The ecological crisis is one of the most urgent concerns of our time. Over the years, different approaches to this problem have cropped up, many of them unsatisfactory. Concrete action from the Church is also wanting, even after the release of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’. But, following the Cardijinian method, before we can act, we first need to see and then judge rightly. In his research, ITF Vice-Dean Fr. Anthony Nguyen, SDB, MATh, SThD proposes looking at the problem from the standpoint of dogma ― rather than moral theology as is usually the case.
Speaking in the third session of Ex Corde, a series of lectures launched this academic year in DBCS, Fr. Nguyen presented his licentiate thesis paper entitled, “Ecology: Image of the Unity-in-Diversity of the Trinity.” The event was held on December 1 and attended by more than thirty participants, including students, religious, and formators.
“The importance of relationship is evident when we look at the harmony of the universe,” Fr. Nguyen shared. And the ecological crisis occurs precisely because the “interconnectedness of different beings is disturbed.” It is chaos; and not how things ought to be.
But when we experience or witness the order and harmony of the universe, “this evokes the idea of a supreme intelligence as God.” And the God who created the world, the entire universe and everything in it, “must have left His imprint in the universe.”
Fr Nguyen said, “The guiding principle of my research is that ‘The Artist leaves his mark on his product.’”
Thus by coming to know that the God who has left His mark on the cosmos is Trinitarian or Tripersonal (i.e., consubstantial, distinct, relative to one another), we begin also to understand and appreciate more fully how, in the one universe, ecological diversity entails the coexistence and interconnectedness of different species, each of them a “wonder of the Lord” and having a distinct and necessary part in the whole.
Using his guiding principle, Fr. Nguyen stressed that God’s imprint is not only seen in man: “Man is the image of God, but in a broad sense, so is the rest of the universe.” Drawing from Thomas Aquinas, he said that each specie participates in God according to its level or proportion.
The same idea can be seen in Rom 1:20: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.” Fr. Nguyen said that this verse is crucial in his research: “Any research in Theology has to have a biblical foundation.”
Given this, he laid out his conceptual framework, using a syllogism:
First, the structural design behind the Trinity is unity-in-diversity;
Second, the Trinity is the exemplary cause of creation; (and so)
Third, creation/ecology is an “imitation” or “image” of unity-in-diversity.
Thus, if God is the exemplar, and the forma exemplaris (“exemplar form”) is unity-in-diversity, then the image which is creation should also reflect the forma exemplaris.
Citing Jurgen Moltmann, Fr. Nguyen stressed the call to return to Theocentrism and avoid being stuck in anthropocentrism. It is sad but true that the dogma of the Trinity appears to have an “impractical impact” on Christian praxis ― i.e., if this dogma were to be removed from our teachings, people are likely to live the same way they are already living now. And yet, the Catechism clearly states: “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC, no. 234). It is precisely this disconnect between the Trinity — “the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’” — and how we live, how we relate with the rest of creation, that gives rise to the crises of our time (ecological, moral, etc.), and ought to be bridged.
“Let us look at creation from God’s point of view, and not what man wants,” concluded Fr Nguyen. Unless men and women find their place in God’s plan, we will fail to enjoy it, to play our part, fully.
The Ex Corde Series of Lectures for this academic year will be capped off by a talk from the DBCS President and Dean of Studies Fr. Rafael Dela Cruz Jr, SDB, SThD entitled ““Evangelizing through Popular Piety” in 2017 (the date will be announced in January).