Creation groans

So writes Paul in Rom 8:19-22

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;  for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.

The imagery is, I think, very powerful.  Whatever the mechanisms to accomplish this might be, Paul thought that we humans are bound to our larger environment, and that this environment must wait for us in order to come into its own.  It is impossible to think of our relationship to the rest of the world in anything other than terms of some level of human responsibility.

In that light, I watch the recent controversy generated by the release of emails and Fortran code from East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit with interest.  For one thing, they validate my own sense that the reports of climate change  are based on more than what can be attributed to the data we have, or the certainty that we might reasonably have about our data.  But there is another aspect, which we might call theological, that also deserves some thought.

Like many of my colleagues, I teach a divinely ordained obligation to care for the earth at points where this naturally comes up in the course.  In LDS terms, I teach stewardship.  Unlike many of my colleagues, however, I have declined to link this theology to any specific scientific theory or political initiative.  In addition to the doubts I mentioned above, I also think it unwise to link what I consider an enduring aspect of our larger relationship with God and the rest of creation to something as transitory as science or politics.  My sense is that theology, science, and politics work best on different time scales, but I need to think about that before I write more.

Beyond the challenges presented by linking theology and science, I also want to point out one other issue that pertains.  Sometimes those with the best of intentions attempt to motivate behavior that pleases God by dwelling on the consequences of God’s displeasure.  This is a form of negative motivation that will prevail only as long as the object of the manipulation is more frightened of God than of the other things that fill our lives.

Likewise, a pedagogy for wise environmental stewardship that is based on fear generated by what might happen if we don’t do something is inherently unstable and weak.  The better course, I think, is to teach the love of creation as a response to God’s love of us.   As long as the love of God endures, then we should find ourselves interested, anxiously engaged even, in caring for the world in which we live.  How best to do so should be a matter of the widest and most open debate, so let’s hope that events will now move the discussion into more fruitful paths than it has heretofore taken.

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Mormon Archipelago

November 2009
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Contact Poor Rustic at:

poor.rustic AT gmail.com

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