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What is Ecotheology?

Ecotheology is a form of study and thinking that combines the disciplines of ecology (the study of organisms and their environments) and theology (the study of God and religious beliefs). Ecotheology examines creation through the lenses of Scripture and Christian tradition, exploring questions like: “What does God say about the care of creation?” and “How does our theology influence our understanding of ecology?”

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. -- Genesis 2:15

The emergence of modern ecotheology is a result of several beliefs:

  • The Earth is growing increasingly endangered; action is needed.
  • The Bible speaks to our relationship with and responsibility to the Earth, yet the contemporary church has remained largely silent concerning these messages.
  • Christians need more accurate theological and biblical understandings of earthkeeping.

Given these assertions, ecotheology becomes the solution, or the path to a solution, that our world is seeking and desperately needs. Dr. Dan Brunner, Portland Seminary’s Creation Care program director, affirms:

“We know the current way of life no longer works, that the system is not sustainable. Yet it produces intense stress and anxiety to imagine how we might succeed in ‘being’ any other way…[Ecotheology] can take us to the edge of what human thinking can do, and point us beyond--to what can be done by the Spirit of God moving among the faithful.”1

Science & Faith

Dr. Brunner also contends that sound ecotheology requires a strong focus on science and faith as well as understanding the relationship between the two: “If science by itself has failed to motivate the kind of expansive change needed to make a significant impact on the ecocrisis, and if Western Christianity bears substantial responsibility for this moment of crisis, then science and faith need each other.”2

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. -- Psalm 24:1

Ecotheology at Portland Seminary

The Creation Care program at Portland Seminary focuses on providing a strong theological, biblical, and practical foundation to becoming a creation care specialist. Students receive deepened discipleship around the area of creation care. Although some students go on to get green jobs, the program is more about changing the way student see and interact with the world regarding creation -- students learn to understand and practice what the Bible tells us about earthkeeping. Small classes and cohorts encourage students to build relationships and learn from them.

Learn more about our Creation Care program.

Resources

Here is a list of resources that our Creation Care faculty members have identified as useful in exploring ecotheology:

  • Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible by Ellen F. Davis
  • Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology: Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis by Daniel L. Brunner, Jennifer L. Butler, and A.J. Swoboda
  • Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann
  • Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God by Todd Wynward
  • Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God's Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe by Daniel Erlander
  • Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice by Ched Myers
  • To the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming, and Community by Lisa Graham McMinn
  • The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry by Wendell Berry
  • Change is Our Choice: Creating Climate Solutions by Northwest Earth Institute

1,2: From Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology: Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis by Daniel L. Brunner, Jennifer L. Butler, and A.J. Swoboda.

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