Incarnation as pedagogy

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The further reconstruction of a political theology of nature will need to consider the implications of the inquiry in philosophical theology undertaken in part II. Given the theological critique of the previous chapters, which ways forward are to be affirmed? And which denied.?

In the theologico-political analyses presented through chapters 3 to 6, the problem of nature as 'whole' was raised. We have found ecocentric approaches to be, at the least, problematic. The ascription of good, worth and value to nature trades upon either an account ofnature as totality or an account of an expansive self. There is a totalitarian logic at work here: the aggrandisement ofthe selfor the suppression ofdifferences and determinations. Either way, we move quickly to an account of identity thinking.

11. Bonhoeffer, Christology, p. 64.

However, the importance of the development must be noted: although it may be Romantic, it is anti-capitalist. Of course, we must be suspicious of such general anti-capitalism: short on analysis, anti-capitalism fails to grasp the ways in which capitalism degrades the environment. Yet a movement that is anti-capitalist cannot be all wrong.

The welcome stress on the agency of nature was one of the important lessons learned from an engagement with social/ist ecofeminism. The second important lesson was the affirmation of the reproduction of nature: the centrality of such work needs to be foregrounded, together with women's role in that labour. Women are not to be identified with non-human nature; neither are women and nature external to the human project. Instead, such ecofeminism points towards the demand for a new conception of nature in which the continuities of humanity with nature, and the differences of humanity and nature, are construed in fresh ways. Similarly to the positions of social and socialist ecologies, such a development of a human-nature materialism cannot be founded upon domination. Domination affirms differences and continuities but in the wrong sequence and in restrictive ways. What, however, was identified as missing in the ecofeminist literature was a persuasive account of how the otherness ofnature is to be thought.

Of special importance for a political theology of nature was social ecology's attempt to relate more closely nature and humanity in ways that opposed hierarchy and domination: to secure an objective yet dialectical basis, as Bookchin understands it, for social ethics. That human society cannot be thought except by reference to nature is an important conclusion, although I am not convinced that Bookchin always adheres to this insight. However, Bookchin does press the matter ofan ecological holism: nature and society must always be understood as a whole. For a political theology of nature, a vital amendment follows: in a theological holism, such a whole is to be understood as reformed as part within a common realm of God, nature and humanity.

It is the strength of socialist ecology that it seeks to identify the ways in which nature should be interpreted as being degraded. The presentation of natural conditions of production - together with a stress that such a production might be transformative, eco-regulative or extractive - is clearly valuable in advancing some differentiating categories. Furthermore, ecosocialism notes that there are difficulties concerning neo-Malthusian tendencies, underproduction and the issues of scarcity and limits of nature. What emerges less clearly in these accounts is whether or not, and if yes, in which fashion, nature is to be considered as other. What tends to be less developed, we might say, is a philosophy of nature. Furthermore, the relation between culture and nature is not carefully presented. On the one side, the relation between natural conditions and nature is undertheorised; on the other, the relation between such conditions and culture is underdeveloped.

It is not difficult to trace these political valuations of nature back to the distorted social performance of humanity. The expression of the deep need to seek ontological wholeness and security in nature can, of course, be traced in Romanticism. If humanity is not to be its own measure, then to appeal to nature seems a useful option. Yet it is also easy to see why the appeal to a naturalism invokes a humanist response: humanity may not be the measure of all things but it is the measure of its own difficulties with nature. Such a humanist response discloses its own deep anxieties, for we have abundant evidence that we are not even a good measure of our difficulties with nature. As Bonhoeffer notes, to go this route is to acknowledge that in the end all is thrown back on humanity.12 In that there is a deeply felt concern that we need new resources, we now have an explanation as to why, throughout the various ecologies studied in part II, there is reference to 'spirituality'. Such reference to spirit tries in a variety of ways to indicate the openness of humanity to nature as a way either of reducing the immersion of humanity in nature ('we are spiritual beings!') or of softening the opposition between humanity and nature (spirituality as affective relationship with nature).

The political issues are not hard to see: on naturalist principles, the theorising of abundance is difficult. Quickly, we arrive at the point at which the health of nature is to be judged by the integrity of its systems - to which humanity is a threat. It is, as we have seen, a short step from the affirmation of such integrity to the affirmation of neo-Malthusian principles. Yet the humanistic reaction seems partial also: for now the relations, active and variable, between humanity and nature - how a humanism relates to a philosophy of nature - are less than clear.

The theological issues are easily identified: Christian theology does not support a hard naturalism. To go that way is to accept that the common realm is constituted by humanity and nature (or only by nature.?) - to the exclusion of God. Nor is a stress on humanity as the measure of its own relations with nature acceptable, as this position connects humanity to God

12. Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 380.

in ways which, as we have already seen in the critique by Gordon Kaufman (chapter 2 above), use the terminology of moral personalism to describe the humanity-God relationship - to the exclusion of all that is not-human and not-God. Instead, if the commitments of chapter 2 are well founded, the common realm of God, nature and humanity has a Christological foundation.

In the literature in ecological theology or the theology of nature one finds the affirmation of certain descriptions of nature but too little attempt to relate such descriptions in the doctrine of creation to Christ. (We have already seen as much in the discussion in chapter 2 of the avoidance of explicit consideration of transcendentals in the work of Sallie McFague and James Nash.) However, if truly theological transcendentals must be derived from, and related to, the economic actions ofGod in the career of Jesus of Nazareth, how nature (and humanity) are to be thought from such a perspective is raised. In other words, we are engaging here with God for us. The content of that/or us requires elucidation. As Welker puts it, '"The relation" between creator and creatures cannot be illuminated in abstraction from the fundamental "relations" between complex structural associations of creaturely existence.'13 If creation emerges exnihilo in a moment of difference between triune persons, and is presented and recapitulated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in evidence is the pro nobis structure of creation and incarnation. Creatio exnihilo also points towards this pro nobis structure. Exnihilo secures the claim that there is no compulsion or arbitrariness in God's creating; creation is God's free act. As Rowan Williams argues:

[T]he absolute difference between God and the world presupposed by the doctrine of creation from nothing becomes also a way of asserting the continuity between the being of God and the act of creation as the utterance and 'overflow' of the divine life. Belief in creation from nothing is one reflective path towards understanding God as trinity; and belief in God as trinity, intrinsic self-love and self-gift, establishes that creation, while not 'needed' by God, is wholly in accord with the divine being as being-for-another... For God to act for God's sake is for God to act for our sake.14 Creation, as an act of God's triune life, is God being for God which is for us. God is divine being-for-one-another; the world is God in divine being-for-us. And the content of that being-for-us is best discerned by reference to the incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Incarnation emerges as a

13. Welker, Creation andReality,p. 2. 14. Williams, On Christian Theology,p. 74.

pedagogical category in which the for us structure and dynamic of the world is affirmed and reordered. What do we learn, then, of non-human nature, and human relations to that nature, if we say that the incarnation of the Word/Logos in Christ is the origin, rationale and destiny of creation.? The remainder of this chapter essays an answer to this question: what do we learn ofthis common realm.

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