Friday, 15 April 2011

Ecological Crisis

Having looked at Chief Seattle's response to the US government's attempt to buy the native American land, the Workshop notes looked at what has led to the ecological crisis (Anvil Trust 2010, pp 39-41). The author argues that the primary root is in western culture that is seen as being shaped by the Christian church.

Lyn White is quoted as saying that Christianity has "established a dualism on man and nature" and taught "that it is God's will that man exploit nature" (p 39). The implication is that in Christianity humanity is seen as unique and different from all of nature and that everything else in creation is there for the benefit of humanity. It is contended that in Christian theology, nature or the "natural world" had moved from being a mystery to "becoming a laboratory" (p 39).

People have taken centre stage and nature has been excluded. "God is the God of history rather than the Lord of creation" (p 39). It isn't simply that "God is the God of history" rather it is that God is seen as the future redeemer. God's kingdom isn't seen as something that exists now but something that will come into being in the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. As we begin to understand more God's desire for his kingdom to exist now, we begin to value nature and creation more.

The notes contend that "primal communities ... name things with a sense of sensitive respect and honour" while western culture claims and names based on control and prestige (p 40). The notes provide contrasts between names given by primal people (i.e. New Zealand' "Aoraki" - 'the cloud piercer') and the name given by western explorers / settlers (i.e. Mount Cook - the name of the British explorer Captain James Cook). The name that describes is replaced by a name the claims dominion or ownership.

It is argued that this is in complete contrast or opposition to scriptural teaching where creation is God's work that he sees as 'very good' and where God is the sustainer of all life.

The notes don't deny the influence of European 'Christendom' thinking as a major contributor to the development of 'secular materialism' (p 41). "The Enlightenment thinking and the rise of science laid the foundations for industrialization and secularism that are at the root of the crisis" (p 41). Like economic thought, it is our fundamental beliefs and thought patterns that determine how we view creation and how we treat others. Being pulled out of nature and placed in laboratories and offices, we lose that awe and respect for nature. However, I believe that in God's created order, nature fights back for its own survival. We see this through weather patterns, earthquakes, and the way that plants grow amongst uncared for buildings. I look at how plants are growing through the paving of our drive and at the back of the property, and I recognise how difficult it is to force our will on the natural order.

The notes argue for "a creation-sensitive theology" that sees the gospel as good news that proclaims the liberation and fulfilment of the whole creation" (p 41).


Peace & Power: Being vocal, political and spiritual. (2010). Workshop - because faith is a journey. Course Notes. Anvil Trust.

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