‘Guide me, oh thou Great Jehovah… pilgrim through this barren land’’
Most of us have not been raised with a theology of creation. We have been taught that our true spiritual home is heaven – we are pilgrims through this ‘barren land’.
Until the Middle Ages the Church had a strong theology of creation. Science and faith spoke the same language. Their clear understanding of cosmology was based on Genesis. Genesis taught us that humans were called to love God, to be reconciled to one another and to care for Creation.
The discovery that the Earth moved around the sun came as a bombshell – the dethronement of the earth as central to the universe challenged the theology of creation – and Galileo was condemned as a heretic.
Science and religion began to develop on different paths. The theology of creation was lost and the church focussed on the Christian story – on redemption and salvation. As their understanding of the universe was threatened so the Church moved away from a theology embracing creation to a theology focussing on the Fall and Redemption of humankind.
The split between Church and Science widened with Darwin’s further discoveries. In the case of evolution most of the religious world clung to the Genesis account as a document of both faith and science. Religion was unable to enter into creative dialogue with the new scientific view of the cosmos.
During the age of Enlightenment science was impoverished by the lack of spiritual insights. Science could answer the question ‘how’ but not the question ‘why’. God was seen at most as a ‘clockmaker’ leaving this machine for humans to control. Nature was no longer alive or permeated with spiritual presence, it was objectified and lost any rights. It was seen as simply matter to be manipulated to satisfy human need or greed. The industrial revolution primarily took place in Christian countries where the sense of the spiritual value of creation had been lost.
As the church turned inwards and focussed on personal salvation and debates about doctrine, the scientific community developed a parallel salvation story – the power of science and technology to save the world. Some of those dreams have turned into nightmares.
The Christian world had moved from a theology of wonder to a theology of plunder.
So how do we rediscover our theology of creation?
Perhaps it is new developments in science that are enabling us to rediscover parts of our faith that have been lost.
An iconic moment was the first viewing of our Earth from outer space. This picture of the blue planet as a living vital being as opposed to an object to be abused has entered our consciousness…
Scientists are now discovering more mysteries, and are recovering the sense of wonder at how the world was made – we need to reclaim the theology of why it was made. It is time to move from a theology of plunder back to a theology of wonder…
I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth..
Rev Dr. Rachel Mash; Environmental Coordinator;Anglican Church of Southern Africa
References: Sean McDonagh; To care for the Earth