The Greening of Protestant Thought

By Robert Booth Fowler | Go to book overview

TOWARD ECO-THEOLOGY

This chapter and those that follow explore the determined efforts within Protestantism (and Christianity in general) to craft new eco-theologies. The several examples to be considered include the work of H. Paul Santmire, creation and process theologies, and ecofeminism. In each instance, Protestants who have struggled to create these new eco-theologies have taken as their starting premise "the ambiguous ecological promise of Christian theology," 1 as Santmire gently puts it.

At one level, the motivation for the contemporary eco-theology enterprise is the desire to fashion a Christianity that offers a greater promise for the survival of creation than most past Christian theologies have provided. That desire in turn derives from the conviction that creation is in crisis--the universal constant of religious environmentalism. The result has been a fascinating, diverse, and fiercely controversial proliferation of eco-theologies. 2

Philosopher and environmentalist John Passmore recognizes that the West, including religions of the West, have had complex attitudes toward nature. These attitudes reflect multiple traditions, and we should be careful to avoid simplistic generalizations about "Western attitudes." Passmore also notes that "Christian theology has in the past proved itself to be remarkably flexible," and he understands that it is in fealty to that tradition that contemporary "theologians are now busily attempting to work out new attitudes to nature . . . denying that men have a 'sacredness' which animals do not possess." Passmore has expressed skepticism, however, about the new eco-theological efforts within the Christian tradition, concluding that the extent of change that would be needed within Christianity is enormous. He has written, "I more than doubt Christian theology can thus reshape itself without ceasing to be distinctly Christian." 3

Despite his skeptical prediction, Passmore's perception of the theologians' efforts twenty years ago is still more accurate today. The process of designing eco-theologies for the contemporary era is booming in the world of Christian, including Protestant, theology. As Roderick Nash

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The Greening of Protestant Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Protestants Face the Environment 13
  • 2 - The Bible as (contested) Foundation 28
  • 3 - Dissent and Protestant Fundamentalism 45
  • 4 - The Argument Over Christianity 58
  • 5 - Stewardship 76
  • Toward Eco-Theology 91
  • Process Environmentalism 108
  • 8 - The Ecofeminist Challenge 123
  • The Protestant Environmentalist Agenda 141
  • 10 - Politics and the Means to Change 159
  • Conclusion 175
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 207
  • SCRIPTURE INDEX 237
  • GENERAL INDEX 238
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