November 21, 2009
I have decided to bring this project to a close. I still think the idea of an online book discussion is worth pursuing, but am not sure that this was the ideal book to get us going. I find myself no closer to having passion for environmental issues than I did at the beginning. I am however still just as committed to the idea that we are to be stewards of creation. I will continue to try and remember to turn off the tap when I brush my teeth, support sustainable development and the like, all the while hoping that the work of ethicists and politicians can help us get to grips with what is going on in China and elsewhere.
In Chapters 10 and 11, Jenkins moves toward ideas of ecological spirituality and draws deeply on Eastern traditions, who following Maximus work for “reuniting nature and humanity within a cosmic economy of deification.” This is set over and against a perception that Western tradition has separated nature from salvation. (p.189) The theologians cited here push toward an articulation of the cosmic dimensions of salvation in ways that I find intuitive and congenial. It makes sense to me that our interconnectedness with all of creation means that what is going on in my life has something to do with whatever is going on on Mars and vice versa.
Jenkins does explore the avenues of wisdom in the tradition and the intriguing idea of ‘practicing transfiguration’, which seems to mean the conscious narration of nature’s glory. (p.222)
In his conclusion, Jenkins reiterates that he is about the task of “rendering environmental problems urgent and intelligible to Christian communities…Moreover, insofar as ecologies of grace illuminate how environmental problems matter for Christian life, this book shows why ecology makes a claim on Christian identity, and how environmental crises could pressure change in the way churches tell their salvation stories.” (p.228)
For clergy, he specifically invites renewed reflection on the pastoral dimensions of ‘nature and grace’, on the ecological dimensions of the experience and telling of salvation. He sees the tasks of lament and discourse about sustainability going hand in hand. (p.234)
He signals how theologians are affected in their understanding of grace by such things as hierarchies with respect to gender for example and how a shift in understanding grace in one conversation will lead to new resources and views in another. (p.240)
I’m left grateful for this work, left with a deeper understanding of some of the theological and ethical issues in this field, left with remaining questions about the status of nature and disease with attempts to ’personify’ creation, and a continuing hope that there is something for Christians beyond oughts and should, but not persuaded of that as ye