Friday, June 15, 2012

Rowan Williams' Confusion


Rowan Williams on the Christian Duty to the Environment


It is a rather different reading of the biblical tradition to that often (lazily) assumed to be the orthodoxy of Judeo-Christian belief. We hear regularly that this tradition authorises the exploitation of the earth through the language in Genesis about "having dominion" over the non-human creation. As has been argued elsewhere, this is a very clumsy reading of what Genesis actually says; but set alongside the Levitical code and (as Ellen Davis argues) many other aspects of the theology of Jewish Scripture, the malign interpretation that has latterly been taken for granted by critics of Judaism and Christianity appears profoundly mistaken. But what remains to be teased out is more about the nature of the human calling to further the "redemption" of persons and world. If liberating action is allowing things and persons to stand before God free from claims to possession, is the responsibility of human agents only to stand back and let natural processes unfold?

In Genesis, humanity is given the task of "cultivating" the garden of Eden: we are not left simply to observe or stand back, but are endowed with the responsibility to preserve and direct the powers of nature. In this process, we become more fully and joyfully who and what we are – as St Augustine memorably says, commenting on this passage: there is a joy, he says, in the "experiencing of the powers of nature". Our own fulfilment is bound up with the work of conserving and focusing those powers, and the exercise of this work is meant to be one of the things that holds us in Paradise and makes it possible to resist temptation. The implication is that an attitude to work which regards the powers of nature as simply a threat to be overcome is best seen as an effect of the Fall, a sign of alienation. And, as the monastic scholar Aelred Squire, points out (Asking the Fathers, p.92), this insight of Augustine, quoted by Thomas Aquinas, is echoed by Aquinas himself in another passage where he describes humanity as having a share in the working of divine Providence because it has the task of using its reasoning powers to provide for self and others (aliis, which can mean both persons and things). In other words, the human task is to draw out potential treasures in the powers of nature and so to realise the convergent process of humanity and nature discovering in collaboration what they can become. The "redemption" of people and material life in general is not a matter of resigning from the business of labour and of transformation – as if we could – but the search for a form of action that will preserve and nourish an interconnected development of humanity and its environment. In some contexts, this will be the deliberate protection of the environment from harm: in a world where exploitative and aggressive behaviour is commonplace, one of the "providential" tasks of human beings must be to limit damage and to secure space for the natural order to exist unharmed. In others, the question is rather how to use the natural order for the sake of human nourishment and security without pillaging its resources and so damaging its inner mechanisms for self-healing or self-correction. In both, the fundamental requirement is to discern enough of what the processes of nature truly are to be able to engage intelligently with them.

From here.


What I find interesting is this sentence:

in a world where exploitative and aggressive behaviour is commonplace, one of the "providential" tasks of human beings must be to limit damage and to secure space for the natural order to exist unharmed.

If we apply this to the divinely established order of male-female relations, we are faced with the providential task of defending marriage between a man and a woman and opposing homosex as against the natural order. Had Rowan Williams taken this step the Anglican Communion would have been spared a great deal of pain and suffering during his beleaguered term. However, the Archbishop fails to make this logical connection because of his consent to convergent evolution. He appears to be influenced more by Richard Dawkins (as in his The Blind Watchmaker) than by the book of Genesis. Either the Bible is right in asserting a fixed order with fixed genetic boundaries, or it is wrong.  Apparently, Rowan believes it is wrong because he makes this contrary statement:

the human task is to draw out potential treasures in the powers of nature and so to realise the convergent process of humanity and nature discovering in collaboration what they can become.

Clearly the Archbishop is spinning a "Christian" viewpoint on creation that is not a Biblical viewpoint.  He is committed to green action, but not to the divinely-established order of creation.




What does the Bible teach?


The Bible teaches a fixed binary order in creation, not a convergent process of becoming. Obviously, Rowan Williams cannot have both a fixed order and a convergent process of becoming, so which is it, Sir?

Homosex was in the same category as onanism. Both were regarded as grievous violations of the fixed boundaries in the order of creation. The seed that should fall to the earth is the seed of plants, which spring forth from the earth. The seed of man should fall on his own type (the womb), from which man comes forth.

In our pleasure-consumed society, sex has become a comodity. The more orgiastic and pornographic, the better the comodity. Sex as comodity misses the mark of God's righteousness by so far that it isn't even proper to discuss the two together.

There is much we do not understand about sexual attraction. There is also much false information about homosexuality, much of it built upon the discredited Kinsey Report. The issue is not homosexuality or even heterosexuality, but the use of the body, which is to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Sex within marriage is the only approved sex in the Bible and in Holy Tradition, and both understand marriage as between a man and a woman.


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