Gebara on Anthropology

A major component in the eco-theology discussion is Christian anthropology and the ordering of humanity within the cosmos; human relationship and positioning to God and to the universe.

Ivone Gebara responds to the question, “What are you proposing when you say we must change the anthropological basis upon which Christianity is built?”

I suggest that we must first change our image of men and women within the cosmos.  And when we change that image, our image of God changes.  Any image of God is nothing more than the image of the experience or the understanding we have of ourselves.  We must re-situate the human within –not above – the cosmos.  This is diametrically opposed to a Christian anthropology that insists humanity is ‘Lord of Creation’ ordered by the Creator to ‘increase and dominate the Earth.’  In the current anthropology, the human’s right to dominate, control, and posses has been legitimized by the Creator and thus becomes part of human nature, pre-established – and therefore impossible to change. [1]

A few weeks ago I briefly detailed the hierarchical ordering of the cosmos derived from the creation poem in Genesis.  Classical theism is dependent upon this structure, but is this anthropology one that is essential to Christianity?  Is this a framework that is biblically consistent?

Here are two options for reconfiguring our anthropological situation into more linear renderings:

1.                      God

Humanity        Animal life        Nature


2. Humanity          Animal life          God          Nature

The first still maintains the God-World transcendence of classical theism.  The second, something of an incarnational anthropology, brings God into the center of the world, intimately involving God with the ebb and flow of creation.  What implications do both of these renderings present?

The second rendering moves beyond an emphasis on God’s transcendence from the world and places God within the world, necessarily deconstructing the dualist separation between matter and spirit.  However, as Gebaras states, this can only occur through egalitarianism.  Gender is the paradigm through which our anthropology shifts or remains the same.

How does the classic hierarchical structure compare to the more linear structures vis-a-vis the stewardship of creation?  Does the classic structure import an ethical responsibility for the care of all of life?  Can gender-equality be assumed within the hierarchical structure without radical reconstruction?

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[1] Gebara, Ivone. “Ecofeminism and Panentheism,” in Readings in Ecology and Feminist Theology. Edited by Mary Heather MacKinnon and Moni McIntyre (Lanham: Sheed and Ward, 1995), 210-11.

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