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Christian Ethical Teachings- Environmental Ethics

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Presentation on theme: "Christian Ethical Teachings- Environmental Ethics"— Presentation transcript:

1 Christian Ethical Teachings- Environmental Ethics

2 Ethics Ethics are the explicit reflection on moral beliefs and practices. Its purpose is to clarify what is right and what is wrong and what human beings should freely do or refrain from doing

3 Christian Ethical Systems
Informing the individuals conscience on what is right and what is wrong in relation to the environment is varied in Christianity, because of the differing approaches to ethics amongst the variants. The Protestant variants focus their ethical decision making on the literal interpretation of the Bible, whereas the Catholic and Orthodox variants base their ethical decisions on what the authorities in the church decide and on Natural Law. Christian Natural Law is a belief that God implants in creation a moral law that can be detected by human intelligence apart from God’s direct revelation (the Bible). That is, there are further sources for guidance other than the Bible (i.e. logic and reason)

4 Environmental Ethics Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers the ethical relationship between human beings and the natural environment. Interestingly, both Science and Religion have only recently begun to explicitly address moral issues related to the environment. The Contemporary Environmental Movement is often attributed to a biologist named Rachel Carson, who wrote a book in 1962 called “Silent Springs”. This book changed the world view of many as Carson questioned the world view of scientific progress and the often negative effect humans have on the natural world. The important point here, is that explicit environmental ethics is a recent phenomena both in the secular and religious world.

5 Christian Environmental Ethics
To understand Christian Environmental Ethics it is important to differentiate between Anthropocentric and Biocentric world views.

6 Anthropocentric- Human Centred
Early environmentalists, such as Lyn White Jr, heavily criticised the Judeo-Christian traditions for being one of the major vehicles for the destruction of the earth. Particularly Christianity, which underpinned western civilisation for the past 1500 years, was seen as having an ANTHROPECENTRIC (human centred) view when it came to ethics. Christians placed human concerns at the centre of ethical considerations and the earth was for humans to do with what they like. The source of this viewpoint was that Christians believed that the earth and everything on it was given by God to man to rule over and subdue because Genesis 1:28 states: And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'" (Genesis 1:28).

7 Throughout its history, many Christians literally interpreted this to mean that “man” could do what “he” liked to the environment as God gave DOMINION to “him”. Another aspect was that Christianity was also heavily influenced by Greek philosophy which saw the world ordered hierarchically with nature being very low on the hierarchy. Unfortunately, these two viewpoints allowed Christians to adopt a very ANTHROPECENTRIC focus and not consider their destruction of the environment as a moral dilemma. There are some Protestant Variants, such as some Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, who hold an anthropecentric world view as they still literally interpret the Bible Science was to adopt a very similar position as early science was heavily influenced by Christianity.

8 Biocentric-Environment focus
The Biocentric view places the environment at the centre of concern. Extreme versions of a Biocentric world view, such as those by Deep Ecologists, place the environment on equal or higher importance than human needs. Very few Christians adopt this stance.

9 Current views on environmental ethics within Christianity are still based on these two view points. It seems that the variants that base their ethical teachings on the literal interpretation of the Bible, tend to have an anthropocentric point of view, whereas, other variants tend to have a combination of biocentric and anthropocentric

10 Christian Environmental Ethical Position.

11 Creation Theology (Green Theology)
As a result of Christians re-evaluating their position on the environment there has been a push towards a Creation Centred Theology Creation Theology is concerned with the cherishing of all life and all people, as gifts from God. Creation Theology (or Green Theology) is influencing the Christian position on the environment as it encourages Christians to focus on God’s creative power and for them to appreciate that this is important. By valuing God’s creative power we as humans would not purposely destroy the environment. There are many examples of Creation Theology playing a key role in many Christian Churches: Declaration on the Environment Document (Catholic and Orthodox) Sustaining Creation (Ecumenical Position) Pastoral Letter by Queensland's Bishops on the Great Barrier reef

12 Sources for Ethical teachings on the Environment in Christianity
Creation theologists have pointed out that even though a literal interpretation of the Bible has been used to have an anthropocentric view of the environment, they have shown that the Bible also does reveal to its followers that care for the environment was mandated by God.

13 Hebrew Scriptures Genesis 2:15 Stewardship
Deuteronomy 20:19 Care for Earth Leviticus 25: 5-6 Responsible Agricultural Practice Leviticus 22: 28 Sustainability Deuteronomy 22:6 Biodiversity/Sustainability

14 Christian Scriptures Even though Jesus did not explicitly address environmental ethics, Creation Theologists, such as Sean MacDonagh, say it was through his actions and parables that Jesus showed his followers that he had concern for the environment. This was shown in two different ways:

15 Natural surroundings. A close look at Jesus’ public life, he preached mainly in natural surroundings. Some key moments in Jesus’ ministry are in nature; Sermon on the Mount On the Lake (storm) Baptised in a river (natural surroundings) Also, when Jesus was preparing for his betrayal, he placed himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, surrounded by natural things to be alone with God.

16 Parables and nature: Jesus used nature on many occasions as a theme in his parables demonstrating to Christians God’s creation is important. PARABLES FROM NATURE  The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)  The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)  The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)  The Net (Matthew 13:47-50) The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29) The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.) The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.) The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31) The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9) The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)  The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)  The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)  The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)  The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13) 

17 Historical Examples While Christian history as a whole has not been conducive to the importance of environmental ethics there have been significant individuals who have made important contributions to environmental awareness.

18 Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of the Environment)
Francis of Assisi was born in the 12th century into a wealthy family of Italian nobility. He rejected wealth and power to live in harmony with nature. Francis celebrated nature as vision of God and is famous for his prayers and meditations on the beauty of creation as well as his practical concern for all of God's creation. Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

19 Hildegard of Bingen Hildegard of Bingen was a leader of a monastic community in the 12th century. She was a famous student of nature who investigated and made use of the healing qualities of nature and taught of the need to respect nature and learn from it. Her writings, music and art all reflect a profound sense of oneness with creation and an immense respect for the work of the creator.

20 The End

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