we believe that in God, Creator of all that is, and Jesus Christ,
our teacher, and the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, lie the source,
the reason, and the support of all that is contained in our
lives on our Earth Home;
The Bonding of Humanity, World, and God
by John G. Gibbs, PhD
Humanity, the material world, and God are closely inter-connected
within biblical literature. Those bonds of interaction are the
context and basis for "the spirituality of food production."
Indeed, the claim that food production is a "spiritual"
undertaking expresses several of those bonds of interaction.
Have you observered, for instance, that there is only one "image
of God" within all creation? Only humanity was made to
"image God," and that immediately carries the responsibility
(not privilege) to live within the creation in a way that mirrors
God's purposes for the creation. Our collective behavior within
the world is "in the likeness" of Creator God if it
"nurtures nature," so to speak, rather than tyrannizes
over it. No fit gardener destroys the garden with domineering
care-less actions. Ecological care-less-ness does not "image"
the Creator's relationship to the creation. [Genesis 1:26 (and
1:26-28); Psalm 8:6-8]
So then, we need (and the ecosystem needs us) to produce food
in accountability to God.
Careful stewardship of the material world is what "having
dominion" means. It both respects the creative relation
of God to the world, and nurtures our human "imaging"
of that relationship. As the son is "in the likeness"
of the father, so humanity's caring stewardship of the physical
world is "in the likeness" of God the Creator's nurturing
relation to the world. [Genesis 1:26; Genesis 5:3]
A second expression of the humanity-world-God interaction is
to say: "The earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it"
[Psalm 24:1]. There is only one ultimate "dominion"
over the material world, and that is the sovereignty of God
over the earth and all that is in it, including us. Whatever
"dominion" humanity exercises is subordinate to the
Lord's "dominion." We have no warrant for producing
food in ways that damage or even destroy any part of the creation,
ways that defy the Creator's will for harmony between humanity
and the created order.
A third statement of these linkages comes in the Lord's Prayer.
[Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4] If we pray "give us today
our daily bread," we acknowledge our dependence upon both
the God to whom we pray and the food/water (combined in bread)
on which we depend, and which come ultimately from God. If we
also pray that God's purposes be accomplished "on earth
as it is in heaven," we acknowledge that God's purposes
reach into earth no less than into heaven. People who pray to
God are not authorized to get their "bread" just any
old way, looking only to the bottom lines of food production
companies, while forgetting long lines of malnourished or even
starving humans, lines that stretch from a genetically modified
now into a genetically depleted future of grave vulnerability.
A fourth set of interactions emerges in the picture of Christ
as fulfilling the promise of Adam by being "the image of
the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." [Romans
5:12-21; Colossians 1:15] The phrase "being only human"
misses the point. The phrase forgets that humans are created
in the image or likeness of God, but remembers only what the
sequel to the second creation story shows [Genesis 3]: namely,
that humanity's (Adam's) promise was frustrated by non-fulfillment.
When we look to Jesus, on the other hand, we see what it means
to be fully human, we see our destiny fulfilled, and at the
same time we see as much as we can who God is. The Jesus of
the gospels is at home with birds and fields and trees, also
with fish and seas. For Matthew, Jesus both preached hi great
sermon and issued his Great Proclamation on a mountain rather
than in a house of worship. [Matthew 5-7 and 21] The God of
creation and covenant is Jesus' "Father." This set
of images, expressed in this kind of language, combats dualisms
between matter and spirit, between superior humanity and inferior
material world, between human and Christian, between creation
and Christ. That brings us to another set of relationships.
Fifth, the Holy Spirit is the Creator Spirit who moves us to
be creators for God and neighbor in this world. The same Spirit
who moved over the face of chaos at the start of it all [Genesis
1], was "poured out on all flesh" [Joel 2:28], was
present also at Jesus' baptism [Mark 1:8], was present at the
birth of the Church [Acts 1:8; 2:4ff], is present when we are
being formed into "new creations" [II Corinthians
5:17], and is known as the Spirit of the Lord who brings both
transforming freedom [II Corinthians 3:17-18] and the spiritual
"fruits" of love, joy, and peace [Galatians 5:22].
However we produce our food, it needs to be somehow congruous
with love, joy, and peace.
Creation and new creation are bound together in continuity
by the one Spirit. The spiritual life is our life in community,
not only in the Church (though God through the Spirit creates
and sustains the Church), but also in other communities (political,
social, economic, ecological) wherein the Creator Spirit is
the indispensable Presence among us. The Spirit, like the "wind"
(both sharing the same word in both Hebrew and Greek), is unseen.
But there is a way to tell whether our lifestyles and methods
of production express the will of the Creator, evidence the
presence of God's Spirit, and thereby stand within the true
(rather than false) prophetic tradition: "You will know
them by their fruits [Matthew 7:16, 20].
Sixth, "eco-justice" is a term that links together
land and labor. Eco-justice expresses the interactions discussed
above. It thereby challenges all false dichotomies between labor
and land, between people and place, between economy and ecology,
between developed and developing worlds, or between immediate
economic needs and long-term ecological balance. It is beyond
the purpose of this article to discuss labor-management relations,
central as they are to eco-justice. Suffice it now to say that
the servant leader whom we meet in Philippians 2 is the paradigm
of eco-justice between managers and laborers, betwen rich and
poor, between empowered and disenfranchised peoples, between
human actors constructing their history and the material world
that was created to be a reminder of the Creator and not only
a stage for the human story.
This can only be an introductory outline of interconnections
between God, material world, and humanity, for there is more
to explore. We conclude by returning to "the spirituality
of food production." "Spirituality" presupposes
and expresses God's Spirit. The Creator Spirit conjoins humanity,
humanity's labor, food, and all the God-given prerequisites
of food (such as land, water, air, and atmosphere). When we
begin with that Spirit, we end up in a very different place
that if we had started with the so-called "spirit of the
Because the material world is our home, given to us by the
Creator, and because this home evidences in telling wordless
ways "the glory of God" [Psalm 19:1-4], we can neither
plan, nor harvest, nor produce, nor eat as if God, material
world, and humanity were not bonded together at the creation.
All our productions, including food production, affect the material
world upon which they depend. All our productions also either
fracture or confirm the image of God in us, and either dishonor
or honor the Creator who brought all that is into being. [One
of the oldest Christian confessions of faith (I Corinthians
8:6) affirms connections between God the Father, the Lord, Jesus
Christ, God's people ("we"), and "all things."
From the outset our faith has seen the bonds between God, Christ,
Spirit, and material world.]