Environment, Spirituality

God of All Ecosystems

May 7, 2015

It’s always nice when you have an ‘A-ha’ moment in your thinking (particularly for me because I don’t have them very often…), and I had one of those just a few days ago.

I was thinking through a couple of talks I was due to give that were based around the three-fold relational schema I often use when talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and how caring for the wider natural world is an essential part of that. To put it very succinctly (because that’s not the point of this post), I see human beings as having been created for relationships: with God, with each other, and with the wider creation; that the Fall broke those relationships, and that Jesus came to restore them on every level (ie his life, death and resurrection was about more than reconciling human beings to God, as important as that is). We are called to join in this Gospel of reconciliation in our own lives, as individuals and as churches, to work for the restoration of relationships – peace – on all levels.

(That really is very succinct: I can spend an hour or two unpacking that paragraph; working through the biblical material and looking at its practical implications!)

Anyway, the point is that I see these relationships as stemming from the fact that we have been created by, and we reflect, a God who has relationships at his heart ie who is a Trinity.

Human beings, therefore, are fundamentally relational: we don’t exist in splendid independent isolation from what and who is around us, we find our identity through the relationships that make up our lives – with God, with others, and with the natural world – and when any of those are missing or disordered then our personhood/our humanity suffers.

As I was reflecting on this I was struck by how this relates more broadly than to humans alone, because the fact is that the whole natural world is built on relationships. We are used to calling them ecosystems and so miss what they reveal to us, but theologically they are simply relationships.

Think about it: everywhere you look, everything you see (and don’t see) is in relationship with something else. There is not a single thing that exists in this world that is not linked to something else. Our whole world is permeated with, and predicated upon, ecosystems: thousands and thousands of them, interlinking and weaving in and out of each other.

And I suddenly thought, ‘A-ha, of course!’. Of course we live in a world where nothing is on its own and everything is in relation to other things. This world exists because the Trinitarian God, who has relationships at the core of who he is, has poured himself out and created something that expresses himself. Of course, then, this world is made up of ecosystems, because it reflects a God who is utterly relational.

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  • Reply Tony Sneller May 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts on this Ruth – it touches deep, potentially life changing,truth. With relationship being at the heart of God – the core of his very existence and raison d’etre – then it must say something about how we relate as human beings with our fellow human beings. And that must shape how we approach politics. Should I simply vote according to what is best for me and mine – or am I compelled to vote according to what is best for those with whom I am bound in relationship? How will I approach ideological paradigms – what about individualistic neo-liberalism – or even capitalism itself?

    • Reply ruthvalerio May 7, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      great stuff, Tony, thank you. I’m glad what I’ve written has got you thinking. You’re right – if we take this on board it impact everything doesn’t it.

  • Reply robmills86 May 7, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    thank you very interesting

  • Reply David and Liza Cooke May 9, 2015 at 4:06 am

    Ah, Ruth, thank God for these A-ha moments and thank you for letting us all in on this one of yours! It reminded me of what Richard Rohr says about God’s first act of incarnation being the creation.

    • Reply ruthvalerio May 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

      yes I love that – did you see the post I did on it some while ago? Don’t agree with it entirely but it’s a mind-opening idea. Thanks, love to you.

  • Reply marievanz October 9, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Ruth, I am trying to translate this text of yours into French for an Non-profit making organisation on a pro-bono basis and everything was going smoothly until I got stuck with this sentence. Could you kind explicated what you mean in the sentence below.

    “that the Fall broke those relationships, and that Jesus came to restore them on every level (ie his life, death and resurrection was about more than reconciling human beings to God, as important as that is).”

    Many thanks in advance, would be very grateful if you could reply before 7.00 pm UK time this evening as my deadline is at 8.00 pm France time.

    God bless.

    • Reply ruthvalerio October 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      Hi, I’m not too sure what it is about that sentence that you don’t understand?

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