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Theocentric Environmentalism: Love as the Basis for Creation Care Scripture is explicit, the Earth is the Lords and everything in it (Psalm 24:1-2). And again, the Earth, heavens, and everything in them was created by God (Psalm 89:11). No matter how one reads the creation accounts in Genesis, there is no denying that all of creation is Gods handy work and everything is under Gods care. There are, however, two particular words in the first chapter of Genesis that have given evangelical Christians much to think about over the years. In this essay I will debunk the common misunderstanding of the theological meaning behind the words dominion and subdue. I will further argue that these terms should not be viewed synonymously with words such as abuse, as has been widely practiced in modern evangelicalism, but rather something like loving stewardship. Let me begin by exploring the meaning behind two key words in the first creation account. In Genesis 1:28 we read the first command God gives to humankind, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. To fully grasp this command let us first look at the word dominion. The Hebrew word used comes from the root radah: literally to have dominion, rule, or dominate (BDB, 921). In this particular parsing another translation might be to chastise or chasten. This offers interesting insight to the fullness of Gods command to humanity. There are still overtones of humanity being in control of the rest of creation, but not in a power hungry or domineering sense. Rather this suggests that for the good of creation and those within it we are to moderate in a way that allows life to thrive. Next, God commands that humanity subdue the earth. The Hebrew here is kabas, which again, taken literally is the verb to subdue or bring into bondage (BDB, 461). However, if one is to dig a little deeper into its meaning other ways of expressing kabas are to press, squeeze, or knead (as in to massage) (BDB, 461). The latter understanding sheds healthy light on the former.

To subdue the earth is not to exploit, abuse, or shackle it, rather as a masseuse looks to relieve points of tension and pain, so too are we to relieve the earth in ways that maximizes life and health. Clearly a close look at both of these key terms reveals that God has entrusted humankind with the great responsibility to not only rule over the earth, but more importantly cultivate it and from it foster life (c.f. Galbraith, 290; Genesis 2:15). To further support this point we take an even broader look at why God created in the first place. Christian theology largely upholds the notion of creatio ex amore, that is creation from love. This notion upholds that God is non-contingent (God does not need anything) and therefore God does not need creation. Rather God wants creation; God wants the relationship. Everything that God created was out of love with the desire that, in relationship, love would be returned. What this means is the human-divine relationships should be wholly based on love. In essence we are fully acting the way God desires when we return in love what was given in love. This is our act of worship. As I indicated at the beginning of this essay the Scriptures are clear that God is the maker of everything seen and unseen. Because of that, all matter shares the same theological atoms, and we are all deeply rooted and profoundly connected to one Father making us all ontological siblings (Barron, 29). Sam Mickey, an environmental ethics professor at the University of San Francisco suggests a new term for how we should approach humanity and the natural world: anthropocosmic. He says, Rather than placing value on a particular center (e.g., anthropocentric, biocentric, ecocentric) and thus excluding and marginalizing something of peripheral value, an anthropocosmic approach to ethics seeks to facilitate the mutual implication of humanity and the natural world, thereby affirming the interconnectedness and mutual constitution of central and peripheral value (226). In the sense that humanity is intimately connected to the rest of creation in a way that should not encourage the marginalization of any part of creation, I completely agree.

However, as evangelical Christians we must affirm that we do in fact place a high value on one particular center, that is what Father Robert Barron calls the Divine center (29). The thing that connects us all is the one God who, out of love, created us. Thus far in my argument I submit that love should be the lens through which we view the rest of creation and the basis for our relationship with God. If this is the case, why has there been a poor sense of creation care within evangelicalism? There are many dynamics at work here, but one perspective comes from Robert Faricy, Emeritus Professor of Spirituality of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He notes that it has not always been this way, and looks specifically to Martin Luthers protestant reformation. Luthers theology (and some consequent Protestant theologies) view all of nature as fallen and under Gods judgment. Faricy says God and the world are perceived in antithetical opposition and as such our stewardship stands within a masterslave relationship (182). This idea stands in direct opposition to the creation hymn which repeatedly declares that when God creates it is good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). God is the divine judge and the authority over all things, and still God sent Gods son because even as we are still sinners, God so loved the world. Further, John 3:17 says it was not Gods plan to condemn the world, but to save it through Gods Son. It is at this moment in history that we take full confidence that the world is still worth caring for. In love God created all things. In love God commanded that humankind have authority to have dominion over and subdue the earth. In love God sent Gods Son to redeem all of creation. Love is the bond that connects all things. I will close with a quote from Father Robert Barron, Human beings were intended to be the means by which the whole earth would give praise to God, returning in love what God had given in love, uniting all things in a great act of worship (30).

Works Cited Brown, Francis, S R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, Edward Robinson, Wilhelm Gesenius, and James Strong. The Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic : Coded with the Numbering System from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2001. Print. Faricy, Robert. "The Exploitation Of Nature And Teilhard's Ecotheology Of Love." Ecotheology: Journal Of Religion, Nature & The Environment 10.2 (2005): 181-195. Religion and Philosophy Collection. Web. 2 Oct. 2012. Galbraith, Kyle L. "Broken Bodies Of God: The Christian Eucharist As A Locus For Ecological Reflection." Worldviews: Environment Culture Religion 13.3 (2009): 283-304. Religion and Philosophy Collection. Web. 2 Oct. 2012. Mickey, Sam. "Contributions To Anthropocosmic Environmental Ethics." Worldviews: Environment Culture Religion 11.2 (2007): 226-247. Religion and Philosophy Collection. Web. 2 Oct. 2012. Barron, Robert E. Eucharist. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2008. Print.