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Creation for its own sake


Psalm 104
The Bible is always being criticised for giving rise to a domineering attitude towards creation, in which human beings, and men in particular, are encouraged to exercise mastery over it. But that's only one strand of the Bible's creation theology, the one from Genesis. Psalm 104 gives a totally different perspective.

The Psalm celebrates almost the whole of creation purely for its own sake and with scarcely a reference to humankind. Even darkness and night are there so that ‘the animals of the forest’ can ‘come creeping out.’ In contrast, during the day while the lions are sleeping in their dens, ‘people go out to their work and to their labour until the evening.’

Another exception is the reference to plants. ‘You cause the... plants to grow for people to use, and wine to gladden the human heart, and bread to strengthen the human heart.’

But in most respects the rest of creation exists solely to please God and relate to its creator. ‘These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.’

Human beings are mere bystanders, not the stewards of this version of creation. Our task is simply to ‘sing praise to [our] God… while [we] have being.’

Psalm 104 is a necessary corrective to the Genesis stories, but while creation does exist for its own sake there is also a role for human beings as collaborators with God and stewards of creation, because only we have the power to spoil it, to re-engineer it and to help care for it.

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