I have a good friend who’s non-Denominational. In the locker room today he hits me with, “So did you hear that the Pope’s advisor is a Pantheist?” He said it tongue in cheek and said that he knew enough that the media warps everything a Christian says but was checking with me on the real scoop.
I hadn’t heard anything about this at all. Apparently he said something about “Mother Earth” having feelings and becoming mad at people for hurting her… or something like that.
I don’t know anything about the Pope’s supposed pantheist advisor, but if the conclusion that he is a pantheist was drawn from his use of the phrase “mother earth” then I’m skeptical.
First of all, pantheism is the believe that God is everything, or everything is God, or that we are all somehow part of God. The phrase “mother earth” doesn’t in any definitive way imply any such notion.
An accusation of paganism might even be closer to reality, as “mother earth” might be understood as a reference to Gaia, the earth goddess.
But to refer to the earth as mother isn’t altogether outrageous. In virtually every language but English, everything has gender. The earth? Yep, it’s feminine. And it’s fitting too, especially when considered in light of Saint John Paul II’s “nuptial meaning of the body.” The earth receives the seed of plants, and in its proverbial womb, the plants gestate and are born of the earth. And in a primordial sense, God seeds the earth when He “hovers over the waters” out of which life springs forth. The image of earth as mother is a rather apt metaphore.
First, you can enlighten your friend that the media doesn’t “warp everything a Christian says”.
Second…the advisor who influenced the pope’s cyclical is **Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
According to wiki, he is “one of the leading climate scientists worldwide” and in 2007, he was appointed Chief Government Advisor on Climate and Related Issues during Germany’s EU Council Presidency and G8 Presidency.
He advises world leaders and is a member of the Climate Change Advisory Board of Deutsche Bank and chair of the governing board of the European Institute of Technology’s Climate Knowledge and Innovation Communities (EIT Climate KIC).
He has a Doctorate in Theoretical Physics and a prof of theoretical physics at the University of Potsdam and director of the Institute for Climate Impact in Potsdam.
He received the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award in 2002 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.
He was awarded the German Environment Prize in 2007.
In 2011, he was the first German to receive the Volvo Environment Prize, which is the highest-ranking award in the field of environmental sciences worldwide. He was honoured with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (first class)
If it isn’t about religious matters does the advisor have to be catholic? I am not sure why some non-believers are gloating. These would be the same people who would be up in arms if the pope excluded a very good scientist based on his religion. You can’t please everyone.
I am sure he does not advise the pope on religious matters. Why does it matter?
This is interesting, bec I used to teach mythology, and for the most part the religions of the world have anthropomorphic deities – that is they are basing their notions of gods and goddesses on the knowledge of themselves as humans, which in a way is logical. Also their “science” was to explain scientific or natural phenomena in anthropomorphic terms, as the storm indicates Zeus is angry at us. In Greek mythology the first deity was Gaia, or Mother Earth, which seems logical; from the earth we get nearly all that we need for life. Then later the “sky gods” took prominence, Zeus (and there was a female to male shift). That also happened in the ancient pre-Shinto religion in Japan, a shift from female to male (or patriarchal) focus.
I’m thinking this fear of “Mother Earth” lingo among Christians is more than just a fear of paganism, it is sort of a fear of the female principle. Also the Enlightenment social construction of person was of an autonomous being, without society, without rulers, without mother, or without any interdependence among peoples (as in previous ages), who came together to create society and ceded only that much freedom so as to ensure their well-being. So I’m thinking this is more an Enlightenment (anti-Christian) thing. Afterall, St. Francis has no trouble saying, “Our Sister, Mother Earth,” and pre-Enlightenment Catholics were okay with human interdependence and BVM (and I think we in modern times have relegated her to the back kitchen, so to speak, when in fact she is “Queen of Heaven” – which means something to those not suck in Enlightenment thinking).
Now re the Judeo-Christian tradition, the ancient situation seems a bit different from the other traditions. God Himself contacted the people and revealed certain things about Himself and other matters … of course, within what our limited, finite minds could take (they wouldn’t have been able to understand evolution, for instance; "Say what?!).
I think early on within our tradition there was a notion that God was transcendent (but also immanent in a transcendental way), and not an anthropomorphic figure (tho we always tend toward making Him into such, God in the image of man, rather than man in the image of God; that’s a natural tendency). But theologians have come to understand God as the “Totally Other” as Martin Buber said and JPII quoted him.
St. John of the Cross said (and I paraphrase greatly), if you have a conception of God, you’re wrong. There is also a beautiful book on Christian mysticism – The Cloud of Unknowing.
Now re the Pope’s encyclical, it is based on science, and science arose out of this Judeo-Christian tradition which did not anthropomorphize God (polytheism) or see God in everything (animism) or God as everything (pantheism).
The Pope artfully brings in both science (allowed by a transcendental God’s laws of nature…which atheists have no difficulty working with) and applies to it our Christian morality as it has developed over the millennia, as we have become better aware of our faults and flaws and problems, and the “so-much-the-greater” concomitant mercy of Jesus.
The Pope could have had some atheist advisors on the science part (I don’t know), but I completely doubt he would have had some pantheistic and pagan advisors for the science part…or he’d be suggesting we propitiate the anthropomorphic powers by sacrificing goats, etc, rather than saying we should do the needful to solve the problems – such as reducing our pollution
Also the “pantheist” card is one of the favorites used by anti-environmentalists, who consider environmentalists to be neopagan-pantheistic-earth-worshiping-atheistic-radical-communistic-totalitarian-economy-destroying-baby-killers!
Did I miss something? I got it all from CAF and EWTN…
It depends what he is advising about–if the nature of God, then it would be a bad move, if about something else he has expertise in, then maybe not. The Church has for a long time had non-Catholics involved in her scientific councils. Another prominent old example is the famous pagan philosopher Gemistus Pletho (who advocated a return to worshipping the gods of Olympus) was an adviser to the Council of Florence (an ecumenical Council).