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Nature: a Neglected Theme in Practical Theology

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Generally speaking, nature is supposed to have disappeared from theology when the natural sciences emerged after the beginning of modernity. The gap between these sciences became wider and wider, with the effect of lacking almost all contact. Several factors played a role in the rejection of theology in general of philosophical-theological attempts in which themes such as nature and creation could flourish. In practical theology it is possible to broaden our theology of communicative action in such a way that our communication with nature and about nature can also be taken into account. Then we have to take both divine gift and divine challenge in nature seriously, with 'gift' and 'challenge' being communicative terms, and make a distinction between nature's divine gift and nature's divine challenge. Theology speaks of two books where we can find knowledge about God: the book of nature and the book of the Word of God. A hermeneutically mediated experience of God happens when the revelation in nature is inscribed into the texts of the Bible, and the texts of the Bible are inscribed into the book of nature. Our traditional speaking about God should therefore be complemented by both aniconic and nonanthropomorphic speaking about him, because it implies a way to experiencing God in nature - especially for those who are unchurched, and among the unchurched especially for those who define themselves as 'enlightened' and 'modern' people inclined to free, abstract thinking and cherishing their autonomy.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Practical Theology University of South Africa PO Box 392, Unisa, 0003 Republic of South Africa

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