Creation Care and Worship
Written by Plant With Purpose on September 4, 2012 in General
Does the night sky exist simply for humanity’s enjoyment? Is worship only a human act? Tony Campolo, who serves on Plant With Purpose’s Advisory Board, makes the point that Nature’s purpose is to worship God.
Creation Care and Worship
by Tony Campolo
professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.
Whenever we sing the Doxology in church, we sing out the words, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below.” Note that all creatures are referred to in this hymn. These words have become so familiar to us that we sometimes fail to see the implications of what we are singing.
We humans are not the only ones called upon to worship God. If you read Psalm 148, you will find that King David called upon all living creatures to worship the Almighty. Even more strange to those of us steeped in modernity is that, in this psalm, even that which is inanimate is called upon to worship God.
Almost a thousand years ago, St. Francis of Assisi went out to the fields and called upon the birds to sing hymns of praise to the Lord. He called upon the sheep to raise their voices to make sounds of praise go God. He called upon the cows to do the same. He believed, as the Bible teaches, that all creation was spoken into existence for the glory of God.
Sometimes our environmentalism is completely utilitarian. We want to save nature because we humans need it for our survival and well-being – and I am not arguing with that reality. Romans 8:19-23 says that God’s children are called upon to rescue creation from its present degraded condition.
But there is a deeper reason for saving nature. That deeper reason is that everything that was created was created to worship God. For instance, the heavens were created to declare the glory of God. They weren’t created simply for our own personal enjoyment.
Psalm 148:7 reads, “Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps.” I believe the “sea monsters” who praise God in that verse are whales. Whales sing, and if there were no human beings on this planet, whales would still have a function that is glorious: that function is to sing hymns of praise to God. Anyone who has ever taken time to listen to the songs of whales knows there is a mystical quality to their singing that makes it easy to understand their ultimate purpose is to sing praise to God. If a species of whale is made extinct because of human irresponsibility, it is not just that we’ve lost an interesting creature from the face of the earth. As tragic as that is, the full reality is even more troubling: We have silenced a special voice of praise to the Almighty.
This is not some new age proposal. Throughout the Bible we sense what one philosopher called “ a great chain of being” —- with God and the angels at the top, humans below them, animals below us, and then the plant kingdom, and the inorganic realities of nature. The Bible is clear that all of creation was meant to glorify God. And when Adam and Eve fell, creation suffered along with that first couple. In Romans Paul reminds us that it is not just us humans who long to be restored to where we can worship God in fullness and joy. “The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains,” waiting to be delivered for exactly the same purpose.
To interfere with worship is blasphemy. Thus, the obliteration of the environment has blasphemous dimensions to it. Considering what we have done to nature, we need to repent, because we have hindered nature’s glorification of the God who created all things in heaven and on earth to praise His name.
Excerpt taken from Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Scott Sabin, Plant With Purpose’s executive director.