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The General Synod and the papal encyclical

03 July 2015


From Professor R. J. Berry

Sir, - A motion to be put in the forthcoming General Synod debate on the environment calls for "new ecotheological resources" (News, 26 June). Presumably, the many such resources in existence are assumed to be inadequate.

There is, indeed, a problem in that many of them treat environmental (or creation) care as a job to be done rather than a mandate laid on all. Such a task of care is a second-order task, dealing with the symptoms of an underlying disorder, not the disorder itself.

Its effect is that creation care tends to be treated as something for experts or enthusiasts. This is a bad misreading of the biblical doctrine of creation. The Creator has entrusted to all humankind without exception an obligation and responsibility to nurture his creation on his behalf. Only when we unreservedly acknowledge and act on this will our relevance (which includes our evangelism) be more accepted and powerful. All creation is called to worship, not only those of us who go to church (Psalm 148). Worship offered without care or commitment must be defective.

The Pope has given us a picture of a sacramental creation, where God is present and manifest in the whole created world. His encyclical makes it abundantly clear that it is foolish to speak of two separated domains, two non-overlapping magisteria, religion and science. The Christian faith is that the Son reconciled all things to the Father through the cross. Any "new ecotheological resource" must include the recognition that the ecos is the whole created and peopled world, made, redeemed, and sustained by God, who is within it as well as outside time and space.

Our God is far, far too small if we treat him as concerned only with human salvation. Laudato Si' calls for "ecological conversion" (para. 217). It would be good if the Synod could take this seriously and respond robustly.


Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment
University College London
London WC1E 6BT


From Mr Henry Haslam

Sir, - Population is not a "red herring", as Paul Vallely asserts (Comment, 26 June). Large numbers of very poor people can do immense damage to the environment through soil degradation, destruction of natural habitats, and loss of biodiversity.

Even more important, it is our hope and expectation that poor populations will not remain poor. Many poor people aspire to Western levels of affluence; the more there are of them, the more damage they will be able to do with their (then) high-consuming lifestyles.

Your columnist also refers to "the values of the market". The market is an efficient mechanism for bringing together technological progress and entrepreneurial skills, enabling them to satisfy customer demand. The "values of the market" are those that customers demand of it; it has no values of its own.

A thriving business is one that takes account of its customers. As customers become more aware of their power, they are increasingly attaching importance to social and environmental issues. To quote a recent newspaper headline, "ethical practices resonate with consumers." This is the way forward.


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