Is the Bible concerned about ecology?
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work,” wrote the apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy. With approximately 4 billion copies sold, the Bible remains the best-selling book in the world. As a reference book for Christians, Paul reminds us that it is not just another book: it is inspired by God, and useful to guide us in our daily decisions. But what about ecology? Does the Bible talk about it? If so, in what way and with what impact on our lives? Rachel Calvert, a member of the Protestant church union Perspectives and President of A Rocha France, agreed to share her vision on this more than ever topical subject.
Marie Pfund (MP): Hello Rachel. Does the Bible talk about ecology?
Rachel Calvert (RC): The term ‘ecology’ does not appear in the Bible. Biblical revelation was given at a time when the impact of human beings on their environment was real, but relatively limited. This was long before the massive use of fossil fuels and the industrial and digital revolutions. For the biblical authors, the notion of a ‘global ecological crisis’ would obviously not have made sense. While we often speak of ‘nature’, the Bible speaks of ‘creation’, which includes both the human and the non-human.
MP: How does the Bible deal with this subject anyway?
RC: The Bible, from beginning to end, is concerned with relationships: with the fundamental relationship between Creator and creature and with the interdependence of created beings. Ecology, on the other hand, is concerned with the interactions between living things and their environment. The terms are different, but the notion of reciprocity remains central. In Romans 8:18-25, for example, Paul takes up ideas developed in Isaiah 24 – 27 to show how the destiny of human beings and the future of the non-human creation are intimately linked.
MP: What are the implications for our lives as Christians?
RC: The Bible shows us how, through the sacrifice of Jesus, God restores our broken relationships: the relationship between us and him, the relationship with between people, and the relationship with the whole of creation. In the age of the ‘Anthropocene’, the consequences of this are many. They lead us to rethink our choices in areas as varied as professional life, food, finance, fashion…
MP: How does Scripture influence A Rocha’s day-to-day activities?
RC: Our environmental activities are motivated by our love for God and neighbour, which are the two greatest biblical commandments. Our dismay at environmental and climate degradation is deep, but we place our hope in Jesus and persevere because we know that destruction will not have the last word.
MP: In the face of the ecological crisis, people want to see something concrete. Is theology really a priority?
RC: We don’t need a new ecological morality. We need hearts transformed by the Gospel, people who know why they act and for whom they act. It is in this constant back and forth between the Word and practice that God shapes us, to be his ambassadors in a world of climatic and ecological upheaval.