John G. Gibbs
"All living things are alive thanks to the living of everything else." (Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell)
In all homeowner casualty insurance policies the phrase Act of God is used for natural causes of damage to property. This has always troubled people who have been taught to think of God "as love." Not everything about the natural world, from which all living things receive the gift of life, is to our liking. With this kind of experience we tend to forget that the property we find damaged after a wind storm, earthquake or flood is a God given process of a planet that is itself a living being.
The regeneration of all species are creative Acts of God, including the growth of new vegetation, without which all of life as we know it would be non-existent. It must not be forgotten that all life forms are guests in God's world with no exceptions to that natural order. The living world must be taken as it is, not as we would wish it to be. To rebuild again after a flood upon a known flood plain is to challenge an Act of God when the prudent thing to do is to build elsewhere.
The world man has superimposed upon Earth could not exist but for the natural world, of which man is a part. However, man's world can overwhelm the natural, and thus contribute to its own demise. This will not be an act of God, but a terrible act of man.
Ancient people thought of God as a personification of themselves. Mythologist Joseph Campbell has explained this as "a metaphor for the Mystery that transcends all human understanding in every department of knowledge."
Two 16th century Italian theologians, Laelius and Faustus Socinus, argued that God and the natural world are "one and the same." The younger Faustus, a nephew of the other, founded a thriving Protestant sect in Poland that welcomed such "down to Earth" thinking and spoke of it as "socinianism." The full story of this religion that prospered for 80 years and evolved into deism and Unitarianism can be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Irish Deist John Toland, in his book Socinianism Gladly Told, published in 1705, is said to the first to use the word pantheism for this type of religious thinking tied to the natural world. Thomas Paine founded a similar nature based religion in Paris in 1797.
If there is anything humanity must agree upon, if there is ever to be harmony among all peoples, it is that there is but one God and our neighbors are global. For the most part unknown, they are vital to our every interest.
Jesus of Nazareth expressed this reality when he said (Matt. 22:34) that the two most important commandments in Mosaic Law are:
He said, "The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on them." and "There is no other commandment more important than these two." (Mark 12:31)
- to love God with all one's heart, soul and mind, and
- to love neighbor as one loves self
Religious institutions willing to face up to the Information Age will enjoy a renewed spirituality when they practice the Great Commandments and teach respect for all their neighbors; for all are necessary to man's world which is secondary to God's natural world on which it is superimposed.
- A paper by NACCE member Albert E. Johnson, edited by E. Dyson for the NACCE web site. Mr. Johnson invites comments regarding his ideas. Write or call him at 15 Madison Ave., Cranford NJ 07016; 908/276-0660.
Article written for North American Coalition for Christianity and Ecology, Earthkeeping News, September/October
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