A New Climate Change for Theology

Climate change promises monumental changes to human and other planetary life in the next generations. Yet government, business, and individuals have been largely in denial of the possibility that global warming may put our species on the road to extinction. Further, says Sallie McFague, we have failed to see the real root of our behavioral troubles in an economic model that actually reflects distorted religious views of the person. At its heart, she maintains, global warming occurs because we lack an appropriate understanding of ourselves as inextricably bound to the planet and its systems.

A New Climate for Theology not only traces the distorted notion of unlimited desire that fuels our market system; it also paints an alternative idea of what being human means and what a just and sustainable economy might mean. Convincing, specific, and wise, McFague argues for an alternative economic order and for our relational identity as part of an unfolding universe that expresses divine love and human freedom. It is a view that can inspire real change, an altered lifestyle, and a form of Christian discipleship and desire appropriate to who we really are.

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  1. Review

    A NEW CLIMATE CHANGE FOR THEOLOGY God, the World, and Global Warming

    The problem and threat of global climate change is a scientific, economic, and political issue. The heart of this book is that climate change is also the central theological issue of our time. The author writes that theology "helps us question our maneuvers of denial/or the obligation to act in very different ways, depending on our assumptions about God and ourselves." Sallie McFague, Distinguished Theologian in Residence at the Vancouver School of Theology in British Columbia, helps the reader confront and wrestle with God, the World and Global Warming

    She begins with the science of global warming, citing and accepting the Fourth Assessment Report, "The Physical Science Basis," of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued in February 2008, that global warming is underway and that human activities are the major cause. She is convinced that global warming and its consequences are no longer debatable and poses the most crucial test we have ever faced. Our survival is at stake and our humanity is threatened.

    It is obvious that we must take action. But the author stresses that it is vital that we "internalize our vulnerability" to the causes and effects of climate change by recognizing our responsibility. This leads her to stress that it is between "two poles – the personal and the political – that important work needs to be done." Focusing on the pole of the personal, she sees her task as helping us "reflect upon the most basic assumptions about ourselves." She is clear that who I am and who God is are questions taken for granted in our culture and emphatic that "it is precisely these false conventional views of God and ourselves that permit the continuing destruction of our planet and its inhabitants."

    It follows that who we are and who God is "must be central questions" if we are to take action in the direction of "just, sustainable planetary living." She devotes a chapter to "Who Are We, Ecological Anthropology," which makes the case that we can no longer think of ourselves as "basically and centrally" ‘individuals' but must now think of ourselves as interrelated and interdependent with all other life forms so that we will become caretakers of all. She writes that we must follow earth's house rules, "Take only your share, Clean up after yourself, and Keep the house in good repair for others." With this understanding of who we are, salvation "means "the well-being of all God's creatures – and not just eternal life in another world."

    A chapter follows titled "Who is God? Creation and Providence. The author describes four models of the God-world relationship. All can be seen as models of

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    supernatural theism. God is above and beyond the world and intervenes from time to time to exercise his will. In contrast, the author, beginning with words of Augustine and using the concept of incarnation, states that "Christians should attend to the model of the world as God's body." The implications of this model support "a radically ecological view of the world," and allows us to "meet God in the garden, on the earth, at home." It also motivates us to "get busy learning about our neighbor and how we can live here justly and sustainably." Her conclusion is that the model of the world as God's body "suggests a creation-oriented Christianity in radical contrast to the "individualistic, self-serving redemptionism" (Joseph Haar) which dominates contemporary Christianity.

    Part three of the book focuses on the question, "What would the worship of God and service to our neighbor look like in a post-modern, climate change context?" And part four addresses what the author considers "the most difficult of all climate change issues: despair and hope."

    There are many articles, books films and other resources to help us understand climate change. This is a pioneering book that is written to help not only to help us confront climate change but to understand "A New Climate for Theology" and, I would add, a new climate for the Church and its mission.

     

     

     

     

     

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