Online Course Details
Meeting ID 861 4953 1999 | Passcode 250030
For nearly a century, humanity has been grappling with a new understanding of the impact which our behaviour has on the natural world. New data regarding the changing climate, the decimation of non-human species and the destruction of natural habitats has alerted governments and populations to the fact that humans must radically change their understanding of their relationship with the natural world or else perish. This realisation has altered the way in which politicians, philosophers, sociologists, scientists and geographers have approached their fields. The same is also true of theologians.In recent decades a new area of Christian theology – now commonly called ‘ecotheology’ – has emerged. Scholars working in this field ask questions regarding the proper interpretation of sacred texts, our proper understanding of creation, of eschatology and of created human nature in light of new knowledge about our changing planet. This course investigates five key topics within the area of ecotheology, examining its key questions and evaluating the answers provided by its key thinkers.
A History of Ecotheology
The term ‘ecotheology’ was first employed by theologians in the mid-twentieth century. Its earliest avowed proponents included Jack Rogers, Sallie MacFeague and Jurgen Moltmann amongst many others. However, the roots of this tradition go much deeper. In this section of the course we examine some proto-ecotheologians – including Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Seraphim of Sarov – whose work has inspired those working in the field today.
Hermeneutics is the word used by theologians to describe the ways in which Christians explore their sacred text: the Bible. The Bible is replete with references to the relationship between humanity and non-human creation. At different points in history, the Bible has been used by those who seek to support an anthropocentric understanding of creation: with human beings given a warrant to dominate and exploit the natural world. At other points, Christians have been inspired by the Bible to become stewards of creation. This section of the course asks whether Biblical texts can be relevant or inspirational for us today, in light of our new understanding of the relationship between human and non-human nature.
Ecology and Christology
How do Christians understand the central tenet of their belief system – the incarnation of God in the form of Jesus Christ and His atoning death – in the context of current ecological science? One perspective, advocated by Neils Gregersen and Elizabeth Johnson, is often referred to as ‘deep incarnation.’ These scholars propose a new way of thinking about Christology, based on the central claim that ‘flesh’ – which Christians believe Christ became – can only be truly understood in the light of evolutionary theory. Christ’s flesh in other words, was not only the vector for his kinship with humanity but also for his kinship with the entire cosmos. What implications does this claim have for the story of the incarnation and atonement?
Christian Ecological Ethics
For much of the history of the Church, ethical debates were largely consumed with a focus on the correct way in which human beings should treat one another. In the twenty-first century, most people have a more nuanced understanding of the close relationship which humans and non-humans share. As such, many people argue that human beings have a moral responsibility for the wellbeing of non-human creatures. This section of the course asks the question: how does our understanding of the impact of human behaviour on the natural world shape our understanding of the ethical message of the Gospels?
A Christian Anthropology for the Anthropocene.
Underpinning many of the ethical and theological issues raised by ecotheologians is a fundamental question: what are human beings? The nineteenth century saw the rise of evolutionary theory. The discovery of evolution disrupted many centuries of human thought regarding the nature of humanity. It brought Christianity into conflict with the scientific consensus and created a rift which for many remains unhealed. For many of those involved in the ecotheology project, a principle task lies in outlining a meaningful and feasible account of the specialness of humanity, whilst recognising that humanity is related to the rest of creation in a far more intimate way than was previously thought. How do Christians best understand the status of humanity and, as such, the idiosyncratic relationship between humanity and God?
Reading - The Bible and the Anthropocentrism
Reading - Who on Earth is Jesus Christ
Aidan completed his PhD at the Divinity Faculty of the University of Cambridge in 2018. During his doctoral studies he ran as a Parliamentary candidate for the Green Party. He is the author of two academic books: Jewish Christians in Puritan England (2020) and Israelism in Modern Britain (2021). Between 2020 and 2022 he worked as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at St Mary's University in London.