a. Describe the teachings of the religion of which you are studying about the relationship between humanity and the rest of creation.
Christianity teaches that God created the Earth and that human beings are the stewards who should protect the gift they have been given. The relationship between humanity and the rest of creation is not a simple one. To look at Christian teachings on this relationship, the state of creation must first be examined.
Yet, despite human beings being seen as the most intelligent life form and having responsibility for the Earth, many of the problems facing the planet are mainly due to human activity. Stories and headlines featuring pollution, global warming, over flowing landfills and the extinction of both animals and plants are, unfortunately, no longer uncommon. These problems are not confined to the UK and are, in fact, happening worldwide. Global warming is one of main problems.
There are thin layers of gas that surround the Earth which keep in enough heat from the sun for the Earth to be at a perfect temperature, however, a build up of carbon dioxide from sources such as cars, is causing the layers surrounding the Earth to get thicker so more heat is being trapped causing the temperature to rise. Temperature rise will cause polar ice caps to melt and sea levels to increase causing flooding, storms and hurricanes, resulting in loss of human life. Christianity’s teachings on humanity’s responsibility for the environment seem to be having little effect as the world is facing huge problems.
The Christian story of creation can be found in the first two chapters of Genesis, in the Bible. These chapters describe how God created the Earth, from nothing, in 7 days, and it was on the 7th day that he rested. After creating the Earth, the sky, the seas and plants, God made birds and fish on the fifth day and animals and humans on the sixth day ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ (Genesis 1:27)
Although the Bible often gives more than one opinion on some subjects it is clear when it comes to expressing the view that God created the world. The Bible teaches that the Universe is God’s creation, not an accident, and that it is filled with meaning and purpose. The Old Testament, in particular, reflects these ideas. ‘O Lord our God, your greatness is seen in all the world…When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and stars which you have set in their places’ ( Psalm 8:1,3) And again in Psalm: ‘In his hands are the depths of the depths of Earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is His, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.’ (Psalm 95; 3- 6) It can be seen therefore, that the Psalm teaches that God made the Earth but the people have the task to keep it how it was created.
Despite the New Testament not giving the same emphasis to God creating the world, it still shows that he did. ‘Look at the birds in the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them.’ (Matthew 6: 26)
Christianity teaches that Christians, as ‘stewards’, have the responsibility to look after the Earth because God put people in charge of the world. A steward is someone who takes care of things and is responsible when things go wrong. Therefore, Christians have the job of caring for the planet and they should try to put things right when they go wrong. The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis acts a reminder to Christians that humanity has been given the role of stewards. In the story of Adam and Eve God provided a perfect environment for them but it was their responsibility of taking care of it. ‘Then the lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it.’ (Genesis 2:15) When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s orders and they ate the fruit on the tree of knowledge, they were banished from the garden. The story of Adam and Eve is often compared with today’s situation; people are abusing the resources given to them by God.
In the Bible it says ‘And God saw it was good’ (Genesis 1:1) This suggests that when the world was created by God it was perfect so clearly today’s problems have been caused by human activity and their disregard for the planet. There is Biblical evidence to show that humans were asked to take care of the planet. For example, in the Old Testament after crops had been harvested the fields were allowed to ‘rest’ for a certain period of time so that the soil could replenish itself. They Jews were also told not to destroy trees when attacking a city.
‘When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an axe to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them?'(Deuteronomy 20:19)
Pope John Paul II said this’ Look to the future with hope and set out with renewed vigour to make this new millennium a time of solidarity and peace, of love for life and respect for God’s creation.
The Assisi Declaration was made on the 29th September 1986 when Christian leaders joined leaders from the other 5 major world religions, in Assisi, to declare their promise for nature. The meeting was held in Assisi in honour of St. Francis, who lived there in the 13th century, because he preached about conservation and described all creatures as his ‘brothers and sisters.’
The Declaration on Nature, Assisi, (1986) said:
‘Christians repudiate all ill-considered exploitation of nature which threatens to destroy it and, in turn, to make man the victim of degradation.’
This shows that some Christians do want to take care of the world and protect it from catastrophe.
To conclude, Christians are the Stewards of the world and should take responsibility for their actions because humans have been clearly given this power.