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The development of modern scientific, economic and political institutions have taken the place historically accorded to religion, and traditional religious attitudes toward nature have largely disappeared in modern societies.

Over the past few decades, however, some leaders of every religion in the world have returned to their origins to recover their pre-modern religious environmental teachings to present them as religious environmental ethics.

Much of the debate over stewardship ethics in the Judeo-Christian tradition turns on a single word in Genesis : man(kind) is to practice "dominion" over the Earth.

Evidence of this shift in thinking can be found in the substitution of "creation" for words "environment" or "nature." Thus, the scope of religious concern is not restricted to humans or their formal houses of worship, but rather extends out to include all life, indeed, all of the created world. Francis of Assisi is an example of someone who understood himself to live in a world charged with divine life, in a sacramental world.

He was named Patron Saint of Ecologists because he celebrated the beauty and diversity of creation through his prayer and preaching.

Among Biblical scholars, a consensus interpretation has emerged: humans are to reflect the same care that the Creator has for humans in our own care for creation.

Thus, the term "dominion" should be translated as "duty to care," or stewardship.

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