by Christopher Moriarty
Nature praising God: Towards a theology of the natural world by Dermot A. Lane (Messenger Publications, €14.95/£12.99)
The word ‘nature’ in the title of this remarkable book refers to the universe with one important exception. The exception is humanity and the two are generally posed as being in opposition to each other.
A somewhat narrower contrast is placed between the innocent section of the human population and the rather smaller numbers of industrialists and others whose machinations and failure to appreciate nature are leading towards the horrors to be expected as a result of global warming.
The book is the work of a very distinguished theologian, who has also served long years as a pastor in a Dublin suburban parish, the subtitle refers in particular to the concept of the world of nature praising God in parallel with human worship.
The difference between the two is that we know of the powers of humanity to communicate thoughts, create works of art and architecture and make use of liturgies – among many other accomplishments. This brings the question of how nature worships and the most plausible answer, until very recent years, is that it does so simply by being there. The idea of the possibility of consciousness, even down to the level of the quantum, does allow even for this to be questioned.
The broad aim of Nature praising God is to show the way in which care for nature and the consequent urgent need for taking steps both to maintain current levels of biodiversity worldwide and to avert the dangers threatened by global warming have an essential concomitant in Christian faith in particular, with a parallel in many other religions. These are concepts fully acceptable to the majority of reflective human beings.
The fact that there are examples in nature of a counter-view is largely – and rightly – ignored. The geological record tells that the current loss of biodiversity is the sixth such phase since the creation of life. Might nature, this time, be using humanity to effect it? Not all that many thousand years ago nature, by means of the ice age, destroyed every living thing in what is now Ireland and over a very much greater geographical area.
The author combines his own views, together with those of a number of fellow-theologians, to say nothing of many beautiful quotations from the Bible and with ancient writings such as St Francis of Assisi’s exquisite Canticle of Creation and such inspirational modern works as Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis.
All in all a book which sparkles with delightful thoughts inspired both by nature and by humanity.