Minutes of Meeting

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Date: June 11, 2006

Location: Alumni Hall RM 101

Topic: Stewards of God's Creation; Ecology

Speaker: Bro. Don Geiger

Host: Maureen Schlangen


Contributions of  Moltmann’s God in Creation Ecologically Sound Living

 ▪ Descriptions of the current ecological state of our world are discouraging, depressing and debilitating. . . .

          “Our land was once blessed with fertile soil and clothed with abundant forests of fine trees.  After the trees were cut to build houses and ships, however, heavy rains washed the soil into the sea, leaving only a rocky “skeleton of a body wasted by disease”.

                                                                                         Plato 4th century BC Greece

. . . .so we won’t go there!

[  1  ]

Approach:  Describe some sound ecological principles and relate them to statements by Moltmann in God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God.

          strategy—  develop approaches to creation which promote sustainable living and

foster environmental and theological perspectives that motivate people.

          sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

[  2  ]

 ▪ Resources—meeting our needs  

          Irreplaceable:  once lost, never replaced

         sun energy, species of living things

          issues  energy waste, species loss

          Potentially renewable: can be regenerated in a  realistic period by natural cycles

         clean air, clean water, soil, populations of living organisms

         issues...  resource waste, resource degradation, loss by pollution

          Nonrenewable: regenerated only over an impractically long geological cycle

         fossil fuels, mineral resources

          issues...  excessive use of minerals, fossil fuels

            Each presents a unique challenge for our sustainable use of Earth resources

[  3  ]

What is the place of humans in the Universe?

          We are a part of nature not apart from it.

[  4  ]

Where am I in relation to the rest of the universe?





            individuals of a species




subatomic particles

[  5  ]

  Life and the principle of Emergent Properties

          What is life?   It is not a special thing...

         it is ordinary things that are organized in a special way

         Water, proteins, salts in cells are alive because they are integral parts of  a specially organized system

         analogy—   a fine watch vs gears and springs

          The principle of emergent properties helps us understand complex systems

         at each higher level of organization new properties emerge

          “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts-”

[  6  ]

What is needed to keep the universe going:

          universe is made of interacting matter and energy

         energy  degrades with use to entropy… linear  it’s used up!

                        matter cycles... there is no “away”    

          principle of conservation of matter... matter is                                       neither created nor destroyed...

         energy flow and material cycling in ecosystems

         provide the conditions that supports life on earth

                                   Now that’s humbling, isn’t it!

[  7  ]

At what levels of the universe do the processes that keep us alive take place?

          ecosystem services provide life support to ecosystems

         ecosystem processes keep us alive and help keep the universe functioning  

         services depend on high degree of ecosystem organization which gives rise to emergent properties of the system

         services are usually free, supported by energy flow from the sun and material flow within the ecosystem

          example:  regeneration of soil mineral nutrients is free

          if not realized we must depend on commercial fertilizer

          example: wetland purification of water is free

          but if disrupted we must rely on water treatment plants

[  8  ]

  What is the responsibility of us humans?

          Knowledge . . .  LOVE?   DOMINATION?

            Two possible outcomes.

[  9  ]

Moltmann J (1985) God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God.  Translated by Margaret Kohl. SCM Press, London.  Harper & Row, San Francisco

[  1  ]  The ecological state of our world is discouraging, depressing and debilitating. . . .

[  2  ]  Description of some sound ecological principles.

[  3  ]  Resources . . .  Meeting our needs.

[  4  ]  What is the place of humans in the Universe?

[  5  ]  Where am I in relation to the rest of the universe?

[  6  ]  Life and the Principle of Emergent Properties.

[  7  ]  What is needed to keep the universe going:  ecosystem processes.

[  8  ]  At what levels of the universe do the processes that keep us alive take place?

[  9  ]  What is the responsibility of us humans?  Living the Doctrine of Creation.

.Moltmann J (1985) God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God.  Translated by Margaret Kohl. SCM Press, London.  Harper & Row, San Francisco

        [ 1 ]   p xiii `...Orthodox theology has preserved a creation wisdom which was pushed aside and lost in the West, in the wake of modern developments in science, technology and industry...The best creation wisdom is to found in the Jewish theology and practice of the sabbath. In abandoning the sabbath, the Gentile Christians have lost this means of access, and we generally overlook it altogether.

        [ 1, 9 ]   p xiii  1985  p xiv 1993 ed  `What we call the environmental crisis is not merely a crisis in the natural environment of human beings. It is a crisis of life on this planet, a crisis so comprehensive and so irreversible that it can not unjustly be described as apocalyptic. It is not a temporary crisis. As far as we can judge, it is the beginning of a life and death struggle for creation on this earth... Discernment of the God who is present in creation through his Holy Spirit can bring men and women to reconciliation and peace with extension of theology's horizon to cosmic breadth, so that it takes in the whole of God's creation... This doctrine of creation...takes as its starting point the indwelling divine Spirit of ecological doctrine...The inner secret of creation is this indwelling of God, just as the inner secret of creation is God's rest.

        [ 1, 2 ]      p 38  `What tasks remain for theology? The sciences have shown us how to understand creation as nature. Now theology must show how nature is to be understood as God's creation.  It is not possible for a biblically determined Christian theology to see the present condition of the world as pure divine creation, and to join in the Creator's original verdict: Behold, it was very good (Gen 1:31). Much more applicable to the present condition of the created world is Paul's recognition of the anxious waiting and longing of creation, which is subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of him who subjected it, on the strength of hope (Rom 8:19-21).

        [ 1, 2, 3 ]    p 40 `Through science and technology, nature is turned into an object. It comes into view to the extent in which it can be made available to the human subject. The human being perceives nature by way of his seizure of power. We dominate nature through our labor. Nature encounters us in our labor as the embodiment of the objects which he has to handle and process.

        [ 2, 8 ]    p 4 `It is my intention to present a deliberately and emphatically Christian (messianic; in the light of Jesus as Messiah) doctrine of creation...directed toward liberation of men and women, peace with nature, and the redemption of the community of human beings and nature from negative powers, and from the forces of death...Ever since ancient time the future of creation has been termed the kingdom of glory...creation in the beginning is an open creation, and that its consummation will be to become the home and dwelling place of God's glory...and allow all the beings he has created to participate in the fullness of his eternal life...A many-faceted community of creation comes into being.

        [ 2, 9 ]    p 7 `This doctrine of creation does not belong in the context of a two-term, dual dogmatics...being a Christian completes and perfects the initial condition (being a person)… is incorrect, because it fails to distinguish between grace and glory...(it has continually led to triumphalism)...the perfection of the human condition is considered to be already integral to being a Christian. Grace does not perfect but prepares nature for eternal glory; grace is not the perfection of nature but the messianic preparation of the world for the reign of God...the coming glory will perfect both nature and grace.

         [ 5, 6, 8 ]    p 1  ` p1 `If a doctrine of creation is to be ecological, it must try to get away from analytical thinking, with its distinctions between subject and object, and must strive to learn a new communicative and integrating way of thought...Modern thinking has developed by way of an objectifying, analytical, particularizing and reductionalistic approach...The old Roman principle for successful rule, divide and conquer, also provides the guideline for modern methods of dominating nature. Modern sciences...have now proved that these forms of and methods of thinking do not do full justice to reality and hardly bring any further advances in knowledge...This perception of thing-as-a whole in inevitably less sharply defined...but it is richer in connections and relationships...On the religious level, (life) has to be interpreted as a community of creation...not the world which human beings are supposed to subdue...A theological doctrine of creation  is...guided by the will to find a way into the community of creation, to reawaken the awareness of that community and to restore it...must use multifarious ways of access to the community of creation and make people aware of them.

        [ 4, 5, 8, 9 ]  p 29 `Christian theology is no less affected by the ecological crisis than the sciences and technologies. Modern critics of the Jewish-Christian tradition point out that the biblical charge given at creation, "Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth," (Gen 1:28) lays the intellectual foundations for today's ecological crisis...(but it) has nothing to do with the charge to rule over the world which the theological tradition taught for centuries as the dominium terrae. The biblical charge is a dietary commandment: human beings and animals alike are to live from the fruits which the earth brings forth in the form of plants and trees. A seizure of power over nature is not intended. Here, having dominion is linked with the correspondence between human beings and God, the creator and preserver of the world...a rule of peace...without power over life and death. In Gen 2:15..God talks about the Garden of Eden which humans are to till and keep...the cultivating and protective work of a gardener. Nothing is said of predatory exploitation. God's creation...remains his property...and can only be accepted as a loan and administered as a trust.

        [ 4, 5, 8, 9 ]  p 31 `According to the anthropocentric world view, heaven and earth were made for the sake of human beings, and the human being is the crown of creation; and this is certainly what is claimed by both its supporters and its critics as biblical tradition. But it is unbiblical; for according to the biblical Jewish and Christian traditions, God created the world for his glory, out of love; and the crown of creation is not the human being; it is the sabbath. This theocentric biblical world picture gives the human being, with his special position in the cosmos, the chance to understand himself as a member of the community of creation. So if Christian theology wants to find the wisdom in dealing with creation which accords with the belief in creation, it must free that belief from the modern anthropocentric view of the world...The history of human beings is their relation to nature is not seen as a part of natural history. On the contrary, nature is interpreted as part of human history. But theology must free belief in creation from this overvaluation of history also.

         [ 4, 5, 8, 9 ]    p 33  ` In the second stage, the sciences emancipated themselves from this cosmology, while theology detached its doctrine of creation from cosmology altogether, and reduced it to personal belief in creation...the biblical creation narratives were written off by historical criticism as myths...all that remains says that humans have to put their trust in God the Creator and not in his creatures...peaceful co-existence on the basis of mutual irrelevance.  Today (just beginning), theology and science ... have become companions in tribulation, under pressure of the ecological crisis and the search for the new direction which both must work for, if human beings and nature are to survive at all on this earth. In a global situation where it is a case of one world or none, science and theology cannot afford to divide up the one, single reality.

            After Copernicus (1543)...the faith that is directed towards God himself does not tie reason down to a particular world picture...Theology's domain became the soul's assurance of salvation in the inner citadel of the heart. The earthly, bodily and cosmic dimensions of the salvation of the whole world were the same degree the knowledge and fashioning of the world ceased to have any reference to salvation and disaster. But no theological doctrine of creation must be allowed to reduce the understanding of belief in creation to the existential understanding of the person. It must mean the whole knowable world. If God is not the Creator of the world, he cannot be my Creator either.

         [ 2, 4, 8, 9 ]    p 11 `If the Holy Spirit is poured out on the whole creation, then he creates the community of all created things with God and with each other...The efficacy of the Spirit can then be differentiated into his creating, his preserving, his renewing and his consummating activity. Creation in the Spirit is the theological concept which corresponds best to the ecological doctrine of creation which we are looking for and need today. With this concept we are cutting loose the theological doctrine of creation from the age of subjectivity and the mechanistic domination of the world, and we are leading it in the direction in which we have to look for the future of an ecological world-community. The progressive destruction of nature by industrial nations, and the progressive threat to humanity through the pile-up of nuclear armaments, have brought the age of subjectivity and the mechanistic domination of the world up against their definite limits. Faced with these limits, we have only one realistic alternative to universal annihilation: the non-violent, peaceful, ecological world-wide community in solidarity. We shall therefore deliberately refrain from drawing a dividing line between the theological doctrine of creation and the sciences and their scientific theories-- a line prompted by an anxious attempt to preserve theology's own identity. What we are seeking is a community of scientific and theological insights. An ecological doctrine of creation implies a new kind of thinking about God. The center of this thinking is no longer the distinction between God and the world. The center is the recognition of the presence of God in the world and the presence of the world in God. The ruthless conquest and exploitation of nature which fascinated Europe during the period found its appropriate religious legitimation in that ancient distinction between God and the world. But of course this was a falsification of the critical truth of the Old Testament distinction. It is a truth that must not be surrendered; an ecological doctrine of today must perceive and teach God's immanence in the world...It is advisable to eliminate the concept of causality form the doctrine of creation...Creating the world is something different from causing it...If the Creator is himself present in his creation by virtue of the Spirit, then his relationship to creation must rather be viewed as an intricate web of unilateral (making, preserving, maintaining, perfecting), reciprocal and many-sided relationships (indwelling, sympathizing, participating, accompanying, enduring, delighting, glorifying).

          [ 1, 8, 9 ]    p 5 `According to the biblical traditions, creation is aligned towards its redemption from the very beginning, for the creation of the world points forward to the sabbath, the feast of creation. On the sabbath the creation is completed...The sabbath is the prefiguration of the world to come. The completion of creation through the peace of the sabbath distinguishes the view of the world as creation from the view of the world as nature; for nature is unremittingly fruitful and, though it has its seasons and rhythms, knows no sabbath. It is the sabbath which blesses, sanctifies and reveals the world as God's creation. Curiously enough, in theological traditions of the Western churches, creation is generally presented merely as the six days' work. The seventh day, the sabbath, was often overlooked. The resting God, the celebrating God, the God who rejoices over his creation, receded into the background. Israel celebrates the sabbath...which is repeated week by points beyond itself to the sabbatical year, in which the primordial conditions between human beings, and between human beings and nature are supposed to be restored, according to the righteousness of Israel's God...which points in history beyond itself to the future of the messianic era.

         [ 1, 8, 9 ]   p15 `There are two great concepts which can be used to help us to comprehend the self-differentiation and tension of God's in his creation. 1. The rabbinic and kabbalistic doctrine of Shekinah...The Shekinah, the decent of God to human beings and his indwelling among them, is conceived of as a division which takes place in God himself...God cuts himself off from himself. He gives himself away to his people...present to every one of his creatures...bound to each of them in joy and sorrow. 2. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In the free, overflowing rapture of his love the eternal God goes out of himself and makes a creation, a reality, which is there as he is there and yet is different from himself...The Son becomes the Wisdom, the pattern, through which creation is made...The Spirit is also the Spirit of the universe, its total cohesion, its structure, its information, its energy...The evolutions and catastrophes of the universe are the movements and experiences of the Spirit of creation...That is why the Spirit transcend himself in all created beings. This is manifested in the self-organization and self-transcendence of all living things.

         [ 4, 5, 6, 7 ]   p16 `In God there is no one-sided relationship of superiority and subordination, command and obedience, master and servant, ...making this the starting point for his (Karl Barth's) account of all analogously antithetical relationships: God and the world; heaven and earth; soul and body; and, not the least, man and woman too...All living things-- each in its own specific way-- live in one another and with one another, from one another and for one another. It is this trinitarian concept of life as interpenetration...which will therefore determine this ecological doctrine of creation.

          [ 4, 7 ]  p 49 `It is inconceivable that the alienation of nature brought about by human beings can ever be overcome without the naturalization of the human being himself. This naturalization should not be seen in terms of a romantic return to nature. What it means is that men and women should find a new understanding of themselves, and a new interpretation of their world in the framework of nature...knowledge through domination must be replaces by a communicative knowledge: knowledge itself becomes a cognitive living relationship.

            The other direction which an ecological theory can take, aims at the naturalization of the human being. It assumes that, fundamentally speaking, the human being does not confront nature: he himself is nothing other than one of nature's products.  Nature is the great subject which unremittingly brings forth new forms and manifestations of life, last of all the human being.  In this sense, it is important for the way the human being understand himself that he should not see himself initially as subject over against nature and theologically as the image of God; but that he should first of all view himself as the product of nature and-- theologically too-- as the image of the world.

         [ 4, 6 ]  p 102 The Spirit differentiates and binds together. The Spirit preserves and leads living things and their communities beyond themselves. This indwelling Creator Spirit is fundamental for the community of creation. It is not the elementary particles that are basic as the mechanistic world maintains, but the overriding harmony of the relations and of the self-transcending movements, in which the longing of the Spirit for a still unattained consummation finds expression. If the cosmic Spirit is the Spirit of God, the universe cannot be viewed as a closed system. It has to be understood that the system is open-- open for God and for his future.

         [ 5, 6, 8 ]  p 186  If we are to understand what it means to be human in the widest sense, we must start with the complexes and milieus in which human beings appear and from which they live; and that means beginning with the genesis of the cosmos, the evolution of life, and the history of consciousness, not with the special position of human beings in the cosmos, with what religion maintains to be their likeness to God, or with their conscious subjectivity.

            Human beings are the last to be created. Insofar they are the apex of created things. But they are not the crown of creation. It is the sabbath with which God crowns the creation which he beholds as very good. Moreover, as the last thing to be created the human being is dependent on all the others. Without them his existence would not be possible. So while they are a preparation for him, he is dependent on them.

         [ 3, 6, 8, 9 ]  p 188 `The human being is distinguished from animals because...(of) the divine charge to subdue the earth (Gen 1:28 see above)... he is supposed to give them names...not merely an act of brings animals into a community of language with human beings...(and) the human being is evidently a social being who is dependent on the help of others. It is only when we become aware of the things which human beings have in common with other creatures, and the things that differentiate them, that we can understand what the human's designation to be the image of God really means (Gen 1:26).

            `We see...that-- both in creation and in redemption-- the human being is not isolated, nor to be seen in confrontation with the world...Creation has its meaning for human beings and human beings have their meaning for the community of creation...we must see these human beings as belonging within the all-embracing coherence of God's history with the world, the history of creation and the history of redemption. 1. As God's last creation before the sabbath, the human being himself is the embodiment of all other creatures...contains within itself all simpler systems in the evolution of life, because it is out of these that the human being as been built up and has proceeded. In this sense they are present in him as he is dependent on them...He is imago mundi. 2. Understood as imago Dei, human beings are at the same time God's proxy in the community of creation. They represent his glory and his will. 3. If human beings stand before God on behalf of creation, and before creation on behalf of God, and if this is their priestly calling, then in a Christian doctrine of creation human beings must neither disappear into the community of creation, nor must they be detached from that community. Human beings are at once imago mundi and imago Dei. In this double role they stand before the sabbath in terms of time. They prepare the feast of creation.

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