Book: A New City of God: Theology for an Age of Limits

City of God by Augustine of Hippo
Our book A New City of God: Theology for an Age of Limits: A Christian Response to Climate Change is scheduled for publication in 2020. The themes of the book are:

  • We are running into limits, of which the best known is climate change. But other limits include resource depletion, over-population, biosphere destruction and excess debt. These limits are not problems, they are predicaments. Problems have solutions, predicaments to do not.
  • To date there has been virtually no leadership at national or international levels. We continue to consume the earths’ resources at a record pace, and we continue to fill up the environment with our waste products — particularly greenhouse gases.
  • Dire as this situation may be, it does present a wonderful opportunity for the Christian church and for individual Christians to provide much-needed leadership.
  • Part of this leadership will consist of developing a theology for our times.

The title of the book is taken from St. Augustine’s City of God, written early in the early 5th century CE. Augustine lived at a time when the superpower of his time — the Roman Empire — was slowly, but inexorably declining. Indeed, one of the defining moments of his life was the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in the year 410. He recognized that all human institutions will eventually fail (look at all the “failed states” in the Hebrew Bible). Only one institution was permanent, he argued, and that was the City of God. So he and other church fathers set themselves the task of determining the nature of that “City”. In other words, he and other church fathers developed a theology for their times — a theology that would provide structure and organization during the coming Dark Ages and the early Middle Ages.

Other church leaders who worked out a response to changing times were Martin Luther and John Wesley.

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The current Table of Contents for our book is shown below.

The Author’s Apology for His Little Book

Chapter 1 — The City of Man
The Parable of the Home-Made Wine
Toward a New Theology
Cities of Men — City of God
Through a Glass Darkly
An Age of Limits
The Big Three
Decline and Fall
Catabolic Collapse
Hope and Hopium: Pandora’s Box
An Opportunity for the Church
Membership Decline
Young People
The Church’s ‘Kodak Moment’
Sister, Mother Earth
Mere Christianity
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2020

Chapter 2 — The Three Hundred Year Party
The Parable of the Foolish Turkey
Energy is Life
Peak Forests
Fossil Fuels
Enter Thomas Newcomen: 1712
Enter “Colonel” Drake: 1859
Enter M. King Hubbert: 1956
Enter Svante Arrhenius: 1895
The Church of Progress
The Party Ends
What of the Future?
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2025

Chapter 3 — Truth
The Parable of the Young Man’s Wallet
Pilate’s Question
The Ladder of Awareness
Aha! Moments
2019: The Year of Anger
The Greta Thunberg Meme
The Mainstream Press
Throwing Caution to the Winds
The Archdruid
No Brighter Future
Spiritual and Practical Thinking
Collapse Now, and Avoid the Rush
Fusion of Ecology and Spirituality
The TV and The Dumpster
Systems Thinking
Hegelian Synthesis
The Club of Rome
Feedback Loops
Jevons Paradox
The Tragedy of the Commons / Externalities
NORM in North Dakota
The Cloud
A Failed Prediction
More Failed Predictions
Sometimes Good News
Black Swan Events / Unknown Unknowns
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Half a Degree
Changing Attitudes
Responding to Denial
Preaching from the Pulpit
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2030

Chapter 4 — Predicaments
The Parable of the Smart Engineer
Fossil Fuels
Enter Jean Baptiste Fourier — 1820s
Causes of Climate Change
Effects of Climate Change
Water / Rainfall
Black Flag Weather
Rising Sea Levels
Climate Instability
The Biosphere
Inflation / Deflation
Supply Chains
Income Disparity
Social Change
Confusion and Anxiety
Refugees and Migrants
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2035

Chapter 5 — Responses
The Parable of the Offshore Platform
Just the Facts
Engineering and Project Management Realities
Time Available
Speed of Transition
Anaesthetics from Windmills
Alternative Energy
Solar Power
Wind Power
Energy Storage
Nuclear Power (Fission)
Nuclear Power (Fusion)
Other Energy Sources
The Return of Peak Oil
Consumption Continues
Shale Oil Realities
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2040

Chapter 6 —The Christian Tradition
The Parable of the Long Spoons
The Hebrew Bible
The Ark
The Early Church
Church Leaders
Augustine of Hippo
De Mendacio (On Lying)
City of God
Benedict of Nursia
Martin Luther
John Wesley
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2045

Chapter 7 — A Christian Response
The Parable of the Green Car
Grief for a Lost World
Current Response
Systems Thinking
Three Roads
The First Road — Public Policy
Bold Action
Sensible and Realistic
The Second Road — Personal Lifestyle
A Low-Carbon Lifestyle
Personal Credibility
The Third Road — Acceptance
Personal Character
Religious Revival
Monastic Life
A Puritan Revival
Parish Life
Theological Lesson
Pastoral Letter: 2050

Chapter 8 — Theology
The Parable of the Limbs and the Stomach
“Where Is God In All This?”
Theological Authority
Historical Theology
Dogmatic Theology
Practical Theology
Three Cultures
Arts / Science
Renaissance Thinking
Systems Thinking
Elements of an Age of Limits Theology
1. Understand and Tell the Truth
2. Accept and Adapt
Coping with Loss
3. Live within the Biosphere
Realistic Hope
Pastoral Letter: 2100

Attachment A — The Green New Deal
Attachment B — The Ladder of Awareness
Attachment C — The Coal Question: Jevons Paradox
Attachment D — Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Episcopalian Titanic
The Titanic
Current Initiatives
Episcopal Mission Statement
Interfaith Mission Statement
Attachment E — Personality Types
The Survey
Personality Contrasts
Attachment F — Thermodynamics
The Zeroth Law
The First Law
The Second Law
The Third Law
Attachment G — Alice and the Red Queen
Nine Pounds of Gold
Gross Energy
Net Energy
The ERoEI Cliff
Other Energy Sources
Qualitative Issues
Attachment H — Denial
Day to Day Life
Fatalism and Stoicism
Cognitive Dissonance
Complicating Factors
Immediate Threats
Self Interest
Energy Companies
Bright Green Deniers / Environmentalists
The Cynics
Confirmation Bias
Ecological Amnesia
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
Puzzled Experts
Pluralistic Ignorance
Both Sides-ism
Lack of Drama
Climate Scientists
Thinking the Unthinkable
The Linearity Trap
Attachment I — The Year 2050
Rising Water Levels
Global Temperatures
Nuclear Power
Social Stability
Refugees / Migrants

Technical Terms
SI Units
The Stordalen

Further Reading
Sub-Reddit ‘Collapse’
The Uninhabitable Earth
The Post Carbon Institute
Peak Prosperity
The Three ‘E’s
Crash Course
Cassandra’s Legacy
Resource Insights
The Great Emergence
The Benedict Option
Deep Adaptation
Star’s Reach
Caring for Creation
Six Degrees
Pilgrim’s Progress
Revival of Puritanism
Personal Response
Climate Church, Climate World
The Glass Bead Game
IPCC Report
The Rise of Christianity

Works Cited