Christological placing spatiality

The enlisting of Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross of Jesus, as reported in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 37.32; Mark 15.21; Luke 23.26), is an interesting literary device: this carrying of the killing instrument by a passer-by functions to delay Jesus' encounter with its unyielding wood. However, it is against this worked-over tree that the body ofJesus is eventually smashed. Nor is this Jesus' only encounter with non-human nature: during his postbaptismal testing, Jesus lives with the wild animals (Mark 1.13). Moreover, there is his celebrated encounter with the fig tree (Matt. 21.18-22; Mark 11.12-14) which, in its Markan version, is perplexing: despite the fact that it is not the season for figs, Jesus curses the tree and as a result it withers. I cite these episodes to emphasise that the encounters of Jesus with what we might broadly call natural space and its inhabitants are a theme in the Gospels. Too often, theological attention is focused on the healing miracles and the occasions in which Jesus demonstrates his power over natural forces. In fact, Jesus' comings and goings include not only missionary journeys but also encounter with natural circumstance. Jesus is placed in a natural context which includes other agents in their own ecological space. How should this ecological space be understood.?

The claim of the emergence of the world in the difference of Logos from creator recommends, as I have argued, the interpretation ofcreatureliness by way of the concept of sociality. Thus, we are referred to the doctrines of creation and incarnation, guided by the commitment to see the world as dependent on God, yet contingent. Yet I have also argued that the theme of space is analytic to the notion of sociality. Temporality, the theme of the previous section, invokes a conception of space (and vice versa). By reference to spatiality, we are referred to the notion of the critical otherness of nature that we have encountered at various points already.

Transcendentals, as metaphysical concepts, are ways of construing difference.44 How, then, shall the otherness or difference of nature be construed.?

In a relevant analysis, Jurgen Moltmann argues for an ecological concept of space which is, he argues, acceptable to and compatible with an account of creation as kenotic.45 That is, it is through the restriction of God's omnipresence (and eternity) that creation comes to be.46 Moltmann's argument moves by way of the presentation of general anthropological accounts of ecological space. A summary of this reading of space, which, he argues, approaches the understanding ofspace in biblical traditions, is as follows: 'every living thing has its own world in which to live, a world to which it is adapted and which suits it'.47 Moltmann argues that such an ecological conception of space as 'living space' resists reduction to a geometrical conception ofspace.

Moltmann's position presents a series of difficulties. It is not clear, as critics point out,48 that Moltmann manages to avoid a container view of space. This problem is associated with a second: drawing on the anthropological findings of Max Scheler, Moltmann seeks a way of moving beyond the ecological concept of space to take on some of the quantitative aspects of the geometrical account of space. Why he might want to do this is not hard to discern: for in the construal of space as ecological, the universal aspect of space is lost. We cannot merely talk of space associated with objects, for in that case the relation of God to the whole of the created order is imperilled. However, neither can we affirm a geometrical account which, posing as infinite and absolute space, in fact substitutes for God.

The notion of ecological space is, of course, vital for the argument of this book. For agents and ecosystems to have their living space is also to speak of their otherness. I do not mean such otherness simply in terms ofgeometric space: for example, that the space ofan ecosystem is not the space of another system. I mean rather that natural agents and systems have their own world. In that world, these agents and ecosystems develop

44. For the claim that a concern for difference is finally a metaphysical undertaking, see Rowan Williams, 'Between Politics and Metaphysics: Reflections in the Light of Gillian Rose', in L. Gregory Jones and Stephen Fowl (eds.), RethinkingMetaphysics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 3-22 (p. 5).

45. See Moltmann, God in Creation, pp. 140-57; cf. Moltmann, The ComingofGod, pp. 296-308.

46. See Moltmann, God in Creation, pp. 79-98.

48. Alan J. Torrance, 'Creatio exNihilo and the Spatio-temporal Dimensions, with special reference to Jurgen Moltmann and D. C. Williams', in Colin Gunton (ed.), The Doctrine of Creation (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1997), pp. 83-103 (pp. 84-93).

their own life: seeking 'to maintain themselves by metabolizing materials from their environment and reproduce their like'.49 Such processes, which require their own room, have a developmental trajectory. Such a position is the basis for speaking of the otherness of nature and, finally, of nature as subject.

Geometric and ecological space: can these two be harmonised.? Molt-mann's own proposal centres on a kenotic doctrine of creation. The idea seems right: God wills to be not God through a restriction or letting-be which has creation as its consequence. Here, however, I plan to follow Robert Jenson, who writes of the 'roominess' of God: 'for God to create is for him to open a place in his triune life for others than the three whose mutual life he is... In that place, he makes room, and that act is the event of creation.'50 How then should we think theologically about space. Jenson argues that we must interpret space in terms oftime: 'Space is the distention within which things can be now there for us.'51 Space is thereby unintelligible without reference to time: the spatial extension of things through time is their pro nobis structure. In fact, this movement of spatio-temporalities Jenson calls 'histories', which returns us, of course, to the matter of sociality. Furthermore, interpreting Kant, Jenson points towards an ecological account of space: 'Space ... is the a priori of otherness.' That is, space is the transcendental (in a Kantian sense) condition of the interpretation ofthe other as other. The first problem with such tran-scendentality, as Jenson notes, is that it remains unclear how it relates to geometric space in which the spatial otherness ofthings is maintained. If space is understood restrictively as a condition ofexperience (as in Kant), how does it also inhere in objects?

Jenson's response to this dilemma is elegant: by developing the doctrine of creation, he argues that God grants space. 'God opens otherness between himself and us', he writes, 'and so there is present room for us'.52 And such room is to be understood in a double sense: 'space can be at once an a priori of our consciousness and a structure within which we locate ourselves, because it is an aspect of God's enveloping conscious life'.53 In other words, the God who creates ex nihilo establishes an independent spatial

49. Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, The Works of God (Oxford and New York: Oxford

University Press, 1999), p. 15.

50. Jenson, 'Aspects of a Doctrine of Creation', pp. 17-28 (p. 24). Cf. Jenson, Systematic

51. Jenson, Systematic Theology, 11 ,p. 46. 52. Ibid., p. 47. 53. Ibid.

reality that has its own structure and dynamic. As independent, space -the way that things are ordered for agents - may be understood as the condition ofotherness and ofthe relations that pertain between others.

Here Jenson draws explicitly on the type of Trinitarian doctrine of creation discussed earlier in this chapter. The extensio (my term) of space must be referred to the agency of the Word as the mediator of creation. The difference of creation from creator may be sourced to the difference between creator and Logos. As Jenson writes earlier, the creative agency of the Son may be understood 'to hold open the creatures' space in being'. Jenson develops the theme thus:

The relation of the creature to the Creator, by which the creature is, holds in the present tense of created time without thereby being a timeless relation, in that one of the three, the Son, has his own individual identity within created time, in that he is himself one of those among whom and upon whom the creatures' participation in God's story is being 'worked out'.54

Thereby we are returned to the beginning of this section with its portrait of some of the comings and goings of Jesus. There we noted in the Gospels some encounters in what we might call ecological space. The ecosocial ontology of spatiality points, we may conclude, to a principle of encounter. The dynamism of human-human, human-nature and nature-nature relations may be referred to the active relations of spatial encounter. For in the differences and commonalities of human and non-human nature, in their range of interactions, we have a series of encounters: of humanity by nature; of nature by humanity. This is perhaps a difficult principle to grasp. Why so.? Because it contradicts a dominant Western view that humanity is self-sustaining. On this dominant view, the Western attitude to nature concentrates on the ways that (non-)human nature is a problem for us: diseased bodies, animals in the 'wrong place', 'inadequate' crop yields, etc. Nature is part threat, part challenge.

By contrast, the principle of encounter in social interaction suggests a sense of the demands placed on humanity by a lively nature. Humanity is truly placed in nature: we must speak of the reality of humanity in nature. This is, to borrow some formulations from Jim Cheney, the core of the theological attempt to affirm the otherness, the difference of nature: against strategies of containment which seek - either through negation or immersion - to organise nature, the emphasis here is on 'genuine recognition, acknowledgement, and embracing of the other'.55 Indeed, the otherness of nature - precisely, its spatiality - indicates its capacities for renewal (including the renewal of the habitat for human living). We should not be sentimental here: sometimes nature's embrace is unkind. This is one aspect of its otherness.

Such a dynamic of encounter is to be sourced to a theological reading of spatiality: the otherness to be found in the spatial relations between things is given in the space God grants for the creaturely realm. Jenson's position needs development thereby: space as the condition of otherness needs to be construed dynamically. The trajectory of nature is through modalities of social interaction. Through spatial movements things are there for us and for each other in ecological space. Nature is extra nos.

That nature has its space is the source of the claim of nature as active subject. Arguing along such lines, Donna Haraway proposes to speak of nature as actor or agent.56 Indeed, perhaps it is now time to affirm the independence of nature but to do so without reference to subjectivity, language and consciousness that 'nature as subject' suggests. So the position that we saw first in ecofeminism here receives theological warrant. From such a warrant a theological correction follows. The correction is this: I remain unconvinced that any quick move should be made to code nature as, say, coyote or trickster.57 Of course, the metaphors are intended to destabilise our views of nature. However, I am not persuaded that nature should be quickly coded, and the notion of trickster carries furthermore the suggestion that nature is capricious and deceitful. Neither fits easily with the perspective of creatio ex nihilo. Which is not to deny, of course, that nature is sometimes not benign.

The independence of nature, secured by reference to spatiality, functions in a political theology of nature as a delegitimating strategy. Politically restrictive uses are here denied. Such restrictive uses tend to domesticate nature by reference to God for certain political purposes: political arrangements are 'naturalised'. Nature as heterogeneous agent - as proposed here - denies such naturalisation.

55. Cheney, 'Nature, Theory, Difference', pp. 158-78 (p. 164). As a consequence, democratic 'negotiation' will emerge as a key theme in chapter 8.

56. Constance Penley and Andrew Ross, 'Cyborgs at Large: Interview with Donna Haraway', in Penley and Ross (eds.), Technoculture (Minnesota and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), pp. 1-20 (p. 3).

57. Of course, I have taken the metaphors from Haraway: see Donna Haraway, 'The Actors are Cyborg, Nature is Coyote, and the Geography is Elsewhere', in Penley and Ross (eds.), Technoculture, pp. 21-6. I thank Elaine Graham for this point.

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