Orthodox views or Orthodox with views on environmentalism

Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Environmentalism | 0 comments

Ecology of Transfiguration, Orthodox Environmental thoughtThe introduction to the book, Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration, raises in my mind the difference between Orthodox views on environmentalism and Orthodox with views on environmentalism. The distinction is an important one.

If I were to say, “Here are Orthodox views on environmentalism,” you would assume that the views expressed are somehow explicitly Orthodox, that they are grounded in the teaching of the Church, that they have some basis in the Scripture and in the writings of the Fathers, that they represent the consensus of the Church. Perhaps those views have been articulated by some canonical body, as, for example, section 13, “The Church and Ecological Problems,” in the Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, which were issued by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church in 2000; or that the views are expressed by some notable authority, such as the encyclical letters the Ecumenical Patriarch issues each year on the day of prayer for the protection of the environment (1 Sept).

If I were to say, “Here are Orthodox with views on environmentalism,” you would assume that the views of people who happen to be Orthodox Christians, but that their views do not necessarily represent the teachings of the Orthodox Church. I’m sure you have encountered plenty of people whose views differ from the organizations to which they belong. The Orthodox Church is no different.

The introduction to the book notes, “This collection of articles is the first substantial anthology, in any language, to address environmental issues, from the point of view of Orthodox Christianity” (p. 4). Well and good. It’s past time. It goes on to say, “readers will find here a perhaps surprising diversity and richness of writing styles, of theological and intellectual and a methodological concerns, and of approaches to environmental issues” (p. 4). That is also well and good. But will the “Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation”—which is the book’s subtitle—be Orthodox perspectives and views, or will they be written by Orthodox with perspectives and views that may or may not be grounded in the teachings of the Church at all? That is something we will find out as we go through the book.

Problems arise when people confuse the two and assume that someone’s personal views are the views of the Church. That is simply not so. It is especially problematic with modern issues like environmentalism, which is not directly addressed by the Tradition of the Church, so that it is difficult to point to some passage in the Scripture or in the Fathers and say, “Here the Church speaks to that issue.” Instead, we have to draw broad principles from the Tradition and apply them as best we can to contemporary environmental issues. I freely admit this is very hard to do. I hope the authors in the book are successful.

What is your experience with “Orthodox views” and “Orthodox with views”? Your comments and discussion are always welcome.

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