Monday, May 21, 2012

#141 / Synod

On Saturday, May 19th, I spoke at a breakfast gathering held during a meeting of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A synod is the governing council of a church. This synod meeting, held in San Jose, brought together church leaders from all over Northern California and Northern Nevada. The theme of the synod's meeting, this year, was "Caring for Creation."

It seems to me that if we consider "Creation" to be the Natural World, the world upon which we ultimately depend, we can quickly go wrong if we believe that our human assignment is to "care" for this world in the sense of acting as "caretakers" for it. "Caretakers" of properties are generally given broad authority, and you might even say that they are entrusted with "dominion" over the property in all its aspects. This concept of human "dominion" over the Earth, in fact, is one common way of thinking about how human beings should be "caring" for the Creation. There is direct Biblical support for this idea that humans have "dominion" over Nature. Genesis 1:28 is translated this way in the English Standard Version:

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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

If the idea that we have "dominion" over Nature is permitted, then our current relationship to Nature is validated, even though the observable evidence indicates that we are misusing our caretaker responsibilities to plunder the property.

I prefer to think that we should be "caring" for the Creation in the sense of "loving" the Creation, a not uncommon use of the word "care" in colloquial usage. That approach would lead us to a relationship with the Creation in which we can let the Creation care for us, rather than thinking that it works the other way around. We are, after all, dependent on the World of Nature. Our efforts to make the World of Nature depend on our own actions is demonstrably not working out!


  1. The problem here is twofold: the concept of "creation," and the separation of humans from the rest of the natural world.

    There is no creation and no creator. The Universe(s) came into being of itself. We don't know yet the mechanism of the origin of the Universe(s), but it is not necessary to evoke a supernatural being to bring it about.

    Dominion sets humans apart from the rest of the natural world, thus, what we do is not subject to the natural laws that bind the natural world. This is a fatal cultural flaw.

    Humans are an intimate part of the natural world, subject to the same limitations as all other species. This is more than "dependent" on the natural world. We have co-evolved with all other species, therefore, we co-inhabit and are co-inhabited by all life and geophysical processes.

    We cannot "care for" the rest of the Natural world. We can only live with it, knowing that whatever we do affects everything else, and everything else affects us.

    "One cannot pluck a flower without troubling a star." Loren Eiseley

  2. I am sure you would like the fairly recent book, The Swerve, by Greenblatt, if you haven't yet read it. It's basically a meditation on Lucretius.


Thanks for your comment!