Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Safeguarding the Environment, Biblical Underpinnings

GOD, WHOSE ESSENCE IS TO BE, is radically different from the created world, whose being is contingent and utterly reliant both for its existence and its continued existence on God.* God is the beginning and end of all things outside of himself; he is therefore the first cause and their final cause. The entire world, including man which is a part of it, looks to God for its existence and its purpose. God is its creator and its provider.

Our radical dependence upon God helps us see all creation as a gift, as a gift that is governed by God in his providence. Nature is therefore, more or less, a reflection of God's nature. From the lowest (God is my rock, tsur, צוּר, e.g., Psalm 18:2) to the highest (man is God's "image," the tzelem elohim, צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎‎). Creation therefore participates in God's Logos, his ratio. Man, who participates in God's ratio in a preeminent degree, is able to see nature as "the word of God's creative action," and not "as a dangerous adversary." It is not man against nature, but man in nature.

Man, who is made in God's image in a manner entirely distinct from the rest of nature, therefore has a special responsibility to it. Indeed, Christians believe that the Lord "entrusted all of creation to [man's] responsibility, charging [man] to care for its harmony and development. (Cf. 1:26-30)." (Compendium, No. 451) We are therefore trustees, and we hold the world in trust, answerable for its use to God and to our fellows.

The world is good, even very good. (Cf. Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). This is so fundamental that Christianity is incomprehensible without this notion. And man is placed at the summit of the good which is creation, so that men and women share in a particularly striking and unique way in God's ratio, his goodness. There is reason outside man and reason within man, both of which reflect the eternal ratio of God.

Man has therefore responsibility to this great good, this great gift. While he has been given dominion over it, it is not a dominion that may be exercised recklessly, negligently, without regard to the God who gave him such dominion. He is therefore more akin to a custodian or caretaker over nature than a tyrannous Lord over it. The world is used "in dialogue with God," not independent from God. (Compendium, No. 452.)

Only in dialogue with God does the human being find his truth, from which he draws inspiration and norms to make plans for the future of the world, which is the garden that God has given him to keep and till (cf. Gen 2: 15). Not even sin could remove this duty, although it weighed down this exalted work with pain and suffering (cf. Gen 3:17-19).

(Compendium, No. 452)

Creation is therefore in a serious way sacred to man. It is a reflection of God's goodness. It is a gift given to man. It is one over which God has a sacred duty. For this reason, creation is always seen as something which manifests, indeed induces praise, to God. It is something which God himself does not spurn, and indeed brought into himself in Christ. It is something which God has used as a vehicle, a medium of the supernatural life in the sacraments. It is something which He has redeemed through his Cross, and which seeks fulfillment in Christ's second coming.

A Christian, in particular, must take a sacramental view of nature. Jesus, we believe, is God incarnate in man, and so God himself has assumed into His very heart, through the Son, man, who is the apex, and so custodian and representative of all nature. "Nature, which was created in the Word, is, by the same Word made flesh, reconciled to God and given new peace." (Compendium, No. 454)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven.
(Col. 1:15-20)

For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
(Rom. 8:19-23)

For the believer, "[t]he whole of creation participates in the renewal flowing from the Lord's Paschal Mystery," so that "nothing stands outside this salvation." (Compendium, No. 455)

The Biblical view of nature, therefore, is radically different from the scientific "put-nature-on-the-rack" attitude. Similarly, it is radically different from the exploitative view of the capitalist, for whom nature is but so much raw material which begs for exploitation. While the Biblical view does not spurn human efforts at scientific study of nature or exploitation of nature for man's sake, it does suggest limits upon or rules that should order such efforts. It is neither obscurantist nor wed to nature worship.**

As the Compendium puts it:
The biblical vision inspires the behavior of Christians in relation to their use of the earth, and also with regard to the advances of science and technology. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that man "judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind." The Council Fathers recognized the progress made thanks to the tireless application of human genius down the centuries, whether in the empirical sciences, the technological disciplines or the liberal arts. Today, "especially with the help of science and technology, man has extended his mastery over nearly the whole of nature and continues to do so."
(Compendium, No. 456)

The Church is therefore hardly negative to science or to proper development and use of the world's resources; however, she emphasizes that the use of the world's resources and the application of his mind and his hands must be done responsibly: under God and with view to the common good of mankind:

For man, "created in God's image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness, a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth. [The Council teaches that] throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort. To believers, this point is settled: considered in itself, this human activity accords with God's will."

(Compendium, No. 456) (quoting VII, GS, 34)
*Deus est ens per essentiam suam, quia est ipsum esse, omne antem aliud ens est ens per particpationem; quia ens, quod sit suum esse, non potest esse nisis unum. Contra gentiles, 1,2, c. 15.
**E.g., the notion that animals or nature have "rights" in the strict sense of the term is absurd. Only a rational being can have rights in the strict sense. One might point to the efforts to have a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth" as a theologically and philosophically perverse venture.

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