Theology at sea

On an island in the sun
We'll be playing and having fun
And it makes me feel so fine
I can't control my brain — Weezer

Last week, we have been sail­ing on the Dutch IJs­selmeer and the Wad­den Sea. We enjoyed the panoram­ic views with beau­ti­ful cloud for­ma­tions. Birds could be seen every­where, look­ing for fish or busy keep­ing an eye on their chil­dren. The moon rose full and bright orange when we anchored at the Lorenz locks. The weath­er was most­ly warm and sun­ny but on the last day we expe­ri­enced “real IJs­selmeer sail­ing” (accord­ing to Fred­dy), with rain and high waves.

Liv­ing at sea, we strong­ly felt that we were only guests in the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment. In a way, this is true for the whole of mankind. We live on this plan­et for a short while, and we can ask our­selves how we leave the camp­site behind after we pack up our tent and move on. The Bible says that humans have a spe­cial posi­tion with­in cre­ation. Our task is to man­age the earth. How can we do that the right way?


As Chris­tians, we are fol­low­ers of Jesus. He shows how God gives shape to his king­dom: “I am among you as one who serves”. He healed the sick, blessed the chil­dren and gave food to thou­sands of peo­ple. Jesus teach­es us to care for the weak. He did not bring an explic­it mes­sage about car­ing for the earth. This was per­haps not nec­es­sary because the soci­ety in which he lived did not manip­u­late the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment to the extent to which we do.

Today, we live in a soci­ety that is built on the exploita­tion of ani­mals and the deple­tion of nat­ur­al resources. We can apply the serv­ing atti­tude of Jesus to our rela­tion­ship with nature. An exam­ple is the papal encycli­cal Lauda­to Si.


Fol­low­ing Jesus can help us to serve the well­be­ing of our fel­low human beings and the rest of cre­ation. Every­one makes their own con­sid­er­a­tions when it comes to this. Per­son­al­ly, I am moved by the suf­fer­ing of ani­mals in inten­sive farm­ing and I believe that God’s heart also goes out to them: “For he will deliv­er the needy who cry out, the afflict­ed who have no one to help”.

Andrew Linzey puts it as follows:

If the omnipo­tence and pow­er of God is prop­er­ly expressed in the form of kataba­sis, humil­i­ty and self-sac­ri­fice, why should this mod­el not prop­er­ly extend to our rela­tions with cre­ation as a whole and ani­mals in particular?

Food for thought, per­haps, for these last days of the sum­mer hol­i­days. I am trav­el­ing back home tomor­row, to go back to work next week. One day left to enjoy/survive the heat… ;-)


  • Bible: Luke 22: 27, Psalm 72: 12. See also: Philip­pi­ans 5–8.
  • Andrew Linzey (1996) Ani­mal Theology