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  • Author or Editor: Bronislaw Szerszynski x

Bronislaw Szerszynski

In Nature, Technology and the Sacred (2005) I argued that the modern project of the technological mastery of nature remains profoundly shaped by its religious roots. In this paper I explore connections and tensions between this analysis and the neo-Calvinist critiques of modernity and modern technology advanced by Herman Dooyeweerd and Hendrik van Riessen. I explore the relationship between Dooyeweerd’s analysis of Western culture as a sequence of religious ‘ground motives’ and my own in terms of the series of ‘orderings of the sacred’ which together constitute the ‘long arc of monotheism’. I relate van Riessen’s analysis of the internal structure of technology to my argument that this structure has been shaped by transformations in the sacred since the Protestant reformation. I conclude with some observations, prompted by the divergences between the two accounts, concerning the relationship between technology, monotheism, history and politics.



The idea of nature's sacrality, contrasting starkly with industrial modernity's overwhelmingly instrumental valuation of non-human nature, visibly inform philosophical positions such as deep ecology and Gaia theory. But at a more unspoken level they can also be seen as suffusing a wider societal sensibility, evident not least in popular values regarding nature. But, granted that many people would ascribe such a value to nature, how are such beliefs embodied in their lives? An attention to the theological or cosmological level can only take us so far in understanding the dynamics of culture; we need also to attend to questions of practice, ritual, community and relationship, for it is through such elements that more abstract ideas about humanity's place in the universe are given both support and expression. It is in this spirit of inquiry that this paper proceeds, arguing that religious forms of action and corporateness characteristic of monastic, sectarian, churchly, and folk religiosity have shaped the way that contemporary environmental values are embodied in the practices and experience of everyday life.