1990 ICS Niagara Conference
Keynote: “Four Ways of Thinking About Living on the Earth”
By Dr. Lorne Wilkinson
Perspective Report by Reinder J. Klein
Dr. Lorne Wilkinson of Vancouver’s Regent College, the main speaker at this conference, explained that things around us have value because they were created! They are valuable because God made them and delights in them — not because human beings can use them.
Within this “valued creation,” Wilkinson said, “humans have a unique worth, because they are called into a unique kind of free responsiveness to the creator — called even into a kind of secondary creatorliness of their own.”
Contrary to what many people may think or believe, Wilkinson pointed out, the Biblical account of creation nowhere suggests that the purpose or culmination of creation is men and women. Rather, it is the Sabbath, something about which the Bible has a great deal to say but which we have found very difficult to hear, let alone heed.
“The Sabbath is God’s rejoicing, with all his creatures, in the unity and splendour of his creation — a unity and splendour which science increasingly reveals. And the Sabbath sets limits to human activity, places it all within the acceptance of the goodness of creation for its own sake.”
Wilkinson made these points after having explored, and found wanting, three “ways of thinking about living on the earth” reflected in some widely used terms. The word nature, he claims, “invokes a great earth-mother goddess, who is to be worshiped, but not studied or used.” The expression natural resources, he feels, “invokes a man-centered nature which is reduced to tool-box, treasure-house, or fuel-tank for human purpose.” And environment fares no better, because it “is either equally anthropocentric or it undercuts our place to stand by, making us simply part of the environmental flux, thus removing any validity we have in talking about anything.”
Wilkinson called for a rehabilitation of the word creation, so that it again includes a sense of God’s transcendence and of divine immanence. “(The) intimate involvement of the creator with his creation is seen most clearly in Christ, in the cross, where God took upon himself the pain of creation; and in the resurrection, where God points to the restoration and everlasting worth of what he has made.”