Eccentric existence? Engaging David H. Kelsey’s theological anthropology as a basis for ecological theology

Marais, Nadia (2011-12)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The earth and her ecology is in crisis, which impacts upon both human and nonhuman communities. Not only due to the blame for ecological destruction that is attributed to humanity (and specifically also to the Christian religion), but also because of the destruction of species, environments and the natural habitat of living beings theology is asked of to step into its public and prophetic role in order to address the challenges in whichever way it can. David Kelsey’s enormous theological anthropology, Eccentric Existence (2009), probably provides opportunities for this, through its theological inquiry and (re)formulation of Christian traditions’ central doctrines and faith formulations. Kelsey’s main thesis is that God relates to all that is not God to create, draw into eschatological consummation, and reconcile. God relates to create the earth and her ecology. God relates to the earth and her ecology creatively (‘living on borrowed breath’) which entails that God relates “to” the earth and her ecology through the medium of address. The ultimate context of the earth and her ecology is therefore that of being directly and indirectly addressed by the triune God, through which it responds to its being called into being. The call that Kelsey describes, and therefore God’s creation of the earth and her ecology, is public and communal, involving both the radical freedom of otherness and the intimate nearness of sameness. God relates to bless the earth and her ecology creatively in God’s life-giving address, by enabling it to be alive and to bring forth life. The earth and her ecology, as particular instances or forms of life, is dynamic, persistent and frail. Creaturely reality involves being and having living bodies, through being created as dying life. The earth and her ecology not only lives, but is enabled to flourish, on borrowed breath. In this way, the earth and her ecology exists eccentrically, finding its reality and worth and being and value outside of itself, in God’s relating to bless it creatively. God relates to draw the earth and her ecology into eschatological consummation. God relates by drawing the earth and her ecology into eschatological consummation (‘living on borrowed time’) which stipulates that God relates “between” the earth and her ecology through the medium of promise. The ultimate context of the earth and her ecology is therefore that of being drawn into God’s own triune life and being called to participate in the glory of God. The earth and her ecology is defined by the absolute promise of eschatological blessing and the implicit promise of transformation in the present and in the future, which is God’s reaching out to all that is not God (also described as the missio Dei). The earth and her ecology, as particular instances or forms of life, stands under both God’s election (or ‘yes’) and God’s judgment (or ‘no’). The earth and her ecology not only lives, but is enabled to flourish, on borrowed time. In this way, the earth and her ecology exists eccentrically, finding its reality and worth and being and value outside of itself, in God’s relating to bless it eschatologically. God reconciles the earth and her ecology to Godself. God relates by reconciling the earth and her ecology through their multiple estrangements (‘living by another’s death’) and entails that God relates “amongst” the earth and her ecology through the medium of exchange. The ultimate context of the earth and her ecology is therefore that of being reconciled to God through its multiple estrangements and being drawn into the divine life of God Godself. Incarnation and what Kelsey calls ‘exchange’ – God incarnated in Jesus exchanging Godself with the earth and her ecology amidst processes of violence and destruction to transform their living death into true life – defines the earth and her ecology in this mode of relating. The earth and her ecology is reconciled with herself and with living beings and all of life through their reconciliation by and in God. God’s reconciliation is liberation and transformation of the earth and her ecology within particular times and places, within its particular contexts. The life of the earth and her ecology is therefore no longer tied to the fulfillment of certain functions or duties (or even vocations) that it may be subjected to or expected of, but lies solely in the worth and value that it finds in living and existing by the life and death of another, of God incarnate, of Jesus the Son. The earth and her ecology not only lives, but is enabled to flourish, by another’s death. In this way, the earth and her ecology exists eccentrically, finding its reality and worth and being and value outside of itself, in God’s relating to reconcile it through its multiple estrangements. God stands in relationship to the earth and her ecology in three ways that sustains and blesses it to flourish as mysterious living being that reflects the glory of the triune God. The appropriate response to this, respectively, is eccentric faith, eccentric hope and eccentric love. The earth and her ecology, like all living beings and all of life, exists eccentrically, through God that relates to it.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die aarde en haar ekologie is tans in krisis, wat impakteer op beide menslike en nie-menslike gemeenskappe. Nie net weens die skuld vir ekologiese verwoesting wat aan mense (en spesifiek ook aan die Christelike geloof) toegeskryf word nie, maar ook weens die verwoesting van spesies, omgewings en die natuurlike habitat van lewende wesens word daar van teologie gevra om in dié se publieke en profetiese rol in te tree en die uitdagings aan te spreek op welke manier dit ook al kan. David Kelsey se enorme teologiese antropologie, Eccentric Existence (2009), bied waarskynlik geleenthede hiervoor, deur die in-diepte teologiese ondersoek en (her)besinning van Christelike tradisies se sentrale doktrines en geloofstellinge waarmee dit besig is. Kelsey se hooftese is dat God in verhouding tree tot alles wat nie God is om te skep, in eskatologiese vervulling te bring, en te versoen. God tree in verhouding tot die aarde en haar ekologie deur dit te skep (waardeur dit op geleende asem leef), wat behels dat God ‘tot’ die aarde en haar ekologie in verhouding tree deur die medium van aanspraak. Die uiteindelike konteks van die aarde en haar ekologie is daarom dié wat direk en indirek aangespreek word deur die drie-enige God, deurdat dit reageer daarop dat dit geroep is tot bestaan. Die oproep wat Kelsey beskryf, en daarom God se skepping van die aarde en haar ekologie, is publiek en gemeenskaplik, en behels beide die radikale vryheid van andersheid en die intieme nabyheid van eendersheid. God seën die aarde en haar ekologie kreatief in God se lewegewende aanspraak, deur dit in staat te stel om te lewe en om lewe voort te bring. Die aarde en haar ekologie, as spesifieke lewensvorme, is dinamies, voortdurend en weerloos. Geskape realiteit behels beide om lewende liggame te hê en te wees. Die aarde en haar ekologie leef nie alleen nie, maar word in staat gestel om te floreer, op geleende asem. Op hierdie manier bestaan die aarde en haar ekologie eksentries, en vind dit die realiteit en waarde en wese buite ditself, in God wat in verhouding daartoe tree om dit kreatief te seën. God tree in verhouding tot die aarde en haar ekologie om dit in te bring in eskatologiese vervulling. God tree in verhouding tot die aarde en haar ekologie (waardeur dit op geleende tyd leef) wat bepaal dat God in verhouding staan ‘tussen’ die aarde en haar ekologie, deur die medium van belofte. Die uiteindelike konteks van die aarde en haar ekologie is daarom dié wat gebring word in God se eie drie-enige lewe en wat geroep word om deel te neem aan die glorie van God. Die aarde en haar ekologie word gedefinieer deur die absolute belofte van eskatologiese seën en die implisiete belofte van transformasie in die hede en in die toekoms, wat God se uitreiking na alles wat nie God is nie is (ook beskryf deur die missio Dei). Die aarde en haar ekologie, as spesifieke lewensvorme, staan onder beide God se verkiesing (God se ‘ja) en God se oordeel (God se ‘nee’). Die aarde en haar ekologie leef nie net nie, maar word in staat gestel om te floreer, op geleende asem. Op hierdie manier bestaan die aarde en haar ekologie eksentries, en vind dit die realiteit en waarde en wese buite ditself, in God wat in verhouding daartoe tree om dit eskatologies te seën. God versoen die aarde en haar ekologie tot Godself. God tree in verhouding tot die aarde en haar ekologie deur dit te versoen (waardeur dit leef deur ‘n ander se dood) en behels dat God ‘tussen’ die aarde en haar ekologie in verhouding tree deur die medium van vervanging. Die uiteindelike konteks van die aarde en haar ekologie is daarom die wat versoen is tot God deur hul veelvoudige vervreemdinge en wat ingebring word in die goddelike lewe van Godself. Inkarnasie en wat Kelsey noem ‘vervanging’ – God wat mens word in Jesus vervang Godself met die aarde en haar ekologie te midde prosesse van geweld en verwoesting om hul lewende dood te transformeer in ware lewe – definieer die aarde en haar ekologie in hierdie modus van verhouding. Die aarde en haar ekologie word versoen met haarself en met lewende wesens en die hele lewe deur hul versoening deur en in God. God se versoening is bevryding en transformasie van die aarde en haar ekologie binne spesifieke tye en plekke, binne hul spesifieke kontekste. Die lewe van die aarde en haar ekologie is daarom nie meer gebonde tot die vervulling van spesifieke funksies of pligte (of selfs roepinge) wat daarvan verwag word nie, maar lê alleen in die waarde wat dit vind daarin om te leef en bestaan deur die lewe van ‘n ander, van God-wat-mens-geword-het, van Jesus die Seun. Die aarde en haar ekologie leef nie alleen nie, maar word in staat gestel om te floreer, deur ‘n ander se dood. Op hierdie manier bestaan die aarde en haar ekologie eksentries, en vind dit haar realiteit en waarde en wese buite haarself, in God wat dit versoen deur veelvoudige vervreemdinge. God staan in verhouding tot die aarde en haar ekologie op drie maniere wat dit onderhou en dit seën om te floreer as geheimsinnige lewende wese wat die glorie van die drie-enige God reflekteer. Die gepaste reaksie hierop is, respektiewelik, eksentriese geloof, eksentriese hoop en eksentriese liefde. Die aarde en haar ekologie, soos alle lewende wense en die hele lewe, bestaan eksentries deur God wat in verhouding daarmee tree.

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