The Good Book’s Green Message
Air Date: Week of January 2, 2009
The Green Bible is published by Harper Collins Publishers (Courtesy of Harper Collins)
The bible is the most widely translated book in the world. Now there’s a new edition for environmentalists. In “The Green Bible, all passages that pertain to the earth or the environment are printed in green soy-based ink. Calvin De Witt wrote an essay for the new green good book. He tells host Steve Curwood that the bible says it’s our duty to care for creation.
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth, I'm Steve Curwood. It may not strike you as the typical best-seller – but the Christian Bible is the best selling book since Gutenberg first reproduced it in print in 1455.
The Bible has been translated into 2400 different languages, and now there’s even a green version. The Green Bible is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink. More than 1000 of the passages that reference the earth or environment are highlighted in green.
The edition includes essays by theological leaders such as the late Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
But perhaps the most accessible introduction to this Green Bible comes from University of Wisconsin biologist and evangelical apostle Calvin DeWitt. His essay is entitled “Reading the Bible Through a Green Lens.” God, says Professor DeWitt, calls on us to care for his creation.
DEWITT: The first reference to be fruitful and multiply is in Genesis 1:22 “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the skies and fill the seas.” And it’s a blessing of fruitfulness to the birds and the fish and by implication to the rest of the creatures of creation. And then in Genesis 1:28 that blessing is also given to human beings. Then Genesis 2 comes by and says "now you serve this creation, you serve the Garden." You know as in any book, you don’t stop at reading the first few paragraphs or the first chapter. If you look at Genesis 2:15 which is that great passage on service of creation and keeping creation, you can get from that our current idea of “con-service” or conservation.
CURWOOD: It’s really fascinating to look at the Bible and its references to the earth and to the environment, and even around such core questions as original sin. Now we human beings get tossed out of the Garden of Eden after committing the sin which involves, I guess, an environmental impropriety, having that apple.
DEWITT: Yeah. The story here is that human beings decide not to live within the limits of the Garden. Of course, that is not only apparent then but it is also apparent in our present day. Living within limits, even when those limits are designed to preserve yourself and to preserve the creatures and whole of creation is something that often is rebelled against by human beings. And certainly that was the case with the first human beings.
CURWOOD: Later in the book of Genesis, God commands Noah to build an ark and take a pair that is male and female of every animal into that ark while he floods the earth to destroy life on earth. So, in terms of the environmental perspective, what’s the moral of that story?
DEWITT: First of all, it’s the world’s first Endangered Species Act. What the passage tells us, is that the lineages of the various living creatures has to be conserved. Of course, I as an ecological scientist, also hold that strictly from a scientific perspective, and that is if we destroy the very system that sustains us, we destroy ourselves.
CURWOOD: Looking further here at the opening of the Bible in the early chapters, we come across the principle of the Sabbath. Now, this is not just about a day of rest for people; it’s a time of rest for the earth as well, is that right?
DEWITT: Yeah, it’s quite right. What we know is when we give rest to ourselves, to the creatures under our care, to our land and to what we call natural resources, that’s really also beneficial to them for sustaining them over the very long run. And that’s the practical result of keeping the Sabbath.
CURWOOD: Calvin DeWitt, what do you say to people who say that they are religious, but they drive gas guzzlers, they don’t recycle and, in fact, are pretty poor environmental stewards?
DEWITT: Well, if the people that are doing this are very, very strict in terms of their interpretation of the scriptures, then I will bring to light for them Revelation 11:18, that those who destroy the earth, will be destroyed. That, of course, can be very effective, if you take every verse very seriously. We can use the example of Jesus who is a person who takes on the form of a servant, the life of a servant, and serves, does not accumulate, but simply pursues justice, love, care for the poor, care for the land, and who invites us to behold the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
CURWOOD: Calvin DeWitt wrote an essay in “The Green Bible.” He’s a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. And also president of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists. Thanks so much Professor DeWitt.
DEWITT: You’re so welcome.
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