Welcome to Week 4 on Christianity and ecology, where we consider present beliefs and practices with some final comments on orienting, grounding, nurturing, and transforming. In our prior lectures, we have discussed the roles of the Historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. We have noted that there is an incipient religious ecology in the Gospels, especially in the parables, the teaching stories of Jesus. We have also suggested that there is a profound religious cosmology in the Cosmic Christ and imminent presence in the earth and universe. This is especially evident in the Pauline Epistles and John's gospel. There's a basis then to further develop an environmental ethos and ethics out of the historical and theological complexity of the Christian tradition. Indeed, this is what Christian theologians, ethicists, and leaders have been doing in recent decades. The Orthodox Christian Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has drawn on this theology for a prophetic environmental message. In developing his theology, he speaks of environmental degradation as crimes against creation, because of the divine reality within all things. Within the Protestant tradition, there are many theologians and thinkers addressing these issues. John Cobb has with others developed a dynamic process theology based on Whitehead's philosophy, with clear implications for ecology and its ideas of interdependence of all reality. Similarly, Sallie McFague, she is an eco-feminists to the theologian, and she's emphasized the need for new images of the divine for a robust to ecological religious worldview. She and other theologians have brought together concerns for ecology and justice especially around the need for a new economy. Thomas Berry, whom we've mentioned before, called for the engagement of Christianity with these suppressing issues from out of the framework of a new story, integrating evolutionary science with ecological ethics. These perspectives manifests the diversity of the merging religious ecologies and religious cosmologies. In our discussions of several major figures in Christianity, we have noted particularly in Augustine, that there is ambivalence regarding attitudes towards the material world. This is because of the century's long debate in Western Christian thought, between a world denying orientation and a world affirming emphasis. This tension continues into the present, with those more concerned about salvation outside this world and those focused on transformation of the Kingdom of God, within the world. Christianity then has had a dualistic and anthropocentric focus along with this mystical visions of embodied unity of the spiritual and the material. The mind-body dualism was expressed in Christian ascetic practices as a fuga mundi or flight from the world and bodily denial expressing an aversion to sexuality. The anthropocentric emphasis of Christianity has also led to a view of the use of nature for human ends. This utilitarian worldview has contributed inadvertently at times to the exploitation of nature. Like all traditions that are self-reflexive in their theology and ethics, there is a turn now within Christianity to re-evaluate dualism and anthropocentrism. Now another strand, the mystical visions in Christianity such as Maximus the Confessor, Hildegard of Bingen both of whom we've spoken up before, Francis of Assisi. This lovely image of Francis when he was returning from Egypt after an unsuccessful evangelical or missionary effort in Egypt, and he returned filled with anxieties about his future mission and he began to preach to the birds, and his attendants were marvel at the gathering of birds as they listened to Francis preach. This mystical experience then of Francis continues in the tradition with Julian of Norwich. I recommend considering her work this very simple mystical expression. She is mixed lovely comment about holding the universe in the palm of one's hand. Finally, in a more contemporary vein, the mystical visions of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. These broad mystical visions then, they provide other lineages for developing more integrative and ecological Christianity. From diverse perspectives, these visionaries affirm unity as a powerful transformative vision of reality, along with the intrinsic value of the created world and the role of the human as co-creator and caretaker of creation. While their voices have not been dominant in Christianity, their enduring influences are now having a wider appeal. As we have noted, all the religious traditions are in a period of retrieval, re-evaluation, and reconstruction in relation to pressing environmental and social challenges while we were focused here on three key beliefs and resulting practices in Christianity, we feel that they hold promise, as this tradition seeks to understand it's emerging planetary role. These three emphases in this lecture are creation, incarnation, and sacrament. We're proposing then that these umbrella terms can give a pathways into a consideration of Christianity and ecology. Considering creation then, creation has been imaged in the Christian tradition in a variety of ways. Ministers and theologians have pondered this mystery for generations. It is clearly an idea that has an immense implications for our care for creation. Even today, Christians are grappling with the scientific story of evolution in its galactic planetary biological and human phases. In this presentation, we will draw on five perspectives on creation that have implications for human-earth relations. They are; creation is inherently valuable because it is created by God. Again, in Christianity, broadly speaking stewardship not dominion, is the appropriate role for the human. There is a kinship of all creatures and life-forms in Christianity. Interdependence describes the web of life, and finally, humans participate in a sacred universe. Creation then in Christianity, when it is said that creation is inherently valuable, it refers to the Genesis story of the six days of creation, in which God refers to creation as good. This understanding of the goodness and beauty of creation evokes awe and wonder in the human at the intricacy, majesty, awesomeness, the terror, and complexity of nature. This establishes a substantial basis for the intrinsic valuing of nature versus utilitarianism. The possibility of engaging the natural world as sacred was diminished early in Christianity by concerns for idolatry of nature, as well as orientations to salvation outside this world. Appreciation of nature was retrieved and revived in the 15th century Renaissance. Again, in the romantic period of the 19th century, and today in contemporary ecological movements. We see then that the notion of stewardship. This has been commented on extensively. This is particularly true in efforts by theologians to re-evaluate the understanding of dominion from the Genesis verses. Most Christian theologians now accept that the role of humans is as caretakers of creation rather than simply exploiters of nature's resources. This is an ongoing matter of discussion and debate, especially in relation to the anthropocentric view of humans in most of Christian history. Humans are seen as the likeness and image of God, and therefore as a special part of creation. Yet there are various developments in Christian theology that are trying to move beyond anthropocentrism to a more biocentric and ecocentric position. For some, even stewardship remains too anthropocentric and managerial. Alternative model of relationality developed with a charismatic figure of Francis of Assisi, it says an interesting picture from the story of Francis. It pictures Francis with the wolf of Gubbio and his capacity to calm that wolf. You can see in the background the gruesome remains of a human along with the community that Francis is trying to broker a relationship into the world of biodiversity. Notice that this early Italian artist has the image nature so substantially in the context and style of Giotto, but this spirituality of Francis of Assisi is so significant in the Christian tradition. He had a unique experience of kinship with animals, birds, and with all creatures. The profound presencing of creation to Francis particularly with the animal world, brings forward a very old strain of indigenous religiosity in the human family. His prayer, the Canticle of Brother Sun, where he calls on the sun and sister moon to illustrate the cosmological embrace of this kinship. His spirituality is deeply Christ-centered and has influenced the Christian tradition for centuries, both through the Franciscan religious order and through Francis' distinct nature spirituality. The notion of kinship has broadened in the contemporary present with an interdisciplinary understanding of ecology and evolutionary biology. Namely, an awareness of the interdependence of the web of life is now available to us through contemporary science. Indeed, this is the basis of environmental studies. Philosophically and theologically, this awareness of interdependence has been brought forward by many Christian thinkers including process theologians relying on the thought of Alfred North Whitehead and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The development of the idea of the goodness of creation of stewardship of kinship and interdependence with all life are now being articulated by Christian thinkers with the realization that we are part of a sacred universe. That humans have a role in the unfolding universe. It's a new basis for an ethics of care for creation. Evolutionary time is giving humans a new perspective on their belonging to and participation in the flourishing of life. This is being expressed in the film and book Journey of the universe, which brings contemporary science into dialogue with ecological ethics. The doctrine of the incarnation is clearly central in Christianity. The fact of God becoming human is a transformation moment and one that has inspired endless theological reflections and artistic expressions. This simple nativity scene is repeated in so many forums throughout Christianity, and the meaning of the incarnation, it's hotly debated obviously in the early church. But in the medieval period Francis of Assisi, he nurtured a devotion to the birth of Christ, so that the nativity scenes like this one have become a central part of the Christmas celebration of the incarnation of Jesus. In contemporary times, the search for the historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer at the turn of the 19th, 20th century and by John Dominic Crossan and contemporary colleagues, this gives evidence of the continuing relevance of this quest. These discussions have particular relevance for ecological sensibilities in a Christian community, because they refocus attention on the sacredness imminent within nature in contrast to divine transcendence beyond nature. Let's explore four points regarding the incarnation. First, we have already talked much about the Historical Jesus and the Cosmic Christ, and just a brief comment to recapitulate. Then let's consider this tension between pantheism and panentheism. Let's consider the question of the divine within the material world in Christianity, and finally, the whole ethical question of the care for creation. We've considered the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, but the paradoxical nature of the incarnation of God becoming human created such controversies in the early Christian church, that it took three centuries to resolve these tensions. The Nicean council in 325 of the current era, proclaimed in a creed that Jesus as son was of the same nature as God the Father. Consider for a moment the use of the word nature, the internal essence Jesus' nature and the same as God the Father, this close attention to words marks the council and its effort to develop the Nicean Creed. This philosophical and theological tension then of the Historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, has been the basis for commentaries throughout the history of Christianity. This creative tension underlies as well the efforts to understand the Jesus of history and the Cosmic Christ of the universe. A major controversy within Christianity that surrounds the doctrine of incarnation is the issue of pantheism. Namely that material reality as God and this lovely image from Hildegard of Bingen, it has a pacific or calm character to it but you can also see the underlying question of what is the relationship here of the human to nature, and we see the animal presences breathing their life into creation itself. This controversy of course was present in the Hebrew scriptures as well with concerns for idolatrous worship of nature in place of the one God. Indeed because of this, a transcendent God above nature became a central feature of both Judaism and Christianity. Later clarification of the God nature question led to the articulation of the idea of panentheism. This term refers to a sense of God's presence within the natural world, at the same time preserving divine transcendence beyond the material world. This is a crucial important distinction for Christianity and ecology. The Protestant mystic Jacob Jeremy, is an example of a medieval panentheist. His understanding was that God flowed out into creation and in the course of time returns to himself. Jacob Jeremy's work is interesting in this regard. Similarly, the secular humanist philosopher Baruch Spinoza developed his own philosophical version of panentheism in his evocative phrase nature nurturing. The tension between imminence and transcendence of the divine is ongoing in Christianity. However, because of the concept of logos in all reality especially in John's Gospel, there is a continuing theological grounding for the perspective of the divine within the material world. This has been heightened in the modern period by the scientific discoveries ranging from evolutionary processes to quantum physics from galactic formation to genetic causality. For example, even in the modern paintings of Wassily Kandinsky as we see here, he was committed to capturing a sense of the spiritual in the world, especially through color. We see in this painting no overt religious symbolism, but Kandinsky in the Blue Rider painting here, was showing this melding of the spiritual within the natural world and trying to evoke a new modern understanding, that challenging ideas of emergence in the scientific community and self-organizing dynamics and evolutionary thought, this occurs in the micro level to the macro level of evolution and it's becoming a ground for rethinking the meaning of incarnation within Christianity. With these new understandings of the sacrality of matter, there is also an expanded basis for care for creation, restoration of ecosystems, preservation of pure water and soil. In other words, Christian environmental ethics has a vital theology of incarnation to draw on for engagement with ecological issues even within the built environment. This attention to the incarnation then brings us to an understanding of the dignity of humans within the built environment. The traditions of social justice within Christianity can now be brought to a mutually enhancing frame in the questions of eco-justice. We have here in the consideration of Sacrament that turn then to the next major issue that we're concerned with. This image of baptism and the attention to the sacrality of matter is as ancient in the Christian sacramental practices and ritual life. Some of this of course was lost in the 16th-century Protestant reformation, with its efforts to turn from practices that were considered problematic in the relationship of the individual with the divine. Two examples from the New Testament that continue to the present are baptism and Eucharist as sacraments then. Over time, Christian communities expanded the sacraments to include major rites of passage such as coming of age and confirmation, marriage, and death. Also, institutional markers of religious life became sacraments such as confession and ordination into ministry. With regard to sacraments, let's consider four points. Let's consider the fundamental question and observation that in sacramental activity, ordinary matter is transformed into extraordinary manifestation of the spiritual. Second, the question of symbolic consciousness and the role of symbolic consciousness in sacramental life, and then let's consider two sacraments; baptism and Eucharist. The first miracle pictured here in John's Gospel is the wedding feast at Cana. Here, Jesus turns water into wine. This sets the pattern for sacramental activity namely ordinary matter transformed into an extraordinary manifestation of the spiritual. Central to John's gospel and inherent in the Christian understanding of sacraments is this encounter with the presence of the living God in sacramental transformation. Sacramental life in Christianity also maintains a strong sense of nature as nurturing and grounding all of life both physically and symbolically. This crucial sense of symbolic consciousness is ancient in the formation of the human and is frequently expressed in art as we see here in the stained glass windows with the images of wheat and bread and grapes and wine. Symbols in sacramental life are filled with meaning such as the experience of love in marriage when two people become one. Sacraments can be seen at the heart of Christian life enabling the transforming possibilities of this tradition. Baptism exemplifies Christian continuity with ancient religious ideas regarding the waters of life, as well the sacrament of baptism has a uniquely Christian emphasis with the Jesus' relationship with John the Baptist and Jesus' own baptism in the Jordan and having sent his apostles to baptize in his name. These historical and theological interpretations resonate with the symbolic elements of water. Just to draw on this image for a moment, you can sense the anxiety of those waiting to enter into baptism and this sense then of the immersion, it's really a powerful moment in baptism because we see that the waters that purify and the waters of chaos are paradoxically joined in this sacrament. For water by its very nature, purifies both naturally and symbolically. Essential for life, water may also express symbolic meaning as a life-giving form of matter. Moreover, our emerging scientific understandings of water, also bring us to an awareness of its highly unusual capacity to exist in multiple states of liquid, solid, and gas. This transforming character of water was apparent to early Christianity and it identified baptism with descent into the waters of chaos. As a numinous symbol namely a symbol that's both fearful and fascinating, water was brought into relationship with the cross of Christ. Baptism like the crucifixion is understood symbolically in Christianity as a death and rebirth experience. The sacrament of the Eucharist is pictured in this slide, which is an older version of the practice of the Eucharist at the Mass, where the server would be facing away from the people and this Vatican too, this turn towards the people, so we have in this slide a multi valiant or many charges in this sacrament of the universe and you can see the symbolic array, the angelic present, the religious figures, the use of acolytes, the cross, dimension of Christianity. Eucharist has a synthetic character as a sacrament and the Christian sacrament of Eucharist also manifests historical connections with the life of Jesus and the larger symbolic character of nurturing food. Jesus took bread and wine at the Last Supper and at this moment, at the Last Supper before his death, he instituted the ritual meal celebrated by Christians. Similar to another episode in his life when he met the Samaritan woman at the well and promised her living water, so also the bread and wine as sacramental food becomes symbolic of the spiritual nourishment of Christ's body and blood. Eucharist as sacrament has oriented Christianity throughout its history as religious tradition closely aligned to the growth of food, its distribution, the issues of equity around food, and the deeply spiritual character of a community eating together. These many ways, Christian beliefs and practices are embedded in natural processes that transform individuals and community through their symbolic power. Christianity and ecology draws on and draws out these religious resources in its efforts to respond to ecological challenges. In conclusion then, the religious cosmologies and religious ecologies that we have been discussing may be seen as ways of orienting, grounding, nurturing, and transforming humans within the natural world. For example, the orientation to a Cosmic Christ in the universe is a comprehensive religious cosmology in Christianity. Grounding in the incarnation reality of the divine within matter, is made manifest in the Jesus of history. Sacraments draw forth the power of earth processes, to nurture and heal physically and symbolically. Finally, humans are transformed within the Christian tradition by meeting the challenges of life with a depth experience of death and rebirth, evident in the story of Jesus Christ as well as in the natural world at large.