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the key verse and insists on its infallible truth in order to argue against
any effort to ward off climate change. It won't happen, so we need do
nothing about it. Case closed. The irony is thus quite stark: the more we
believe that God guarantees the continuity of Earth's living systems, the
less responsibility we take for them and the more we destroy them. Here,
a reliance on biblical mythology is actually pernicious, justifying a great
transgression against the divine command that we exercise stewardship
over the creation.
But Representative Shimkus is not the only person caught in a con-
tradiction. What about a position that does insist on stewardship—but
also admits that the covenant no longer holds? In that case, what divine
injunction are we carrying out if we hold firmly to the notion we must
be responsible to all life? We may end up in a dilemma opposite to that
of Mr. Shimkus, carrying out our role as stewards of the Earth in the
absence of a covenant. We would find ourselves complying with an ethics
that has no divine foundation and on an Earth that may not be subject to
our control.
How might we resolve this contradiction? We could argue that the
absence of that divine foundation actually makes our stewardship neces-
sary; if God is totally in charge of the creation, what could we possibly do
to assist him? Our activity maters precisely because there is no transcen-
dental guarantee that all will be well. Our ethical orientation would thus
arise not from a divine command but from our responsibility to the web
of life from which we arose. We could do without God—and without a
story of the creation—and still have a strong basis for doing justice to our
fellow creatures.
This is the kind of ethical position that arises from a secular and scien-
tific interpretation of our moment. But it does not fully take the measure
of the mythic, theological challenge; because it tells no story, it leaves us
without a language in which to depict our most fundamental situation.
Would it be possible to resolve the contradiction in another way—one
that takes seriously the presence of more-than-human forces, whatever
they may be?
As it turns out, in looking at this split between the creation and a
workable ethics, we are thinking about questions already asked elsewhere
in the Bible, particularly in the topic of Job. he topic of Genesis need
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