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The Sermon of All Creation: Christians on Nature
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The Creation of the World

a painting by Giusto Dei Menabuoi, 14th c, San Giovanni in Padua, Italy
slide 6 of 17

In his essay “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” Wendell Berry explores the justness or otherwise of criticisms that Christianity is culpable with regard to the degradation of natural world.  He says that,  “…the evangelist has walked beside the conqueror and the merchant, too often blandly assuming that their causes were the same.”  This behavior has led some conservationists who have not carefully read the Christian scriptures to blame Christian teachings for the destruction of the environment.  Berry counters that it is vital to distinguish between biblical instruction and the actions of those who claim to have been so instructed.  He advocates a closer reading of the scriptures to ascertain their true message vis-à-vis the environment and tells us that this will allow us to…
…discover that we humans do not own the world or any part of it:  “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein” [Psalm 24:1].…

Human ownership is limited by mortality and by natural constraints on human attention and responsibility; it quickly becomes abusive when used to justify large accumulations of “real estate,” and perhaps for that reason such large accumulations are forbidden in the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus.  In biblical terms, the “landowner” is the guest and steward of God:  “The land is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me.”
Such close reading of the scriptures ultimately leads to an obvious conclusion:
Our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy.  It is flinging God’s gifts into His face, as if they were of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them.…We have no entitlement from the Bible to exterminate or permanently destroy or hold in contempt anything on the earth or in the heavens above it or in the waters beneath it.  We have the right to use the gifts of nature but not to ruin or waste them.
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