From idolatry

Through this chapter, an important difficulty in the consideration ofna-ture, within theology and without, has been presented. Should one speak of the end of nature or its resurrection, of anthropology or cosmology, of freedom or naturalism? Where should one put the stress in the following: Nature-includes-Humanity-which-is-other-than-Nature? On the first occurrence of Nature or Humanity or on the second occurrence? The philosophical theology presented here contributes to the articulation of the common realm ofGod, nature and humanity by insisting on the commonality of God, nature and humanity, yet on the absolute difference between God and creatures. Furthermore, as regards the politics of nature, I have presented an ontology of the ecosocial which features the reality, stability and openness towards humanity ofnature. Yet the nature ofnature (including humanity) is, as given by God, social and contingent.

Too abstract? The common realm ofGod, nature and humanity specifies as transcendental features the conditions, actuality and potential ofthe world in terms ofits unity, openness, sociality and becoming. These transcendental features cannot be breached in interpretation. Ruled out is any attempt to claim that the becoming of the world is only disorder. Ruled out is the claim that God validates a specific order. The practical consequences which flow from this are immediate and considerable. Already we glimpse the movement away from the fragmentation and disintegration of the world towards its integrity and wholeness. The fixity of nature and the pre-eminence of humanity 'over' nature are to be denied with equal force.

Both fixity and pre-eminence - examples of the misconstrual of the world as 'being' - are hereby rejected in favour of its becoming: the world is ordered, relational and temporal. Appeals to nature as requiring completion by humanity or as without stability must be rejected. Yet neither can the fixity of nature be accepted. It is not only that these positions cannot be ascribed to God. Theological criticism requires their rejection. Forthe sake of the freedom of God and the creatureliness of creatures, order and mastery are to be rejected. But in this rejection of the domestication of transcendence, the presence of God is not denied. (In a strange way, the theology of Sallie McFague ends in such a denial: although her new models of God are immanentist, these models have no ground in God's own life and so the stress on the new models ofGod in fact only highlights the absence of God from McFague's world.) Rather the emphasis on the transcendentals conceptualises the present action of God towards nature and humanity.

Becoming, unity, sociality and openness are my preferred terms for transcendental inquiry. Such terms reveal that the relational, temporal order of the world, given in the concept of God, is predicated upon exchange and transactions. The basic model offered here is of (re)production, work. Work is not only that which occurs between human beings, as I hope to show. Further, the stress upon labour or work also allows that the relations are alterable: such relations can 'expand' or 'contract'. As the direction of the world can be understood as expansion or contraction, an orderly alteration of the natural conditions of humanity in one of two directions is presupposed: towards their enhancement or towards their diminution.

A Christian imperative subsequently emerges: imitation of the expansive sociality ofGod by humanity, and the enabling and permitting ofhu-manity's environment also to imitate God, require adequate conceptualisation. The ontology of the ecosocial - sociality, spatiality, temporality - is dedicated to this task. Again, the question will be: too abstract.? I do not think so. What emerges at this point of the inquiry is a way of exploring and giving an account of the proximity and otherness of nature. We saw that it is precisely the failure in the dialectical presentation of otherness and proximity which marks so much modern theorising on nature. We will, ofcourse, be required to indicate the specific responsibilities towards their environment placed on human groups in certain regions.57 Transcendental inquiry is not an alternative or substitute for such attention but rather its vital precursor. None the less, what is required is a secure way of characterising human-nature relations in order to show how the transformation of its habitat is constitutive of human nature.58 What we need is a theory, tested through analyses, offering an account of Nature-inclusive-of-Humanity-which-is-other-than-Nature which requires that all three nouns be accented.

These analyses are the subject of part II. Yet it is my claim here that only in a theological account can the stress on the proximity, stability and otherness of nature, its temporality and unity, be successfully articulated. For what is required is a theological conceptuality which supports the direct analysis of un/natural humanity as this is obscured in contemporary practice (the issue of political-ideological interpretation) towards the affirmation of the actuality of the common realm of God, nature and humanity.

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