„What Do We Need Calvin For Today“ was the topic Lithuanian-Polish-German Consultation from the Lippische Landeskriche with their Partners August 27-30, 2009 in Lage-Stapelage, Germany Iwas asct to give a statemant:
Due to the change in living circumstances, the people lost with the beginning of the industrial revolution more and more the reference to nature and creation.Our own daily experience, and also the direct experience of dependence on the natural relationships between nature and urban life has been and will always be less. But about 40 years ago people in our community and also in churches became attentive and dealed with relations. Conservation was no longer only habitat protection, which was left to the environmental organizations. The topic was moving into the center of church. Because of direct involvement of congregations from environmental changes and crises communities, groups and theologians began to deal with the new role of the church in this age of environmental crisis. Compared with non-church environmental groups is the theological reflection and motivation a big issue.
When we want to understand the importance of conservation and environmentalism in the past, we have to do it from different aspects.
Where are we, the humans, and the nature come from?
How do we controle the relationship between the humans and the nature?
What kind of liability are we responsible for?
These questions are very important by reflecting Calvin and discussing creation.
Sources from Calvin
For Calvin is praising the creator most imporant when speaking about creation. He noticed this in his Institutio and his commentary on the Bible. I see no appeal of missunderstood creationism in his words which describes the mechanism of creation. By dealing with creation through its creature, the human, it is about facilitating a relationship of admiration and praising.
This creation is given to us for reasonable use. This means sustainable economies for us today. Using nature’s property is only allowed if it is able to regrow. Everything else is overexploitation and sin. Cultivating and preserving does this mean in biblical language, or as Calvin said, „we have to work not for lazy inaction“ and „we should arm ourselves with the annual income and have not even the real estate collapse.“ (Commentary on Gen. 2:15)
Responsible use of goods in trust expressed this, not only with private goods even with public’s too.
This was certainly not different in biblical times, in the time of Reformation and Renaissance, and especially not today. The finiteness of creation was known even in that time. The overexploitation of forests has changed the environment and climate in the Mediterranean area and the Middle East.
Transfer to the 21th century
In our time we have a great responsibility for our limited natural resources. Receive goods which were regarded as free goods in the past now has a value that is increasingly being evaluated with money (for example: soil, water, air).
Through the use of the formerly free goods they are contaminated and are becoming scarcer. Now here is the need to correct. But how such items are to be evaluated. They have a different value for different people.
People, who live in harmony with nature and other previously free goods, take a risk to get used and exploid. Here is the dealing with the rainforest in the Amazon or Indonesia a good example from today.
Only a consistent sustainable economy in the sense the classic definition of sustainability in the context of forestry and agriculture, can lead us the way in the future.
Prospects for a responsible action as a church
Our church has to act responsible, because it is a sign of solidarity between people and the whole creation.
This got expressed by the faith-following action in society and ecumensim.
We can and should be guided by this question:
What kind of goods do we need for our work as a Church?
Where do we can act tangible?
How do we can handle energy and natural resources sparingly?
Do we can travel by train or carpool?
Do we can buy fair traded and organic groceries?
We should reflect our habits. The certification by EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme, project Gruener Hahn) is a good possibility for us.
Those daily conscious decisions and the following actions are necessary, because of the claim and self-image we get imposed and we impose on ourselves. For the people in our environment we are a potential role model.
Besides the concrete actions we as Christians and even as Church have a political mandat in our society. We can and we have to say what we think if we observe irresponsible contacts with creation. Especially the words of small churches are important and get perceived by the political social environment. I experience this again and again when it comes to ecological topics, which are discussed controversially and don’t reach a broad political consensus.
In this regard we are called to accompany our politicians critically on their way to a new climate change agreement in Copenhagen.
Our spiritual life will provide the power for what needs to be done. I discover the discussion of creation, especially in the time of the Harvest festival. In this time we celebrate praise and thanks. In Wurttemberg is a Erntebitttag in summer. This is celebrated in memory of an extreme drought.
To promote the discussion of topics related to responsible use of creation, few years ago the ACK (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschlan) decided to support the creation time in Germany. This holiday season in the church year comes from the ecumenical movement. It begins with the Day of Creation in Orthodoxy on 1st September and ends with our harvest festival.
With this holiday season the spiritual dimension – besides of some ecological aspects – can play a part in our church. I would like to invite you, to join our celebrations on the way to a festive season for and with creation.
Backgroundmaterail (sorry only in german)
Umweltarbeit in der Kirche – Warum?
Gedanken zum Perspektivprozeß der Lippischen Landeskirche auf Basis der Grundaussagen von „Wege und Horizonte“ und den Ergebnissen der ökumenischen Visitation
The slides to the presentation: calvin_bewahrung_der_schoepfung_ppt
Otto Schäfer/18.09.2008: Calvin und der Calvinismus – Impulse für Schöpfungsfrömmigkeit und Schöpfungsverantwortung heute
Lucas Vischer The Reformation heritage and the ecumenical movement
Lucas Vischer, 2008, Calvin zur Verantwortung für Gottes Schöpfung