Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Isolations, and the Divorce of Creation from Christianity

The devil's best weapon is that of isolation.

Isolation from God is first and most obvious - it is the ultimate isolation to which all other isolations point. It is not for nothing that hell has been described as a God-absent sensory deprivation chamber.

There is also the isolation of persons. With individualism and individualistic non-Trinitarian thought, we have lost the sense of salvation as corporate and communal.

The twentieth century has seen the (empty) triumph of many other isolations, the acquisition by our Enemy of many isolating tools:
  • In feminism (and reactionary machoism), the isolating and putting at enmity of the sexes.
  • In public school, television, and modern nontraditional music, the isolating of each generation from those that have gone before.
  • In modernism, the isolating from history (and her lessons) and tradition.
  • In funeral homes' crematoria and embalming rituals, the isolating from death and the repentance death engenders.
  • In an officially urban world, the isolating of man from the Created order.
It is this last isolation that I wish to consider.

It is an old tactic that has taken on new dimensions. Hitherto cities were best for the proliferation of leisure and its concomitant vice, but the Created order was still close. Not so today.

Concrete covers the ground, skyscrapers and "light pollution" shut out the sky, globalized agriculture and food distribution centres divorce us from the origins of our food, sewers and garbage trucks hide from us the consequences of our waste. Never before has man been so isolated from the natural, so separated from the Created order. In fact, as Wendell Berry points out, we have created a new word to articulate this separation: the environment, that which is around us. We have lost the sense that we are in it, that we are part of it, and that ultimately we will return to it.

It has been suggested in this blog (not by the authors) that the Created order is not a self-evident good because St. Paul - among others - fails to mention it. Completely aside from the fact that the Bible does not address everything nor was it meant to ...

[The New Testament was collated by the Church, its several parts determined by comparison with the oral tradition of the Church. The Church in turn has become epistle ... she has become the good news of Christ, articulated as she incarnates Him. The Church is the New Testament. Rather than a model where an issue does not exist for God (like cannibalism, say) if it hasn't been addressed in a text two thousand years old, we proclaim the living Body of Christ, which by virtue of its life can and will address all issues that the centuries reveal.]

... I would argue that it would have been utterly redundant for the Bible to have addressed it. If a man in those times chose not to care for his garden or his farm, weeds would have overtaken it, the plants would have withered, and he and his family would have starved. The apostles, evangelists, and epistolists were in the Created order; they had no concept of a people so divorced from their food source that they need a note from God to tell them to stop soiling their food supply or their water supply.

This last is the part that gets me. Christians, no matter their creed or lack thereof, have a responsibility to work for the betterment of Creation. This is not a matter of Left vs. Right, not a matter of hippie granola-crunchers vs. sober suit-wearers, not a matter of The Will of God vs. the sideshows. Even if a person who professes the name of Christ has the nerve to assert that care for God's Creation is a spiritual non-essential, he cannot get past the fact that pollution contaminates our water, our food, & our bodies, and pollution ultimately sickens and kills us.

It is impossible to get past the logic of this. Soil your bedsheets and you will sleep in excrement. Soil your food supply and you will eat the consequences.

- V.
The usual caveat.


LifeSpark said...

The Bible does mention it. Right from the start. Vocational assignment #1 - the first thing God does with man after creating him:

Genesis 2:15
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The fall itself is related to subsequent abuse of the material created order(Genesis Chapter 3). Inability to recognize this underlines a good part of the wretched trajectory of the cultural disorder known as modernity.

Victoria said...

very well articulated thoughts. thank you for this.

elizabeth said...

Yes. This is hard - the situation we are in - remind me to tell you about an essay i read by Phillip Sherrard that touches on this...

V and E said...


Ah, but this dressing/keeping is in the Garden; nowhere is it defined as being part of a postlapsarian vocation. Alternatively, this verse is in the OT. Where is the New Covenant's voicing of this vocation? Etc. ... You get the idea.


Part of my frustration in talking to those who claim the name of Christ about ecology and fit care of Creation lies in the multiplicity of theologies - and how the base assumptions can be so widely different from creed to creed. This is why I highlighted St. Paul: dispensationalist theology (one of the more annoying ones) frequently will nullify teachings in the OT or even the words of Christ Himself, all in the name of different "dispensations."

And this is why I come back to commonsense (Don't urinate in the well, etc.) as the best way to address the problem of man's abuse of Creation. I haven't the time nor the inclination to research and rebut the myriad "theological" reasons not to care for our food source, our water source, our air.

Victoria: You are most welcome. These things shouldn't need articulation, but such is the world we live in ... what LifeSpark accurately calls the "wretched trajectory of the cultural disorder known as modernity". And these things will need articulation by a heck of a lot of people before the resistant (including a lot of "conservative" Christians) change.

I invite you to contribute to this conversation ... the more bloggers, the merrier!

Elizabeth: Phillip Sherrard's name has been coming up a lot lately. For that alone I would be interested in reading more from him. But if he touches on this, all the better.

Thanks, all.

- V.