Pope Francis is publishing an encyclical, or letter, about the environment later this year.
While it won’t carry the weight of church law, this type of letter to the bishops carries much authority in theological debates. And this one is already triggering debates.
So, what should you consider when preparing to read the pope’s words?
Many Christians get to Genesis 1:28 in Scripture and stop. “God blessed them (Adam and Eve) and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”
Some interpret this to mean that God gave us everything for our use and we can do what we want to the earth and its creatures.
However, others point to just a chapter later when Adam is told “to work it and take care of it” in reference to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:15.
Other ideas from the Bible include:
God created the heavens and the Earth and it is his.
The first two chapters of Genesis, Psalm 24:1-2 proclaims: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”
God cares for the Earth.
Psalms 65:9 speaks of God, saying, “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.” And Psalm 104 is filled with references to the care God provides his creation, and many people take this as an example of how humans, who are created in the image of God, should reflect God.
Caring for the Earth cares for yourself.
Proverbs 27:23 says: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”
How do you feel Christians should think about the environment?
What’s in a name?
The current pope took his papal name in part from St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his connections to and care of animals.