Theological basis for stewardship and creation care

From: Keith B Miller (
Date: Thu May 09 2002 - 10:39:52 EDT

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    This post is in response to Shuan's request for comments on the letter he
    recieved dismissing environmental concerns as irrelevant to the gospel. I
    include below notes from a class I taught awhile back on stewardship at our
    church. I view stewardship as a comprehensive concept including all
    aspects of practical living and the life of the mind. This post is long,
    but I thought that most of it was relevant to the environmental issue and
    to other issues recently discussed in this forum.



    1. What is a worldview?
    "A worldview is never merely a vision of life. It is always a vision for
    life as well. Indeed, a vision of life, or worldview that does not
    actually lead a person or a people in a particular way of life is no world
    view at all. Our world view determines our values. It helps us interpret
    the world around us. It sorts out what is important from what is not,
    what is of highest value from what is least."
    (from The Transforming Vision, p.31-32.)

    A world view is both individual and shared with a community.
    Our worldview is not the same as our theology or philosophy, and we may not
    even be consciously aware of it. It determines how we interpret everything
    around us, even scripture.
    There are many competing world views in our culture.

    2. How do we make our world view closer to God's view?
    Study scripture and practice the spiritual disciplines.
    Listen to others, particularly to those with whom we disagree.
    Learn to recognize other worldviews, and become aware of our own.
    Seek God and trust that His Holy Spirit will guide us.
    John 15:12-15

    3. Biblical basis of stewardship
    a) God is the creator, possessor, and ruler of all things.
    Psalm 95:3-7 The Earth is the Lord's
    Colossians 1:15-20 All things created by Him and for Him
    b) We were created in God's image.
    Genesis 1:26-30 We have been given commission to rule God's creation as
    His image bearers.
    Image is representational, relational, and responsive
           (see Imaging God, by John Douglas Hall)
    What is the God like whom we are to image?
    Christ is the image of God.
    John 1:14-18
    II Corinthians 3:18 We are called to be transformed into the image of
    Christ. Christ's example was that of a self-sacrificing servant.
    c) We were created to do good works.
    John 15:9-17
    Ephesians 2:6-10
    d) We are called by God to be living sacrifices.
    Romans 12:1-2 We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Be
    transformed by renewing our minds.
    Matthew 16:24-25
    Mark 12:28-31 (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) God's claim on us is comprehensive --
    heart, soul, mind, strength.

    What we feel -- Arts, aesthetics, relationships, worship
    What we think -- Philosophy, theology, history, science
    What we do -- Technology, work, finances, social action, spiritual disciplines

    All that we feel, think, and do is to give glory to God.
    There is no sacred-secular dichotomy in the Christian life.
    All our talents and abilities are to be used for God's glory.


    1. What do we think about knowledge?
    a) How does our culture view knowledge and learning?
    How has this view influenced the Church?
    b) Should we value some knowledge over others?
    Is the search for some knowledge prohibited by God?
    Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable,
    excellent - think about such things.
    2. Why should we value human knowledge?
    a) God desires us to be wise
    Example of Solomon: I Kings 3:5-12, 4:29-34
    God gave Solomon wisdom to rule, and that wisdom included knowledge of the
    created world as well as artistic creativity.
    Ecclesiates 1:16-18 provides warning of the fruitlessness of knowledge
    pursued as an end to itself. Importance of motivation in acquiring
    knowledge. Why are we doing it?
    Consider also Daniel 1:17-20
    God gave Daniel knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and
    b) We cannot be stewards over what we do not know or understand
    God has given us stewardship over all His creation Psalm 8:3-8
    Creation is good and offers praise to God Psalm 148
    3. We need to think "Christianly"
    a)It is the way we think, not just what we think, that needs to be Christian.
    A Christian's orthodoxy is often evaluated on his/her position on an issue,
    not their way of thinking about it.
    Attributes of a Christian mind: supernatural/eternal perspective,
    awareness of evil, concern for truth, recognition of God's authority,
    concern for humanity, affirmation of life
    (from The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires)
    b) How much of our thinking is influenced, if not determined by, our culture?
    c) We need to think about stewardship of our minds as well as stewardship
    of knowledge.
    Stewardship of the mind is personal and equally important for every believer.
    Stewardship of knowledge is more an act of community.
    4. The treasure of past wisdom: the history of ideas
    a) Does the evangelical Church in America value history?
    b) History is our teacher
    God is the God of history and reveals Himself in history.
    God repeatedly calls His people to remember.
    Knowledge of ideas guards against being deceived by false philosophy.
    Colossians 2:6-8
    There is a great wealth of recorded human experience both good and bad for
    us to learn from.
    4. The treasure of past wisdom: the history of ideas
    c) What was the historical origin of the ideas now prominent in our culture?
    Recognize cultural influences on Christian thinking.
    Why do I think about an issue the way I do?
    d) How has an issue been dealt with in the past?
    We may find answers to our own questions and direction in our own
    circumstances through the thoughts, questions, struggles and failures of
    those before us.
    e) How has scripture been understood and interpreted in the past?
    Provides keys to the transcultural truth of scripture. Helps us to
    recognize where our worldview may not be God's view.
    5. Science as a way of knowing
    a) The Christian worldview provided the mental environment for the
    development of modern science (see Religion and the Rise of Modern Science
    by Hooykaas).
    De-deification of nature - Creator vs. Creation
    Unity of heavenly and earthly realms
    Comprehensibility of creation - As God's image-bearers we can "think God's
    thoughts after Him."
    Creation governed by laws - Regularity of creation reflects God's character.
    Ministry of healing and restoration - The incarnation emphasized God's
    concern for His creation.
    b) The metaphor of warfare between science and religion is historically false.
    Why are science and theology still viewed by many as enemies?
    c) How should science and theology relate to each other?
    Can theology be read from nature?
    God's power and divine nature can be seen in creation. Romans 1:18-25
    Is natural revelation only compelling to the believer?
          Issue of human freewill and God's providence involved.
    Nature can, and has, also be used to support virtually any religious or
    philosophical belief.
    Scripture uses nature as metaphors for revealing God's character and will.
    Matthew 6:25-30,13:1-ff John 15:1-8
    A knowledge of creation enlarges our concept of God.
    Magnifies God's power and wisdom as well as His grace.
    Can nature be understood through scripture?
    Proper use of scripture IITimothy 1:14-15; 3:16
    Great danger in wedding scripture to a particular scientific theory.
    What can be known about nature from scripture?
    Its value to God - God's care and provision for His creation.
    Psalm 104, Job 38-41
    All creation offers praise to God Psalm 148
    Its relationship to God and to us His image-bearers.
    The meaning of stewardship and divine rulership.
    Can scientific knowledge provide a corrective to bad theology? How?
    Can theology provide a corrective to bad science? How?


    1. Biblical basis of environmental stewardship
    a) God cares for His creation
    God declares all that He has made very good Genesis 1:31
    God is revealed in the present creation Job 38-41
    God takes pleasure in creation for its own sake independently of any
    utilitarian value to humans. Wild nature glorifies God.
    The Earth is the Lord's possession Psalm 95:1-5
    All creation praises God Psalm 148
    God sustains and provides for His creation
    God is active in the world, providing for the needs of its creatures.
    Psalm 104
    God is continually creating. His creative power is continually at work.
    Psalm 104:29-30
    God cares for the sparrow and lily. Matthew 6:25-30
    In Christ all things hold together Colossians 1:15-20
    b) All creation is part of God's redemptive plan
    God so loved the cosmos that He became incarnate John 3:16-17
    The creator took upon Himself creation. The word became flesh. John 1:1-18
    Creation groans in anticipation of our redemption. Romans 8:18-22
    Creation rejoices at the promise of God's judgement. Psalm 96:11-13
    c) We are given stewardship responsibility over creation
    As God's image bearers we are give commission to rule, subdue, serve and
    care for creation. Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15
    Our example of godly rule is that of sacrificial service.
    The responsibility of the kings of Israel was to serve the poor, widow,
    orphan, and oppressed.
    We are to image Christ in His humility Philippians 2:6-8
    The greatest will be the least Matthew 10:1-5, 20:25-28
    Old Testament law protected the land and animals
    Sabbath rest included animals. Deuteronomy 5:12-15
    Sabbatical year command to let land rest. Leviticus 25:1-7
    The captivity of God people was in part a result of failure to obey this
    command. Leviticus 26:32-36, IIChronicles 36:20-21
    The good and the prosperity of the land and people were intimately connected.
    Parable of the talents Matthew 25:14-30
    We have been given of God's resources as trustworthy stewards. Are we
    deserving of His trust?
    2. How can we rule creation in sacrificial love recognizing that all life
    has intrinsic value to God?
    Get to know God's creation
    Adam's first task was to name what God had made.
    Over what has God given us stewardship?
    Think holistically
    How can we act for the good of all creation, not just the perceived good of
    Consider cost to environment of economic decisions.
    Think sacrificially
    What can we sacrifice for the sake of the rest of creation?
    Conserve what is renewable
    Manage resources for future sustainability.
    Preserve what is irreplaceable
    Seek replacements for non-renewable resources.
    Wild pristine environments and ecosystems are irreplaceable.


    1. Biblical guidelines
    We are all individually created by God - Psalm 139:14-16
    All persons are made in God's image.
    God's image has been corrupted but not lost as a result of the fall.
    God's desire is for the poor, hungry, and oppressed
    Isaiah 58:5-7, Jeremiah 22:3, Zechariah 7:9-10
    Christ's ministry was to the afflicted - Luke 4:16-21 (Isaiah 61:1-3)
    Our ministry is to those in need.
    Command to love our neighbor as ourselves
    Illustrated by parable of the Samaritan Luke 10:26-37
    "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did
    it for me." Matthew 25:31-46
    We are to look to the interests of others - Philippians 2:1-11
    2. What is technology?
    a) Definition: "A distinct human cultural activity in which human beings
    exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by forming and
    transforming the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures,
    for practical ends or purposes." (from Responsible Technology edited by
    Stephen Monsma)
    Technology is the application of our knowledge of creation for the good of
    b) Humans given rule (authority) over creation - Psalm 8:3-8; Genesis 1:28-30.
    The use and manipulation of creation associated with technology is within
    the creation mandate.
    However, as stewards our technology must be used in a way consistent with
    God's purposes and desires.
    3. Questions to ask of technology in a specific situation.
    Does it empower people or control them?
    Does it broaden the gap between the poor and rich or narrow it?
    Does it meet needs or generate wants?
    Does it value life or demean it?
    Does it respect people's dignity as God's image-bearers?
    Does it heal or endanger health?
    What is its potential for evil?
    Does it appropriately use resources?
    4. Ethical dimensions of technology
    Product safety and quality.
    Impact of technology on societal values.
    What do we value, and what goals do we pursue?
    Impact of technology on economic and political systems.
    Control over technology (including development, manufacture, distribution,
    and application) and control over information determines centers of power.
    Rationing of limited resources.
    Who gets access to resources and who, or what decides?
    Conflict between the potential good of different parties, or the balancing
    of potential for good and evil. The answers to most ethical dilemas are
    not black and white.
    Technology involves a multitude of levels and components. There is usually
    no clear responsibility for ultimate outcomes.


    1. Summary principles
    Others before self
    Need before want or comfort
    Poverty before wealth
    Oppressed and weak before the powerful
    2. Responsibility for the poor, orphan and widow
    a) Old Testament law
    Tithe for Levite, stranger, orphan and widow Deuteronomy 26:12
    Gleanings of field for poor and stranger Leviticus 19:10
    Sabbatical Year Deuteronomy 15:1-11
    Debt cancelled every 7 years - prevented absolute poverty and permanent
    Year of Jubilee Leviticus 25:8-24
    Hereditary land and property restored to original family. Land could not
    be sold permanently. Discouraged excessive accumulation of wealth and
    property (see Isaiah 5:8).
    How might we apply the principles behind these commands today?
    b) New Testament commands
    Honor the poor. James 2:1-7
    How can we show honor to the poor in our community?
    Give to the poor
    Give to those who cannot repay. Luke 14:12-14
    Give to those who ask. Matthew 5:42
    Pure religion is to look after orphans and widows. James 1:27
    Story of the rich young man Matthew 19:16-22
    Is this to be normative for the believer? If not, what does Christ want of us?
    c) Example from the early church
    Early church held all things in common. Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-37
    Gift collected for Jerusalem believers. II Corinthians 8:1-15
    Distribution of food to widows. Acts 6:1-6
    (Restrictions on provision for widows - IITimothy 5:1-16)
    How can we as a church body fulfill our responsibility to the poor and
    needy. If the early church model is not relevant, what is?
    3. Responsibility for the sick
    a) Healing was significant part of Christ's ministry
    Healing part of message of kingdom of God
    Matthew 4:23-25; 8:16-17
    Matthew 10:7-8 Disciples sent out to preach the message of the kingdom and
    heal the sick.
    Jesus ministered to those whose sickness made them social outcasts
    Healing of lepers Mark 1:40-42, Healing of blind John 9
    Healing combined with meeting spiritual needs
    Healing of paralytic Mark 2:1-12
    3. Responsibility for the sick
    b) Ministry of healing
    Ministry of prayer James 5:13-16
    Ministry to social, emotional and spiritual needs of sick.
    Lepers of Christ's day viewed similarly to AIDS sufferers today.
    Critical need for the Church to reach out in love to those afflicted with AIDS.
    4) Responsibility for the oppressed
    a) Jesus ministered to the ostracized, marginalized, and despised in the
    culture (women, children, Samaritans and foreigners, tax collectors and
    "sinners," as well as the poor and sick)
    Children - Matthew 18:1-6; 19:13-15
    Samaritan women - John 4:4-42
    Tax collectors and "sinners" - Luke 19:1-10 (Zacchaeus), Matthew 9:10-13
    (dinner with tax collectors), John 8:1-11 (women caught in adultery), Luke
    7:36-50 (prostitute)
    b) Ministry to todays oppressed
    Who are the oppressed people in our culture/world?
    How can we as God's people and the Body of Christ show compassion to those
    rejected by society?


    1. Artistic talent is God-given
    Human skills and crafts are God-given Exodus 35:25-35
    Writing and poetic gifts are God-given:
    Proverbs and songs of Solomon I Kings 4:29-34
    Understanding of literature and learning Daniel 1:17-20
    Examples of use of arts in scripture:
    Building of tabernacle and temple involved much decorative as well as
    engineering skill.
    Music in celebration and worship. Music had major part in religious festivals.
    Dance as part of worship and celebration.
    Drama and theater used by prophets to proclaim their message.
    See Ezekiel chapters 4-5 as an example of prophetic theater.
    2. What is the purpose of art?
    To glorify and praise God -- to reflect the beauty of God's creation.
    To express ourselves to God and others in ways not possible in mere
    statement of propositional truth. Expression of the full range of human
    To communicate truth.
    For the joy and cost of creating -- participating in God's creativity.
    For the enrichment of others' lives and the meeting of aesthetic needs.
    3. The Trinitarian nature of creativity
    >From The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
    The Idea
    The Creative Activity - bringing the idea into existence
    The Creative Power - the ability of the created work to impact others
    4. How can we support artistic gifts ans steward artistic talent within the
    Financially support artists within the congregation.
    Singers and musicians serving the temple were paid from the temple tithe.
    I Chronicles 6:31-32, 9:33 and Nehemiah 12:46-47
    Commission works - Restore the place of the Church as a patron of the arts.
    Give individuals time and freedom to be creative and do their best work.
    Encourage the development of artistic talent by providing mentors and training.
    Utilize a wider range of artisitc expression in worship.
    Utilize artistic talent within the congregation in the design and
    decoration of the Church building.

    Keith B. Miller
    Department of Geology
    Kansas State University
    Manhattan, KS 66506

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