Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Ecotheology 6.1/6.2 July 2001

The Significance of the Incarnation for Ecological Theology: A Challenging Approach

Cristina Vanin
Issued Date: 7 Mar 2007


In this paper I will examine James Nelson’s work in sexual ethics, particularly his attention to the significance of the incarnation for human thinking about the body (James Nelson is Professor of Christian Ethics at United Theological Semi-nary of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, USA). Nelson argues that what the incarnation implies for an adequate understanding of human sexuality, in fact, extends beyond human beings to include the whole of the created order. I will indicate briefly that his work on the experience of embodiment is in keeping with work done on the body by other Christian writers, such as Sallie McFague. While Nelson’s work is situated within the larger conversation on the meaning of the body, I argue that his methodological insights offer a unique way to develop a theology that responds to the contemporary ecological crisis. Because it attends to the immediate and personal experience of alienation from the body, it can provide strong roots for the growth of an extensive ecological world view. Each of us reflects, in our attitudes toward our body and the bodies of other planetary creatures and plants, our inner attitude toward the planet. And, as we believe, so we act. Within me even the most metaphysical problem takes on a warm physical body which smells of sea, soil, and human sweat. The Word, in order to touch me, must become warm flesh. Only then do I understand—when I can smell, see, and touch.

DOI: 10.1558/ecotheology.v6i2.108


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