Global Warming and the New Theology: A business viewpoint
by John Lovatt
For a long time a sea-change in our thinking about work and business has been required to prevent Christianity being marginalised in debates on most issues, including climate change. John Lovatt detects a revival of a theology grounded in the basics of early Christian thought, and suggests it is applicable to global warming.
The New Theology What do I mean by the new theology? It is a rediscovery of traditional Christian thinking which applies the work of Christ on the cross to the whole of the natural creation, and not just to the salvation of individual human beings. In the field of climate change it was pioneered, so far as I know, by Sir John Houghton in a seminal paper for the John Ray Initiative entitled The Christian Challenge of Caring for the Earth.1 It has appeared in this journal in an article directed at human work by Siew Li Wong,2 and more recently in Darrell Cosden’s books, the latest of which was reviewed in a previous issue.3
Houghton wrote in his article: “We need a theology of creation which includes as central themes both Incarnation and Resurrection”.
The point he makes is that whereas many Christians think that there is no future for the physical earth, the good news is that God does have a plan for the material creation. He quotes Archbishop William Temple: “Christianity’s most central saying is, ‘The Word was made flesh’ (John 1,14). By the very nature of its central doctrine Christianity is committed to a belief in the reality of matter and its place in the divine scheme”.
The need for the New Theology Many Christians believe that only the spiritual and immaterial has any eternal significance. Such a belief implies that the material creation is so much rubbish, to be discarded at the end of time. Perhaps this stems from people regarding their ‘soul’ as the only important part, their bodies discardable, with no need or prospect of physical resurrection. In an earlier article in Faith in Business4 I drew attention to the grave dangers of this thinking to our working lives: the result can be that we see our daily work as important to God only for its ‘spiritual’ effects, the material work itself not being of any eternal value.
This ‘spiritual’ religion has for a long time caused serious problems in our understanding of God and our mission in the world, contributing to the notorious division between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’. It appears that the ‘sacred’ is usually associated with personal relationships and pastoral care. The ‘secular’, on the other hand, is apparently to do with the material and physical part of our lives, and is usually associated with ‘getting and spending’, and our work.
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