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Biblical Notes for Quaker Environmentalism by Marshall Massey
"Conscience" literally means "the place where we know with God" -- from the Latin con-, "with", plus sciens, "knowing". The Biblical word for conscience is even clearer: syneidesis, from syn-, "with", plus eidesis, "the act of seeing or perceiving": the place where we perceive with God what God perceives about things.
The world cites the "dominion" verses in Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 to justify its callousness toward nature in the same way that the Pharisees cited Moses to justify their callousness toward their marriages. (See Christ's words about marriage in Mark 10:4-9.) A closer look, though, suggests that the "dominion" verses have been mistranslated -- that the verbs in question do not mean "to have dominion" in these passages, but mean something much gentler and less open to abuse: "to have the starring role in the cast, or the pivotal role in the drama." Still, this is a matter beyond the scope of this brief essay.
And it is also not what the Bible teaches. Nowhere in the Bible are nature and the creatures portrayed as mere resources to be exploited.
This view is consistent with the Bible. The covenants of Noah (Genesis 9:8-17) and of Hosea (Hosea 2:14-20) both speak of the non-human creatures as nations entitled to treat with God and humanity on a covenantal basis. In other words, the non-human creatures are seen as our fellow sentient beings -- beings who are fully capable of entering into agreements with us and with God, and whom God finds deserving of being included as full parties to such agreements. This makes them far more than mere objects or properties or resources. The covenant of Hosea (v 2:14) also speaks of the wilderness as a holy place where God is rediscovered and hope is reborn.
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