What Can a ‘Theology of the Cross’ Teach Us About Creation Care?

For Christians, Jesus' crucifixion on the cross is central to the teachings of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 2:2), the life of Christ, and, without equivocation, free will. As Rev. John Riggle, Lutheran Pastor at Evangelical Lutheran Church in America highlights in his recent commentary, humankind's ability to crucify the divine demonstrates that God has granted humans a very clear responsibility, i.e. free will. Rev. Riggle explains that if humans are capable of 'nailing Jesus to the cross,' "It is also true, therefore, that God is radically committed to humanity’s free will."

What does 'free will' have to do with creation care?

Rev. Riggle is responding to a small but steady disposition of Christian thought that leads to a belief in humankind's inability to degrade God's creation, an idea the Reverend vehemently denounces. Rev. Riggle clarifies, "If God was willing to allow us to attempt to annihilate the Divine, then why should we think God would not allow us to destroy this earth for human life." Before you get too upset, Rev. Riggle is explaining that our ability to degrade creation is precisely the reason we should not. In this instance, it is worth noting that free will does not inevitably lead to an idea of destruction, quite the opposite. 

For Rev. Riggle, free will equals responsibility. Our free will to do as we please does not imply that we should treat God's creation with discontent or sidestep our responsibility to care for it, as clearly charged to humans in Genesis 2:15. 

Rev. Riggle makes a very clear point that climate change is not an act of God, rather our unwillingness to mend it. So what are Christians to do with this understanding of free will? How are humans to navigate the murky waters of responsibility? 

Act on Climate, it really is that simple.

Humankind is guided to act on climate change, but the details of exactly how are still up for interpretation. Everyone is capable of caring for creation in different ways, from initiating creation care committees at churches to divesting our faith facilities from fossil fuel investments. 

How will you act on your free will today?

It's time to mend our ways

Rev. John Riggle | Echo Press

“Theology of the cross” is shorthand, used by many Christians, for the central importance of Christ Jesus’ saving work on the cross. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul writes: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Christian preaching and practice are at their best when the cross of Christ stands at the center of everything we say, do, and think.

If we believe that in Christ the fullness of almighty God is present, as well as the fullness of our created humanity – i.e., that Jesus Christ is both God and man (see Colossians 1:15-20), then we come to an astounding conclusion: When we wicked human creatures nailed Christ to a cross … it was God who suffered and died for our sins. It is also true, therefore, that God is radically committed to humanity’s free will.

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