Was Calvin a Greenie?
I’ve contended for some years that the classic Christian tradition(s), while having some anti-environmental dimensions that need re-thinking and reform, are far more eco-sensitive than the conservative/capitalist Christian tradition that developed in the West after the Industrial Revolution–and especially more eco-sensitive than the Religious Right in America. Well, one of my favorite Aussie theo-bloggers, Byron Smith, who has written extensively on theological and ethical dimensions of climate change, peak oil, suburbia, and related matters, has just given a gem of a quote from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis:
“The earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation… The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that, being content with the frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence, but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.”
– John Calvin on Genesis 2.15 in Commentary on Genesis (1554).
Byron’s “Jesus and Climate Change” series begins here. His blog is called Nothing New Under the Sun and I suggest you read it regularly, especially for, but not limited to, his many blog posts on the environment. He also regularly has the best photographs to go with his posts.
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