Anvil journal of theology and mission
Editorial: Discovering a Robust Hope for Life on a Fragile Planet
Margot R Hodson
This edition of Anvil presents papers that have come out of an environmental consultation on the issue of ‘Hope’. The project began through a chance conversation between me and Ruth Valerio at the 2010 conference of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, which was on the theme of ‘Climate Change’.
Losing Hope? The Environmental Crisis Today
Martin J Hodson
Environmentalists and scientists who study the environment often give a pretty bleak picture of the future. Surveys of secular views on the environment suggest that the general public in the developed West are concerned about the state of the environment. After considering all of the environmental problems that are causing scientists to worry, this paper then concentrates on four: climate change; biodiversity loss; global water supply; and the increase in our human population. Finally we will see what scientists have to say about hope in a time of environmental crisis.
This paper has emerged out of a consultation held in Oxford to consider the relevance of the Christian message of hope in the face of global environmental crisis. For many Christians, hope has moved from being a proximate hope that we might change our behaviour, to an eschatological hope, as behaviour and policy change are becoming frustratingly hard to secure. It is recognised that this crisis of hope not only applies to environmental issues but also issues of poverty. The author considers our role as hopeful disciples living between proximate and ultimate hope. He uses Ricoeur’s ‘knot of reality’ to explore the interconnection between suffering, faithfulness and the promises of God. The link between catastrophe, judgment, endurance, and hope are examined. A number of key Bible passages are considered in outline and Col. 1:15-20 and Rom. 8:18-23 are examined in more depth, along with some passages from Genesis and Isaiah.
Church leaders who are aware of the environmental crisis need to improve their communication to motivate Christians to take seriously the care for creation and for the poor. Drawing on the work of Walsh and Keesmaat, the author calls Christians to be countercultural. The Church can bring the signs of hope and these are found in community. This requires action that embodies Christian virtues. These point to a renewal of creation and show that we are caught up in a bigger story. Our ultimate hope is always in God and is brought into our present world through our faithful discipleship.
Ecological Hope in Crisis?
This paper considers the topic of Christian hope in the context of today’s environmental crisis. Christian hope needs to be renewed as the world changes, and it needs to engage with the prevalent secular hopes. We are the first people to live at a time when we face the possibility of an entirely human-caused terminal catastrophe. During the Cold War we had the threat of a nuclear holocaust, and now an ecological disaster. The relationship between ultimate and proximate hopes is investigated. Ultimate hope is the final accomplishment of all God’s purposes for his creation. Proximate hopes are those we have for the temporal future. One difference between ultimate and proximate hope is that the former is unconditional and depends only on God’s transcendent act of re-creation. Proximate hopes depend partly on what humans do, and they can be disappointed. Ultimate hope can support proximate hopes, and enables us to work in the direction of God’s purpose. Faith, hope and love are mutually engaging, and needed for the flourishing of the others. We need to scale down our lifestyles, and limitless growth will not be possible. In this scenario hope will need to be both discerning and imaginative. We will also need endurance to keep going and not to give up in the very difficult situation we are facing this century.
Hope and the Environment: a Perspective from the Majority World
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
This paper considers hope and environment from a majority world perspective. It begins by surveying moves within the Anglican Church to become more environmentally aware, and to integrate environmental concerns into theology and practice. This process began at the Lambeth Conference in 1968 and eventually led to the inclusion of an environmental strand within the Anglican Communion’s ‘Five Marks of Mission’. The fifth Mark is ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’ In the 2008 Lambeth Conference a whole section was devoted to the environment.
There follow accounts of environmental work in the Province of Southern Africa. In Niassa Diocese, in northern Mozambique, the mission department has been using Umoja (from the Swahili word for having a common mind) in congregational and community development. It demonstrates holistic mission by deepening faith, building community, and helping with practical challenges. Now the bigger question facing Southern Africa and the majority world is climate change. In South Africa apartheid used to dominate everything and this led to unity in the Church, but after apartheid the country is not faced by one overarching problem, but many. The theology of Charles Mathewes is explored in an attempt to find an adequate Christian response and bring hope to this new context. This then leads on to action in both small practical ways, and in bringing about more fundamental change. Finally, we are reminded that we should not always speak about problems, but also to present a positive vision.
Communicating Hope in the Real World
This paper outlines a methodology for campaigning on environmental issues at a time when hope is in short supply. Brief consideration is given to the real world context. Current environmental concerns are set within the present economic downturn. Our science is generally much better, and many more players are interested in the environment. There has been a media revolution in the last 10 years, and there are now many more ways of communicating information. The equation ‘Proposal + People + Opportunity = Change’ is explored. The principles elucidated are applied to a case study of ‘The Bee Cause’, a Friends of the Earth campaign. The implications for Christian leaders are then investigated.
SAFCEI (Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute)
Bishop Geoff Davies
Book Reviews from 2011 to 2013
David Goodhew (Editor). Church Growth in Britain: 1980 to the present. (Ashgate, 2012); Trystan Owain Hughes. The Compassion Quest. (SPCK, 2013); Michael P. Jensen. How to Write a Theology Essay. (Latimer Trust, 2012); Samuel Wells. Be not afraid: facing fear with faith. (Brazos Press, 2011); Craig Keener & M Daniel Carroll R. (Editors) Global Voices: Reading the Bible in the Majority World. (Hendrickson, 2013); Lee Martin McDonald. Formation of the Bible. (Hendrickson, 2012); Walter Brueggemann. Disruptive Grace. (SCM Press, 2011); Mark Leuchter Samuel and the Shaping of Tradition. (Oxford University Press, 2013); Fleming Rutledge. And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament. (Eerdmans, 2011); Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson (Eds.). Paul and the Second Century. (London: T&T Clark International, 2011); Trevor J. Burke and Brian S. Rosner (Editors) Paul as Missionary. (T&T Clark, 2011); Allan J. McNicol. The Conversion of the Nations in Revelation. (London: T&T Clark International, 2011); Thomas G. Long. Faith What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith. (Eerdmans, 2011); Anthony Thiselton. The Last Things: A New Approach. (SPCK, 2012); Edward Dowler. Theological Ethics. (SCM Core Text Series). (SCM, 2011); David H.J. Gay. Baptist Sacramentalism: A Warning to Baptists. (Brachus, Biggleswade, 2011); Michael P Jensen. Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology. (Wipf & Stock, 2012); David Pullinger. A Desire to Belong – Thinking about single people in church. (Deedot Press, 2011); John Stuart. British Missionaries and the End of Empire: East, Central and Southern Africa, 1939-64. (Eerdmans, 2011).
Reviews of books published before 2011
Elisabeth Goddard and Clare Hendy. The Gender Agenda – Discovering God’s plan for church leadership. (IVP, 2010); Ben Witherington III. Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom and its Celebration. (Eerdmans, 2009); Gary M. Burge. Jesus and the Land: How the New Testament transformed ‘holy land’ theology. (SPCK, 2010); Terence L. Donaldson. Jews and Anti-Judaism in the New Testament: Decision Points and Divergent Interpretations. (SPCK, 2010); Mark D. Given. Paul Unbound: Other Perspectives on the Apostle. (Hendrikson, 2010); Keith Warrington. Discovering Jesus in the New Testament. (Hendrikson, 2009); Paul Copan and Chad Meister. Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues. (Blackwell, 2008); George Pattison. Crucifixions and Resurrections of the Image: Christian reflections on art and modernity. (SCM, 2009); Miroslav Volf. Captive to the Word of God. (Eerdmans, 2010); Ken Gibson. Too Much Aid not Enough Help. (Columba Press, 2010); David Hein and Charles R Henery (Editors). Spiritual Counsel in the Anglican Tradition. (James Clark, 2010); Oliver O’Donovan. A Conversation Waiting to Begin: The Churches and the Gay Controversy. (SCM, 2009); Martyn Percy. Shaping the Church: The Promise of Implicit Theology. (Ashgate, 2010).