Why Are We Stewards of Creation? – A World Vision Position Paper

WorldVision

World Vision’s Biblical Undestanding of How we Relate to Creation

Jared Hyneman, Christopher Shore – Natural Environment and Climate Issues

Executive Summary

 

The purpose of this document is to concisely clarify and explain World Vision’s understanding of the

Bible’s foundational teaching on God’s creation, especially as it affects World Vision’s mission. One of our guiding documents, titled our Core Values, declares:

We are stewards of God’s creation. We care for the earth and act in ways that will restore and protect the environment. We ensure that our development activities are ecologically sound.

As a Christian organisation, World Vision has more than practical, historic or development theory reasons for acting. We act because we are informed by and rely on the biblical narrative, church history, and our creeds and doctrines. As World Vision works to protect and serve the most vulnerable, we must consider creation and environmental issues. Only by doing so can all God’s children, especially ‘the least of these’, experience life in all its fullness.

From our reading of the Holy Scriptures we understand:

•    God is the creator, and God has called creation ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:31).

•    While humanity is God’s appointed steward of creation, creation belongs to God. The earth is the Lord’s.

•    Since the earth is the Lord’s and God is our ruler, humanity is accountable to God for our stewardship of and interaction with creation.

Since God is creator, owner and ruler, we seek to care for creation in the way that God calls for. The thoughtful and proper care for creation is the logical outworking of our love for God – caring for what God has made, which ultimately belongs to God. Humans are not independent actors with regard to creation, because creation is God’s. We will be judged by God if we mar, degrade or destroy creation, and we must act towards creation in the way that God calls us to.

We also understand:

•    Creation glorifies God.

•    Creation reveals God and God’s nature, character and purposes.

Because creation is a means of God’s revelation and because of its inherent value and goodness being created by God, we care for creation. We interact with creation in a way that preserves its capacity to reveal God, restores and rehabilitates those parts of creation that have been misused, and stands against uses of creation that destroy its revelatory role.

According to the Bible, God’s intentions for creation were not only to reveal God’s character, but also to:

•    provide for all that God has made, including natural systems and non-human life needs

•    provide for human physical needs, including food, water, shelter, clothing and energy

•    provide for human and non-human life both now and into the future.

God’s twin purposes for creation are to reveal God’s character and nature, and to provide for what God has made. Humanity’s use of creation must promote – not compromise – the ability of creation to reveal God and to provide for humans and other creatures on the earth now and in the future.

Humans are entrusted by God with both dominion over and stewardship of creation:

•    God has tasked humans to govern and supervise the rest of creation – by exercising dominion.

•    The purpose of dominion is to carry out God’s intention for creation, including revealing God, providing for human and non-human creation, and caring for our neighbour.

•    Humanity’s exercise of dominion is limited, as God has ultimate dominion over humanity. God holds humanity accountable for our exercise of dominion over creation.

•    Humans’ stewardship of creation means ensuring that it functions and prospers into the future, to the degree that we are able to influence – a command given before the fall and a command particularly important today. The word stewardship is connected with ‘watch’, ‘guard’ and

‘protect’.

•    Appropriate stewardship requires that we know God’s stated purposes for creation and God’s stated human responsibilities, including caring for the widow, the vulnerable and the oppressed.

God has given two roles to humanity regarding creation: exercising both dominion and stewardship over the earth. Our understanding of dominion is that it is not unlimited, but is intended to ensure creation functions properly, thereby accomplishing God’s purposes.  Stewardship is particularly connected with caring appropriately for creation.

As Christians we believe we understand something unique about our world since we know its

Creator so intimately. Specifically:

•    Jesus is creator and Lord over the earth, and we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to what he has made.

•    Jesus is reconciling all things to himself including all of creation, thereby signalling creation’s eternal importance.

•    Jesus commands us to care for the poor and oppressed, the ‘least of these’ (Matthew 25).

•    The ‘least of these’ often depend most heavily on creation’s healthy functioning. Anyone concerned with the ‘least of these’ must pay special attention to care of creation. People whose actions knowingly or inadvertently harm the ‘least of these’ risk the wrath of the Creator and Judge of all things.

•    Caring for creation is a relational act, intimately connected to our relationship with Christ, our relationships with others and our responsibilities in the shared ministry of reconciling all things to Christ.

•    Caring for creation is an act of the mind and will; however, as with all things, the leading and filling of God’s Spirit is required for true long-term success from a biblical perspective.

In Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching we see a unique perspective on creation. Not only does the Bible say Jesus is creator and Lord, but also that it is Jesus who is reconciling ALL things to himself, including creation. Jesus’ teaching about the ‘least of these’ is especially poignant for anyone working with the poor, as the poor are often most dependent on the healthy functioning of creation. Jesus instructs that we need the indwelling of the Spirit to accomplish the good works he’s prepared for us in creation.

The Scriptures paint a clear picture of God’s creation and humanity’s roles and responsibilities. God is the creator, and creation belongs to God, not to humanity. God wants to be known, and creation is a means of revealing God’s character and nature. Creation is a means of providing for humanity and the rest of what God has made, and humanity has been given both dominion and stewardship over creation.

We understand that these roles and responsibilities are given so that creation can fulfil its purpose of providing for all humanity now and into the future. Since the poor are especially reliant on creation, we are careful to manage and care for creation so that creation provides well for the poor.

We know that there will be a judgement against those who abuse God’s entrusting of resources, and we stake everything on Christ’s mercy for our many failings.

Finally, although we see this but dimly, we understand that the creation itself is going to be renewed and reconciled to Christ, by Christ and for Christ. Somehow, in all of this we have been granted the greatest of all eternal opportunities: a choice to share in Christ’s own ministry of reconciliation of all peoples and all creation.

With this understanding, World Vision has concluded, and we affirm:

We are stewards of God’s creation.

We care for the earth and act in ways that will restore and protect the environment.

We ensure that our development activities are ecologically sound.

* * *

Here are two versions of the paper:

The full version: NECI Biblical Understanding.Full.A4.FINAL

The condensed version: NECI Biblical Understanding.Condensed.A4.FINAL

 

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Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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