Peter Knauer SJ, 76, has been a professor of fundamental theology at Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany and is now working as pastor of the Spanish-speaking community in Brussels, Belgium. He is a well renowned theologian and in this occasion Peter shares with Ecojesuit his vision on the connection between theology and reason in the context of the current environmental crisis.
Peter, what do we learn about God when we are faced with current ecological challenges?
Ecological challenges are, as ethics is in general, an object of reason and not of faith. Faith neither makes them more urgent than they already are nor gives them a more obligatory character than they already have. But faith liberates us from the power of that anxiety for ourselves which is connected with our human condition: vulnerable and mortal. In faith we experience the freedom that definitely permits us to follow our conscience.
The entire universe, including its being created, is an object of reason. Only God’s self-communication is an object of faith. It is not possible to make use of God as an argument for ecological claims.
How can we articulate the vision of God’s kingdom, which is a vision of community building, in our circumstances of environmental turmoil?
The kingdom of God consists in the community of faith; faith relativises the power of the anxiety for ourselves which otherwise hinders us from following the reasons given by our ethical conscience. In a subsidiary way, faith is also active in contributing in favour of the obligations of reason themselves, but they remain obligations of reason and do not borrow from faith any higher status.
In which way can the Bible strengthen our commitment to care for the earth?
Certainly even in the Bible we find arguments for acting reasonably. But we should not try to give such arguments from theology a sort of “higher quality.” This would mean that we did not take seriously the arguments of reason itself.
Which spiritual expressions could help us to respond to the reconciliation with nature?
We may always praise God for the beauty of His creation. But this does not change the fact that ecology remains a question of reason. It would rather be an abuse of the word “God” to try to give theological reasons for ecology. But knowing oneself loved by God sets us free from those roots of egoism. The founding principle of ethics is the principle of proportionality, which gives us the criterion for the badness of an action, and that it is, in the last analysis, counterproductive and destructive in the long run. Indeed, more than any faith-related or spiritual consideration, sustainability is the real argument for ecology.
If you are interested on Peter Kanuer perspectives you would like to visit the website http://peter-knauer.de/ . You may also contact him at peter.knauer(at)jesuiten.org.