etc. – join together with humans in praise of God, e.g. Psalm 148.  This suggests that all creatures are important in themselves and that they form a symphony which glorifies God.

You might also have come up with various passages in the Old Testament prophets, in which ecological devastation is seen as a result of human sin, e.g. in Isaiah 24.3-6, and renewed flourishing of all of nature is seen as part of God’s restoration and blessing, as in Isaiah 35.

In the New Testament, you might have thought of Jesus statement about even the sparrows, that “not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing” (Matt. 10.29).  God’s providential care is for all animals, even if – as Jesus says – a human being is “worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10.31).

Or you might have brought to mind St Paul speaking of the hope for creation, that it “will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8.21).

In Christian history, you might have thought of the special relationship which some of the saints had with animals, including St Francis of Assisi.  Francis’s famous prayer of praise called ‘Canticle of Brother Son’ is reminiscent of Ps. 148.

END OF RESPONSE

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