We will go over the middle sections of Chapter 6 in Christopher Southgate’s The Groaning of Creation.”
Please write an essay on one of the following questions:
- In Section 6.5, describe Southgate’s description of the three different elements of “ethical kenosis.” How do these elements relate with the Trinity (you may refer to section 4.5) and deep intratrinitarian kenosis? How does love fit into ethical kenosis?
- In Section 6.6, Southgate mentions two errors in thinking about human relationship with animals. What deficiencies can you see in 1) neglecting the fact that humans are animals and 2) an “over-insistence that humans are just animals”? How does each view affect a believer’s convictions about theological anthropology?
- In Section 6.7, describe how we are called to be “co-creators” or “co-redeemers” with God in relation with creation. What do you make of Jozef Zycinski’s connection of co-creation with Jesus’ Beatitudes? Do you agree that with a calling as “co-creators” we should work or cooperate or act as agents of God to use our ingenuity to eliminate diseases, save the environment, “modify plant species and domesticate animals, to reshape environments, to make cities and parks and farms, [as] a God-given part of our nature”? Or is this calling virtually impossible or too idealistic to follow given our natural inclination perhaps toward anthropocentrism or anthropomonism?
- In Section 6.7, Southgate describes humans as being called to be “priests of creation.” How does Orthodox theology contribute to this understanding of priesthood? What shortcomings does Southgate see in this approach and do you agree with him? Does this calling agree with biblical notions of priesthood? Should ecological concerns be kept separate from priestly duties? In other words, should the references to “priesthood” be concerned only with spiritual matters or should its role be expanded to include creation?
- In Section 6.7, discuss the calling of stewardship in creation. Is it just a matter of preserving nature as it is now? How does it differ from previously mentioned callings toward creation? What obstacles toward this approach does Southgate mention? What is the difference between “weak stewardship” and “strong stewardship”?
- In Section 6.7, do you agree with Holmes Rolston’s stance “that humans should not interfere with the workings of wild nature… Even where these workings lead to great sufferings within individuals or species, humans should not intervene”? Are humans morally obliged to help a wounded, helpless creature? An orphaned animal that would die of neglect and starvation? A bird species on the brink of extinction due to harmful human activities? Or should we just let the natural (essential amoral) processes play out? Do you agree with Rolston’s view that “creation is… ‘cruciform,’ a place of grandeur as well as tragedy… The nonhuman world possesses its beauty because of the processes that also involve the sufferings associated with predation and parasitism and which engender extinction”? Why or why not?
- In Section 6.7, describe the nature of scientific description in relation with “what-nature-should-be.” Describe the differences between a Darwinian description of the world vs. metaphysical and religious notions of what-nature-should-be. Do Christians bear the responsibility, as Southgate argues, to “give an account of values and hopes”? Must Christians be active to prevent human activity from impoverishing creation through global warming or the threat of nuclear annihilation? Or are these threats somewhat illusory and based on hyped-up fear with no real footing or weight behind them? Should humans continue to be stewards of creation and prevent natural cycles of Ice Ages, desertification, and ward off extinctions by manipulating the planet’s climate? Must we be active in preserving God’s creation or should we not interfere with Nature’s tendencies?
We will discuss our essays this coming Sunday.