Ecotheology: It’s time for a hermeneutic

What is Ecotheology?

I found this to be spot on…as the saying goes, and it is from Portland Seminary: Ecotheology is a form of study and thinking that combines the disciplines of ecology (the study of organisms and their environments) and theology (the study of God and religious beliefs). Ecotheology examines creation through the lenses of Scripture and Christian tradition, exploring questions like: “What does God say about the care of creation?” and “How does our theology influence our understanding of ecology?”

“We know the current way of life no longer works, that the system is not sustainable. Yet it produces intense stress and anxiety to imagine how we might succeed in ‘being’ any other way…[Ecotheology] can take us to the edge of what human thinking can do, and point us beyond–to what can be done by the Spirit of God moving among the faithful.” This is from the book “Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology: Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis by Daniel L. Brunner, Jennifer L. Butler, and A.J. Swoboda.”

What systematic theology has taught us over the centuries is when the church, organized religion, fails to adapt to the cultural context in a healthy manner, as what Saint Paul and the early Church Fathers were able to do and what we have come to know of it as ‘patristic theology’, it can lead to a loss of cultural relevance in the modern world. The document, “The Church in the modern world” addresses this issue, and we should take note. Proper contextualization is essential if we are going to create any movement to a greater understanding of ecotheology.

Think of ecotheology, as a theology of Saint Francis, ‘creation’ being the first Bible, and that is the start of the theology. Franciscan alternative orthodoxy is an example of contextual theology that is more closely linked to the contemporary context than it is to traditional forms of Christian doctrine.

Stephen Bevans writes in his book “Models of Contextual Theology, the Praxis Model” and I will paraphrase that Contextual Theology starts with the “missional desire to “either to adopt the gospel message of revelation or to listen to the context.”

For ecotheology, we must realize that our starting point is God’s creation. The Universe and not just this planet. We must not think of this as something that only began with the teachings of Jesus two thousand years ago but with the beginning of all creation. This really requires a different set of theological presuppositions, mindsets, and meditations.

The Universe and all its components have intrinsic worth/value, and this in itself has theological implications. If we begin to think in terms of innovation, education, and collaboration we begin to see the interconnectedness of the Universe as a community of living ‘things’ what Richard Rohr discusses in his new book “The Universal Christ.” We begin to see and understand theologically that ‘every – thing’ is mutually dependent on each other for life and survival.

Ecotheology is a seamless, woven garment consisting of the Universe, Earth, its inhabitants, we must begin to think of all these components as a seamless garment of a dynamic cosmic design within which each piece has a place in the overall goal of that design of the Universal Christ.

We are ‘custodians’ of Earth, not owners of Earth. In ecotheology we come to express and understand that the Universe is of Christ and Christ is in the Universe and all is balanced and yet remains diverse which is why responsible custodianship is a necessary but not sufficient function of all human beings. What makes it necessary and sufficient is the theology of creation and the understanding thereof.

When man is with God in awe and love, then he is praying…In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.” – Karl Rahner.

So if we think in terms of missional church, creating disciples, and living in the context of the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy, then we must create an ecotheological hermeneutics for all of humankind: “Life is more important than doctrine.” (Prius vita quam doctrina, says Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, “De Anima”, II, 37.)

The making of mystics.

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