Jesus of Nazareth is central to Christian faith and church life. His birth and life, death and resurrection make God physically present to all humanity as the Christ. In human form he reveals God’s creative love.
During his three year public life, Jesus was an itinerant preacher and healer around Palestine. He drew followers who gave witness after his crucifixion and rising to new life, proclaiming Good News or Gospel, first to Jewish communities and then to the world. Followers of Jesus spread the Gospel message to many nations with diverse cultures through Jewish and Roman networks. They formed local communities who made the Gospel their own in their own earthly place.
Following the Jewish heritage, Christians believe in one God. However they came to experience the actions of God as three persons named as Father and Creator, Son teacher and saviour, and abiding guiding Spirit. Called Trinity, this belief is unique to Christians.
Early local church communities celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a Eucharistic meal of thanksgiving to God, and lived a life marked by mutual care as their daily way of worshipping God. Baptism became the ceremonial way of marking union with Christ and the church community of his followers.
Engagement with Ecology
Early Christians saw the book of Nature as the first revelation of God, to be “read” in conjunction with the Book of Scripture, which itself begins with the two Creation stories in Genesis 1-3. Many of the psalms remember the physical gifts of God in the stars and animals, fruits and trees. In the Scriptures, God is said to create, own, love, value, sustain and redeem the world. All creation groans, and all creatures are caught up in God’s plan for salvation. All creatures testify to, and praise God together. Humans are called to care for creation, but instead are seen to have defiled the land. Jesus’ teachings against wealth and greed, combined with the theology of him as the Cosmic Christ for whom all things were created, and in whom all things hold together, create a strong foundation for Christian environmental action.
However, despite those scriptural witnesses, and that fact that Christians always gave thanks to the one God as Creator of all, the ecological implications of this belief were rarely explored in the West. For example, Genesis 1, which casts humans in God’s image, given possession over creation, was emphasised, and Genesis 2, which casts humans as the servants and protectors of creation, was roundly ignored. This changed in 1967 with the publication of Lynn White’s claim that Christianity, especially in its Western form, is the most anthropocentric religion the world has even known, and largely to blame for the unfolding ecological crisis of his day.
Over the following decades, informed by the rise of sciences, Christian churches have for the most part united in the belief that care for earth is integral to their faith. Ecumenical statements and joint ventures have grown to be common. Many churches join in celebrating the 1st September as a day of Prayers for Care of Creation, and participate in the Season of Creation throughout September.
See more on specific Christian denominations:
- Anglican (external site)
- Orthodox (external site)
- Quaker (external site)
- Salvation Army
- Uniting Church
In addition there are ecumenical and non-denominational initiatives:
Common Grace is an Australian ecumenical movement with a focus on Creation and Climate Justice.
See also the World Council of Churches Care for Creation and Climate Justice and Manifesto on an Ecological Reformation of Christianity
Sarx is one of many Christian groups with specific aims, in this case empowering Christians to champion the cause of animals and live peacefully with all God's creatures.
Text by Charles Rue and Jason John
Image from World Council of Churches