Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology

Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology

Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology

Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology


Christianity struggles to show how living on earth matters for living with God. While people of faith increasingly seek practical ways to respond to the environmental crisis, theology has had difficulty contextualizing the crisis and interpreting the responses.

In Ecologies of Grace, Willis Jenkins presents a field-shaping introduction to Christian environmental ethics that offers resources for renewing theology. Observing how religious environmental practices often draw on concepts of grace, Jenkins maps the way Christian environmental strategies draw from traditions of salvation as they engage the problems of environmental ethics. He then uses this new map to explore afresh the ecological dimensions of Christian theology.

Jenkins first shows how Christian ethics uniquely frames environmental issues, and then how those approaches both challenge and reinhabit theological traditions. He identifies three major strategies for making environmental problems intelligible to Christian moral experience. Each one draws on a distinct pattern of grace as it adapts a secular approach to environmental ethics. The strategies of ecojustice, stewardship, and ecological spirituality make environments matter for Christian experience by drawing on patterns of sanctification, redemption, and deification.

He then confronts the problems of each of these strategies through critical reappraisals of Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, and Sergei Bulgakov. Each represents a soteriological tradition which Jenkins explores as an ecology of grace, letting environmental questions guide investigation into how nature becomes significant for Christian experience.

By being particularly sensitive to the ways in which environmental problems are made intelligible to Christian moral experience, Jenkins guides his readers toward a fuller understanding of Christianity and ecology. He not only makes sense of the variety of Christian environmental ethics, but by showing how environmental issues come to the heart of Christian experience, prepares fertile ground for theological renewal.


Ecologies of Grace interprets environmental issues through the practical responses of Christian communities and the central resources of Christian theology. It shows how environmental problems trouble the heart of Christian experience and identity, and how theologies of grace can engage, reframe, and maybe transform responses to them.

This project developed over years of international work with Christian communities, study in theological ethics, and teaching environmental thought. More precisely, it developed from the difficulty of integrating those three things: the challenge of environmental problems, the resources of moral theology, and the social practices of faith communities. This book makes an attempt at modeling that integration, bringing together two worlds of professional practice and several literatures in a search for practical environmental theologies.

Living in those worlds and reading in those literatures I have been guided by some wonderful teachers, students, colleagues, and friends. As this book began to take form, it was particularly supported and mentored by Jim Childress and Gene Rogers. Their respective habits of thought shape the project throughout, if only in its aspirations toward Jim’s clear ethical framing and Gene’s elegant theological argument.

At the beginning of my work overseas I was welcomed into a household that knew the ways of grace in the midst of difficulty and helped lead me to the approach of this inquiry; thanks to Robbinah and Amos Turyahabwe, and Tayebwa, Taremwa, and Tashobya. Later, David Fox took a chance on a young community development worker . . .

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