Sallie McFague: The World as God’s Body

Here is an article I had to do comparing two articles. One by Sallie McFague, the other by Kathryn Tanner. Both articles were written under the title “Is God in charge?”

Sallie McFague: God’s Body, Humanity’s Home and Responsibility

Sallie McFague’s account of God’s relationship to the world presents a more effective stimulus to ecologically responsible behavior than that of Kathryn Tanner. McFague’s argument is more stimulating because it not only locates the impetus for this human behavior in an understanding of “the world as God’s body,” but also because Tanner fails to demonstrate the necessity for such activity in her understanding of God’s plan for the world.

In the first, McFague’s response comes as more stimulating because she locates the impetus for such ecological responsibility in the shared experience of the “world as God’s body” (110). Specifically, McFague’s understanding challenges and calls disciples of Jesus to re-imagine the doctrine of creation not as merely God’s acting upon the world, but as God “sharing” divine power that all creation may flourish (114). In McFague’s articulation, not only does God meet with humanity in the “intrinsic and intimate” details of life, but in this mess is where we are at home and where humanity can be most active (102). In this way, with this vision of home, a rooted humanity is able to bear witness to the goodness and sustainability of creation in God.

On other hand, Tanner seems to leave the question of ecological responsibility somewhat untouched; rather, she places the question of sustainability and ultimate justice on God. Although one might consider her brief discussion of human agency as providing some stimulus towards action by humans, her conclusion that, “God [does not] need creatures of any particular sort to achieve God’s ends within the world,” seems to paint the picture of a plan that will be inacted without human involvement(129). This image of God not only fails to stimulate readers to engage with matters of ecological responsibility, but also adds fuel to the fires of ideologies which already fail to recognize the responsibility and interconnectedness of humans in caring for creation.

While both McFague and Tanner are concerned with God’s relationship to the world, McFague’s understanding of the “world as God’s body” provides a more stimulating call to ecological responsibility. This stimuli is most experienced when an empowered humanity wake up to their shared responsibility for creation as where they are most authentically at home.

Thoughts? Is McFague’s metaphor as helpful for you?


4 thoughts on “Sallie McFague: The World as God’s Body

  1. I find metaphors like McFague’s quite helpful, but then I’ve considered myself a panentheist for some while now. 🙂

    There are different panentheist metaphors, some of which resonate more than others (for me). I haven’t read McFague for a little while now, but I seem to remember her viewpoint being similar to my own.

    Thanks for posting this. I’d love to see more discussions like this going on in the blogosphere.

  2. Kay-

    Thanks for your comment. I’ve been away on retreat to the wonderful mountains of North Carolina so I haven’t been able to respond!

    You are right to say that these kinds of metaphors are helpful, but as much as metaphors, I wonder if they might just be the way of the world.

    Panentheism still isn’t very popular by most orthodox account, but I am with you. There is certainly something to it. Especially when it comes to the way that people actually experience the world. After all, I think most people are far more epistemologically panentheistic than they are monotheistic.

    Would you agree?


  3. If you’re interested in St. Thomas’ perspective on this argument, see SUMMA THEOLOGIAE Ia.3, especially Article 8.

    My view: if one isn’t close to pantheism, one probably hasn’t got it right. But if one is pantheist, one has it wrong. It’s a tight turn.

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