Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Theology of Creation

This past week I took a course called "Theology of Creation," from one of my seminary professors. NTS (where I went to seminary) is offering courses at four of our Nazarene undergraduate institutions (in addition to those in Kansas City) - they're great for pastors to do continuing education or brush up on a topic you've been thinking through.

The latter really applied for me. I've been spending a lot of time reading about origins and thinking through how our origins define us as humans and define our place in the world. I've also been forced to creation theologically in analyzing various beliefs and why we hold them - most everything goes back to the beginning.

As our professor (Dr. Joseph Coleson) mentioned frequently - if we get the beginning right, we have a better shot at getting everything else right as well. I won't claim to have any of it "right" per say, but I think there's a lot of places we've been getting things wrong.

I can't say I learned a lot of new thing this week, but I did find some wonderful context for things I've been thinking through. There were some challenges and questions and new space explored (along with some new friendships birthed).

One of the things I just can't get over is how much we've missed the primary purpose of creation (or at least our place in it). God created this big, amazing world and then put us in it to make sure things worked as God intended. Dr. Coleson put it like this: we're here to maintain relationships of integrity.

Too often humanity has treated creation like a bag of candy the day after Halloween - scooping up any and all that we can get our hands on with no understanding of appropriateness or good sense. The vast resources of the world are not there for our pleasure, but the other way around. Check Genesis 2 again - humans were created to serve creation. Even if you buy into the terrible translation of "reign" or "have dominion" in Genesis 1 - it's still reign in the image of God - a God who sacrificed life itself for selfish buggers like us.

The world isn't going to burn up - not unless you're a big believer in Zoroaster. God is at work - and always has been - at redeeming and restoring creation, bringing it to fulfillment. Our mission in life is not to save souls or get to heaven, but to live faithfully in the world and the role God created for us. All that other stuff takes care of itself if we're focused on those relationships of integrity.

I've been preliminarily looking for a new water heater (ours is 17 years old and, well, a bit testy). It turns out the more energy-efficient option isn't a match for our infrastructure, so it's a moot point, but I had a discussion with someone about the value of spending more to be efficient. He said it wasn't worth the money since the cost difference wasn't that great. My thought was, who cares, if it uses less energy over time, that's a win - even if it doesn't end up with more money in my pocket.

It's the little things. What are we willing to sacrifice to maintain the integrity of our relationship with creation?

I don't have a problem with us taking the coal and oil and whatnot out of the ground to use - I just have an issue with us doing it the cheapest possible way. If we're willing to sacrifice a bit of profit, we could leave the land relatively as it was when we began - and not sink all the protective wetlands on the Mississippi Delta into the ocean thus leaving the Gulf Coast uncomfortable open to large storms - for example.

I just happen to think that when we treat the world around us like a commodity, it makes it easier to treat each other, and ultimately God, in the same way. When Saint Francis said "Brother Sun and Sister Moon" I don't think he was joking.

People have politicized Climate Change (and it's unfathomable denial) for their own personal gain. I'm not sure what the proper political response is, but I do know it's terrible theology to assert that human beings have no control over the world around us. We've got nothing but control.

It's a pretty awesome responsibility to be God's caretaker for the world - I hope we're getting to a place where we can take that seriously. The world may just depend on it.


Anonymous said...

I would like to use this graphic. Are you privilidge to approve this, or do you have a contact person?

Ryan said...

You can click on it and find the link - it's not mine, it's on another website.