Sarah Coakley outlines the place of the physical creation in the Christian picture of reality.
Well, the importance of the physical in the Christian tradition, I think, is in the first instance shared with Judaism and Islam, that we are the outcome of divine creation, and everything that God made is good. And that’s how Genesis begins. And so the demand on the human of taking care of this is central to the great so-called Abrahamic faiths.
But there is one little twist already there, at the beginning of Genesis, which has caused trouble within the Christian tradition, and it’s the demand that Adam take dominion over the animal world and the created world. And much depends here on how that dominion is understood. Because if it’s understood rapaciously as opposed to caringly, then clearly that causes huge ecological problems. And it’s obvious that that has been the case at times within the Christian tradition.
On the other hand, of course, the incarnation itself, which is specific to Christianity, gives the body – and indeed, according to some parts of the New Testament, especially in Paul with his cosmological vision of Christ’s implication for the whole universe – a new and inflected positive value. That Christ has come in order to regenerate what has been besmirched by the rages of sin, and thus the whole creation is to be seen as tending towards some cosmic point of ultimate fulfilment in Christ.