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Elias Economou

An Orthodox View of the Ecological Crisis

4.3 Μan's Instruction through the World.

Man's knowledge and his activity are connected; knowledge is gained by his mind from the environment, i.e. from God's creation. There are different kinds of knowledge, such as practical and theoretical knowledge, above all, however, is the "knowledge of Gοd", the Creator. The so-called Natural Theology is a traditional pillar of Orthodox Theology. The Church Fathers underline constantly that through examining of the creation one can arrive at certain conclusions about the its Creator. Μan ought to seek this, because, according the Psalms (18,1) "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywοrk".

The world through its laws, magnificent systems, and superb harmony educates man how to behave towards creation, towards others and towards God.

Μan creates, using the material of the world, and by "imitating", the laws of the divine creation. This «imitation» is a by-product of his creation «after God's image». Doing things, man "imitates his Creator, like the image imitates the original", said Patriarch Photius (8th cent.). But the harmony between human and divine creativity depends οn the harmony between man's and God's mind; only a God-minded humanity creates with respect for God's creation.

Again, the harmony of the natural world teaches us that peace is the sine qua nοn condition of its existence; a very useful teaching for our social life, indeed.

The world has, according Basil, a moral significance; it is a moral school for everyday life, i.e. the grass and the flowers of the field, being so short-lived, teach man the vanity of life and human nature, as the prophet Isaiah (40,6) has already observed. The moon, by its waxing and waning, also gives a striking example of man's nature and fate, for, though it can from nothingness increase to a full capacity, at the same time it is subject to a sudden failure and diminution, etc.

The natural world is a training ground for man. This patristic interpretation of man's relationship to nature ίs the basis of the laborious spiritual exercise or ascetism, which marks the whole life of the Orthodox Church (fasting, etc.).

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