What is "Green Theology"?
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof; the world and all that dwell therein. :(KJV)
Rooted in Scripture, Martin Luther’s thought and the Lutheran confessional tradition, we affirm God as creator of all, with an incarnational theology that cherishes the ongoing presence and creative activity of God. Creation is not a single, Big-Bang event in the distant past, after which `God steps back and occasionally intervenes. On the contrary, God invests continuously in every part of creation throughout the universe and throughout time. “The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love” (Psalm 119:64). Luther considered that God is fully present in every grain and leaf, and by extension everywhere: “God is substantially present everywhere, in and through all creatures, in all their parts and places, so that the world is full of God and He fills all. ... His own divine essence can be in all creatures collectively and in each one individually more profoundly, more intimately, more present than the creature is in itself ...”
While the world is presented as secular, the Spirit provides us with the gift of “beholding” creation as holy ground, drenched with God’s presence and abuzz with divine activity. God is not acting as
a master-puppeteer nor intervening here and there from time to time. God, even though hidden, works always and everywhere for health and wholeness amid the independence and freedom of creation. As Word made flesh, Jesus reveals the nature and activity of God’s presence in all creation as a force working for good in all things with grace and love. As we discern this presence, our amazement and awe move us to care for God’s world.
With the assurance of God’s presence in all things and a force of love behind all things, we are freed to see the world as it is without seeking to romanticize it or be blind to the evil and tragedy in life. We also welcome all that we can learn about our world through our strong reception of science, with openness to ecological realities and biological evolution. Science is so fundamental to understanding the environmental crisis and so significant as part of our human efforts to address it. We do not fear the truth about ourselves and our world. Indeed, it is part of God’s relation to the world.
For Christians, care of the Earth is not an “environmental cause.” Rather, it is central to our holy calling to treasure the Earth and to care for it as our common home, fully integrating creation-care into our love of God and neighbor.
The incarnational movement of God’s salvation is toward embodiment in this life. And human beings collectively are called to see the Earth as our home through time and to care for it for all generations. Recall that the Old Testament reflects a world without belief in life after death, a world in which God guides Israel and works among the nations to bring God’s purposes to fruition in this life. The focus is on this life. The Word became flesh and “lived” among us. Jesus prayed that God’s will be done “on earth.” Paul affirms that we are waiting with eager longing for the redemption of creation. The book of Revelation envisions a world in which God comes to dwell on a renewed Earth in a new Jerusalem of justice and equity with all creatures thriving and singing their praises to God. The whole movement of God in our Scriptures is Earthward—becoming manifested in this life and showing human beings what it means to be truly human.
Often, we have seen ourselves as creatures who live on the Earth rather than being embedded in it. We frequently have assumed that the Earth belongs to us instead of recognizing that we belong to
the Earth. Changing our viewpoint is a critical transformation. It is a matter of shifting our thinking from seeing ourselves apart from and living upon the rest of nature to seeing ourselves as an integral part of creation in which our human fate is dependent upon the fate of the Earth as a whole. We used to read the Bible by interpreting salvation history as human history. Now we see that the Bible depicts salvation history as creation history. And the endpoint of salvation is the redemption and fulfillment of all life. And, of course, humans have a special role in caring for each other and all creation.
The sacraments of baptism and eucharist manifest God’s healing presence in the natural elements of water, bread and wine. The elements do not change. Rather, the assurance of God’s healing and forgiving presence through the words of promise affirms that the material world of creation is good and capable of bearing the divine to us. Through Christ’s presence in the ordinary elements of grapes, grain and water, we are transformed to experience newness in, with and under every part of creation—and moved to treasure it. If we can see this presence with the eyes of faith in the sacraments, then we can also catch glimpses of it anywhere and everywhere. Such is the basis for our delight in and reverence for all creation.
The key tenet of Lutheran ethics has been faith-active-in-love (Galatians 5:6). We respond to God’s love for us and we express our love for God by loving our neighbor. When we expand the definition of “neighbor” to include the plant and animal life that surrounds us and upon which we depend, we are called to embrace not only the “two kingdoms” of church and society but also the “kingdoms” of the plant, animal and geologic worlds—the entire orbit of our life.
This is an “integral ethic” that brings together social justice and ecological justice, expressed in the term “creation justice.” Creation justice calls us to see beyond our interpersonal behavior to encompass behavior in which we contribute, often unwittingly, to systemic evils that disadvantage and ruin the vulnerable of the world. We are called, for example, to overcome environmental racism against minority communities and against the global south (Africa, Central and Latin America, and most of Asia) because those who contribute least to our ecological problems often suffer first and foremost from those problems and have the least capacity to cope with ecological disasters. Such an ethical stance prevents us from building walls of affluence to protect ourselves and, at one and the same time, frees us to serve the most at-risk members of the Earth community.
The congregation is where the faithful are nourished by the word, invigorated by the sacraments and sent to share this generative love with the creation. The very same energy that enables us to care for one another within our church community sends us out to build justice within the larger community and the natural world. The church—no matter what level—does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the world. As such, the church addresses social discrimination and economic disparity intertwined with the ecological stresses and environmental crises we face in our world. So, no matter what the issue—whether racism or economic inequities, runoff of agricultural chemicals or climate change—the church is the tradition, we affirm God as creator of all, with an incarnational theology that cherishes the ongoing presence and creative activity of God.
(8) The church. The congregation is where the faithful are nourished by the word, invigorated by the sacraments and sent to share this generative love with the creation. The very same energy that enables us to care for one another within our church community sends us out to build justice within the larger community and the natural world. The church—no matter what level—does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the world. As such, the church addresses social discrimination and
economic disparity intertwined with the ecological stresses and environmental crises we face in our world. So, no matter what the issue—whether racism or economic inequities, runoff of agricultural chemicals or climate change—the church is there.
The History of the destruction of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manasseh king of Judah