How green is God?
"... whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night." Psalm 1.2
What exactly is the relationship between God and nature? Does God sustain the physical universe, or did he just create it and then hand it over to us to look after it? What does he think about climate change and is he going to do anything about it?
These questions are usually explored through the science versus religion debate. The story goes that primitive people rely on religious beliefs to make sense of the world but, as learning advances science steps in and religion steps back. During the late Middle Ages and early Modern Era matters came to a head in Europe, with significant advances in the physical sciences, and more recently in psychiatric medicine too. The Church put up a fight because of the way in which scientific insights were challenging biblical truths and, perhaps as disturbingly, ecclesiastical authority. But the sheer weight of evidence has backed the Church into a corner, where it has grudgingly come to terms with science's more sophisticated view of the world which relegates God to the margins, from where some expect he will disappear altogether in due course.
The real story is, of course, much more complicated and nuanced. For a start, many of the pioneers of science were clergymen or Christians, using their gifts to delve into the wonder of creation. They advanced by proposing theories rather than proclaiming facts and while significant parts of the Church have been infamously sceptical, even resistant, others have welcomed and supported the use of humanity's practical and intellectual gifts.
Far from explaining God out of the picture, recent scientific discovery has revealed a "Pandora's Box" of apparently endless dimensions of magnitude and detail and, most intriguingly, inter-connectedness. How are we to make sense of it all? Well here is where the notion of theology as "the queen of sciences" comes into play. Contrary to what some might assume, that phrase is not designed to assert theology's superiority over lesser academic endeavours. Rather it expresses the unique role thinking about God has in drawing together all the strands to discern the bigger picture, the grander narrative explaining how all of life hangs together and considering whether it has a purpose and what that might be.
As regards climate change, we can expect God's part to reflect his position regarding other expressions of human and physical suffering: in the thick of it, contending for his original creation which he loves, while preparing the New Creation for those who will inherit it.