Biodiversity and the Bible (Dr. Calvin DeWitt)
Excerpts and images from Biodiversity and the Bible (1997):
...It is only surprising, perhaps, that we don't meditate more about these guideposts to life or that we don't always think that all things created are precious.
Over the past century the focus of most religious groups has been on human beings... now however there are powerful calls to envirionmental stewardship and protection of God's creation, creatures, and their habitats. The result is an awakening of people to human responsibility for biodiversity.
Recorded in chapters 6 through 9 in the book of Genesis, the story of Noah addresses many pressing current questions: Is saving species more important than saving people? (It depends); Are only species with actual of potential utilitarian uses important? (Useful animals are taken into the Ark by sevens , but pairs of those with no human use are also saved.); Is the Creator determined to save the creatures even today? (The answer is yes--as affirmed in Genesis 9).
Genesis 2:15 is the focal point of the Earthkeeping Principle. Here, near the beginning of the Biblle Adam ("adam" is also the Hebrew word for "humankind") is placed in the garden to "till" and to "keep" it. While the word "till" conveys the concept of stewardship moderately well, the meaning of "till" in the original Hebrew is more profound. Simply, it means Adam is expected to serve the garden, which makes more sense, when one remembers that the garden here has been planted by the Creator... the garden is to serve the biosphere.
The Fruitfulness Principle is best known from Genesis 1, "Be fruitful and multiply." It is a blessing given to people, but again note, it is not given to humans first. Its first occurrence is the blessing to fish and birds: "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky" (Genesis 1:20). "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth" (Genesis 1:22). A few verses later (Gensis 1:28) it is given to people: "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion." ... The Creator blesses the Earth so that all creatures will flourish with great abundance and diversity.
The Torah teaches, "Remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12). Neither people nor animals should be relelentlessly presed, but allowed to "get off the treadmill" so that they can enjoy both themselves and the wider creation---so they can recuperate and recreate. Moreover, as the sabbath of the week must be observed, so should the sabbatical year be observed....
"If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit."
The law of the sabbatical year is given to protect the land from relentless exploitation, to help the soil, the heart of the land, rejuvenate. This practice is still being used today.
Earthkeeping, Fruitfulness, Sabbath --- these are the three leading biblical principles for the care of Creation. Thus Chrisitans and other People of the Book have within their system of belief the ethical capacity and direction for sustaining life on Earth with all of its flourishing biodiversity. Because people of the Book understand that God is the author of both the Biosphere and the Bible, ecological science and biblical ethics become intertwined.
"Biodiversity and the Bible" Bible study here. "Dr. Calvin B. DeWitt is a scientist, writer, and conservationist whose work builds bridges among environmental science, ethics and practice: Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, Director emeritus of the Au Sable Institute, president of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists, an organization dedicated to responsible stewardship of creation, lives at his animal sanctuary in Waubesa Marsh, Wisconsin." (BioLogos)