By Karyn Bigelow & Avery Davis Lamb
“Creation justice” may be a new term for some, but it is a concept deeply grounded in Christian theology and practice. It captures both the depth of our interconnectedness with everything and the necessity to partner with God in the healing and restoration of all -- God’s Shalom.
Using the term "creation" instead of "eco," “nature” or "environment" demonstrates that we are intimately part of the created order, and constantly working alongside our Creator to redeem and sustain it. When we say Creation, we mean all Creation -- justice for God’s people and God’s planet. Seeing the world as Creation is a radical act that counters modern notions of nature as either a resource to be exploited or as something entirely separate from humanity.
What we read in Genesis is that Creation is a gift from God that humans are existentially linked with and tasked with serving. In Genesis 2:7, God creates the first human (Adam in Hebrew) from the soil (Adamah in Hebrew) and breath. Adam, that first prototypical human, is made from the soil! Even the name reflects intimacy with the dirt: Adam from the Adamah. We learn in these opening chapters of the Bible that Creation is not something “out there,” separate from our human life, but the very ground of our human life! We are in creation and creation is in us.
Later on in that same chapter, God instructs Adam to “till and keep” the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). In an agrarian society, this instruction means much more than to maximize yields. Ellen Davis offers a compelling translation of this verse, writing in Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture that God is instructing Adam to “work it and serve it, observe it and preserve it.” Creation is a gift which we are to lovingly and skillfully care for. The work of this care necessitates the fight for justice among God’s people and planet.
Seeing the world as Creation is a radical act that counters modern notions of nature as either a resource to be exploited or as something entirely separate from humanity.
The Genesis creation story is only the opening chapter -- the “creation” -- of creation justice. Using the term "justice" rather than "care" indicates our commitment to not only heal, tend, and restore God's creation, but to ensure the protection of God's planet and God's people from exploitation, as well as provision for the remediation of the damage that has been done. The call to creation justice is a call to protect, restore, and rightly share God’s Creation. We see these as the three “E’s” of creation justice: Ecology, Eschatology, and Economy.
By protecting God’s creation, we revere God’s ecology -- the interactions between creatures that make up this beautiful world. We are facing a catastrophic decline in the wellbeing of creaturely life. This era of ecological devastation, which some refer to as the “Anthropocene,” is an insult to the Creator and the gift of Creation. When we protect God’s creatures and places, we protect that which God loves. That’s creation justice.
By restoring God’s creation, we create Heaven on Earth. Eschatology is the field of theology concerned with where humanity and Creation is headed. In scriptures, we read that the trajectory of creation is not upward, moving away from Creation. Rather, we read about a Creator who is constantly coming into closer intimacy with creation, until, as it says in Revelation 21:3, “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” In the eschaton, all Creation is restored and comes to rest in God. Yet, eschatology also makes a claim on us in the present. Jesus calls us to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (Matthew 6:10). By restoring creation -- God’s people and planet -- we are creating Heaven on Earth. That’s creation justice.
By restoring God’s creation, we create Heaven on Earth.
By rightly sharing creation, we participate in God’s economy. Economy is the way we order our collective household. The word comes from the Greek root “oikos” which means family or household. God’s economy is not the economy of the dollar. God’s economy is the collective flourishing of all things. This year, the theme of the global Season of Creation celebration is “A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God.” God’s economy is one in which creation is shared equitably with all creation. That’s creation justice.
This Season of Creation, we invite you to join us in the journey of creation justice. Over the next four weeks, we’ll hear four different theologians address the question, “What is Creation Justice?” You can find their reflections above.
Karyn Bigelow and Avery Davis Lamb are Co-Executive Directors of Creation Justice Ministries.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.