The everlasting covenant is the only possible basis for a characteristically Christian theology for the environment. That is the view of Margaret Barker DD, who was speaking at Dublin & Glendalough Theology Circle’s annual lecture in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 6th May.
“It will not do to deck out secular positions with a few texts of Scripture, and these not always relevant to the issue,” she said. “The biblical vision for creation, based on the everlasting covenant, is rich, consistent and sophisticated. And largely forgotten.”
In her lecture, which was based on her 2012 book, Creation: A Biblical Vision for the Environment, Margaret explored “the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” (Genesis 9:16), which she said “encompasses all the historic Old Testament covenants and forms the basis of the New Testament”.
She said this was the covenant that Jesus renewed at the Last Supper: “He restored a covenant that had in his time been neglected, and in our current theological scene is almost completely unknown.”
“The covenant underlying all the other covenants in the Old Testament was the everlasting covenant, which depicted heaven and earth bound together in one great system that encompassed the powers of heaven, the visible creation and human society,” she said.
Margaret described Jesus as “the Day of Atonement sacrifice, the Lord offering his own life to renew the everlasting covenant”. She said, “The bonds of the covenant were healed by self-sacrifice and a different type of knowledge.”
“Matthew made clear that Jesus renewed the everlasting covenant at the Last Supper: ‘This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the putting away of sins (Matt 26:28, my literal translation). John did not describe the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but he did record Jesus’ teaching about the everlasting covenant: unity, love, the power of the Name to unite and protect. And he distinguished his disciples from the disciples of Moses: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another’. (John 13:35).”
Margaret has been a participant for many years in the ongoing symposium, ‘Religion, Science and the Environment’, convened by ‘The Green Patriarch’, HAH Bartholomew I. Margaret was awarded a DD by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008 “in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research.”
To read the full script, click here.
To find out more about Margaret Barker, see www.margaretbarker.com.