Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Monday, May 21, 2007

Boreham and His Theology of Nature

F W Boreham’s theology of nature gave his theology a significant breadth. While he made statements about the human yearning for nature and the contributions that nature makes to the human condition, there was evidence that Boreham was concerned for ecology, regardless of the benefits for human society.

His call for the protection of animal and plant species and the conservation of natural resources sometimes had utilitarian and nationalistic elements, but his protests over exploitation and his pleas for just policies and the wise stewardship of earth’s resources arose from sincere theological convictions. These editorials were often prompted by events and conversations in Boreham’s local context and represented an important contribution to contemporary issues of public concern.

Dr. Boreham’s call to commune with nature sprang from his contention that nature pointed to the divine creator as “the heavens are telling the glory of God.”[1] This communion involved for Boreham a sacramental understanding of nature in which, in the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

"Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes…"[2]

The editorials in which Boreham wrote of experiencing God through nature or ‘touching God’ through the soil, may seem to reflect paganism or pantheism but Tony Kelly’s definition of ‘panentheism’ as, “all things existing in God, as their source, ground and goal”, helpfully describes Boreham’s understanding.[3]

His nature articles provided him with the opportunity to write of the relationships between nature, God, religion, truth and science in ways that stressed their unity, harmony and a “cosmology of wholeness.”[4]

Geoff Pound

Image: “But only he who sees, takes off his shoes…[5]

[1] Ps. 19:1.
[2] Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh 7. 1. 821-826.
[3] Tony Kelly, An expanding theology: Faith in a world of connections (Newtown, NSW: E J Dwyer, 1993), 41.
[4] Kelly, An expanding theology, 40.
[5] Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh 7. 1. 821-826.