“The Earth is the Lord’s, and Everything in it, The World and all who live in it” Psalm 24:1
Ecotheology combines the study of life and environment, ecology, with the study of God and belief, theology. It is a very recent movement exploring the relation between God-Nature-Humans and the impact faith can have on the environment. It began as an internal debate within christianity and is spreading across other faiths, except those who already had it.
This is the result of the demand of many faithful believers complaining about religious institutions not responding to the present environmental danger and lack of action concerning the destruction of the environment, the creation. Therefore, scholars and clergy set off on a mission to re-study Holy Texts and philosophical ones in order to find ecological content, and that they found indeed, countless references where God demands humans to protect and safeguard the Creation, and how not humanity but God is the owner of the biosphere. How could these passages and concepts go unseen for millenia? Simply were they not seen, or were not understood as ahead of their time? One thing is clear: the New and Old Testament state clearly that humans have a duty towards the Earth. Another commendable attempt of Ecotheologians is that of bridging the gap between science and faith, foreseeing a mutually compensating approach and reciprocal support in dealing with today’s challenges.
Yet how did it come to be? At first it started as a reaction when in the 1960s part of the world’s Academia agreed in condemning Christianity for what is environmentally wrong with the world today, because the christian faith placed humans above nature and gave humans dominion over the natural world. As a reaction, christian scholars started to investigate in the teachings of the branches of Christianity, and to their shock, discover that catholics, protestants and orthodox teachings are filled with ecological concepts, from the Scriptures clearly stating everywhere how God attributed to humans the duty to care for, and look after nature, animals, plants etc. And not just in the Scriptures, visions promoted by key figures like Saint Francis of Assisi or the Saint Seraphim lived and promoted their Christianity with an interconnectedness that can be equaled to modern Ecopsychology. The Jesuit communities in Latin America who established practices included rather than replace local indigenous cultures and made the first steps towards sustainability, the examples are plenty, therefore why did that message never come across until today? The reason is mostly a historical one. The period of Christian domination of western culture was one of uncertainty ranging from the dark ages until the renaissance, where the vast majority lived in poverty, farming small plots of land and at the mercy of nature’s whim, a dry season would mean hunger, wolves in forests meant flocks attacked, an overly cold winter could mean death, poverty, uncertainty and widespread ignorance, no wonder to this people nature was an enemy to overcome to ensure survival. Then Humanism, Renaissance and Enlightenment started to shift the focus from submission to God and the transitory nature of life in this valley of tears to a super-human-centric one which resulted in the industrial revolution, crazy fast scientific progress and abandoning the backward spirituality of religions. At the same time Newtonian discoveries on physical laws, Galileo’s astronomy, Darwin’s evolution, Freud’s psychology, Descartes’ human centeredness were all nails in the coffin of spirituality giving way to an era of material rationalism which relegated religion to the level of outdated superstition. Christianity tried to react and counter those advancements in knowledge and fortunately failed epically, therefore took the decision to distance religion from the natural world and rather focus on the Human-God relations. The solution to a past problem, the technological and scientific advancements humanity experience, started to become the problem as it is leading towards environmental and social collapse, climate crisis and therefore a need to reinstate ethics, morality, principles and values into human practices including a yearning for an understanding of spirituality befitting both believers and non-believers.
In this scenario rose Ecotheology, where science supports faith and faith supports science in reshaping the severed connection between God-Humans-biosphere for a future positive outlook, answering to the orphaned human longing for nature. The discoveries until now is that the Old and New Testament, Torah, Talmud, Quran, writings of Luther and Calvin and many more have each appealed to humans who received by God a responsibility towards one another, towards the divinity and safekeeping of Earth, and more religions begin to voice out the sinful nature of environmental overexploitation and pollution as disrespectful towards God and the creation, underlining that we are not the owners of the Earth rather its stewards; although still largely maintaining a human-centred outlook Ecotheology. Officially in 2002 Christian Ecotheology established itself as a movement and dictates the agenda of interfaith dialogue processes
Should you want to learn more here is a list of prominent ecotheologians: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Paul Tillich, Joseph Sittler, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Jurgen Moltmann, John Cobb, Thomas Berry, Denis Edwards, Rosemary Radfort Ruether, Sallie McFague, Paulos Gregorios, Vandana Shiva, Seyyid Hossein Nasr