environment religion

A Christian response to Gaia theory

I’m writing this in anticipation. For a lot of Christians, the word Gaia alone sets all sorts of alarm bells ringing. A lot of Christians are dismissive of environmentalism as ‘new age’, I’ve been called it myself, and things like Gaia don’t help that.

It’s true, Gaia was seized upon by certain people. It has a bit of a hippy vibe to it. But then The Lord of the Rings was a huge hippy favourite, and that doesn’t make it bad literature. Likewise, Gaia is not bad science, and in fact Lovelock slightly resents the attention his theory got from the wrong people.

The name Gaia was suggested by the novelist William Golding. Gaia was a Greek goddess, and Lovelock says this about the name: ‘I have found it useful to imagine the earth as like an animal… It has never been more than a metaphor – an aide pensee, no more serious than the thoughts of a sailor who refers to his ship as ‘she’.” So there you have it.

If you’re still not sure, what about “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth ” as the Apostle Paul says in . Paul uses Mother Earth imagery.

More interestingly, I think, the Bible talks about the land regulating itself. Have a look at , where God talks about abuses of the land. ‘I will remember the land’, God says, and the land will drive out those who do not respect it. If you overfarm a piece of land, its yields drop until you have to rest it, let it lie fallow. That’s just one example of a natural rhythm that has to be respected, and the Old Testament has plenty of them. I’m not going to labour this point, but read the passage if you’re interested and see whether or not it sounds like God has made the earth to police itself.

4 comments

  1. Importantly, personification need not imply divinisation. Mother Earth can be – imaginatively, and even scripturally* – conceived as a coherent entity within our moral community (or rather, within which our moral community exists), and so it is neither pagan nor incoherent to speak of proper duties and delight with regard to Mother Earth.

    *(in addition to those you mention, see also Genesis 1: “let the earth bring forth”, a divine invitation to an action on the part of the earth)

    1. This is a post I’d long forgotten about, but thanks for reading it and commenting. I love the way that right from the beginning, God is working with the earth. It’s a partnership, an invitation as you say, an ongoing and dynamic relationship between creator and creation. And what could be more glorifying to him than a creation that is in itself creative?

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