Blog author: jrichards
by on Thursday, February 22, 2007

Over at Planet Gore, I responded to Catholic layperson named Mary Colwell who seems to have her theological priorities out of whack:

Colwell complains that the Catholics are not consistently green, and hopes things will improve. She speaks as a Catholic, but I wonder where she’s getting her theology. She tells readers: “What is the true nature of our relationship with the earth? Get this right and everything else will begin to fall into place.” That’s the Green Gospel speaking. Jesus didn’t give the relationship between human beings and the Earth pride of place. He said that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourself. Everything follows from that. Christians of all stripes should take seriously our stewardship of the Earth. But our relationship to the Earth is not the first principle from which everything else follows.


  • http://www.Cleantechblog.com Neal

    I ran across an exasperating article comparing renewable credits to indulgences, and had to do a rebuttal.

    Would be curious in the general take.

    [url]http://www.cleantechblog.com/2007/02/recs-and-carbon-credits-are-good-thing.html[/url]

  • Tom Jablonski

    Jay,

    I would be interested to read your explanation of how it honors God when humanity consumes, destroys, pollutes, paves over, dams, dumps garbage on, contaminates, causes the extinction of, or destroys through acts of war the Creation that God found good long before humans showed up? If honoring God is the first commandment, then we had better take a hard look at how we have complied with it. I also don’t understand how doing all this shows love towards our fellow neighbors, whether they be human or non-human, or neighbors of generations to come? As another Catholic layperson who happens to have worked for over 20 years as an environmental engineer, I do not quite get the theology that preaches honoring God with destroying creation and ignoring our impacts on our human and non-human neighbors. It is my believe that ignoring our relationship to Creation and failing to acknowledge that we are simple another part of it and not the pinnacle of it, is exactly why humanity commits the atrocities it does to all our neighbors. As long as we hold on to the view that humanity is the supreme creation, we will continue to elevate ourselves above our human neighbors we do not agree with, but then again maybe I too am simply blinded by the Green Gospel.

  • http://evaneco.com Don Bosch (evaneco.com)

    Tom,

    “I do not quite get the theology that preaches honoring God with destroying creation and ignoring our impacts on our human and non-human neighbors.”

    Appreciate what you’re saying but I think you have missed Jay’s point.

    “What is the true nature of our relationship with the earth? Get this right and everything else will begin to fall into place…” is green gospel, but it is not the Gospel. James declares that we should demonstrate our faith by good works (including ecology), but implicit in this is that we have a redemptive faith in Christ to demonstrate.

    In order to get ecology right, and I strongly agree with you that we need to do that as Christians, we need to get right with God first, or we do these things in our own strength and not God’s.

    “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” is not just friendly advice; it is Christ’s teaching.

    Grace and peace,
    Don

  • Tom Jablonski

    Don,

    Sorry but as a non-theologian (someone who still lives and works in this world), I am not sure I understand Jay’s point or yours. Having worked cleaning up the messes of our society (I have worked in the wastewater treatment field most of my working life) I have come to see first hand what a world view based on redemption (we are not of this world) has done to the world that actually gives us life. Maybe if more of us would spend more energy respecting the world that includes both our human and non-human neighbors there would not be a need to focus on being saved from ourselves, or is that not what Jesus’ commandments were telling us. So what is Jay’s point when he writes “that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourself. Everything follows from that.”

    I think that Jay missed Mary Colwell’s point when she asked, “What is the true nature of our relationship with the earth?” After reading her essay, I am reminded that it was not all that long ago when theologians taught that the earth was the center of the universe. I think that it is unfortunate that despite the revelations of the origins of the universe and our humble place in it that there are still many theologians preaching that humanity is still the center of the universe. That is the point I got when Mary wrote “and until we get it right there is no point taking one step further.”

    Enjoy Creation,

    Tom

  • http://evaneco.com Don Bosch (evaneco.com)

    Well, I agree with you. And having worked in RCRA/CERCLA/NEPA for a while myself I think your statement is an (accurate) indictment of Christians not acting Christian more than evidence against the truth of the scripture Jay is quoting.

    Look – Loving God means loving what He loves, and that includes all of what He has made. Loving our neighbor as ourself includes minding our wasteful habits and defending the defenseless; Christ’s definition of neighbor has always been much broader than ours. Obviously the Church has a long way to go here.

    By the way, the Bible describes the world as uniquely fashioned by God, but I believe it was the Greeks (Aristotle and Ptolemy) that formalized the notion of the earth as the center of the universe. The Roman Church adopted this later on; maybe they saw Rome as the center of the earth, but I’m no theologian either (*shrug*). I doubt it had anything to do with ecology though. The reason people of faith should be good stewards of creation is not because we see the world as the center of things, but rather because it is made by God and given to us in trust (see Gen 2:15 for instance).

    What we’re discussing here are two issues related to Christian ecology. The first is the one you describe – being so heavenly minded we are no earthly good. Truly You and I (I more than you I’m sure) struggle with the sin of omission in lots of areas, not just ecology.

    The second is thinking that our relationship with the earth establishes our relationship with God. There’s a danger here of getting too close to new-age “god is everywhere” theology.

    Navigating between these means understanding we (a) suffer today from the sin and curse that has impacted the earth for generations (Gen 3:17), that (b)Christ died to pay the penalty for that sin, and (c) when he did that he restored our means of fellowship with God and with each other (Rom 8). When we repent and start walking in that fellowship, the Holy Spirit helps us do what we should. The Christian response to this love is to bless others and the earth (see Rom 8:18-30 for ex).

    Again, you’re right on – people aren’t the center of the universe. But neither is nature. God alone is. We honor him when we acknowledge this, and we bless both people and creation when we respond accordingly.

    Grace and peace,
    db

  • Tom

    “Loving God means loving what He loves, and that includes all of what He has made. Loving our neighbor as ourself includes minding our wasteful habits and defending the defenseless; Christ’s definition of neighbor has always been much broader than ours.”

    “people aren’t the center of the universe. But neither is nature. God alone is. We honor him when we acknowledge this, and we bless both people and creation when we respond accordingly.”

    Don,

    Amen and Amen. Thanks for the thoughts. I think when we focus on what theologies have in common and not how they differ, there is much hope for us all to come together, even the new agers.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Tom