Divinization of Nature as Ecological Sin

A Professor Outlines Traditions of Christian Thought on the Environment

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ROME, MARCH 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Contemporary radical ecology has divinized nature and relegated human beings to a secondary role, participants at a symposium on original sin were told.

“The sin in contemporary radical environmentalism consists in divinizing nature, in suffocating the importance of the human being as custodian of creation, and in forgetting God as author of man’s natural surroundings,” said Joan Andreu Rocha Scarpetta, professor of theology of religions at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University. The institution sponsored the symposium.

Rocha’s address, entitled “Radical Ecology and Original Sin,” was one of the addresses delivered at the March 3-4 symposium, whose theme was “Original Sin: An Interdisciplinary Perspective.” Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, opened the event.

“Contemporary radical environmentalism has forgotten divine transcendence; it has placed man on the same level or below nature” and, in forgetting the created character of nature, “has given it a magical, almost divine value,” said Rocha.

The speaker illustrated the three models of relationship between God, man and creation, which Christian theology has developed in its history.

The first, or “iconic,” model arose from the tradition of Eastern Christianity. It recognizes God’s traces in creation, and emphasizes “sin as unbalancing factor of this relationship,” Rocha said.

This model, he explained, developed by authors such as St. Simeon in the 11th century, is being studied in-depth today by Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

The second model of relationship between God, humanity and creation is called “stewardship” “for creation,” and has been developed, in particular, by the Benedictine tradition, according to which “creation belongs to God and for this reason, we must take care of it,” Rocha continued.

This intuition is the basis of the theological anthropology of creation.

“If the iconic model of the Eastern Fathers, such as St. Basil, emphasizes the element ‘God,’ in the relationship God-man-creation, the Benedictine model emphasizes the element ‘man,’ outlining a spiritual path that begins with the awareness of knowing oneself to be a creature, and of sin,” explained Rocha.

“Starting from the awareness of sin, the monk ascends the different steps of humility to a ‘Christification,’ refining a balanced view on creation, not only as gift, but also as responsible duty,” indicated the speaker.

The last model is the “Christic,” or Franciscan, professor Rocha said, recalling that the figure of St. Francis of Assisi is so linked to the relationship with nature than even radical ecologists see in him a paradigmatic figure of the relationship between the human being and nature.

“Unfortunately, the Christocentric importance of the relationship of St. Francis with creation is often forgotten, robbing the transcendent meaning of his mysticism of nature,” Rocha lamented.

These “models show that sin manifests itself when the relationship between God-the-creator, man-custodian, and created nature is unbalanced,” he said.

Rocha added: “When God’s creative action is forgotten, man is placed at the same level as the rest of creation, or a transcendent or magical character is attributed to created nature.”

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