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NAMING THE BIRDS

Posted: 16.10.19 in Articles category

One of the features of the Creation story in Genesis 2 which seems curious at first reading comes in verses 19 and 20, when God asked the man to name all the animals and birds that He had made. Here how those verses read in the New International Version:

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

From this passage we learn that 'naming the creatures' was a duty given by God to humankind. I have argued in my book, 'Look at the Birds of the Air', that naming is a facet of our stewardship as the very task of giving a creature a name implicitly requires us to take some responsibility for it and treat it with some respect.

The writer Norman Wirzba takes this further in his book, 'From Nature to Creation' . He claims that how we name and characterize creatures helps to determine what we do with them. He considers the feelings evoked in you when you are presented with a plant as a "flower". It's likely that you will want to look at it carefully and you might even want to protect it in order to safeguard its beauty. However, if you are told instead that the plant is a "weed", you will probably respond differently. Instead of wanting to protect it, you may want to eradicate it because you perceive weeds to be intrusive and unwelcome pests.

Wirzba goes on to develop his argument through discussing St Paul's words in Colossians 1 about the supremacy of Christ. Wirzba writes on pages 20 and 21 that creatures "are never simply things to do with however we please. They are, instead, creatures, each enfolded within the ministry of Jesus's life, each of them part of a divine drama that stretches from beginning to end and includes everything in between." As for this earth, it is part of 'creation' - the name for "the ongoing reality of human beings, animals, plants, land and weather, all connected to each other and bound by God as their source, inspiration, and end....When we confine creation to an originating event, we lose the sense of it as a dynamic place so cherished that God enters into covenant relationship with it (Genesis 9:8-17), so beautiful that God promises to renew it (Isaiah 65:17-25) and so valuable that God takes up residence within it (John 1:14 and Revelation 21:1-4). Creation is not a vast lump of valueless matter. It is God's love made visible, fragrant, tactile, audible, and delectable."

I agree with Wirzba's contention that Christians need to "learn the art of creaturely life". We should try to live being attuned to God as Creator and the world as God's creation, following the example of Jesus Christ as the true and complete human creature. In this we need to recognise WHERE we are, i.e. in God's created world. And we need to remember that all of it is made, nurtured and loved by God. Even sparrows!

 
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