15th October 2015 | Ruth Valerio | 3 comments

God of All Ecosystems

It’s always nice when you have an ‘A-ha’ moment in your thinking (particularly for me because I don’t have them very often…), and I had one of those just a few days ago.

The web of life: Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) eating a Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) (photo: Edmund Fellowes)

The web of life: Whinchat Saxicola rubetra eating a Ruby Tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa (photo: Edmund Fellowes)

 

I was thinking through a couple of talks I was due to give that were based around the three-fold relational schema I often use when talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and how caring for the wider natural world is an essential part of that. To put it very succinctly (because that’s not the point of this post), I see human beings as having been created for relationships: with God, with each other, and with the wider creation; that the Fall broke those relationships, and that Jesus came to restore them on every level (ie his life, death and resurrection was about more than reconciling human beings to God, as important as that is). We are called to join in this Gospel of reconciliation in our own lives, as individuals and as churches, to work for the restoration of relationships – peace – on all levels.

(That really is very succinct: I can spend an hour or two unpacking that paragraph; working through the biblical material and looking at its practical implications!)

Anyway, the point is that I see these relationships as stemming from the fact that we have been created by, and we reflect, a God who has relationships at his heart ie who is a Trinity.

Human beings, therefore, are fundamentally relational: we don’t exist in splendid independent isolation from what and who is around us, we find our identity through the relationships that make up our lives – with God, with others, and with the natural world – and when any of those are missing or disordered then our personhood/our humanity suffers.

As I was reflecting on this I was struck by how this relates more broadly than to humans alone, because the fact is that the whole natural world is built on relationships. We are used to calling them ecosystems and so miss what they reveal to us, but theologically they are simply relationships.

Think about it: everywhere you look, everything you see (and don’t see) is in relationship with something else. There is not a single thing that exists in this world that is not linked to something else. Our whole world is permeated with, and predicated upon, ecosystems: thousands and thousands of them, interlinking and weaving in and out of each other.

And I suddenly thought, ‘A-ha, of course!’. Of course we live in a world where nothing is on its own and everything is in relation to other things. This world exists because the Trinitarian God, who has relationships at the core of who he is, has poured himself out and created something that expresses himself. Of course, then, this world is made up of ecosystems, because it reflects a God who is utterly relational.

Categories: Reflections
About Ruth Valerio

Ruth holds a PhD for research into simplicity and consumerism. She develops the theological thinking behind A Rocha UK’s work, and co-ordinates our small team of speakers. Ruth is married to Greg and they live in Chichester with their two daughters. You can follow Ruth’s blog at ruthvalerio.net.

View all posts by Ruth Valerio

3 responses to “God of All Ecosystems”

  1. Abraham Amodu says:

    Thanks Ruth for your article on ecosystems. Please help me to know more of the church/theology and ecosystems. I am a lecturer at ECWA Theological Seminary, Igbaja, Kwara Stete, Nigeria.

    • Júlio Reis says:

      Hello Bishop Amodu – I’m replying on behalf of Dr Ruth Valerio. Here are three resources you can use:

      • Specifically on the link between theology and ecosystems, please see the Jubilee Centre paper Biodiversity and the Biblehttp://www.jubilee-centre.org/bible-and-biodiversity – written by Rev Dave Bookless, A Rocha International’s Theology director.
      • More generally, please see our website http://atyourservice.arocha.org for resources specifically made for churches, which you may freely use and adapt.
      • Last – but not least! – we would invite you to link with Eden Creation Care, A Rocha’s Associated Project in Jos. You may contact them via [email protected] or http://nigeria.arocha.org. Why not pay them a visit, to see the relationship between theology and ecosystems acted out in a Nigerian context?

      We hope we can inspire you this way. Thank you for reading our blog!

  2. I have been listening to God about the land with Maori people (Indigenous People of NZ) and find for one thing that we westerners don’t recognise that much of what is in the Creator’s heart concerning creation is actually locked up in the hearts of our Indigenous people although because it doesn’t ‘fit’ within the theology of western thinking, is carelessly tossed aside and/or considered to be demonic worship. I am encouraging Maori to write songs and dances in line with their own cultural expressions, to take to the land and see the freedom Paul talks about in Romans eight actually happen…

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