Book: A New City of God. The Church and Climate Change

City of God by Augustine of Hippo
Our book A New City of God: 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.

Chapter 1 — The City of Man
The Parable of the Home-Made Wine
Cities of Men — City of God
Through a Glass Darkly
An Age of Limits
The Three Hundred Year Party
Peak Forests
Fossil Fuels
The Big Three
Decline and Collapse
The Church of Progress
The Ladder of Awareness
Grief for a Lost World
Hope and Hopium: Pandora’s Box
An Opportunity for the Church
Membership Decline
Young People
The Church’s ‘Kodak Moment’
Sister, Mother Earth
Top-Down / Bottom-Up
Mere Christianity

Chapter 2 — Nemesis
The Parable of the Foolish Turkey
Hubris and Nemesis
Enter Galileo Galilei: 1609
Two Cultures
Enter Leonardo da Vinci: 1490
Enter Thomas Newcomen: 1712
Enter Charles Darwin: 1859
Enter “Colonel” Drake: 1859
Enter M. King Hubbert: 1956
Enter Svante Arrhenius: 1895
The Party Ends

Chapter 3 — Truth
The Parable of the Young Man’s Wallet
Pilate’s Question
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
Systems Thinking
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
Absence of Bad News
Black Swan Events / Unknown Unknowns
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Responding to Denial
Facts and Figures
From the Pulpit
Changing Attitudes

Chapter 4 — Predicaments
The Parable of the Smart Engineer
Fossil Fuels
Consumption Continues
Shale Oil Realities
Climate Change
The Biosphere
Inflation / Deflation
Supply Chains
Income Disparity
Social Change
Confusion and Anxiety
Refugees and Migrants

Chapter 5 — Responses
The Parable of the Long Spoons
Just the Facts
Systems Thinking
Engineering and Project Management Realities
Scalability/Speed of Transition
Anaesthetics from Windmills
Alternative Energy
Solar Power
Wind Power
Energy Storage
Nuclear Power (Fission)
Nuclear Power (Fusion)
Other Energy Sources

Chapter 6 — A Christian Response
The Parable of the Green Car
Grief for a Lost World
Current Response
Systems Thinking
Three Cultures
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 Puritanism
Parish Life

Chapter 7 — Theology
The Parable of the Limbs and the Stomach
“Where Is God In All This?”
Semper Reformanda
Self Knowledge
Creating a Myth
Theological Authority
Historical Theology
Dogmatic Theology
Practical Theology
Cosmic Covenant
Arts / Science
Elements of an Age of Limits Theology
1. Understand and Tell the Truth
2. Accept and Adapt
3. Live within the Biosphere – Spiritually and Materially
Realistic Hope