An ecological pneumatology

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A much-cited and early Christian benediction interprets the Holy Spirit in terms of fellowship: 'and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all' (2 Cor. 13.13 New Jerusalem Bible; NRSV has 'communion'. Cf. 1 Cor. 12.13). In the Nicene Creed, the Spirit is described as 'the Lord, the giver of Life'. How shall these commitments be understood to develop the theology of the common realm of God, nature and humanity.?

The first point is to note that fellowship is not to be restricted only to human agents: 'To experience the fellowship of the Spirit inevitably carries Christianity beyond itself into the greater fellowship of all God's creatures. For the community of creation, in which all created things exist with one another, for one another, and in one another, is also the fellowship of the Spirit.'2 Against a tendency to associate the actions of the Spirit with the benefits of Christ and thereby to restrict arbitrarily the sphere of the efficacy of the Spirit to the Church,3 the third person of God's Trinity4 is here understood as Creator Spiritus. The theological warrant for such an affirmation is easily discerned: 'God's spiritual transcendence of matter, and of all other spirits than himself, writes Geoffrey Wainwright, 'is the unique transcendence of their Creator'. Out of this logic, Wainwright concludes: 'In Christian tradition, therefore, the Holy Spirit may be invoked as Creator Spiritus.'5

We may then concur with Michael Welker that the benefits of the Spirit are not for humans only but are also for 'spatial and temporal, proximate and distant environments'.6 In what ways is the notion of fellowship for a common realm to be further specified? What is ecological fellowship? Moltmann argues that 'Fellowship means opening ourselves for one another, giving one another a share in ourselves'.7 Although referring here only to human persons, Moltmann argues that fellowship enables and permits sharing amongst those who are different. To speak offellowship

2. Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (London: SCM Press, 1992), p. 10.

Cf. p. 219: 'The creation of community is evidently the goal of God's life-giving Spirit in the world of nature and human beings.'

3. Identified by Colin E. Gunton, Theology through the Theologians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

4. This formulation from Nicholas Lash, The Beginning and theEnd of 'Religion' (Cambridge

University Press, 1996), p. 64.

5. Geoffrey Wainwright, 'The Holy Spirit', in C. E. Gunton (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to

Christian Doctrine (Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 273-96 (p. 281).

6. Michael Welker, God the Spirit (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), p. 338.

7. Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, p. 217.

in the Spirit across the common realm is, of course, to speak of communion between creator and creatures: difference indeed! Which means, of course, that, if fellowship is granted by the gift of the Spirit between God's Trinity and human creatures, the difference between creatures and creator cannot be used to exclude the non-human from participation in fellowship. The fellowship bestowed by Creator Spiritus knows no such arbitrary restriction.

Moltmann associates the gift of fellowship with the giving oflife. There is only life through fellowship: 'There is no life without its specific social relationships.'8 As the giver of fellowship, God the Spirit is also the giver oflife: 'In fellowship with himself and through his creative energies, God the Spirit creates a network of social relationships in which life comes into being, blossoms and becomes fruitful.'9 Diversity is thereby not alien to the project of creation. Instead, diversity is to be sourced to the giving of the Spirit. In God in Creation, Moltmann makes the same point: 'Creation is also the differentiated presence of God the Spirit, the presence of the One in the many', in which the relationality of the world subsists in the presence of the Spirit of the triune God.10 To interpret this 'differentiated presence' requires a further range of distinctions: creating subject, renewing energy and consummating potentiality form the acts and efficacy of the Spirit. It makes no sense to restrict such differentiated presence to human community alone: 'for all human communities are embedded in the ecosystems of the natural communities, and live from the exchange of energy with them'. Acknowledging this point is 'not the least important element in a full understanding of the fellowship of the Spirit'.11

What more may be said of the fellowship of the common realm.? In chapter 2, I proposed that the transcendental of openness should be ascribed to the work of the Holy Spirit. The sociality of nature-humanity is to be construed in terms of a dynamic of openness. Elsewhere, I have argued that 'The presence of the Spirit is the opening up, the raising up, the freeing up of social forms of social organisation . . . social life is from the Creator (whose "mark" is creative liberty) in the ordering and reordering work of the Word (in creation and redemption) and is to be brought to its eschatological futures in the action of the Spirit.'12 This view needs expanding for a political theology of nature. If, as proposed, the Spirit's actions are eschatological actions, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ - and

8. Ibid., p. 219. 9. Ibid. 10. Moltmann, God in Creation,p. 14.

11. Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, p. 225. 12. Scott, Theology, Ideology and Liberation, p. 228.

thereby the reinstantiation of sociality - is the model for considering eschatological destiny, then among other things the Spirit's actions renew the varied and variable social relations between humanity and nature and enable their fuller openness. The Spirit energises the dynamics of sociality eschatologically. As Elizabeth Johnson recommends, the Spirit may therefore be understood as eschatological movement in and towards the openness of creaturely reality: 'the Spirit characteristically sets up bonds of kinship among all creatures, human and non-human alike, all of whom are energized by this one Source'.13

A second point emerges: the actions of the Spirit are eschatological actions. John Zizioulas has forcefully made this point: contrary to some emphases in theological tradition, ifwe must ascribe the categories ofim-manence and transcendence to God's Trinity, we should say that the Logos becomes history, whereas 'the Spirit is the beyond history, and when he acts in history he does so in order to bring into history the last days, the eschaton'.14 Such a theological position is in conformity with, and develops, the Trinitarian doctrine of creation proposed in the previous chapter. There I argued that creation is to be understood as authored in the movement of God's triune life ad extra in the difference of the creator from the Logos. Creation is intended by God to be independent in and through its origin in the self-distinction of the second person of the Trinity from the first. Further, if incarnation is properly acknowledged, creation, of which incarnation is the summary, has its source and ground in the relation of the Logos to the creator. It is theologically appropriate, therefore, to refer to the incarnation ofthe Logos in Jesus Christ as the principle ofimmanence, for want of a better term, in Christianity. Immanence is a Christological 'function': creation, the realm of immanence, is to be sourced to the difference between Logos and creator; the Logos becomes history.

Transcendence is thereby to be ascribed to the Spirit, as Colin Gunton -consistently amplifying Zizioulas's insight - has long argued: 'The Son is the mode of God's immanence in the world . . . The Spirit is God's eschatological transcendence, his futurity, as it is sometimes expressed. He is God present to the world as its liberating other.'15 Such a view requires that a certain tendency to regard the Spirit as unrestricted divine

13. Elizabeth A. Johnson, Women, Earth and Creator Spirit (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1993), p. 44.

14. Zizioulas, Beingas Communion, p. 130.

15. Gunton, Theology through the Theologians, p. 122; also p. 108. Cf. Gunton, The One, the Three and the Many, pp. 180ff.

presence is checked.16 The turn to the Spirit in some ecological theologies exhibits this tendency. For example, Mark I. Wallace at one level helpfully argues that 'hope for a renewed earth is best founded on belief in the Spirit as the divine force within the cosmos who continually works to sustain all forms of life... [T]he Holy Spirit [is] God's invigorating presence within the global society of all living beings.'17 While there is much to be welcomed in Wallace's essay, a tendency to stress the immanent presence of the Spirit is evident.18 Thus, in a paradigmatic statement, Wallace contends that the Spirit is best understood 'as a living, embodied being who works for healthy communion within our shared planet home . . . nature in all its variety will be construed as the primary mode of being for the Spirit's work in the world'.19 Such an argument is open to Gunton's objection that the Spirit is identified with 'cultural and historical developments', here construed broadly as the historical development of natural forms.20 As a consequence of such identification, the actions of the Spirit are construed as internal to creation in such fashion that the actions ofthe Spirit as the opening up and turning outwards of the social ordering of creation are obscured.

A more serious objection concerns the way in which the unity and diversity of creation is handled theologically. Wallace correctly argues that this matter of unity and diversity can be stated adequately only by reference to the immanent Trinity, the triune God in God's own life. In an unclear formulation, he writes: 'As the Spirit exists perichoretically in the Godhead to foster communion between the divine persons, my proposal is that the Spirit also performs the role of the vinculum caritatis within nature in order to promote the well-being and fecundity of creation.'21 The unity of creation is grounded theologically thereby; the essay is replete with phrases that reinforce the sense of the unity of creation. What of the diversity of creation, however.? Following the logic ofWallace's argument, the basis for

16. The stress on the presence of the Spirit also diverts attention from the important matter of the Spirit's hypostasis: more on this below.

17. Mark I. Wallace, 'The Wounded Spirit as the Basis for Hope in an Age of Radical Ecology', in Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether (eds.), Christianity andEcology:Seeking the Well-being of Earth and Humans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard/CSWR, 2000), pp. 51-72 (p. 52). In an earlier work, Fragments of theSpirit:Nature, Violence and the Renewal of Creation (New York: Continuum, 1997), pp. i33ff., Wallace offers a pneumatology that can barely be distinguished from pantheism. As 'The Wounded Spirit' essay avoids such pantheism, a charitable reading requires a concentration on this later statement.

18. It may be that both tendencies are to be sourced to what appears to be a breach in the traditional view of creatio ex nihilo: see Wallace, 'The Wounded Spirit', pp. 60-1.

19. Ibid., p. 55. 20. Gunton, Theology through the Theologians, p. 108.

diversity must also be found in the role of the Spirit in the being in communion who is the triune God. The closest that Wallace comes to making such an affirmation is the following comment: 'It is the move to embodiment - the procession of Godself into the biotic community that sustains life [in three ways: creator Spirit; embodiment of divine life in Jesus; union of Jesus with the Spirit] - that is the basis for unity within the Godhead.'22 This is baffling: how can the actions of Jesus and the Spirit in the economy be the basis of the unity of God in God's immanence.? Not only does the direction of the argument have the trajectory of projection, but the unity of God is not understood in Trinitarian fashion. The result is a rather forbidding divine unity. How can the diversity of creation be secured if a monolithic God is the author ofcreation. Wallace's is a bold and welcome attempt to recover the theological theme of Creator Spiritus. However, the resources ofa Trinitarian theology need to be deployed more fully.

A third point becomes clear: for there to be true theological interpretation of the common realm (which, as we shall see, involves political judgments), the matter of the hypostasis of the Spirit cannot be avoided. The Spirit's work, argues Wolfhart Pannenberg, is 'creative activity in the bringing forth of life and movement'. However, no immanent process is named thereby. Instead, as Pannenberg suggests: 'By the Spirit creatures will be made capable of independence in their relation to God and at the same time integrated into the unity of God's Kingdom.'23 How is such independence and unity to be thought? In an important essay, Colin Gunton argues that the recovery of an account of the Spirit's action in the economy cannot be fully and properly secured without an account of the personal being of the Spirit in God's own life. The impersonal descriptions of the Spirit as - for example - force, energy and power are not entirely wrong. That is, the actions of the Spirit are directed towards the renewal of matter which invites an identification of the Spirit in impersonal terms.24 However, personal metaphors cannot be avoided if the freeing and opening out of the Spirit's personal and particular acts are to be established conceptually.

Differently from Wallace, Gunton argues that the recovery of the Spirit as personal being cannot rely on the Augustinian understanding of the Spirit as vinculum caritatis or vinculum Trinitatis. To take such an

23. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998), III, pp. 7,12.

24. In The Spirit of Life, pp. 274ff., Moltmann identifies three sets of impersonal metaphors:

formative, of movement and mystical.

Augustinian path, Gunton argues, is to see the immanent actions of the Spirit as the 'closing of an eternal circle' in which the Spirit functions as a link between Father and Son, A better option, Gunton maintains, and one more in conformity with the biblical witness, is to see the work of the Spirit as the agent of'the unity of the Godhead, but also of the diversity of the persons'.25 The Spirit frees the becoming-in-communion who is God's Trinity to become 'itself but not in the sense of undifferentiated unity but rather as a community of free persons. The Spirit perfects the Godhead but not towards a unity but rather towards excentric community. Such excen-tric community is 'not a closed circle, but a self-sufficient community of love freely opened outwards to embrace the other'.26 From this position, Gunton draws the following conclusion: 'if the Son is the basis of God's movement out into creation to bring that which is not God into covenant relation with him, the Spirit is the dynamic of that movement, the one who perfects creation by realising the communities of persons and the transformation of matter'.27 Secured thereby is an affirmation of diversity: the opening-out actions of the Spirit are directed not towards unity but instead to the perfection of human and non-human societies, for which 'the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead serves as a model for the possibilities for the transfiguration of matter in general'.28 Interestingly, Moltmann makes a nearly identical point, sourcing true fellowship to the inner, yet personal, triune life: '[Fellowship] issues from the essential inward community of the triune God, in all the richness of its relationships; and it throws this community open for human beings in such a way that it gathers into itselfthese men and women and all created things, so that they find eternal life.'29 What, however, is the significance of this conclusion for the development of a pneumatology for a common realm.?

The reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives a clue: the perfecting of creation cannot be thought except by the renewal of sociality secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The 'bringing forth oflife and movement', as Pannenberg puts the matter, directs theological attention to particular liberations in which relations between humanity and nonhuman nature are renewed. The vinculum of creation is in fact secured by the Logos; the opening-out of this vinculum is to be sourced to the actions of the Spirit who affirms the diversity of creation. That is, the Spirit does not obscure diversity, but instead is a theological discourse that demands

25. Gunton, Theology through theTheologians, p. 126. 26. Ibid., p. 128.

27. Ibid., p. 127. 28. Ibid., p. 120. 29. Moltmann, The Spirit ofLife,p. 219.

it. More precisely, the discourse on the Spirit affirms and requires libera-tory affirmations of diversity: a diversity, in other words, that can be understood only in terms of the renewal of sociality, only by way of the renewal of the human (although not only human) practices of sociality, temporality and spatiality in a common realm. (Which means in turn that I am not convinced by Gunton's argument that the actions of the Spirit must be related to praise: 'whenever the created order, in any of its levels or aspects, is able to praise its maker, there is the agency of the Spirit'.30 Praise is, to be sure, a category of agency and interaction, but it is also a cognitive and affective notion. Therefore I remain unsure what it can mean to say that, for example, inorganic nature praises God.)

The task of un/natural humanity is thereby understood by consideration of the form, energy and direction of the Holy Spirit of God's Trinity in the world. 'Being in the truth of God', as Bonhoeffer might have put it, is core to my position. The issue is not possibility - the possibility of human action, etc. - but instead the identification of the actuality of God's presence-in-difference to which human praxis must reorientate itself. This presence is always eschatological. The wisdom of Christianity is reframed towards the discernment of traces of God's presence in the world, to which human action should reorientate itself in order to recover the fullness of God's blessing of creatureliness.

We arrive at a fourth point: in turn, the vinculum caritatis ad extra needs to be rethought in order to indicate some of the detail of the Spirit's life in creaturely life. Obliquely, Pannenberg makes this point:

The Spirit's work is always in some measure linked to an imparting of his dynamic even though he is not in the full sense always imparted and received as gift. We are to find the Trinitarian basis for this in the fact that in the Trinitarian life of God the Son is in eternity the recipient of the Spirit who proceeds from the Father. But only to the degree that the Son is manifested in creaturely life does the work of the Spirit in creation take on the form of gift. This is definitively so only in relation to the incarnation of the Son.31 Much of the discussion of this section is recapitulated in these few sentences. In my discussion of incarnation, I have linked the ecosocial ontology of sociality, temporality and spatiality to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How is such an ontology - an ontology of the resurrection - to be understood as gift, and as made dynamic in the agency

30. Gunton, Theology through the Theologians, p. 120.

31. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, 111 ,p. 9.

of the Spirit.? How is the social openness in God's life that is secured by the Spirit to be thought in terms of the social openness in God's world, in this common realm? How is the vinculum caritatis/Trinitatis, ad extra to be given further specification?

In a highly interesting essay, Daniel Hardy has argued for the importance of understanding the Spirit's interweaving in the interweaving of our contextuality. Defining contextuality as 'the interweaving of human subjects with their cultures and the natural world, and of cultures with each other and the natural world', Hardy argues that one of the tasks for a pneumatology is 'discovering the way in which God is present through the interweaving of human beings, cultures and nature'.32 If, in my terms, un/natural humanity must grasp in theory and in practice that nature is the in-between of all human projects, how is the agency of the Spirit of God to be understood in such circumstance? How is our contextuality to be understood in terms of unity and diversity, as the dynamic towards the building up of the social through the spatio-temporal realm?

Hardy conceives of the activity of the triune God economically and im-manently in terms of energy. In the economy, Hardy argues that God 'is himself in maintaining the consistency of his life in an ordered but energetic congruence [sc. by the Son] with his world; he is capable of self-restructuring in a controlled response to the perturbations (constructive or destructive) which occur in that interaction and in those with whom he interacts'. Openness is here construed in terms of order and freedom, stability and alteration in and through which God's orderly life is reordered but always with consistency. Such consistency is sourced immanently to an understanding ofGod in God's own life which comprises 'a dynamic consistency, not inert but energetic in the consistency of his self-structuring in self-sameness... God is a dynamic structured relationality in whom there is an infinite possibility of life.'33 What is remarkable about this theological position is that it permits the identification of the dynamic of movement in God's life and in God's life with the world: the open contingencies yet orderly structures of our contextuality are God's ways with us in which the gift of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is imparted. The triune God is not isolated from contextuality; rather, by the Spirit, God seeks to bring

33. Ibid., p. 81. Cf. Daniel W. Hardy, Finding the Church: The Dynamic Truth of Anglicanism (London: SCM Press, 2001), p. 16: 'That is, the Trinity immanent in God is his consistent performance of holiness, but this is maintained - as the Trinitarian economy in the world -through God's energetic congruence with the world.'

such contextual fellowship to its fullness. The 'outpouring of energy' that Hardy employs as a trope for the interpretation of the dynamic life of God also occurs through (and throughout) God's creation in the consistency of God's own being. The triune God constitutes and sustains contextual-ity but not from a position of some unity posited behind the forms. Instead, the consistency of God's triune being is transcribed into the crea-turely realm in forms of diversity: such 'active unity' arises in the 'diversity of all things'.34

How does such energy manifest itself in creation in the reconciling works of the Spirit.? The infinite possibility of life in the Godhead arises in creation as 'excentric': 'the right use of our freedom is excentric, outward turning, conferring the benefits of our particularity upon those with whom we are interwoven. Our freedom confers freedom through our love'. Again, 'The sign of the blessing which God confers is in our conferral of such blessing on others, with all the natural and social modifications that may require, and even the creativity to fashion new and more humane contextual interweavings.'35 This is a remarkable conclusion: reconciliation occurs in and through our contextuality as agents seek to practise more humane - perhaps we should add, more just, freer, more peaceful and truer - life in the in-between of nature.

Nor is this idealist: Hardy acknowledges that mostly we live in a 'con-textuality of falsehoods' in which the energies of God conferred on us in our contextuality are diminished or dissipated. In turn, this leads to a lack of order, presumably to be understood in terms of either licence or simplification.36 Hardy also operates a version of the 'preferential option for the poor': 'the principal means by which God reconciles is to be interwoven in the lives of those most "decontextualized", those most diminished in their contextuality, providing new life for them in their abandonment.'37 The vinculum caritatis ad extra thereby exhibits a tendency: towards the rescue of those who are impoverished in and by their contextuality.

Where Hardy's position is less secure is in facing the theme of the otherness of nature. To speak of the conferral of blessing by the human to the human in freedom and by love is to restrict the reconciling work of the Spirit to the interhuman. What lacks attention is the ways in which nature may confer blessing on human beings through its own agential

34. Hardy, God'sWayswiththeWorld,p. 81. 35. Ibid., pp.83,84. 36. Ibid., p. 70.

processes. That is, as extra nos, nature has its own agency in the common realm, both in relation to God and to humanity. In my judgment, Hardy needs some account of the otherness of nature in its spatiality to ground more convincingly his argument - with which I agree - that the 'fuller dynamic order from which the ecosystem operates, by which it is energized for its unity and reconciliation' cannot be framed only by reference to the energy within the ecosystem. However, to speak in theological idiom of a 'higher quality of relationality' does not exclude the possibility that God's energetic recovery of just and peaceful contextuality is by way of the 'natural order'. Although it is proper to speak of the restoration of the full contextuality of human beings with the natural world, we must also note - if the actions of the Spirit are eschatological and are thereby directed in and towards matter - that nature requires its full contextuality restored to it. This is not to say that nature can become itself without the human. However, it is to say that the redoubling of the blessing of contextuality is not directed only towards the human. Part of the problem may lie with Hardy's basic metaphor, energy. To speak of the exchange of energy arguably requires more detailed specification than given by Hardy: for example, the exchanges of energy operative in extractive, eco-regulative, and transformative interactions of the human with non-human nature are different. To be convincing, Hardy's metaphor of energy would need to demonstrate some structural similarities with such descriptions (while, of course, bearing a theological supplement of meaning).

I have argued that the notion of fellowship encompasses the nonhuman. This may be described as the theme of Creator Spiritus; that the actions of the Spirit are eschatological: the turning outwards and the intensification of the social nature of creatureliness are to be sourced to the Spirit; that the diversity of creaturely life can only be fully accounted for by insisting on the personal becoming of the Spirit whose actions in the Godhead secure the diversity as well as the unity of divine life - put alittle too simply, only if there is personal fellowship of the Godhead, can there be a creaturely diversity in fellowship; and that human-nature relations are part of contextuality and, although contingent, are highly ordered and are to be traced to the actions of the triune God. The Spirit is to be understood as the movement that seeks to re-establish peaceable social relations between humanity and nature after the model of the overcoming of the interruption of sociality in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are aspects ofan ecological pneumatology.

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  • amy
    What is vinculum caritatis?
    3 years ago

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