Priests of Creation and a Dead Mountain Lion

Yesterday I heard some heartbreaking news: P-47, a 3-year-old mountain lion has died in the Santa Monica Mountains after being infected with rat poison. P-47 was one of the largest mountain lion observed in the National Park Services study in Los Angeles.

p-47

This got me thinking about humanity’s vocation in relation to creation. In studying T.F. Torrance I have come to the conclusion that (part of) humanity’s vocation as “priests of creation” is encapsulated in four tasks:

1) Discerning order within creation, 2) instituting order where order has not fully developed, and 3) rectifying disorder in creation; all 4) for the purpose of glorifying God.

What might it look like to fulfill this four-fold human vocation? Let me use this sad news about P-47 to spur some discussion about what it would look like to live as “priests of creation.”

First lets assume that biodiversity is part of God’s good creation.[2] In order to encourage and maintain bio-diversity scientists will need to engage in discerning type activities. They will need to examine how many species there are on earth, where these species are found, and what constitutes a healthy population. They will also need to discern what factors threaten biodiversity. In California, for example, scientists are currently attempting to discern the factors that have contributed to the lack of genetic diversity among the population of mountain lions in hills of Los Angeles. Some of the factors include habitation loss and degradation, the construction of freeways and roads, and the use of certain anticoagulant rodenticides.

Once the issues have been discerned, plans for instituting order and rectifying the disorder brought about by human causes will need to be developed. There are a number

23975240799_0c62bf7a94_k
P-46 and P-47 as cubs.

of strategies for preserving biodiversity. The environmental ethicist Fred Van Dyke lists five: “(1)Purchasing or gaining operational control of land of conservation value, (2) regulating the use of land and water for conservation purposes, (3) influencing land and water use through non-regulatory means, (4) regulating the use of wild plants and animals, or (5) directly managing or manipulating wild or captive populations in ways that reduce or eliminate extinction threats.”[4] In Los Angeles, these strategies are enacted through: 1)the purchase of portions of the Santa Monica Mountains by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservation, 2) California’s Transit authority’s efforts to develop increased connectivity between regions that are divided by the 101 freeway, and 3) state legislators banning certain rodenticides that are especially lethal to mountain lions. The above example of discerning/instituting order and rectifying disorder in regards to mountain lion genetic diversity for the sake of God’s glory exemplifies Daniel Block’s statement that “a redeemed cosmos includes all creatures, with all their territorial and biological diversity, giving eternal praise to the Creator.”[6]

To some, the fact that I’m writing about the theological responsibility to care for mountain lions might seem odd. To others it makes perfect sense. I think that there is a very strong biblical case for creation care grounded in the concept of the image of God. As Richard Middleton says, “The imago Dei designates the royal office or calling of human beings as God’s representatives and agents in the world, granted authorized power to share in God’s rule or administration of earth’s resources and creatures.” The mountain lions of Los Angeles are part included in the number of those creatures.  They are also included in the number of creatures described in Revelation 5:13:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

 


[1] Biodiversity refers to “the variability among living organisms, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexities of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Handbook of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 3rd Edition, (Montreal: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2005), 5. I would add genetic diversity to this list of bio-diversity.

[2] See Daniel Block’s biblical argument in “To Serve and to Keep: Toward a Biblical Understanding of Humanity’s Responsibility in the Face of the Biodiversity Crisis,” in Keeping God’s Earth: The Global Environment in Biblical Perspective, ed. Noah Toly and Daniel Block (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 116–40.

[4] Fred Van Dyke, “The Diversity of Life: Its Loss and Conservation” in Keeping God’s Earth: The Global Environment in Biblical Perspective, ed. Noah Toly and Daniel Block (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 103–104.

[6] Block, “To Serve and to Keep,” 121.

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