Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Ecotheology 10.3 December 2005

Negativity towards Wilderness in the Biblical Record

Robert Barry Leal
Issued Date: 24 Feb 2007


In recent ecotheological writing little attention has been paid to the
phenomenon of wilderness. This is surprising when one considers the centrality
of wilderness to a theology of creation. Traditional Western attitudes
to wilderness have emphasized conflict and domination rather than
respect and collaboration. In some powerful political circles (such as the
Bush Administration) such resistance to the natural order continues to be
seen as grounded in the Bible and hence to be theologically justified. For
these reasons it is important to address the various wilderness traditions
that one encounters in the Bible and in particular to acknowledge the
negativity that is present. Only when such negativity is taken into account
and placed in context will a convincing, biblically-based, contemporary
theology of creation be able to emerge. Negative attitudes towards wilderness
are identified in the Pentateuch, in several of the prophets, in Job and
in the New Testament, and their implications for theology suggested.
While it is recognized that such a diverse collection of books as the Bible
also contains other than negative attitudes towards wilderness, this article
focuses on negativity as an attitude in need of highlighting and addressing
in contemporary circumstances.

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DOI: 10.1558/ecot.2005.10.3.364


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