Monday, April 28, 2008

Ellen Davis' Lecture on Biblical Interpretation and Ecology

First VTS Kreitler Environmental Lecture

Susan Shillinglaw has sent out the following press release on Ellen Davis' lecture here at VTS last week, "Becoming Human: Biblical Interpretation and Ecological Responsibility."


Alexandria, VA – In celebration of Earth Day, Virginia Theological Seminary launched the first Kreitler Environmental Lecture, featuring internationally-renowned biblical scholar and environmentalist, Dr. Ellen Davis, professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School. Davis delivered an insightful lecture on "Becoming Human: Biblical Interpretation and Ecological Responsibility," where she used passages from Psalms 36 and 65 to illustrate how inseparable the “human heart and spirit is from the wellbeing of the physical world.”

“While the Old Testament is not an ecological tract,” said Davis, “it offers indispensible insight into the sources of our current ecological crisis… Jeremiah and other biblical writers saw the inevitable connection between the human heart and the state of the world… the Bible can be a source of healing in our present crisis, for both our hearts and our beleaguered planet.”

Davis pointed out that to be fully human, as God intended, mankind must remember the unity of biological life, man’s place among creatures—“creatures among countless creatures”—and man’s interdependency with the soil. “Because we have no life apart from the health of soil and water,” said Davis, “we must care for them as one would care for a beloved family member.”

Click here to read the full text of Davis’ lecture. A DVD of Dr. Davis’ lecture will be made available soon.


Here is one cool excerpt, from a section of the talk where Ellen is speaking about Psalm 36:6, "You save both human and beast, O Lord."


“Humans and animals you save, O LORD.” That line carries our imaginations back long before Sinai, to the beginning of the world, to God’s very first covenant, made through Noah “with all flesh” (Gen. 9:17). I have read this psalm dozens of times in my life, and I confess that I had never noticed that line until a few weeks ago. Probably I read past it because it runs counter to our dominant Western view that God is mainly or exclusively in the business of saving human souls, one by one...

...“Humans and animals you save, O LORD.” How is it that God’s saving regard for humans and animals alike is an answer (of sorts) to the condition of the human heart? The psalmist’s prayer continues thus:
Extend your khesed, your covenant-love, to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart. (v. 11, Eng. 10)
“Extend your khesed to us” – the inference would seem to be that our sickly hearts are healed, they become upright, as we participate in God’s own covenantal commitment to creatures both human and non-human.

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