The implications of the ecological crisis for human personhood

  1. Lemma
  2. Οι επιπτώσεις της οικολογικής κρίσης στο ανθρώπινο πρόσωπο
  3. English
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Ethics - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Eschatology - Orthodox Anthropology - Ecology and the environment - Complementarity
  6. 20-5-2017
  7. Arvanites, Christophoros E. [Author]. The implications of the ecological crisis for human personhood
  8. Οι επιπτώσεις της οικολογικής κρίσης στο ανθρώπινο πρόσωπο - Thessaloniki: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Faculty of Theology, School of Theology, 1999.
  9. ecological crisis - religion and ecology - human personhood - Personalism - Orthodox doctrine of the Uncreated and the Created (Άκτιστο-Κτιστό) - Christian anthropology - church and technology - sacramental life of the Church
  10. Εθνικό Αρχείο Διδακτορικών Διατριβών
    1. <p>Arvanites, Christophoros E. (1999). <em>Οι επιπτώσεις της οικολογικής κρίσης στο ανθρώπινο πρόσωπο</em> (Doctoral dissertation). Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Faculty of Theology, School of Theology</p>
    1. Ecological crisis, according to the author, is not only a crisis of the natural environment surrounding humanity, but also a crisis of the human being in itself. It brings to the forefront the need of the human being to know itself and to search for the experience of the person. Since the human being is the subject which lies at the center of both technology-science and the Church, it is anthropology that can provide a common ground for a productive intersection between ecology and theology. What must be questioned is not science and technology as such, but the belief that science and technology are ethically neutral, indifferent to subjective values. The exaltation of value-neutrality absolves science and technology of any accountability. The ecological crisis renders indispensible the discussion on the meaning and the purpose of the life of the human being as a person created in the image and the likeness of God. It compels the human being to see in science and technology the knowledge ‘in the image’, as given by God, and to comprehend the necessity of the proper use of this knowledge through the eschatological hope which is fuelled by the course towards the attainment of the likeness to God.

      The concept of the person, in its relevance to the ecological crisis, is the topic of the first part of the dissertation. The author here defines personhood in the context of the creation in the image and the likeness of God, highlighting that the concept of the person forms the very basis of the human community within the Church. Viewed triadologically, it is a metaphor for the communion of the three persons of the Holy Trinity sharing the one divine essence. From a Christological standpoint, the incarnated Word of God is a person constituted of both the divine and the human essence. The author points out that hitherto in Orthodox theology personhood was conceptualized mostly as an object pertaining to dogmatics, sometimes as a pole of relationships conceived in philosophical-theological terms, some other times as an ecclesiological problem, and in some instances also as an index pointing to the need for an asceticism of the person, for a spiritual regeneration through the sacramental life of the Church. The ontological and anthropological implications of personhood have not yet been fully assessed. In Orthodoxy, though, the human being as a person which belongs to the ontological domain of the created beings, plays both a theological and a cosmological role. Its freedom is not unconditional, but it can acquire access to the possibility of an unconditional freedom through its active participation in the life of the Church, of the community which actually tends towards God. The offering for the sake of the neighbor, though everyday pastoral care, accountability and love, is the central pillar in this community. Personhood, in Orthodoxy, is not defined in terms of individual self-consciousness. It is recognized through the relation to the other, either in the sense of the other human persons-hypostases or in the sense of the other created beings. The freedom of the human person is not only the liberation of the human being from its own mortal limitations. It must be also regarded as the liberation of the whole creation from its mortal adherence to inviolable laws. Personhood is a point of eschatological completion, not a springboard for human domination over nature.

      The second part is focused on the social dimension of the theological conception of personhood with regard to the ecological crisis. The author argues that in the current historical conjunction what theology must put at the center of public attention is neither the individualized human being of the moralist Western theology nor the humanized society of the ‘political theology’, but their common denominator, that is, the creation itself. The scientific quality of theology is peculiar, since it is dependent upon the experience of faith of the ecclesiastical community and upon the interpersonal ways in which this faith manifests itself in terms of deeds and actions. Theology, thus, must be seen as rooted in history, and it should not foster denial or fear of the historical evolution. The history of the world, from a theological perspective, cannot be detached from the history of salvation. Even more specifically, theology should not consider the process of secularization which is a characteristic of modernity as a historical enterprise anti-Christian at its core. History must be conceived in its eschatological dimension, and the Church must add its own voice to the protests against the actual irrationalism that governs the currently dominant social and political practices, by working together with other existing social institutions, by reopening the question of the protection and conservation of the creation, as an urgent issue inextricably bound up in the question of the human and cosmic creativity, and by mobilizing its own inner dynamics, which is nothing other than unselfish, unconditional love. A reinvigorated Orthodox anthropology, conceptualizing the human being as an active agent which conserves the unity relationship between the Created and the Uncreated, through the hope for the future change of the presently alienated world, through ascesis as a foretaste of the world-to-come, and through the Eucharist as a social action in which nature and time are restored in their communion with the Uncreated, will be able to face up to the challenge of the ecological crisis creatively.

      In the third part, the author tackles the religious, moral and economical aspects of the ecological praxis. After providing an overview of some recent attempts to determine the relationship between religion and ecology, he underlines the fact that a deeper awareness of the importance of the ecological problems may re-signify the everyday reality as a point of departure for the revelatory religious experience. The ecological call for personal and collective responsibility can be reformulated as an exhortation to assume the restless responsibility for caring for humanity and nature, which are both placed within an eschatological horizon. Without resorting to biocentrism, and giving instead a new meaning to anthropocentrism, which would dissociate the prospect of future human development from the objectification and exploitation of nature, an eschatological approach can rise above the current insolvable tensions between ethics and ecology, and economy and ecology.

      This eschatological dimension is more thoroughly examined in the fourth and concluding part. Whereas the scientific and technological progress presupposes an anti-eschatological materialist and eudaemonistic use of the creation, restricting our sense of time to the apprehension of the immediate present, and alienating the human being from itself, as part of the creation, the eschatological understanding of the course of the natural and social world necessitates a catharsis and a crisis. Therefore, social criticism of existing mentalities, ways of conduct, habits and systems of relations can be grounded on a problematic of caring, including the emphasis on personal responsibility at the individual level and the emphasis on love at the collective level. In an ecological activity informed by such a problematic, the whole of human society would be regarded as the subject of the processes of development, contestation or change, and the human being would be transformed into the human person of the ecclesiastical community actively preserving and renewing the bond linking the Created with the Uncreated, as the author in more theological terms explains in the appendix to his dissertation.