Theology for an Age of Limits

City-of-God-1-300

Welcome to our blog, Theology for an Age of Limits. My name is Ian Sutton — a brief autobiography is provided here. A listing of our most recent posts is shown on the right hand side of this page.  Additional resources and reference materials are listed here.

The core messages of this site are,

  • We have entered an ‘Age of Limits’. The limits include resources, environmental capacity, over-population and financial debt. We are learning the hard way that infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible.
  • Time is not on our side.
  • The issues that we face are not problems — they are predicaments. Problems have solutions, predicaments do not.
  • There has been an absence of leadership at the national and international level. This vacuum presents the Christian church and individual Christians to lead the way.
  • But, before we can do so, we need a new way of thinking, a new theology.

At this blog, in the book A New City of God and a matching set of videos I discuss what this new theology might look like. The word “discuss” is important. None of us knows what the future holds, so I invite you to tell us what you think through the comments feature of this blog. (Information to do with current events is provided at our Events page. Background information is provided at our Resources and References page.)

Theology

I suggest that a theology that is appropriate for the coming Age of Limits can be built around the following three points.

  1. Understand and tell the truth.
  2. Accept and adapt.
  3. Live within the biosphere — materially and spiritually.

I will unpack the above statements in future posts and in the book/video series. For now, let’s just say the following about them.

1. Understand and Tell the Truth

Pilate Questioning Jesus
Pilate Questioning Jesus

At his trial, Jesus says,

. . . the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

To which Pilate replies,

What is truth?

 John 18:37-38

The situations in which we find ourselves are extraordinarily complex and difficult to understand. No one can fully grasp all the issues — there is much uncertainty. However, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “we see through a glass darkly”. We do not know what the future holds in detail, but we can see an outline. It is our responsibility to understand the truth as best we can, even if the future looks rather scary.

2. Accept and Adapt

As we have already seen, we face predicaments, not problems. When faced with a predicament we can respond and adapt, but we cannot make it go away. We should not be fatalistic, we should make every effort to slow down the changes that are taking place. But we need to recognize that there are no technical solutions, there is no deus ex machina that is going to save us. Christians, in my view need to offer realistic hope, which lies between fatalism and hopium.

Fatalism – Realistic Hope - Hopium
3. Live Within the Biosphere

Genesis 1:28 says,

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Well, we certainly aced that one. Now we need a theology that stresses the need to live in harmony with the earth, not to “rule over” it.

The following two passages from John’s gospel may provide better guidance for the future.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

The following words from Ecclesiastes 1 may also help us as we transition from a theology of linear progress to one of living within a cycle or rhythm.

The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

Three Cultures

For too long, art and science have lived in their own separate worlds, often competing with one another. But now science and its handmaiden, technology, are suffering from their hubris — the resources that they need, particularly energy, are depleting, and their waste products are filling up the environment. Now is the time for rapprochement.

One of the difficulties that we face when talking about the predicaments that face us is that there are so many facets, so many moving parts: climate, oil reserves, population, excess debt — it’s difficult to know where to start or where to end. What is needed is systems thinking — understanding how these factors (and many others) interact with one another. With respect to the natural world the word that is used in this context is ‘ecology’ — understanding the manner in which all types of life work together.

It may be that a new theology will draw on these three disciplines — art, science and ecology — to form the basis of a spirituality that fits the needs of our times.

Spirituality blend of Art, Science and Ecology/Systems Thinking

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