The ecological crisis as a spiritual crisis
The crisis in the relationship between man and the natural environment seems to be of particular concern to the modern world and to provoke manifestations that express concern. But it is extremely strange that while we are in the face of phenomena that testify to the destruction of nature by man, there is not, most of the time, the slightest suspicion that the crisis is not only scientific or technological, but primarily and above all, it’s a spiritual crisis.
In Orthodox theology, emphasis is placed on the spiritual dimension of the ecological crisis and a similar view of the world and of life is projected for its outcome.
It should be emphasised that a few decades ago the world was not talking about ecological crisis, not even an ecological problem. The ecological crisis is a modern phenomenon. At the same time, it is not an autonomous or independent phenomenon, but it is a continuation and a series of previous processes and crises, which are traced back to the internal judgment of man. And this crisis is the subject of particular concern not only of the Orthodox Ecclesia, which has always been at the heart of caring for man and his problems, but also of the whole Biblical and patristic theology. It must be pointed out from the outset that it is not possible to properly mean the modern ecological crisis and to speak out in a sense to deal with or overcome it, if we do not take into account its origins, which are highlighted in the biblical and of Patristic theology.
For this reason, in these few lines that follow, we underline the primary judgement of man, created by sin and his multiple dimension, to try to look then through the prism of the teaching of the Orthodox Ecclesia its further development as the ecological crisis that we live in our days.
With the fall by the disobedience of the commandment given by God to man, man does not merely differentiate his attitude towards the rest of creation, but mainly opposes the will of God. That is why, on the basis of the ecological crisis, is the desire of man to become God without God. He wants to “be perfect” and enjoy his life by doing everything and using everything. He acts by ignoring God’s will and refusing to shoulder personal responsibility for his actions. The way the current man lives and acts is reminiscent of the description of the original sin in the Old Testament, where the truth is very clear presented. There the man despises the commandment of God and shifts the responsibility of his actions to others. The same repeats today, when he acts egocentric and refuses to assume the share of responsibility for the world’s accumulated evil, ignoring God and contrasting himself to what “it is not me” fails to embrace with their love Human beings and the environment. The separation of Man from God is at the base of his removal from the other man, from the natural environment and from himself. That is why, in the last analysis, this sin is the root cause and the central axis of the ecological crisis.
The responsibility and the fault of man for this downward situation, which included the entire creation and today is presented as an ecological crisis, is emphasized more strongly in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul points out in particular that the building was subdued in futility and slavery: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it” Rom. 8.20 This passage clearly shows not only that the creation and the human being are in interaction and interdependence in their course of time and history, but also, that the usually so-called “lifeless” and considered “stuffy” nature was subdued in this situation without its own will.
Having this biblical background and the Fathers of the Ecclesia indicate that the enslaved state of the building is not a natural development. In their writings, creation is presented as a victim, since due to of the man loses the secular position and the original rule, even though from some it is considered as a natural condition. That is why the creation refuses to submit to the offending man.
It is no coincidence that the proper use of the creation was associated with fasting from the outset. The central position of fasting in the tradition of the Orthodox Ecclesia is not accidental or irrelevant to the subject we are examining. Fasting and frugality are not a formal or conventional act, but voluntary deprivation of food, which activates the consciousness of the outside dependence of man. This conscience is of paramount importance to morality. With the fasting that man carries by accepting the commandment of God, he expresses his obedience and declares his consent to be consistent with God by acknowledging that he is built; In other words he accepts everything is a gift of God. On the contrary, the uncritical use associated with the disobedience, constitutes the practical doubt that it is a creature. It is that, not only led the man to the removal and alienation from God, but condemned and all the creation, which is groaned and conspired until now.
Here, however, it is necessary to clarify that true fasting cannot be expressed as a contempt or indifference of man for material creation.
The world today, despite its abundant declarations of materialism, is in its depth so idealistic that in essence it hates and despises the world and matter. An unjustified pride of man towards the rest of creation and a complex of superiority dictate to him to see what exists around him as an instrument and a simple utilitarian tool, which helps him to conquer his purposes by Over-exploitation of natural resources, destruction of the environment, pollution of rivers and seas, pollution of the atmosphere, etc. .
But the tragic thing is that spiritual bases are not affected at all and the “theological” criteria of civilization, which has nourished and imposed this attitude towards the world, are not disputed. The ecological crisis is an apparent phenomenon of the alienation of the human creature by the uncreated God and the result of the cutoff of beings and life from God and the True Life. Here lies the cause of every human problem, the source of every crisis and all evil. M. Vasilios notes: “This is the evil, the God’s allotriosis.” This brings man in opposition to the world and to himself. And this is result, because man was created by God, as is the world.
If man is not driven as soon as possible in the right relationship with the world and the things of the world, built in the right relationship with God, there can be no real change in ecology and the environment. The tradition of the Orthodox Ecclesia not only with texts but above all with the experience and experiences of the Thanksgiving and anti-consumer ethos can offer today’s human manipulation for a way out of the crisis.
Anestis Keselopoulos, professor, Faculty of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Source: Tribute to Osio Athanasios the meteorite, page 119-122, Holy Monastery of Megalo Meteoro – Metamorphosis tou Sotiros, Agia Meteora, 2007