Coverage Areas:  National |  South Carolina |  Aiken |  Beaufort |  Charleston |  Columbia |  Greenville |  Myrtle Beach |  Rock Hill
Menu

Geologist says Christian theology supports protection of the environment

COLUMBIA – A geologist whose main professional interest is the environment told a group of parish leaders on March 11 that “the doctrine of bodily resurrection implies that the whole universe will share in our ultimate destination.”

John R. “Jack” Gelting was trying to convince members of the Midlands Parishes Environmental Committee that Christian theology, and particularly Catholic theology, calls for protection of the environment, despite what he called “bashing” by ecologists.

“Plenty of arrows have been slung at the church by ecologists because of translations of the Bible, the human dominance theory,” Gelting said.

He quoted the Book of Genesis, which called on mankind to “subdue the Earth” and exercise “dominion over animals.”

He suggested that Catholics look to Book of Hosea to balance out the vision (When we sin and break our covenant with God, “the land mourns and everything that dwells in it languishes. The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and even the fish of the sea perish.”) and to the tradition of the Church. Gelting even turned to one of Catholicism’s most intricate and difficult concepts to make his point.

“We’re not whistling in the dark about transubstantiation,” the scientist said. “It may be, according to the principles of physics, a sort of upward recycling.”

Catholics believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, that the Communion bread and wine do not change chemically, but become substantially the body and blood of Jesus.

Gelting sees it, from an ecological perspective, as a transformation of wheat and grapes into bread and wine – and then, miraculously, into the body and blood of God the Son. He may have been pushing the conception envelope a bit with that one, twisting a doctrinal understanding so that it can be seen in another light, but there was no doubting his purpose. Gelting thinks that Catholic theology is actually nature-oriented.

“Nature reveals grace, has a sacramental characteristic about it, and there is a strong ancestral link to the Earth. We should view nature as promise, rather than perfection,” he said. “The theme of promise negates apocalysm.”

Gelting suggested that Christians read Revelation with the theme of promise in their minds. He also thinks that the Catholic Church is behind the curve with respect to her corporate concern for the environment. We should have caught on earlier that God wanted us to protect his creation, nature, on the basis of his covenant with Noah.

That proves, according to Gelting, that “we all share in God’s creation. God will redeem not only us, but all of his creation with us.”

The Catholic Church is catching up, however. We even have a patron saint of the environment, Francis of Assisi. Gelting cited recycling efforts at St. Thomas More and other parishes; the Peninsula Cluster advertising each parish’s liturgies in all parish bulletins, a way to cut down on vehicular travel; and the example of monasteries.

Monastic men and women, he said, “exhibit concern for the environment by their asceticism, moderation, stability of place, humility and gratitude to God.”

One of the tenets of Catholic social teaching is Care For the Environment. Gelting said that we can be good stewards of God’s creation by embracing three principles for the common good – authentic development of resources, including sustainable development and striking a balance between spiritual and material needs; moderation; and sacrifice.

He suggested also that parents expose their children to outdoor activities more as a way of getting them to love nature.

Julia Sibley-Jones, a visitor to the meeting from the Christian Action Council, agreed. She said that being out in nature can be a spiritual and soul-calming experience.

“To be out there is a different way of listening, a different pace,” Sibley-Jones said.

Jack Gelting is an environmental hydrogeologist with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. He is a member of St. Thomas More Parish on the campus of the University of South Carolina.




  • Diocesan Events Calendar
    View All Events
    Jun 287:00 pm Mariologia #4
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    7:00 pm Mariologia #4
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Jul 1All Day Convocation of Catholic Leaders - Orlando
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    USCCB National Convocation of Catholic Leaders
    From the Calendar of Ethnic Ministries
    Daniel Rudd Fund Application open
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Jul 2 Vietnamese Women's Club
    From the Calendar of Vietnamese Ministry
    Jul 37:00 pm Mariologia #4
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Jul 5 African American and African Young Adult Gathering in Orlando FL
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Jul 6 National Black Catholic Congress XII
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Jul 8 Vietnamese Men's Club
    From the Calendar of Vietnamese Ministry
    Jul 96:00 pm Bishop to say Mass at St. John the Baptist - Charleston
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    Jul 10 High School CLI
    From the Calendar of Youth Ministry
    Jul 1112:05 pm Bishop to say Mass at St. John the Baptist - Charleston
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    2:00 pm Loaves and Fishes Stewardship Webcast
    From the Calendar of Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement
    Jul 158:30 am Diaconate Formation Class
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Diocese of Charleston St. Kateri Tekakwitha Feast Day Celebration
    From the Calendar of Native American Ministry
    Jul 168:30 am Diaconate Formation Class
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Jul 19 Tekakwitha Conference
    From the Calendar of Native American Ministry
    7:00 pm Junta de Vicaria (Charleston)
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Aug 1 New Youth Minister Boot Camp
    From the Calendar of Youth Ministry