Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology

Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis

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Today's church finds itself in a new world, one in which climate change and ecological degradation are front-page news. In the eyes of many, the evangelical community has been slow to take up a call to creation care. How do Christians address this issue in a faithful way?

This evangelically centered but ecumenically informed introduction to ecological theology (ecotheology) explores the global dimensions of creation care, calling Christians to meet contemporary ecological challenges with courage and hope. The book provides a biblical, theological, ecological, and historical rationale for earthcare as well as specific practices to engage both individuals and churches. Drawing from a variety of Christian traditions, the book promotes a spirit of hospitality, civility, honesty, and partnership. It includes a foreword by Bill McKibben and an afterword by Matthew Sleeth.

Contents

Foreword by Bill McKibben
Part I: Why Ecotheology?
1. Introduction: The Stories behind the Story
Our Stories
The Structure of this Book
2. In the Beginning: Listening to the Voice of Scripture
The Problem
God's Two Books
Biblical Reasons for Creation Care
3. The Voice of Creation: The Grandeur and the Groaning of the Earth
The Grandeur of Creation
The Scientist as Prophet
The Groaning of Creation
Part II: Exploring Ecotheology
4. Voices in the Wilderness: Christianity's History with Creation
Early Christianity
Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Western Christianity
The Birth of Contemporary Christian Ecotheology
5. The God of Burning Bushes: Trinity and Ecology
Trinity
Christology
Pneumatology
6. Restoring Eden: Ancient Theology in an Ecological Age
Creation
Sin
Salvation and Redemption
Eschatology
Part III: Doing Ecotheology
7. Breaking the Bonds: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Lightly
Developing an Ecotheological Mindset
Ethics and Action
Ecojustice and Oppression
8. Heavenly Minded, Earthly Good: Embodying Down-to-Earth Living
Staying Rooted
Cultivating Awareness
Practicing Centering Prayer
Keeping the Sabbath
Living Simply
Resisting Consumerism
Eating Justly
Conserving Water
Reducing Waste
Keeping a Garden
9. Earthen Vessels: Greening the Church
Greening Leadership
Greening Land and Space
Greening Worship
Greening Mission
Part IV: Last Things
10. Living As If: Resurrection Hope
The Journey to Hope
Living in Hope
Index


Endorsements

"Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology is a wonderful new addition to the field. Combining scientific data, personal stories, and careful theological analysis, the authors draw readers into the goodness and pain of God's world and invite them to develop a wholesome response as an act of Christian discipleship. Christians and congregations will learn much and benefit greatly from this book."

Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology, Duke Divinity School

"Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology is an excellent addition to the literature on Christians and creation care. This book provides a biblically rooted and historically informed discussion of important theological and ethical issues, from a distinctly evangelical point of view, with an illuminating discussion of embodied down-to-earth living (to use the title of one of the last chapters). It is thorough, well-organized, and well-written. Moreover, it exhibits wide reading and is chock-full of wisdom. With many poignant stories to match the depth and breadth of its theology, the book makes for pleasurable as well as valuable reading. My thanks to the authors for this fine volume. I pray many will take up and read this book and in so doing be inspired to bear witness to God's good future of shalom."

Steven Bouma-Prediger, professor of religion, Hope College; author of For the Beauty of the Earth

"Sometimes you have no idea how much you needed something until it appears. Here is a desperately needed resource for the church where debates about what it means to theologize and ecologize--with the customary cries to apologize, economize, harmonize, decentralize, localize--sound more like sacks of cats than choral evensong."

Leonard Sweet, bestselling author, professor (Drew University), and chief contributor to Sermons.com

"Vital and timely. Meets a clear need. Deepens the church's witness on behalf of creation. One could use all of these phrases to describe this important book. But even more important are the clarity, conviction, and passionate engagement with the Bible, the church, and their relationship with the earth that Brunner, Butler, and Swoboda bring to this emerging priority for Christians. This volume will equip and empower pastors and lay leaders alike to develop a faithful ecotheology and to put belief into action."

Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director, GreenFaith

"As it did years ago, the Church is undergoing another Great Awakening. In this landmark volume, Brunner, Butler, and Swoboda have provided the theological resources, inspiration, and vision for a Green Awakening. Weaving together personal stories, biblical readings, theological insights, confessional backgrounds, and practical advice, this co-authored work will prove immensely useful for Christians of all theological persuasions."

William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary; author of The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder

"I believe Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology is the most carefully constructed and comprehensive work of its kind to date. If you have been waiting for a text centering ecotheology in solidly biblical and historic Christianity, the wait is over."

Randy Woodley, distinguished professor of faith and culture, George Fox Seminary; author of Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision

"Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology is a highly readable and insightful exploration of new evangelical thinking about the task of 'ecotheology,' that is, Christian theology that re-thinks the Bible and church tradition with constant reference to God's good gift of creation. Written by three leading figures in this emerging field of study, this book features illuminating sidebars that address the authors' disagreements about difficult topics in contemporary ecotheology including the role of inclusive language for God, the question of evolution, and the problem of 'stewardship' language for a Christian environmental ethic. An excellent volume for college students, church groups, and general readers alike."

Mark Wallace, professor of religion and interpretation theory coordinator, Swarthmore College; author of Green Christianity

"The interlocking ecological crises stalking us confront Christians with a stark choice: denial or discipleship. This engaging and thoughtful collaboration offers a wide-spectrum overview of the biblical, theological, historical, scientific, and practical issues at stake. Butler, Brunner, and Swoboda have established a new baseline for committed evangelical ecotheology and praxis."

Ched Myers, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries


The Authors

  1. Daniel L. Brunner

    Daniel L. Brunner

    Daniel L. Brunner (DPhil, University of Oxford) is professor of Christian history and formation at Portland Seminary where he founded and directs the Christian earthkeeping program.

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  2. Jennifer L. Butler

    Jennifer L. Butler

    Jennifer L. Butler (MDiv, Portland Seminary) is associate minister at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Corvallis, Oregon, and an adjunct instructor in the Christian earthkeeping program at Portland Seminary.

    Continue reading about Jennifer L. Butler

  3. A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) pastors Theophilus Church in urban Portland, Oregon. He is executive director of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, a consortium of Christian higher education institutions dedicated to reconnecting Christians with...

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Reviews

Best Book of Creation Care/Environmental Studies for 2014, Hearts & Minds Books

"A welcome addition to the literature to Christian faith and the environment. . . . Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology has much to commend. It is an accessible volume that leads readers through important topics in Christian history, theology, and practice. Perhaps most importantly, it models dialogue and collaboration. . . . Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology deserves a wide audience. . . . [The authors] invite readers to consider for themselves what Christian theology and faith might mean for the environment, and they identify a wide range of topics for further exploration. And if readers do follow the example of hospitable environmental dialogue and praxis in Introducing Evangelical Theology, they will strengthen the church's witness in caring for God's creation, human and nonhuman alike."

James R. Skillen,

Christian Scholar's Review

"If you are looking for an introduction to all the ways Scripture, church history, theology, and diverse traditions can inform our faith and practice when it comes to living reconciled to creation as the body of Christ, a book that can be shared with both curious friends and skeptical community members, then this book is for you. The authors state, 'With notable exceptions, evangelical and Pentecostal voices have been curiously missing from the broader ecotheological conversation. In large part, this book is attempting to invite the diverse range of evangelical strengths to the ecological table.' To this end, I think this book is a great success."

Maria Drews,

Englewood Review of Books

"Certainly the best theological work on this topic in years. These authors are evangelicals, solid, passionate, and yet remarkably fluent with other faith traditions, and, of course, with the science of climate change, pollution and the like. . . . Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology deserves a very green award of merit."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"Although this work is academic in nature, non-academic readers will be able to appreciate and enjoy the authors' work due to the book's overall readability. . . . The authors contribute a concise yet carefully thorough introduction to evangelical ecotheology. Considering that evangelicalism is a broad, ecumenical movement, the three authors represent the movement well by finding what is common among all streams, yet underlining the various 'tension points' that come as a result of being a part of a large and diverse movement. I highly recommend this book for all people--whether in undergraduate, seminary, or church settings--for it breaks new ground in the development of a distinctly evangelical ecotheology, which is vital in the movement for today and in the years to come."

Andrew Ray Williams,

William Carey International Development Journal