As Christians we took on the Jewish belief in God as Creator. ‘The heavens are yours and the earth also, the world and all that is in it.’ (Psalm 89 v11) Every religious faith has a similar – though not of course identical – belief. Harvest time is one opportunity to pause and give thanks to the Creator. One fundamental cause of any religious faith at all is the sense that the universe is not an accident and that meaning and purpose are somehow built in. Recent advances in understanding the ‘how’ of evolution have not dispelled the mystery of ‘why’ anything is.
Believers do not know ‘how’ any more than unbelievers, but we do remain persuaded that the question ‘why’ is meaningful, that there is a context, a ground of being (to use the words of the theologian Paul Tillich), a built-in meaning which somehow gives us the right to call the universe a creation – though without the rather silly details which so-called creationists often add.
This affirmation inevitably leads us to believe that all the other galaxies (previously known as ‘the heavens’) are also the Lord’s.
However our concern is not with them, even though there is almost certainly what we call life out there somewhere. We need to consider our little earth – sometimes called the ‘lonely planet’. That description goes back to the Apollo programme in the 1960s when for the first time human beings could look ‘down’ on the earth. It certainly looks lonely, surrounded by all that emptiness. From space you get what might be called, almost blasphemously, God’s view. And, crucially, from the moon the earth looks like a single something.
Despite considerable misunderstanding of the opening of the book Genesis, the duality of homo sapiens, spelt out in chapters 1 & 2, remains key and rings true. We are part of nature (‘dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return’) and we have power, almost control, over nature (‘fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion’).
Human beings now have power to determine the destiny of the natural order of which they are part.
If the earth is to be treated as a creation, held on trust by one powerful intelligent species, then logic compels us to some conclusions, among which is the urgent need to look ahead and plan, now that we have the data, the projections and some of the means of avoiding disaster.
There are several people and groups who can argue for the choices and the possibilities but we also need to reflect on the bigger picture, the deeper intellectual and spiritual challenge. This vulnerable planet is our home, our God-given home, and Christians are called to use our minds and our imaginations to honour that trust and accept our responsibility to act.
Revd Peter Brain