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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 16:11

Ecology is at heart of Christian faith

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Father Denis said this conversion would see the world with a loving eye not an arrogant eye as described by American theologian Sallie McFague.

"The arrogant eye objectifies, manipulates, uses and exploits. The loving eye requires detachment to see the difference, distinctiveness and the uniqueness of the other."

A priest of the Adelaide Archdiocese and Senior Lecturer in Systemic Theology at Flinders University, Father Denis has written extensively on science and theology and on the emerging field of ecological theology. Some of his most recent books are How God Acts: Creation, Redemption, and Special Divine Action, Breath of Life: A Theology of the Creator Spirit and Ecology at the Heart of Faith.

In his keynote address entitled 'Ecological Conversion and Faith in Jesus Christ', Father Denis outlined the ecological depths of the heart of Christian faith. He examined Jesus' attitudes, ministry and connections to creation. He also explored statements from Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II on ecology and caring for the earth, and unpacked creation theology in the New Testament.

He told the assembly that like the Wisdom teachers of Israel, Jesus is remembered as someone who sees the natural world as the place of God.

"The way of God is revealed in the natural world and in its rhythms and cycles which Jesus spoke about in parables of stories and images. Jesus speaks of God through the beauty of wild flowers, growth of the trees, crops of grain, bread rising."

Father Denis said we also know Jesus as a person who was nourished by nature and where he went to in his times of greatest need.

"We all have places that nourish us. For me as a boy from Port Pirie, the Flinders Ranges nourished me. For Jesus it was the Sea of Galilee.

"The wilderness with its wild creatures is a place of divine communion for Jesus. He went out into the mountains to pray and in his time of greatest need he goes outside to the garden of Gethsemane to pray."

Father Denis said following Jesus means following the way of Wisdom, seeing all things as loved by God, and as revelatory of God.

He said ecological conversion was a movement that was far wider than the Church but as Christians we were called to humbly take our stance alongside others.

"The church has its own specific task in this movement of conversion. It is called to witness to the God of Jesus Christ, and to this God's love for all Earth's creatures. In this process, the church itself is called to ecological conversion."

Father Denis said extinction was a natural phenomenon, which had gone on for thousands of years and was part of the process of evolution, but that did not mean it was our role to go on causing extinction.

"As Christians our ultimate meaning is found with us in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus we are called to find God in the experience of the boundless beauty of the natural world, and in the enduring, life-long, commitment to the Earth and to its creatures.

"We are in the process of destroying much of what we have come to treasure as a gift of God and a way of God's self-revelation. So we have to be partners with God in the future that is created. This world matters and it matters to God and it matters to Jesus."