A Hopeful Earth

April 18th, 2018

The celebration of Earth Day each spring gives Christians an opportunity to consider God's good creation and our stewardship of it. This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday, April 22nd. The following is excerpt from A Hopeful Earth: Faith, Science, and the Message of Jesus by Sally Dyck.

Genesis 1 is not a "how to create a universe" cookbook; it doesn't answer our question of how, but it does answer other questions, such as what our relationship is to God, to other creatures, and to the earth itself. The creation story at the beginning of Genesis (1:1-2:4a) is a beautiful liturgical poem about the home that God made for and gave to us.

Carefully reviewing Genesis 1 in terms of the order of creation, we can recognize that it’s not meant to describe how creation came into being. What do you see in this ordering of creation? On the first day God created the heavens and the earth and light (1:3-5), but it wasn’t until the fourth day that God created the sun and the moon, which give and reflect light on earth (1:14-19). If Genesis1 were a how-to manual, wouldn’t the sun and the moon have been created on the day that light, day, and night were created?

Likewise, on the second day the sky and the sea were created (1:6-8), but it was not until the fifth day that the species that fill the sky and the sea were created: birds and fish (1:20-23). On the third day earth’s dry land, its vegetation, and the definition of the sea were formed (1:9-13), but it was not until the sixth day that the dry land was filled with animals, humanity, and vegetation for food (1:24-31).

"A Hopeful Earth: Faith, Science, and the Message of Jesus" (Abingdon Press, 2010)

Instead of giving a how-to approach to the story of creation, the ordering of creation in Genesis is a mnemonic device by ancient storytellers so they could remember the way to tell this beautiful story and thereby keep the telling of it consistent over time. Eventually the story was written down. Its beauty and message are in the proclamation and affirmation that God created all; it is God’s creation, and God established the laws of nature as part of that existing order.

Out of Faith Came Science

People of faith began to develop the field of science. It’s hard for our modern minds to understand the role that Christianity played in bringing about the development of science.

“What?” you may be asking. “I thought science and faith were always at odds with each other!”

We forget that science and faith haven’t always been at odds with each other. That’s a relatively recent phenomenon, spanning mostly the twentieth century. The history of science and Christianity is a complex relationship, but it has not always been one of conflict. In fact, the Christian faith actually encouraged scientific observation, exploration, and experimentation.

David A Wilkinson has a PhD in theoretical astrophysics. At least that was his first career. But then he became a British Methodist clergyperson. He writes that our Judeo-Christian faith encouraged science because the universe was created by God, and as humans we can never figure it out solely with our minds. We need to observe it, ponder it, explore it, and experiment with it in order to better understand it.

Wilkinson also argues that since God created humanity in God’s own image, our fundamental belief is that we can also come to understand these laws of nature as we observe them, record them, analyze them, and build on them over the ages. This is the result of a miraculous mind that God created and that is able to become sophisticated in methods of observation.

Therefore, the Judeo-Christian tradition provided the impetus for the gift of the scientific community. Science and technology aren’t in opposition to our faith, but we’re still to avoid insisting that science and technology should save us from our ecological sins.

What Will Save Us?

One temptation is to believe that science and technology will save us. I know people who think that they can eat and live however they want because by the time the effects of their habits influence their health, there will be a pill or a treatment to change their lifestyle outcomes. Too often we have had this perspective on the creation crisis: science and technology will take care of any accidents or the overall negative impact of our living.


We can’t make science our idol; we can’t just trust science and technology to save us from the ecological mess we’re in because of who we are: followers of Jesus. Will we make the lifestyle changes of which Jesus spoke in order to restore some semblance of health to this earth, God’s creation? Or will we be tempted to trust solely in science and technology to bail us out?

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