“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to till it and keep it.”
Stewardship of the Earth – or creation care – is at the heart of the Bible’s Creation Story.
Allison Reeves Jolley is Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light (NCIPL), an organization that brings believers of all faiths and denominations together to address the causes and consequences of global climate change. She argues that the prominent placement of environmental concepts at the beginning of the Bible is indicative of their importance to the Christian faith:
“It’s right there at the beginning of the Bible. It’s the earliest and clearest call for Christians to care for the environment. Eco-theologians, such as Dr. Norman Wirzba, often make the connection that this point in scripture is perhaps the clearest instance where God tells humans that our role is to protect the garden of God’s creation. In context, that implies that our polluting of the garden’s atmosphere is in exact opposition to what God calls us to do.”
This is a view echoed by Daniel J. Stulac, a Doctoral student a Duke Divinity School, whose studies look at the Hebrew Bible through the lens of agrarianism. Dominion over the Earth, he argues, is a concept that has been misinterpreted to justify exploitation and depletion of resources. Stulac, who previously managed the organic farm at Dartmouth College, and spent two years in Rwanda with his wife building an agricultural college for subsistence farmers, argues that the concept of earth stewardship is peppered throughout the Old Testament:
“Time and again the Bible looks at ethical principles through the notion of human beings as producers and consumers of food. As Dr Ellen Davis, author of Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, has shown, the story of Exodus 16 – where the Isralites leave Egypt and escape slavery – is really about the notion of a wilderness economy. The Isralites develop morally and ethically in the wilderness. Food is a revelation from God, and you can’t behave ethically while taking more than your fair share.”