Contemporary Ecotheology – Review
Contemporary ecotheology, climate justice and environmental stewardship in world religions, edited by Louk A. Adrianos and Tom S. Tomren, December 2021. Embla Akademisk, ISBN 9788293689140, 345 pages. RRP 39 euro (or download free from oikoumene.org)
This major work is the most all-embracing and compelling study of ecotheology that I have read. It repays – and needs – careful reading and I strongly recommend it. The product of a conference at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, it has received the imprimatur of the World Council of Churches and is naturally much enriched by “Orthodox Creation thinking”.
The mandate for ecotheology, the study of God as if all creation mattered, comes from the oft-overlooked third commandment of Christ, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) This book contains articles, all worth reading, in three main sections: theological reflections, ethics and global contributions. Key themes include calls to love Creation as yourself and to recognise the role of human greed in bringing about the Anthropocene epoch. Christian traditions, including African, Pentecostal, Anglican, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, are at the heart of the book, but ecological insights of Islam, Buddhism, Shamanism and Hinduism are celebrated as well.
Louk Adrianos’s own piece analyses the retreat from the spiritual which epitomises the Anthropocene, including the ecological racism inherent in nuclear testing, with disastrous effects, in Indigenous areas. An unusual and illuminating contribution from Anastasia Fedoseeva and Alan S. Weber discusses the naming of Lake Baikal by some of the Buryat inhabitants as “Nature Lake”. It also describes the ways in which their practice of a combination of Shamanism, Christianity and Buddhism stands against human dominance and for self-denial and the sacred unity of all living beings. Seyed Masoud Noori and Maryamossadat Torabi write compellingly about climate-based apartheid, advocating action by world religions, while Edward Dommen celebrates ecotheological cooperation utilising concepts of stewardship, dignity, benevolence and the power of the Qi life force to integrate humans with nature.
The book is full of unusual insights and examples of practical initiatives both successful, including a fuel-saving cooking stove project by the Lutheran Church in Cameroon and less so, such as their tree-planting initiative. It highlights points of difference, such as varying attitudes towards fossil fuel extraction and eco-colonialism expressed by Indigenous peoples. There are many specifically Christian insights, including reference to the Orthodox holistic vision of nature in which Creation and the Creator have become one. Humankind’s root problem is our denial of the sacramentality of creation; accepting God’s gifts in nature as signs of sacred things insofar as they sanctify us, we meet St Thomas Aquinas’s definition of a sacrament.
From the minute detail of the crib being a sign of God’s lowly love to all creation, to the high vision of the gathering up of “all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10), this splendid assemblage of visions has a majestic coverage of the future of our joyous Gospel.
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