Peter Scott

We have to say that no society is too poor to afford a right order of life. And no society is so rich that it can afford to dispense with a right order, or hope to get it merely by becoming rich.

Raymond Williams

In its political witness, the church knows well that the doctrine of creation is central to its deliberations to honor the God of Jesus Christ. This is the case because the turn to creation identifies theological issues central to the truth of human life: What is the creaturely context in which humans (and otherkind) are placed? What is human society in Christian perspective and what is its relationship to other ecological communities? Are there normative aspects to be derived from human nature or from human relations to animals? These are some of the central concerns of a doctrine of creation in a political theology. However, despite such importance, creation is one of the least discussed of the doctrinal themes or loci in political theology. Consequently, the practical aspects of the doctrine usually go unnoticed. So what goes wrong when political theology fails to give the doctrine of creation its due?

To fail to speak of creation is to give too great an emphasis to the theme of redemption. "Such a reduction [of theology to soteriology] also thereby cuts the link between redemption and the physical world, society and world history. If theology does not overcome this tendency, it finds it difficult to relate the faith to such issues as ecological concerns, our vocation in society, and the manifestations of God's Spirit in the world's history" (Hefner 1984: 272). In other words, a lack of attention paid to the theme of creation leads to a political theology that is insufficiently materialist. Matter matters to Christianity: how bodies, human and nonhuman, exist in relation to each other in a range of technological, economic-ecological, social, political, and cultural realms is - or should be - central to a present-day Christian political theology. These realms include the authority of political governance: the exercise of the legal, administrative, executive and parliamentary, and enforcement powers of the modern nation-state.

Understood in this way as materialist, political theology does not treat redemption as being saved from creation. That would be a misunderstanding of Christian mission. Instead, political theology speaks of the fulfillment ofcreation. Christian testimony concerning creation thereby speaks of the assumption of (human) nature in Christ; of the securing of the unity and diversity of (human and nonhuman) creatures as a constructive task; of the nature and direction of political orderings; and of the persistent demand for the identification and rejection of idols. However, an opposite temptation must be avoided: creation should not be understood as itself a redemptive process. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the vindication of creation, not the leaving of creation to its own devices. That is, in any comprehensive consideration of creation for political theology, the relation between creation and eschatology also demands sustained attention.

Although little noticed, the theme of creation is implicitly present in all discourses in political theology. This is the case because creation is, as I have already suggested, a way of speaking theologically about political and social idols, about the unity and diversity of creatures, of the relations between social groups and the human race, and of the relations between humanity, nature, and otherkind (animals). Put differently, creation addresses the issue of the organization of bodies. Such political organization of creatureliness invokes discussion of the character of the imago dei (humans beings as made in the image of God), natural law, and the orders of creation. The relation between human creatures and other creatures is also considered here, especially the matter of stewardship. These theological notions have been fashioned by Christian tradition to give some account of the ways in which human beings may be understood as related one to another and to their natural context.

This is complex enough. However, the matter is in truth yet more difficult. The doctrine of creation raises the problem of order in Christian perspective: how that order is to be understood, in what sense that order is settled or alterable, and against what norms such order is to be judged and developed. The doctrine of creation is invoked in this double sense - order and its norms of judgment -whenever political matters are raised in or by theology. We may characterize this discussion as the theological problem of political and natural order in the ordering of creatureliness.

In sum, from the perspective of the doctrine of creation political theology directs its attention to political orders: their present constitution, normative status, and development. Because of this reference to order, often in actual practice construed conservatively, political theology is suspicious of the notion of creation (Westhelle 1998). The suspicion is well-founded. Yet the proper response must be to face these theological difficulties. Indeed, the doctrine of creation, suitably interpreted, offers pertinent resources to a political theology.

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