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The Sacramental Sea

Edmund Newell

This article contributes to environmental theology by exploring our ambivalent attitude toward the sea. It begins by examining the largely negative references to the sea in the Bible, arguing that this is due primarily to the sea’s association with the precreation state of chaos. As such, the sea plays an important role in the biblical salvation narrative, the goal of which is a perfected creation in which “the sea was no more” (Rev. 21:1). It then looks at positive attitudes to the sea related to exploration, religious experience, and the development of natural theology. It concludes that this ambivalent theological attitude gives the sea a highly sacramental nature that speaks to both the contrasting apophatic and kataphatic traditions in theology, which highlight, respectively, God’s revelation and unfathomable nature.

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