In spite of the variety of perspectives and approaches, a number of recurring themes are found in these materials when it comes to environmental issues. The churches' call for creation care is rooted in the biblical story of the creation of the world and human beings, the disruption brought on nature and society by human sin, and God's relentless action to restore the lost wholeness of creation. Creation care includes not only responsible stewardship of the natural world, but also striving for social and economic justice among human beings — a combination often called "eco-justice."
Among the Protestant teachings that support environmental concern are the following:
Biblical and Theological Foundations
God is the Creator and Owner
[Please note: The views in these excerpts are not necessarily shared by every member denomination of the National Council of Churches - U.S.A.]
The earth belongs to God. God creates it and asks us to share in the care of it... God cares for the entire creation... God is present in humankind and in every creature and created thing. (Disciples of Christ, Resolution Concerning Energy, 1977.)
Creation has its origin, existence, value and destiny in God. Creation belongs to God... Creation is a realm of divine activity as God continually seeks to bring healing, wholeness, and peace. All creation is accountable to God. (United Methodist Church, New Developments in Genetic Science, 1992, 2000.)
Creation is Good
Christians believe that the whole creation is God's handiwork and belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). The creation has value in itself because God created and values it (Proverbs 8:29-31). God delights in the creation and desires its wholeness and well-being. God created the earth, affirmed that it was good, and established an everlasting covenant with humanity to take responsibility for the whole of creation. God declares all of creation good. Our proper perspective on all activity on the earth flows directly from our affirmation of God as Creator. (American Baptist Church, American Baptist Policy Statement on Ecology, 1989.)
God is Involved in and Cares for Creation
…We learn in Genesis that God has promised to fulfill all of creation, not just humanity, and has made humans the stewards of it. More importantly, God sent Christ into the very midst of creation to be "God with us" and to fulfill the promise to save humankind and nature.
God's redemption makes the creation whole, the place where God's will is being done on earth as it is in heaven... (Church of the Brethren, Creation: Called to Care, 1991.)
Humans are Creatures, Interdependent with All Other Creatures
Humanity is intimately related to the rest of creation. We, like other creatures, are formed from the earth (Gen 2:7, 9, 19). Scripture speaks of humanity's kinship with other creatures (Job 38-39; Pss 104)... Creation depends on the Creator, and is interdependent within itself. The principle of solidarity means that we stand together as God's creation. We are called to acknowledge this interdependence with other creatures and to act locally and globally on behalf of all creation. (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice, 1993.)
Humans Have a Special Role and Responsibility in Creation
The first two chapters of Genesis illumine the right relationship of human beings to their Creation and the nonhuman creation. God put man and woman, created in God's own image, in the garden "to till it and to keep it." "Tilling" symbolizes everything we humans do to draw sustenance from nature... Tilling includes not only agriculture but mining and manufacturing and exchanging, all of which depend necessarily on taking and using the stuff of God's creation. "Keeping" the creation means tilling with care — maintaining the capacity of the creation to provide the sustenance for which the tilling is done. This, we now have come to understand, means making sure that the world of nature may flourish, with all its intricate, interacting systems upon which life depends. (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, 1990.)
Human Disruption of Creation is Evidenced in the Environmental Crisis
If we have been managers or beneficiaries of modern economic development, we may confess that habits of carelessness, motivations of greed, and corruptions of power have stood in the way of tilling carefully and sharing fairly. These factors have heightened the ancient temptation to seek security and material abundance beyond what is sufficient for members of human community on a finite planet... Surely we have been too uncritical, too unbiblical, too self-serving in going along with our culture's abuse of nature and its pursuit of affluence. We have been blind and deaf in our servanthood and stewardship (Isa 42:19), stubbornly slow to heed the warnings that have been given. (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, 1990.)
God is at Work to Redeem Both Humanity and Nature
We learn in Genesis that God has promised to fulfill all of creation, not just humanity, and has made humans the stewards of it. More importantly, God sent Christ into the very midst of creation to be "God with us" and to fulfill the promise to save humankind and nature. God's redemption makes the creation whole, the place where God's will is being done on earth as it is in heaven... (Church of the Brethren, Creation: Called to Care, 1991.)
In the New Testament we learn that Christ not only restores and reconciles our relationship to God, Christ also restores our right relationship to the creation of which we are a part. Our new life in Christ consists of a restored relationship to both God and creation. As people in the Body of Christ, we and all of creation move toward the fulfillment and wholeness intended for everything through Christ. We are not delivered from this world; nor are we simply assured of a greater spiritual reality lying beyond this world.
Rather the bodily resurrection of Christ means that the power of sin and death is defeated, and the new creation is breaking forth in this world. (Reformed Church in America, Care for the Earth: Theology and Practice, 1982).
The earth belongs to God, as affirmed in Psalm 24:1. We are caretakers or stewards... Our responsibility as stewards is one of the most basic relationships we have with God. It implies a great degree of caring for God's creation and all God's creatures. The right relationships embodied in the everlasting convenant to which Isaiah refers. There can be no justice without right relationships of creatures with one another and with all of creation. Eco-justice is the vision of the garden in Genesis — the realm and the reality of right relationship. (American Baptist Church, American Baptist Policy Statement on Ecology, 1989.)
Fair Distribution of Earth's Gifts
The use of natural resources is a universal concern and responsibility of all as reflected in Psalm 24:1: "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." The New Testament confronts us with the implication of the Old Testament understanding when it asks us how we use our resources in relation to our brothers and sisters. John the Baptist prepared us for Jesus' ministry by stating, "Those who have two coats let them share with those who have none; and those who have food let them do likewise" (Luke 3:11). This philosophy was carried forth into the early church by incorporating the belief that the way in which one shares one's goods is a reflection of how one loves God. (NCC ecumenical statement, God's Earth is Sacred, 2004.)
Concern for those in Poverty
We call upon all Christians and other person of good will to join with the Church of the Brethren to reverse the widening of the gap between rich and poor. In order to conserve energy, food, and other resources needed by the poor, we must reexamine our patterns of consumption. We urge our people to contribute from their material resources, beyond a tithe, for global redistribution of wealth. We encourage one another to dissociate, as far as possible, from, or change the policies of, economic institutions that buttress elitist systems abroad or seek to take unreasonable profits our of less developed countries. (Church of the Brethren, The Church's Responsibility for Justice and Nonviolence, 1977.)
In our global context, economic deprivation and ecological degradation are linked in a vicious cycle. We are compelled, therefore, to seek eco-justice, the integration of social justice and ecological integrity. The quest for eco-justice also implies the development of a set of human environmental rights, since one of the essential conditions of human wellbeing is ecological integrity. (NCC ecumenical statement, God's Earth is Sacred, 2004.)
The term "eco-justice"—ecology and justice — means ecological health and wholeness together with social and economic justice. It means the well-being of all humankind on a thriving earth. (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, 1990.)
The norm of solidarity gives forceful expression to the affirmation of community. Solidarity means strong, vibrant community based on commitment and fidelity. In the context of the eco-justice crisis it embraces ecological, ethical themes of each individual's worth and dignity together with the fundamental interdependence and unity of the Creator's creatures. (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, 1990.)
The principle of sufficiency means meeting the basic needs of all humanity and all creation. In a world of finite resources, for all to have enough means that those with more than enough will have to change their patterns of acquisition and consumption. Sufficiency charges us to work with each other and the environment to meet needs without causing undue burdens elsewhere. (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice, 1993.)
Living lives filled with God's Spirit liberates us from the illusion of finding wholeness in the accumulation of material things and brings us to the reality of God's just purposes. Frugality connotes moderation, sufficiency, and temperance. Many call it simplicity. It demands the careful conservation of Earth's riches, comprehensive recycling, minimal harm to other species, material efficiency and the elimination of waste, and product durability.
Frugality is the corrective to a cardinal vice of the age: prodigality — excessively taking from and wasting God's creation. On a finite planet, frugality is an expression of love and an instrument for justice and sustainability: it enables all life to thrive together by sparing and sharing global goods. (NCC ecumenical statement, God's Earth is Sacred, 2004.)
Participation in society and in the ongoing process of creation is the necessary condition for justice. Participation requires a recognition of everyone's right to be consulted and understood, regardless of that person's economic, political, or social status. Participation is not possible without power. In such decision making, everyone has the right to be consulted (United Methodist Church, U.S., Agriculture and Rural Communities in Crisis, 1996.)
For eco-justice, sustainability means, first of all, the capacity of natural systems to go on functioning properly, so that the living creatures that belong to these systems may thrive. As a norm for human behavior, sustainability expresses the meaning of God's call to earth-keeping: Relate to the natural world so that its stability, integrity, and beauty may be maintained. (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, 1990.)
Integrity of Creation and Creatures
…The covenant of justice [includes] all other life forms as beloved creatures of God and as expressions of God's presence, wisdom, power, and glory. We do not determine nor declare creation's value, and other creatures should not be treated merely as instruments for our needs and wants. Other species have their own integrity. They deserve a "fair share" of Earth's bounty — a share that allows a biodiversity of life to thrive along with human communities. (NCC ecumenical statement, God's Earth is Sacred, 2004.)
Another theme of shalom is that in creation we are all related. Humans are not self-sufficient. We need God, others, nature. The story of the garden (Genesis 2) attempts to picture the complete and harmonious interrelatedness of all creation. There is shalom only when we recognize that interrelatedness and care for the whole. When we violate the rules of the garden, we are dismissed. In ecological terms, when we violate the principles of ecology, we suffer environmental damage. (United Methodist Church, Environmental Stewardship, 1984.)