The biblical story presents life in all of its fulness. From creation to incarnation to resurrection to new creation, the human story presents not just souls or spirits in isolation from the visible world, but whole people who are valuable in their entirety and relate to God as complete persons. We are also people who have intimate connections to other creatures of this world, and we are people who enjoy life now and in the future within a rich, physical context. The flip side is that both humanity and the rest of the created world suffer the effects of sin, according to Genesis 3, Isaiah 24, Hosea 4, and elsewhere.
Romans 8:18-25 is the classic New Testament passage that demonstrates the human connection to the rest of the world in creation, judgment, and new creation. Creation “groans” alongside believers, waiting for the day of resurrection and new creation. But Romans 8 may have an overlooked “cousin” in James 1:17-18 as well.
In James 1:17-18, creation appears to be tied together with new creation, and both humans and the broader created order are in view. The God who created the world by the power of his word now recreates believers through the powerful word of the gospel. God is the “Father of Lights” who gives good and perfect gifts to his creatures (we might think about the beautiful depiction of God’s ongoing provision for his creatures in Psalm 104:24-30 here). This same benevolent and powerful creator gives us new birth through “the word of truth” (most likely, the good news of Jesus). The creator God who recreates believers sees these believers as the “firstfruits of all creatures,” suggesting that the renewing work that touches believers’ lives previews the work of recreation that God will bring to the rest of the created order. If this interpretation is correct, human experience of creation and redemption is located within a greater creation-wide backdrop. Human creation and destiny is tied to the creation and destiny of the entire world.
If humanity and the world around us shares such close bonds throughout our past, present, and future, we should value other creatures and the rest of the created world. Christians should be champions of the long-term care and cultivation of this beautiful world that is given life by God, sustained by God, and will be restored by God as part of his saving work in Christ.