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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some Eco-theology things I learnt today

I learnt some interesting eco-theology things and found some good quotes in my first day of theology study today and my first Introduction to Old Testament lecture with Dr Merilyn Clark. I thought I would share the following with you for your own edification:

  • I had to read a book of the Apocrypha and I found the following in Baruch
“Where are the rulers of the nations, and those who lorded it over the animals on earth; those who made sport of the birds of the air, and who hoarded up silver and gold in which people trust, and there is no end to their getting; those who schemed to get silver, and were anxious, but there is no trace of their works? They have vanished and gone down to Hades, and others have arisen in their place.” Baruch 3:16-19

  • I also happened to flick through a bit of the book I have on Narnia – found an interesting quote:
  • “Narnia reminds us that an essential part of the longing for paradise in the future is a healing of the old wound between man and beast.” Andrew Cuneo

During the lecture:
  • We happened to look at Genesis one and two, and I learnt that our old favourite, Gen 1:28 can be even more problematic than I thought. There are many writings addressing the issues around the word ‘dominion’ (radah in Hebrew) in this verse, but I had never before heard of anything addressing the word ‘subdue’ (kabash in Hebrew). Apparently kabash is an entirely violent word referring to conquest and rape and is later used to describe the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians. These words, part of God’s blessing to man, provide a rude shock after the very peaceful descriptions of creation which precede it. Merilyn said that she has been studying this verse for the last eight or nine years and while there are ways you might be able to get around radah (though the Bible later describes kings as negative beings that constantly take from their subjects – which doesn’t really fit with the benevolent ruler/stewardship interpretations often supported by eco-theology today), there is really no way to get around kabash, nor any other way to interpret its meaning. Her only theory is that maybe God said this in the blessing to man as a sad acknowledgement of what he knew humanity would do to creation anyway. Kabash is certainly an interesting challenge for those of us who believe in God's desire for people to care for creation. I am encouraged though by the fact that learning this has not discouraged me - I think my learning in eco-theology has finally reached the stage where I feel strongly enough that the Bible's overall message is for stewardship and creation that the setback of finding out that a verse I thought I had dealt with needs more thought doesn't bother me. 
  • I was also interested personally to note that the blessing specifically gives man dominion over “the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” NRSV. It then goes on to give us plants as food, but there is no mention of giving us dominion over the earth itself, its resources, plants etc. I’m not sure if this has any significance.
  • It was also interesting to be reminded that the Bible does not really suggest that creation came out of nothing at the beginning of the Bible. The formless void, darkness and deep already existed. Also, apparently the Hebrew word translated ‘beginning’ is not a definite article, so it could more accurately be called ‘a beginning’ or ‘many beginnings’ etc.
  • Another reminder, concurrent with what I have heard from Bishop George Browning was the idea that man is not the pinnacle of creation – the Sabbath is. To be honest it seems kind of absurd to base some kind of claim to supremacy on the mere fact we were supposedly created last, which isn’t even true if you count the Sabbath. Plus, I really like the idea that by this kind of reasoning it is actually woman who is the pinnacle of creation, not man – not because I think it is true, but because it highlights the absurdity of the argument.
  • Merilyn also confirmed the idea that in Eden mankind, and all creatures, were vegetarian.
  • Reading through the rest of the notes she gave us, I note that she says all living creatures are called nefesh hayya in Hebrew, “This is a very interesting choice of words. Nefesh is the Hebrew word that is variously translated as soul, breath, living being, or life. Hayya means life/living. On the basis of this some have pondered whether we can categorically deny animals have souls!!!”  (Clark, Merilyn (2011) Some Exegetical Notes on Genesis 1 to 3 (For editing practice and also for referencing practice.) for THL105 and THL408, AU 2011, St Mark’s Theological College, Canberra, p. 5).
  • She also includes an interesting quote from Walter Brueggmann in Genesis “These perception lead to two overriding theological affirmations. First, the creator has a purpose and a will for creation. The creation exists only because of that will. The creator continues to address the creation, calling it to faithful response and glad obedience to his will. The creation has not been turned loose on its own. It has not been abandoned. Nor has it been given free reign for its own inclinations… Therefore his sovereign rule is expressed in terms of faithfulness, patience, and anguish. Second, the creation which exist only because of and for the sake of the creator’s purpose, has freedom to respond to the creator in various ways. As the texts indicate, the response of creation to the creator is a mixture of faithful obedience and recalcitrant self-assertion.”
  • I also found the following interesting quotes in a reading for Christian Theology (McIntosh, Mark. ‘Divine Teaching and Christian Belief’. In Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology.Blackwell: Oxford, 2008, 37).
  • “the divine knowing and speaking, the Logos, echoes as the creative ground in every creature, thus providing a knowable rationale or idea according to which every creature exists.”
  • “how does the belief that God is Trinity illuminate Christian thinking about all the creatures? Thomas Aquinas argues that God reveals the mystery that God is Trinity because, for one thing, we wouldn’t otherwise be able to understand creation itself. This “was necessary,” he writes, “for the right idea of creation” because “the fact of saying that God made all things by His Word excludes the error of those who say that God produced things by necessity. [And] when we say that in Him there is a procession of love [the Holy Spirit], we show that God produced creatures not because He needed them, nor because of any extrinsic reason, but on account of the love of His own goodness.” “[quoted from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae]
  • “How does this affect our understanding of creation? It means that freedom is the very ground of every creature; everything exists not because it “has” to be, but rather because it is a freely made choice of God’s… thus each creature is in its own way an epiphany of divine joy and delight, and no matter what may befall each creature, it can fairly be said to be loved into existence and to live from a continual act of divine cherishing.” 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jessica,

    I saw this post in the feeds for Network Blogs through Facebook. And I thought that's interesting an environmental perspective on the very unit I'm studying - with the same lecturer. And then when I went into the blog I realised it was you. (I'm the person you'll be meeting in April if you haven't yet figured out who I am.)

    It was fantastic to read your views on the unit. Mainly, because I tend to look at things through an environmental perspective and it's great to know someone else doing the course is doing the same thing. But also because you've picked up on a lot of things that I have missed. But I think studying distance education means you do miss out on a lot anyway (especially as I had to miss the residential school).

    I look forward to meeting you in person next month.



Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+