By and large, says historical theologian and Lutheran pastor Dan Brunner, evangelicals have been late in developing a concern for the natural environment. And even in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus about the human causes of climate change, some evangelicals still remain unconvinced of the importance of responsible human action in caring for the earth. Brunner, who believes that the ecological crisis is the central challenge facing humanity today, finds this skepticism disturbing. But he’s also hopeful that evangelicals will embrace the call to creation care. According to Brunner, the biblical witness and the Christian tradition offer rich theological resources for honoring and caring for the natural world. As people who love the Bible, evangelicals are a ready audience for a theological approach to care for the environment grounded in the biblical narrative.
At least that’s the hope of Brunner and his coauthors, A. J. Swoboda and Jennifer Butler, who are writing an introduction to ecological theology. The book, which is specifically intended for evangelicals, will be published next year by Baker Academic Press. The authors are writing the book with two primary goals in mind. They want to deconstruct common evangelical presuppositions that hinder creation care, including an anthropocentric view of creation, and an eschatology that assumes that the world will either be annihilated or supernaturally rescued by God at the end of time. More constructively, Brunner and his coauthors aim to develop a theology of earthkeeping for evangelicals. In conversation with ecotheologians of various stripes, Brunner, Swodoba and Butler encourage evangelicals to come together in community to learn to see the world as God sees it. This conversion toward a different way of seeing invites us to grieve about the environmental situation. But it also invites us to live hopefully, as if the world will be transformed through God’s grace, with our participation.
Dan Brunner is Professor of Christian History and Formation and Director of Christian Earthkeeping at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is an ordained Minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and served as a parish pastor for nearly twenty years. Brunner was a resident scholar at the Collegeville Institute in the spring of 2013. While he was at the Institute, Janel Kragt Bakker interviewed him about his project. Click here to listen to the interview. Or, watch below.
Image: Kirk, Ian A. Please take your litter home!. Available from: Flickr Commons.