Christianity and Creation
When God created the world, one of His acts of creation was to grow a garden. Not only did He create a garden, but in it He placed the first humans (Genesis 2:8). We cannot escape the fact that God placed us in an initial state of harmony with nature He created—and that one of His first commands to humanity was to “work [the garden] and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15, NIV)! The Bible indicates that the Garden of Eden was not only humans’ first home, but also the source of life-giving nourishment. “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden,” God says in Genesis 2:16–17, “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” From the very beginning, God gave humans the responsibility of tending the garden and subduing the earth (Genesis 1:28) as well as the ability to benefit from the beautiful creation all around us. Moreover, God established a clear boundary that was based on what Adam and Eve could and couldn’t eat, a foreshadowing of the dietary laws found later in the Old Testament.
On this straightforward basis, Christianity has at its root the responsibility humans have toward God’s creation—even though it has been marred by human sin. This original commandment carries through even as the specific dietary laws of the ancient Hebrews were instituted and later repealed (Acts 10). We are not called to trod upon creation with an arrogant spirit. We cannot treat creation as ours to do what we want with; this denies that creation is God’s handiwork, usurping it for ourselves, and perverses God’s command for us to subdue it and figuratively tend the earth’s garden into carte blanche for us to do whatever “feels right” with God’s creation. Nor can we treat creation as irrevocably broken and therefore not worth honoring. Again, this ignores God’s commandment and suggests that “two wrongs make a right,” since the attitude that God’s commands can be flouted is what broke creation in the first place.
Therefore when we treat the earth, through our farming (and therefore eating) or other prctices, in ways that degrade creation, we are reversing the right relationship between humankind and God. As Fred Bahnson and Richard Church write, “In this regard, human’s dominion over creation … has been profoundly misconstrued. Dominion is grounded in human’s unique role in creation as God’s image-bearers. In the ancient world, an image-bearer represented a conquering ruler as a means of making clear that ruler’s power and dominion in an occupied land. A faithful image-bearer was one who expressed power and dominion in a manner consistent with the ruler they represented. For Christians, the power and dominion of our Ruler is best exemplified by that same ruler dying on a cross in sacrificial love for his own subjects. Thus, our dominion over creation must similarly take this shape of self-sacrificial love. To exercise dominion is to serve creation in a way that’s analogous to how Christ served the world.”
In direct contradiction to God’s command, then, most of us in modern society find ourselves at complete odds with our responsibility toward the earth. Although some of us may keep small gardens for personal nourishment, the vast majority of us do not closely examine how our daily actions—what we eat, where we work, how we get from place to place, etc.—fit with or fly in the face of God’s first commandment. And as it happens, our sin nature and the effects of sin all around us mean that when we do not closely examine how we treat the earth, we tend to *mis*treat it, even though most of us are almost certainly not consciously intending to. Bahnson and Church write, “[M]ost of us find ourselves removed from the garden, not knowing the sources of our food or who grows it.” In this place fits the Bible’s elevation of the spiritual significance of eating, from the prohibition against gluttony (Proverbs 28:7) and the requirement to feed the hungry (Matthew 25:35) to Communion. The authors continue, “Where do we begin? Perhaps by acknowledging our sinful participation in an extractive, unsustainable, and often violent food economy in which some go hungry while others eat too much, in which quantity replaces quality, in which the laws of the market replace the laws of ecological balance. We can recognize that food is not a mere commodity whipped up in an industrial laboratory, but is rather a continuation of God’s creative activity.”
Food from the Earth stands in this gap and seeks to reconnect Christians with not simply the source of their food or the joys of gardening, but to God’s first commandment itself and how we can obey it in our own small, local ways. Food from the Earth unites a faithful congregation with the space, tools, education, and connections to help raise, support, distribute, share, and use the earth for the godly creation of food and feeding of the hungry. From sharing the hard work of tilling the soil, preparing and planting the crops, tending the plants as they grow, and harvesting the results; to teaching newcomers and especially new generations the techniques and rewards of agriculture and hard work; by working with others to educate on organic practices and the physical and psychological health benefits of home-cooked food; and to donating freshly harvested fruits and vegetables with the needy—in short, in every way, Food from the Earth is about helping bring Christians in line with God’s command for how we should treat the earth. Along the way, we enjoy the benefits of watching how the earth re-creates itself with each growing season, how God honors our efforts, and how the earth makes provision for all of us to eat healthfully and sufficiently.