On environmental stewardship

John Lennox explains why he finds the Genesis creation story such a fascinating document.



John Lennox explains why he finds the Genesis creation story such a fascinating document.


Christianity, at its best, is not Greek philosophy. There were people in the ancient world, and there still are, that have a sense that the physical world, the tangible world, is somehow evil – so that the best wisdom is to get as far away from it as you possibly can. But in Genesis you get the exact opposite impression.

Here’s a heavens and the earth that are created by God, and interestingly enough, you find that the record of creation is step-wise – it’s not done all at once, it’s done in a sequence, and at each step God saw that it was good. There’s a real affirmation of the goodness of the physical creation. In the description of the garden, again you get that, and indeed you get God starting science off. It’s a fascinating document, Genesis, because God himself named certain bits of the universe at the beginning, but then he says to the human beings you give names to the animals. Now that’s affirming creation, and it’s introducing taxonomy, which is not only the fundamental biological discipline, it’s the fundamental intellectual discipline. All intellectual disciplines involve giving names to things.

So there’s the creation affirmed, and said to be good in itself. And there have been periods in history where we’ve lost that, and it has not been affirmed. And so Christians have been rightly accused of being even anti-intellectual and obscurantist and so on. And God is actually interested in his planet. When people say to me, you know, God isn’t actually interested in this planet, I ask them to have a look at a statement in Revelation which talks about the final judgment. And it says, the time has come for judgment and to destroy those that destroy the earth. So that as we look at Scripture, it teaches a stewardship attitude to this planet.

Often – there are one or two famous or infamous books that have read the commands in Genesis to fill the earth and so on as exploitative, that go and do what you like with the planet. But that just isn’t true, God cares. And you see that in the life of Christ – just little side remarks, God caring for the oxen and so on. He’s very interested in the physics and chemistry of the planet, and what it is physically, and so should we be. But we’re stewards of it. And the most exciting expression of that stewardship is when we do it not by rejecting God and holding onto the physical, but by doing both together, enjoying God’s creation. After all, the first story is about a garden, and a garden is a disciplined bit of creation. If you leave creation alone it goes wild. And that imposing a discipline on the physical planet actually is a very fundamental task I believe that God has given to us all.