from ENCYCLICAL LETTER
OF THE HOLY FATHER
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
May 24, 2015
III. THE CRISIS AND EFFECTS OF MODERN ANTHROPOCENTRISM
115. Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since “the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference”. The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed”.
116. Modernity has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds. The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.
117. Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature”.
118. This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”. A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.
119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships. Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. Our openness to others, each of whom is a “thou” capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the “Thou” of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.
120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.
121. We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. Christianity, in fidelity to its own identity and the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ, continues to reflect on these issues in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness.
 ROMANO GUARDINI, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63 (The End of the Modern World, 55).
 Cf. Love for Creation. An Asian Response to the Ecological Crisis, Declaration of the Colloquium sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (Tagatay, 31 January-5 February 1993), 3.3.2.
 Cf. VINCENT OF LERINS, Commonitorium Primum, ch. 23: PL 50, 688: “Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate”.
“In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The first verse of the Bible has no parallel for sublimity and comprehensiveness. In scope it is declarative, not demonstrative; affirmative, not argumentative; and historical not philosophical. There is no attempt to prove the Being of God. He is the unprovable Fact upon which all else is built, and only “the fool’ will say, ‘there is no God.’
Here the uncreated God is seen creating, and in such a manner that, as Andrew Fuller declared, a child can learn in five minutes from this verse more than all the ancient sages ever knew.
In character the verse is entirely positive, but it rules out all that is false in the thoughts and theories of men about God and the universe.
The simple statement denies at least six false doctrines.
It denies the Eternity of Matter. ‘in the beginning’. There was, then, a commencement; ’the heavens and the earth’ had a ‘beginning’; they were not eternal. The antiquity of the universe is beyond human computation; but there was a time when it did not exist.
It denies Atheism. The atheist says there is no god, but the Bible begins by declaring His Being. Geology and astronomy may claim a hundred million years for the existence of the universe, but whenever it began God was there; He did not begin; He eternally is. Atheism creates a crop of problems, and solves none.
It denies Polytheism. If creation were the work of many gods, the unity of the universe would have to be accounted for, and it can be accounted for only on the hypothesis that God, the one Eternal Mind, created all. ‘God created’.
‘God’, Elohim. This designation, which is plural, occurs 35 times in Chapters 1:1, 2 , 3, and in The Old Testament over 2,000 times. It certainly does not mean gods, and must be something more than plural of majesty. In the light of the entire revelation in the Bible we must regard this designation of God to be a fore gleam of the Divine Trinity (cf. ver. 26).
“Created’. In Genesis 1-2 three words are used which must be distinguished. Bara, which occurs in 1:1; 1:21, 1:27; 2:3; is used exclusively of God, and signifies a distinctively creative act. ‘Made’, asah, and ‘formed”, yatzar, which occurred in 1:7; 1:16; 1:25; 1:31; 2:2;2:3;2:7; 2:8;2:19; signify to construct out of pre-existing materials. This distinction is of the utmost importance of an understanding of the first two chapters of the Bible. The idea of evolution can be in make and form, but not in create; so that the bringing in to existence of the universe, of animal life, and of human life, was by successive creative acts of God (1:1;1:21;1:27). By the word of his power a cosmos was created of orders material, sentient, and moral.
It denies Pantheism. This teaches that God and Nature are the same, and so fails to distinguish between mind and matter, right and wrong, good and bad, and utterly confuses things which lie far apart. But this pernicious error finds its answer here: ‘God created the heavens and the earth,’ and as He could not create Himself, He, and the heavens and the earth’, cannot be the same.
 It denies Agnosticism. This affirms that it cannot be known whether there is a God or not. But the universe is an effect, and must have had a sufficient Cause; this building must have had an Architect; this design must have had a Designer; this Kingdom must have a King; and this family must have a Father. Legitimate inference challenges and discredits agnosticism.
 It denies Fatalism. Reason is against fate and chance. This wonderful universe could not just ‘happen.’ God has acted in the freedom of His eternal Being, and according to His infinite Mind, and what He willed was and is, and can be nothing else, unless He should will it.
The Unfolding Drama of Redemption; William Graham Scroggie
|Traditional Christian||God Interactive||Nature Living organism|
|Early mechanistic||God Interactive||Nature Machine|
|Enlightenment deism||God Creator only||Nature Machine|
|Romantic deism||God Creator only||Nature Living organism|
|Romantic atheism||No God||Nature Living organism|
|Materialism||No God||Nature Machine|
Sheldrake, Rupert (2012-09-04). Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery (p. 39). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Almost the whole of Christian theology could perhaps be deduced from the two facts (a) That men make course jokes, and (b) That they feel the dead to be uncanny. The course joke proclaims that we have here an animal which finds its own animality either objectionable of funny. Unless there had been a quarrel between the spirit and the organism I do not see how this could be: it is a very mark of the two not being ‘at home’ together. But it is very difficult to imagine such a state of affairs as original—to suppose a creature which from the very first was half shocked and half tickled to death at the mere fact of being the creature it is. I do not perceive that dogs see anything funny about being dogs: I suspect that angels see nothing funny about being angels. Our feeling about the dead is equally odd. It is idle to say that we dislike corpses because we are afraid of ghosts. You might say with equal truth that we fear ghosts because we dislike corpses—for the ghost owes much of its horror to the associated ideas of pallor, decay, coffins, shrouds, and worms. In reality we hate the division which makes possible the conception of either corpse or ghost. Because the thing ought not to be divided, each of the halves into which it falls by division is detestable. The explanations which Naturalism gives both of bodily shame and of our feeling about the dead are not satisfactory. It refers us to primitive taboos and superstitions—as if these themselves were not obviously results of the thing to be explained. But once accept the Christian doctrine that man was originally a unity and that the present division is unnatural, and all the phenomena fall into place.
By Dr. Jeff Zweerink