The Body of God: An Ecological Theology by Sallie McFague

Posted June 4, 2019 by janwsummers

The biblical accounts of creation show that the ecological crisis we are experiencing today is not a new phenomenon.

Sallie McFague in her book The Body of God: An Ecological Theology provides a striking and novel vision of the universe, taking seriously as well as radically both the Christian tradition's incarnation commitments and the contemporary science. This book is McFague's most sustained effort in trying to challenge the classical theology's depiction of how God relates to the world. In the book, she proposes the alternatives that correlate with the Bible and are compatible with the current scientific view. Such approach is helpful in encouraging Christians to participate in the public task of caring for the earth. In her book, the author prefers to speak of God's power in the world as spirit. She states that God's power is not the absolute mind controlling the world from another realm. The connection between God and the world is one of the relationships being formed at the deepest possible level, the level of life, and should be regarded rather as the control at the same level of ordering and directing nature. The paper views the spirit and nature as the body of God and relates it with eco-feminism.
Also called an ecological feminism, it is a branch of feminism examining the connections between women and nature. It uses the basic tenets of feminism about gender equality to view the world in respect to organic processes. This philosophy thus emphasizes that the male-centered patriarchal society treats both women and nature in the same way. Eco-feminism examines the categories of gender effects for the demonstration of how the social norms have exerted unjust dominance over nature and women. This philosophy holds that these norms have resulted in an incomplete world view. The proponents of this philosophical approach advocate the alternative world view and see the earth as being sacred, embrace all life forms as valuables, and admit humanity's dependency on the natural world.
Analysis of the book
In her book, McFague tries to understand what it means thinking of the universe as being the body of God. However, the author's goal is not only to discuss the body of God as the actual universe; it provides a new perspective on this issue. She uses a metaphor in trying to understand how human body applies to our understanding of the way God interacts with the universe. The body model is calling on one to think about the issues affecting the body like thirst, hunger, pain, being overworked, suffering, unhoused or underpaid. The idea has even extended to other issues that are not human-related like deforestation, global climate crisis, and unsustainable practices. These aspects are being highlighted in the first chapter, where the body model is calling for one to look at the materialistic issues in which God is concerned rather than spiritual ones that frequently minimize the importance of human body.
In chapter two, the author analyzes the common creation story in a way that helps in understanding and re-conceiving the organic model. The body-of-God model provides the breadth, diversity and depth needed in knowing and acting within peoples’ embodied experience. This approach contrasts with the classic model, commonly referred to as the body of Christ which bases on two critical issues. The first one states that the body of Christ is a body that is spiritualized. This idea does not support the physical aspects of life that might include sex. The second issue pertains to one common body that is the male body. According to this view, the Christ's body excludes the feminine body, the body of the universe, and the ecological body. This model suggests that one body is universal to all, meaning there are sameness and no differences. However, McFague criticizes this approach, using an eco-feminism theory. She states that, since there is one body, there is supposed to be only one form of good, and only one way of understanding of what is good and what is right. On the contrary, she creates a theory that provides a place for the unity of ecology.
Nature and spirit
The third chapter analyzes the theology of nature. McFague suggests that people ought to re-mythologize the Christian doctrines for them to include current information provided by the science. It means moving all the questions in an epistemological way from “how thing are” or “the reason they are” to “what the doctrine means in the context of people’s understanding of the universe.” It places the questions into a more practical framework, which means asking “how should we now live?” The author argues that it would ensure that the answers to such questions are coming from the experiences that are concretized
These experiences connect as to how we relate to others, be they human or non-human. The second experience is cultural, whereby people are influenced by the many facets that describe who they are. These facets include culture, sexuality, economic class, and social status among others. Thus, the society is characterized by inequalities of various kinds; people are unequal in term of economic ability and social ability.
Theology tends to insist on the rigorous usage of reason, rather than methodology, in explaining its subject matter. The theology of nature takes human experiences seriously, taking into account the diverse experiences and feelings that one has towards God and the universe. It creates a tapestry of God that is wonderful and diverse. The scientific method (hypothesis formation, observation, and testing) promotes understanding and attainment of truth in natural sciences. However, in theology, true understanding and truth can only be achieved through reason. Critical thinking is necessary when one is seeking to understand various religious facts. Reason gives individuals all the freedom they need in order to think critically about various mysteries of faith. This kind of thinking is normally ignited by personal experiences and outside sources of knowledge.
Spiritually, the amazing plan of God for mankind's relationship with Him is also reflected in the nature of man. Man is triune being just like God. He is a body (physical), soul (mind, emotion and will) and spirit.
Chapter four, five and six
In chapter four, McFague analyzes how God interacts with the world. She argues that primarily, God is not the controller or makes orders to the universe, but He is just the universe's source and empowerment. In other words, He is the breath that energizes and enlivens the universe. It can thus be said that God is the ground upon which all things are happening. God relates to all the things in the universe, and this relationship is very deep since He empowers and gives life.
In chapter five, McFague analyzes the evolutionary principle that is not only found within the biological but in the cultural and historical aspects. She counters the evolutionary principle as being oppressive and destructive with the Christ's cosmic paradigmatic ministry. Evolution is suggesting that the dominant one only will survive. On the other hand, the paradigmatic ministry of Christ counters that by arguing that only when we live in harmony with the outside, the vulnerable and the outcast, we are bound to survive. This approach has prompted the author to turn liberally to the body of God model, arguing that survival ought not to be viewed as one’s survival but collective survival for all. It means that people ought to feel sorry when others are suffering, just the same way God feels the creation's suffering.
In chapter six, McFague is envisioning the new creation and what it will be like in the future. This approach is commonly referred to as eschatology. In this part of her book, the author is reiterating what has been discussed in the previous chapters. The main aim of the chapter is to enable the readers view the creation in a new way, which presupposes humans to understand the fact that their place in the universe is not superior to other world's surrounding. One should care for others as for him/herself.
The body-of-God model suggested by McFague is very impacting. From the point of view of justice and liberation, the theory includes the voice of differentiation. This is where distinguished voices are heard and thus accepted, therefore, providing solutions to the surrounding's myriad problems. Survival requires everyone and everything to unite and survive via a differentiated unity. Humans should understand that they are connected to the universe, which needs us the same way we need it. Thus, the book offers a new way for people to understand their place in the universe as co-shares, not owners. The universe means the body of God and we thus need each other to survive.
How it relates to eco-feminism
Several feminist theologians have been making outstanding contributions to the ecological theory, which has led to eco-feminism being described by many such theologians. Eco-feminists have been reflecting on the significance of the Christian faith in the midst of the domination of differences of gender, class, culture and species. Eco-feminists have sought to unmask the interlocking dualisms like the male and female, mind and body, culture and nature, human and animal, as well as reason and passion. Various mysteries of faith are not based on scientific objectivity and neutral observation. They are rather based on the subjective opinions. As a result, they tend to be perceived and understood in different ways. In order to promote uniformity in the way the mysteries are understood, it is important to give a clear reason behind them. Unlike other concepts, reason tends to be neutral due to its universality.
The origin of the contemporary ecological problems lies in the Judeo-Christian notion that human beings dominate nature. Using this view during the medieval era, people considered nature to be a mere and an alien resource that needed to be exploited. Their dominance over nature saw them using nature irresponsibly. The contemporary ecological problems can also be linked to the destructiveness of human beings; moreover, most people are destructive by their nature. They do not care about the way they use ecological resources and exploit the earth as long as it meets their needs.
Eco-feminists Christian theologians all over the world have argued that the patriarchal domination and exploitation of women and the human domination over other kinds are interconnected. The domination of males over females in the western tradition has historically been extrapolated in the form of a dominance over and exploitation of nature. They call this raping of the earth. The notion of role is a set of shared expectations in the society that a certain group of people hold about the traits suitable for each and every individual on the basis of the gender. This notion means that most people have to endorse and acknowledge the expected behaviors defined by either feminine or masculinity. The correlation between nature exploitation and violence against women can be shown using the black women's bodies in the context of slavery. Eco-feminists have not only expressed concern over the plight of women and girls because of environmental degradation, but the victims of environmental injustice include all other forms of life, as well. Not only individual specimens, but also the whole species are victimized because of the destruction of ecosystems.

The Judeo-Christian idea of the medieval era that human beings dominate nature continues to contribute to contemporary ecological problems. Most people are irresponsible in the way they use ecological resources since they own them. For instance, one is free to use his or her piece of land in any way. Over years, man has been a destructive creature. He has exploited the environment in many ways in order to meet his economic, social needs and political needs. As a result, people have ended up eliminating different species of animals, fish, birds and plants. This destruction is what has caused ecological problems. For instance, overgrazing and excessive cutting down of trees have led to deforestation. The emergence of chemical industries has caused environmental pollution. The biblical accounts of creation show that the ecological crisis we are experiencing today is not a new phenomenon. It can be concluded that human livelihood, in one way or another, is linked to the universe, and it is argued to be the most important reason as to why the universe should be protected, which can be defined as the practice applied by individuals, organizations or governments of protecting the natural environment against destruction for the benefit of the society and the natural environment itself.

Jane Summers is a skillful blogger and professional writer working with the . At her spare time she likes watching movies, playing the guitar and visiting concerts. It helps her to feel inspired when she writes her blogs and papers for students all around the world. She writes course papers, dissertations case brief, pharmacy essays and many others.
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Last Updated June 4, 2019