A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption

A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption

A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption

A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption

Synopsis

T.J. Gorringe's book reflects theologically on the built environment. After considering the divine grounding of constructed space, he looks at the ownership of land, the issues of housing (both urban and rural) and considers the built environment in terms of community and art. The book concludes with two chapters that set everything within the current framework of the environmental crisis and question directions the Church should be pursuing in building for the future.

Excerpt

For nearly a millennium and a half after Aristotle, economics was understood as a sub discipline of ethics. In the nineteenth century this connection was severed, with disastrous consequences for both people and planet from which we are only just beginning to retrieve ourselves. The case was not so bad for architecture and town planning, though even here brutalist and technocratic understandings of the human spread their poison almost everywhere. Wittingly or unwittingly every design for council estates, every barrio, every skyscraper, every out of town supermarket, expresses a view of the human, embodies an ethic. As I have noted in another context, ethics is the conversation of the human race about its common project, about where it is going and why it wants to go there. There are life affirming, but there have also been many life denying, ethical systems. Recognising this, the authors of Deuteronomy called their fellow countrymen to choose between two ways, a way of life and a way of death. We know only too well that there are ways of life and of death in the built environment.

Though they certainly did not get everything right, the authors of Deuteronomy took their stand on belief in the liberating power of the God of life. Five hundred years after they wrote Jesus of Nazareth endorsed that stand. Reflecting on what he stood for, John put into his mouth the words: 'I am come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. ' Christianity, and therefore theology, has to be concerned with architecture and town planning because it seeks life in all its fullness.

No theology can dialogue solely with its own tradition, solely with other theologians. I have learned hugely from John Turner, Colin Ward, Nicholas Habraken, Christopher Day, David Harvey, whose class on Capital I was part of in Oxford, Richard Sennett, Peter Hall and Lewis Mumford. Mumford's contribution in particular calls for reassessment, for he wrote as a unique kind of ethicist, centrally concerned with the built . . .

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