Irish Council of Churches. Irish Inter-Church Meeting

Climate Justice – the preciousness of creation that God called good

Dr Damian Jackson





We recognise the preciousness of creation that God called good. God’s continuing love for all that he has created is shown in his promise to restore all things.

In Genesis chapter 1 we are told five times that God saw what he had created was “good”. After he had created people, in his own image, on the sixth day, he looked back at all that he had made, and it was very good.

This six–fold repetition of the goodness of the created world in the first chapter of God’s revealing himself to us in Word is surely deserving of our attention. If God saw that it was good, surely it should be precious to us.

It’s interesting to consider the ways in which creation is “good”. I suggest two: in its beauty and its abundance.

On whatever scale you consider creation — from images of interstellar dust to the tiniest details revealed under a microscope, from deserts to forests — beauty is everywhere. Now, although this is subjective, I think it does tell us something about God’s nature; his desire for us to experience joy and to be delighted in our earthly home. Something of Eden remains.

And, even though there’s now over 7 billion of us, creation gives us all that we need in abundance. We know that we have all we need but our greed means that not everyone has enough. Nevertheless, the seasonal free gifts of nature show us something of God’s economy: an economy of grace and generosity, not an economy of transaction.

How should we honour that beauty and abundance? How might we best honour His Image that we somehow bear? We will explore in future posts some ways we might do this that centre on thankfulness and contentment. These are countercultural dispositions with today’s messages that tell us happiness is just around the corner if only we had the next shiny thing: telling us that we should be dissatisfied and greedy – the opposite of content and thankful.

We have perhaps only in recent decades understood just how destructive our consumptive lives are on the flora and fauna of the earth, and how impact of climate change falls disproportionately on those who have done least to cause it: those in the global south and those who are not yet born. Climate change is therefore a matter of both economic and intergenerational justice.

Sometimes the response to this is simply one of overwhelming despair. What can I do? I’m only one person or we’re only one community. From a human perspective that is entirely reasonable, yet, as Christians, we are people of the promise and God has promised to restore all things, to make all things new. Our challenge is to live as people of the Kingdom, people of hope and to live out that hope. Even if we are not feeling optimistic we can be hopeful.

A recent Christian Aid resource *Song of the Prophets: A global theology of climate change* notes that

Many theologians draw a helpful distinction between “hope” and “optimism”. Optimism simply expects things to get better and refuses to face the tragic, the painful and the dangerous. Hope, by contrast, is the kind of looking forward that refuses to be beaten no matter what the future might bring, because it is rooted in something outside the scope of “what might happen”.

Richard Bauckham says that, in Christian theology, our ultimate hope can never lie in temporal developments such as economic growth or human improvement, but only in the promises of God, the one who will, in the fullness of eternity, restore creation (Romans 8:18–25).

Christian hope does not eliminate the need to act, but actually requires and inspires us to act. It enables us to live in the world as it is, but with our faces turned towards the world as it might be, the world that we trust that God is ultimately renewing. A hope like this can be profoundly subversive.

So let us live subversively, outside the scope of “what might happen” and turn our faces towards the world that we trust God is ultimately renewing; living out an economy of grace and enjoying the abundance and beauty of God’s good creation.