I’d like to hear a sermon on this at church this weekend:
We will discover that God found the world, as he made it, to be good; that he made it for his pleasure; and that he continues to love it and to find it worthy, despite its reduction and corruption by us. People who quote John 3:16 as an easy formula for getting to heaven neglect to see the great difficulty implied in the statement that the advent of Christ was made possible by God’s love for the world–not God’s love for Heaven or for the world as it might be, but for the world as it was and is. Belief in Christ is thus made dependent upon prior belief in the inherent goodness–the lovability–of the world.
We will discover that the Creation is not in any sense independent of the Creator, the result of a primal creative act long over and done with, but is the continuous, constant participation of all creatures in the being of God. Elihu said to Job that if God “gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together . . . ” Job 34:15). And Psalm 104 says: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created…. ” Creation is God’s presence in creatures. The Greek Orthodox theologian, Philip Sherrard, has written that “Creation is nothing less than the manifestation of God’s hidden being.”(n1) Thus we and all other creatures live by a sanctity that is inexpressibly intimate. To every creature the gift of life is a portion of the breath and spirit of God. As the poet, George Herbert, put it,
Thou are in small things great, not small in any…. For thou art infinite in one and all.
We will discover that, for these reasons, our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into his face, as of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them. To Dante, “despising Nature and her gifts” was a violence against God. We have no entitlement from the Bible to exterminate or permanently destroy or hold in contempt anything on the earth or in the heavens above it or in the waters beneath it. We have the right to use the gifts of Nature, but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need, but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property. The usurer, Dante said, “condemns Nature. . . for he puts his hope elsewhere.”
Wendell Berry, from Christianity and the Survival of Creation