Loving Nature

Environmental Ethics 15 (1):3-25 (1993)
Abstract
Christian ethics are usually based on a theology of love. In the case of Christian relationships to nature, Christian environmental writers have either suggested eros as a primary source for Christian love, without dealing with traditional Christian arguments against eros, or have assumed agape (spiritual love or sacrificial love) is the appropriate mode, without defining how agape should function in human relationships with the nonhuman portion of the universe. I demonstrate that God’s love for nature has the same form and characteristics as God’s love for human beings, and that because agape is self-giving, it is preferable to eros in relationships with the environment. Agape concerning nature (I) is spontaneous and unmotivated, (2) is indifferent to value, (3) creates value, (4) initiates relationships with the divine, (5) recognizes individuality, (6) provides freedom, and (7) produces action and suffering. Agape might best be defined, not as Platonic ascent above the world, but as completely self-giving engagement with the world. Human love for nature is often limited by a human inability to accept love, including divine love, from nature. Flowing from God, agape cannot require reciprocity; yet agape understands what “the other has to give and can offer it complete valuation. Agape is the ideal form of human interaction with nature, because agape does not require equal status or ability, or common goals or needs. Love between humans and members of the land (or sea) community can be sacrificial, and should be distinguished by a loss of self-regard and a willingness to suffer. Further philosophical and theological discussion of the role of reciprocity and sacrifice in love for nature is highly desirable
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