God with us

Daily Reading for November 28 • Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1885

Where, would you say, does God live? In heaven? On earth? Within us? All around us? When you pray, where do you imagine God?

Western theology has, generally speaking, emphasized God’s transcendence, separate from and above creation. Many have pointed out that this theology bears at least partial responsibility for Western culture’s view of the world as profane. God’s home is in heaven–so the world becomes a resource for human use and, as the hymn declares, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” Western theology has also tended toward anthropocentrism, within which God’s reconciling action applies only to humanity; the rest of creation becomes the stage on which the human and divine drama plays out.

In emphasizing transcendence, however, we often lose sight of Christian theology’s insistence on God’s immanence. God is Emmanuel, with us; creation reveals God to us and the world becomes a sacred place, God’s home.

When God is primarily transcendent, the earth becomes a resource. As part of the earth we become valuable to the system primarily as labor. Communities (human and other-than-human) become valuable to the extent that they serve the well-being of the economy, and ecological systems suffer and eventually collapse. When transcendence is balanced with immanence, and we feel that immanence in our bones, the earth is sacred. Economic systems need to be nestled within the larger world. All creation reflects God’s image, and the economy is designed to serve the well-being of community.

From “Coming Home: Economics and Ecology” by Michael Schut, in Anglican Theological Review 91, no. 4 (Fall 2009).

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