New lecture series addresses the connection between ecology and theology

Father Terry Ehrman, CSC, presented the first of six lectures in a new series entitled “A Broader View of Reality: Integral Ecology in the Great Lakes Watershed” on Tuesday, February 21.

Hosted by the Center for Theological Science and Human Flourishing and sponsored by the Environmental Change Initiative on campus, the lecture series takes its title from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, in which he calls for an integrated vision of the world. Father Terry expanded on this with the idea that “the social, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of our life are inseparable from the ecological” and that the concepts of Creation and Redemption must be brought back together.

The lecture began with an insight from UCLA historian Lynn White, Jr., who “indicted Christianity as the root cause of the ecological crisis.” However, Fr. Terry argued that the nature of Christianity was not responsible for the crisis, but rather the sinfulness and mistakes of humans who had moved away from the “broader vision of reality.”

Father Terry described how through the work of Enlightenment thinkers, human beings and their Redemption became the main focus of theology, while science focused on Creation, causing a separation between the two. He stressed that the two must be connected because all things in the world have Creation as their origin and Redemption in Christ as their final end. While early thinkers believed that humans held dominion over Creation, Fr. Terry used Pope John Paul II’s view of humans as “priests of creation” to explain our places in the world.

“As priests of creation,” he explained, “we are to orient all of Creation to God.” He pointed to the language of Genesis 2:15, in which God gives Adam the garden of Eden “to till it and keep it.” The roots of these words in Hebrew relate to “work,” “worship,” and “servant,” emphasizing that our place in the world is not one of dominion but of service.

“When you see anything that exists, it should remind you of the Creator,” said Fr. Terry. “All of creation is permeated with God’s presence.”

Because of this, “creation can be considered a gift” and must be treasured and kept. Father Terry explained that sin often disrupts our view of the world. “We’d rather be the masters of our own world,” he said, “not servants of God’s world.” However, through Redemption, we are reconciled through Jesus and can change our sinful ways.

“A restored vision of the world leads to ecological conversion and responsibility,” said Fr. Terry at the end of his lecture.

The next five lectures in the series will use this idea of ecological responsibility in a discussion of the Great Lakes Watershed and the effects that this region has on human life.

Monica VanBerkum is a freshman majoring in the College of Arts and Letters and living in Cavanaugh Hall. You can find her making crepes for Cavanaugh’s Monday night Mass or running the East Race Trail. Contact Monica at