Original Research - Special Collection: Theology and Nature

The human being and the world as God’s creation: Present-day ethical conflicts and consequences of the doctrine of creation in the perspective of the doctrine of justification

Ulrich H.J. Körtner
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 3 | a6491 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i3.6491 | © 2021 Ulrich H.J. Körtner | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 January 2021 | Published: 01 July 2021

About the author(s)

Ulrich H.J. Körtner, Institute for Systematic Theology and Religious Studies, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria; Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


All the medical and bioethical questions, ranging from stem cell research to converging technologies and synthetic biology, touch on the question regarding the image of human beings and their position in the cosmos, by which we are able to orient ourselves. This article argues that the biblical belief in creation and the discourse about humans as created beings by and in the image of God can still be proclaimed as a viable form of human self-interpretation in the present. The distinction between practical knowledge and knowledge of orientation may be of help here. Guidance for how to live and act is not best found in abstract principles, but rather in meaningful stories, in metaphors and symbols. On this level, too, is also where faith in creation and the certainty of our own creatureliness is located.

Contribution: This article interprets the doctrine of creation by a hermeneutical theology. It analyses the interdependence between hermeneutics and criticism in the process of reinterpreting the classical propositions about the human being and the world as God’s creation and the relation of anthropology and ethics. The aim is to show what might be the contribution of Christian faith in creation to the approach of an ethics of responsibility in the field of bioethics and ecology. The specific contribution of this article to current debates on an ethics of creation is the thesis that the key to a well-balanced theological approach to all this is the Pauline doctrine of justification as interpreted by the protestant reformers.


doctrine of creation; ethics of creation; ethics of technology; anthropology; hermeneutical theology; justification by faith; ethics of responsibility


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