Consequences Of A Worldview

Below is an expert from the excellent book “Encountering The Mystery” written by the current Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. It is something of a mix between biography and exposition on his view of the faith, overall a good read. Interestingly he devotes a long section of the book to environmentalism and the responsibilities of christians. This can be something of a hot topic in Evangelical circles (and sadly is something of a political issue as well) but he approaches it with a calm rationality that denotes his sincerely held beliefs. No matter where you fall on the topic I think you’ll find this illuminating.

It is an easy, perhaps escapist option to criticize the west for the failures and ills of our world. Western civilization is certainly responsible for philosophical worldviews and practical developments that have negatively affected our minds and behavior. It has unreservedly promoted a barren sense of intellectualism, which has ruptured any balanced sense of spirituality. It has also introduced an unrestrained sense of individualism, which has shattered any healthy sense of community. Moreover, it has persistently encouraged the exploitation and abuse of nature through greedy market consumerism, which has destroyed the planet’s ecosystems and depleted it’s resources. And it has uncritically espoused the extremes of economic globalization (at the expense of human beings) and exclusive nationalism (at the cost of human lives).

Yet the real fault ultimately lies within human nature itself, which is called to a renewed understanding of repentance. It would be more appropriate and beneficial if we were to consider our own responsibility within Western society, rather than seeking to blame particular cultures or structures. Not that the latter are insignificant; but the most political statement can sometimes be the most personal statement. What others do is usually what we are also guilty of as individuals. Paying closer attention to the way in which our wasteful ways stem from our propensity toward sin may be the simplest and most successful way of addressing the environmental crisis.

Far too long we have focused – as churches and religious communities – on the notion of sin as a rupture in individual relations either with each other or between humanity and God. The environmental crisis that we are facing reminds us of the cosmic proportions and consequences of sin, which are more than merely social or narrowly spiritual. It is my conviction that every act of pollution or destruction of the natural environment is an offense against God as Creator.

We are, as human beings, responsible for creation; but we have behaved as if we own creation. The problem of the environment is primarily neither an ethical nor a moral issue. It is an ontological issue, demanding a new way of being as well as a new way of behavior. Repentance implies precisely a radical change of ways, a new outlook and vision. The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia, which signifies an inner transformation that inevitably involves a change in one’s entire worldview. We repent not simply for things we feel that we do wrongly against God. Furthermore we repent not simply for things that make us guilty in our relations with people. Rather, we repent for the way we retuard the world and, therefore, invariably treat -in fact mistreat- the world around us.

Encountering the mystery ~Ecumenical PATRIARCH bartholomew~

The first two paragraphs are (in my humble opinion) a shockingly accurate critique of Western Civilisation. In my opinion this is a result of the reformation (which itself is a result of the Schism of 1054 A.D.) and it’s reactionary independent philosophy. Wholesale invention and expurgation are a systemic result of this illegitimate independence. Notice that not just protestants but ALL of Western Christianity can be indicted for this crime. An imbalanced view of the world (spiritual AND material) are the inheritance of ANY denomination in Western Christianity today.

The other point that I ABSOLUTELY love is the idea that the issue of the environment is not a moral or ethical issue, but one of ontology. How we view our position in the world (and our relation to God) deeply influences everything we choose to believe or act. The material world is not something that is Evil and should be shunned. God looked at his creation and proclaimed it “Good” (which in the hebrew denotes the idea of something being fit for a particular purpose). God choose to use things of the physical world to bring salvation to mankind, Christ’s body was flesh and blood, he physically healed the sick and impaired, he instructed us to commune with him through physical food and drink. We are Stewards of this world and so should show honor to the one who made it (and still owns it btw).

I find this incredibly moving and thought provoking. It challenges most of the notions I was raised with (which is probably true of anyone living today in our culture). I don’t believe that we should try to “save the environment” merely for the sake of “the environment”. Above all else I think we should seek to lessen human suffering and help the nearly one billion people who have not benefited from the resources of our modern world. I see this as a call to arms, a call to love more deeply, to show honor to God and a practical way to walk out the faith we claim to hold so dear.

Hopefully you feel the same way.

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