Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that a mistake about understanding creation results in a mistake about understanding God. Theologian Matthew Fox wrote beautifully about this in his book, “The Tao Of Thomas Aquinas,” when he says that according to Aquinas, all the mistakes we make about nature steer us away from our understanding of divinity. Our pursuit of truth – evidenced in nature – shows us that everything is connected in a delicate web of life. Our interdependence allows us to be in community with deep compassion. Compassion, Aquinas says, is the working out of our interdependence.
This week all eyes are on Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, perhaps one of our last global opportunities for a coordinated change in how we approach climate change. To this point, we have made many mistakes about creation: believing that nature is available for our endless consumption, that short-term profit outweighs plenary survival, access to resources should be owned by a few rather than available to all, and in the end, technology will save us.
It’s no mistake that the very people who hold these “mistakes” to be truths are also filling the pews of conservative faith communities worldwide. When we make a mistake about creation, we make mistakes about God.
But the opposite is also true. When we gain greater insight into creation, we come to better understand God.
I am extremely encouraged by the innovative efforts and collaborations being evidenced at COP26 by people of goodwill and organizations committed to a more just world for all. These leaders teach us about the delicate balance of life on this planet, to listen to animals and sense the healing energy of the water and trees. They are showing us the deadly results of plastic in our oceans and carbon in our air. They are calling us to repentance so that all that is good in the world might be saved.
Aquinas talked about salvation in that way – to “preserve things in the good.” Creation isn’t driven by punishment, judgment, or threats of eternal hell. That is a “mistake” we made that has distorted our understanding of God for thousands of years. All of life is working for our thriving and wholeness. Therefore, so too should we. Our work is to preserve things “in the good.”
Commenting on the Creation Story from the first few pages of the Bible, Aquinas writes: “In the book of Genesis it says, ‘God saw all things that God had made, and they were very good, each one of them having been previously said to be good. For each living thing in its nature is good, but all things together are very good, by reason of the order of the universe, which is the ultimate and noblest perfection in things.'”
In other words, humans are good, but the whole of creation is VERY good. It’s all ONE. One interdependent Story of Radical Love.
Amazing, isn’t it?
We are in this together,