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Nature Seen through the Eyes of Faith: Understandings among Seminarians

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Attitudes toward nature were surveyed among male and female seminary students at three seminaries, all of which were located in West Michigan. Mixed methodologies were used in the study, including questionnaires, visualization, and content analysis of discussion transcripts. The seminaries represented theological traditions that were either "communal" or "individualistic" in their perceptions of society. Previous research has confirmed that individualistic, fundamentalist belief systems hold together in such a way as to lead to a utilitarian view of nature. Beyond this fundamentalist social group, environmental attitudes were much more complex. Gender differences were present but not substantial. The results of this study began to clarify the elusive concept of stewardship. The participants from the seminary who most closely reflected this position rejected the general concept of rights, whether for humans or nature, and held neither a utilitarian nor a biocentric view of nature. However, they believed that God's sustaining power was present in nature, and that the human community was embedded in nature.


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