The Critical Theory of Pope Francis II: The Gospel of Creation (Laudato Si)
By Michael Welton
June 16, 2022
The ancient idea of “God” signified, for Jurgen Habermas, the “idea of the unified, invisible God the Creator and Redeemer” (“A conversation about God and the world,” in E. Mendieta (Ed.) Religion and rationality: essays on reason, God, and modernity (2002). This perspectival breakthrough enabled humans to gain a “standpoint that utterly transcends the this-worldly.” The world, perceived as a created order, was both apart from the divine other and its life-sustainer. But Habermas argues that the modernization process gradually eroded the radical separation of God and world. Indeed, the finite spirit appropriated the divine standpoint: objectifying “creation” and transforming it into a law-governed “nature.” The grand affirmation of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” in Genesis was unceremoniously replaced with the “big-bang theory” – 13.8 billion years ago.
In Laudato Si: Our care for our common home (2015), Pope Francis most assuredly rejects the idea that God as Creator has vanished from human consciousness throughout the world. One might say, to over-simplify, that two forms of human consciousness co-exist in tension in our world: secular and religious. This article focuses on chapter two, “The gospel of creation.” Francis begins by raising the question of why a document addressed to “all people of good will” should include a “chapter dealing with the convictions of believers?” (p. 50). He observes that there are those who “firmly reject” the idea of a Creator as irrelevant in areas of politics and philosophy or dismiss as irrational the “rich contribution which religions can make toward an integral ecology and the full development of humanity.” However, Pope Francis insists that “science” and “religion” can “enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both” (ibid.).
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