The care of the Church towards the environment

  1. Lemma
  2. Grija Bisericii fata de mediul ambiant
  3. Romanian
  4. Stavinschi, Alexandra
  5. Ethics - Ecology and the environment - Education, Science and Orthodoxy
  6. Raduca, Vasile [Author]. The care of the Church towards the environment
  7. Studii Teologice
  8. environment - pollution - monasticism - Western humanism - Western culture - priesthood
    1. If twenty years ago there were some people who ignored the alarms lauched by scientists, today there are people who hold opposite views and who, without making any effort to find solutions, wonder if we can go against God's plan, or if God's plan is to destroy the world that He himself created.

      The article deals with some of the central concerns regarding the environmental threats. It is divided into three parts. The first attempts to identify the symptoms of a sick environment and to describe the Church commitment in preserving the creation. Environmental balance has been seriously impaired and the first victim of a sick environment is man himself. Today, the environmental crisis is a crisis of the global system with all its subsystems: the disappearance of forests, increasing frequency of neurosis, pollution and nihilistic mentalities of many inhabitants of urban conglomerates, to cite just a few examples.

      The author tries to get to the roots of these problems and show what went wrong in man’s attitude, eventually leading to these terrible consequences. Given that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the matrix where European spirituality was shaped, it is worth examining things in retrospect; the author blames it especially on Western monasticism, which played a big role in this regard. Medieval monasteries were not only considered places developed for spiritual cleansing, but places where a different world order was sought. Monasteries were often considered a "new heaven", a "new Jerusalem", a "New Bethlehem", in which life was different from life in the "world".

      Aggressive at first, medieval theology was later forced to switch to a defensive mode against science, where scientific cosmology was thought to have nothing to do with religion. As a result, nature was left to the free interpretation of science. The author analyses the historical consequences of this attutude: Renaissance Man is educated to reign over nature and change it according to his own ideas, while Reform would contribute greatly to the formation of the new type of western man: hard-working and tidy, but aware that he has unlimited rights over nature. Western theology, inspired by Kant, announced then the kingdom of God not like a creative renewal of the universe, but as the moral perfection of mankind due to the progress of civilization.

      The second part of the essay deals with the doctrinal principles on which is based the care of the Church towards the environment. The author presents again a contrastive view of western vs eastern Christianity. In the west, theology restricted to the human salvation only, without reference to the created world, had two serious consequences: a science separated from faith and an economic system that understood "dominion over nature" as freedom to exploit it as much as possible.

      From the Orthodox point of view, the Church supports all actions in the service of environmental conservation and preservation of creation in general. The Church considers that the bond with the environment is dynamic and reciprocal, a give and take relationship. Man has to collaborate with God because he was made in His image. In nature God has left space for man to exercise his freedom, strength and virtues as God's representative. The world is the environment in which man shares in the goodness of God. Nature has to be preserved, but is also meant to nurture its inhabitants. This is a mystery. The author gives a detailed account by using the authority of St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory Nazianzen and Saint Maximus the Confessor.

      He concludes that: a) the spiritual world and the material creation are closely connected, on the one hand by the grace of God, on the other hand by the paradoxical union of the two worlds in the human being, and the Son of God assuming Him; b) according to the Orthodox faith, the creation needs the divine grace, because it was spoiled through the sin of the first man; c) the creation is fully realized when it is in communion with the divine grace, through man as a representative and priest of God; d) the creation was restored by the high priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man; e) through the Church, the creation recovers its fuction of the vehicle of God's grace; it can be sanctified and transfigured; f) the creation exists for the use of man, but man as a microscomos lives to deify and sanctify the creation and lead it toward the fullness of life in communion with the Creator of all. Man receives the fruits of the created world, but he is the priest who is called to sanctify them and the one who provides them.

      The third part of the article deals with the ethical applications of the doctrinal principles. The author presented the traditional view of the church on the relationship of man with creation and showed that the main responsibles for today’s crisis are the churches that were defined in history by reductionism and triggered as a result modifications and divisions within the traditional Christian spirituality.

      The duty of the Church is to raise awareness about its view of man and the world, which is the only way to set him free from the moral subjectivity in which he has been wallowing for the past few centuries. The Church also needs to open new horizons, to make it clear to man that he is not only flesh, but also spirit, which comes from elsewhere and that someday all the "workers of the vineyard" will be called to judgment or to receive their reward. Modern man cannot restore the world order and heal nature and the environment without changing his ethical attitude towards his neighbours and without achieving social justice. A new ethics in human relations and between the states is needed, which can guarantee the new ethics towards the creation.