CLIMATE CHANGE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH


 
Vancouver School of Theology, Sallie McFague, Fall 2007
 
ETH/TH 412/612
Sallie McFague, Instructor
 
PURPOSE
Scientists now say “unequivocally” that global warming is here and they have “very high confidence” that human activity is forcing up the earth’s average temperature (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007). Climate change is the quintessential   issue of our time, since it affects all aspects of planetary life.   The twin issues of the deterioration of our environment and the impoverishment of its creatures—the issues of   sustainability and distributive justice—join in climate change.   It is an economic, social, biological, medical, legal, educational, moral—and theological issue. It sets the context within which Christian theology needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed for our time. More specifically, the issue of climate change should serve as a major focus for reconsidering the doctrines of Christian faith:   revelation and creation, human nature, God, Jesus Christ, sin and salvation, the holy Spirit, discipleship, sacraments and church, and hope.
 
GOALS
1) To gain knowledge concerning the current state of the planet, with particular focus on the state of climate change and its implications;
 
2) To use climate change as a case study in how to engage in theological reflection;
 
3) To analyze the central topics in Christian faith in light of this knowledge, in terms of both Christian contributions and Christian reconstructions;
 
4) To offer students the opportunity to do in-depth research in a particular aspect of the climate change/theological connection.
 
FORMAT
One three-hour meeting per week: discussion of readings, a lecture by the instructor, student paper proposals, and occasional videos. Credit students will make presentations to the class on their research projects.
 
EXPECTATIONS
Students, including auditors, are expected to attend class regularly, complete the reading assignments, as well as participate in discussions and group exercises. In addition, all students will be assigned responsibility for introducing issues/questions for one of the weekly readings. Those taking the course for credit must also write a research paper/project on some aspect of the relationship between Christian faith and climate change, with a focus in Bible, history, ethics, theology, or spirituality (6000 words for M.Div. students and 8000 words for M.A.T.S. and Th.M students).
 
ASSIGNED READINGS: Texts available in the UBC Bookstore*
Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers: How We are Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth   ( Toronto: HarperCollins, 2006).
 
George Monbiot, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning  ( Toronto: Doubleday, 2006).
 
Denis Edwards, ed. Earth Revealing, Earth Healing: Ecology and Christian Theology   ( Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2001).
 
Anne Primavesi, Gaia’s Gift: Earth, Ourselves and God After Copernicus ( London: Routledge, 2003).
 
Gary T. Gardner, Inspiring Progress: Religions’ Contributions to Sustainable Development ( New York: Norton, 2006).
 
*Note: There will also be a file of Xeroxed articles on Library reserve for students to copy. These articles are assigned for the following classes: Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22.
 
WEBSITES:
*Forum on Religion and Ecology: www.environment.harvard.edu/religion
 
*Canadian Forum on Religion and Ecology: www.cfore.ca
 
*Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives: www.kairoscanada.org
 
*Yale Forestry and Environmental Studies Project on Climate Change: www.environment.yale.edu/climate
 
*International Society for Religion, Nature, and Culture: www.religionandnature.com
 
*Worldwatch Institute: www.worldwatch.org
 
*Earth Charter and Climate Change: www.earthcharterinaction.org/climate
 
*Climate Action Network Canada    www.climateactionnetwork.ca
 
SYLLABUS OF TOPICS AND READINGS
SEPTEMBER 13:   Introduction
 
Lecture: “Global Warming: A Theological Problem”
 
SEPTEMBER 20: Setting the Problem
 
Gardner, Pts. 1 & 2
 
Lecture: “Where We Live:   Urban Ecotheology”
 
Reading discussion_______________________________________________
 
SEPTEMBER 27: Setting the Problem
 
Gardner, Pts. 3 & 4
 
Lecture: “How Shall We Live? Christianity and Planetary Economics”
 
Reading discussion________________________________________________
 
OCTOBER 4:   Climate Change Science
 
Flannery, “The Slow Awakening,” Chs. 1, 2, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 25, 29, 32, 34.
 
Lecture: “Climate Change: The Evidence and Consequences”
 
Reading discussion________________________________________________
 
OCTOBER 11: Climate Change Science
 
Fourth Assessment, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.   “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis” (Summary for Policymakers), Working Group I (website: www.ipcc.ch).
 
Monbiot, Foreward, Introduction, Chs. 1, 3, 9, 11.
 
Reading discussion_________________________________________________
 
Paper proposal_____________________________________________________
 
OCTOBER 18: Anthropology
 
Primavesi, Introduction, Chs. 1, 4, 5, 6.
 
Lecture: “Who Are We?   Ecological Anthropology”
 
Reading discussion___________________________________________________
 
Paper proposal______________________________________________________
 
NOVEMBER 1: Anthropology
 
Primavesi, Chs. 8, 9.
 
*Catherine Keller, “Talking Dirty: Ground is Not Foundation” (Library reserve)
 
Lecture: “Is a Different World Possible? Human Dignity and the Integrity of Creation in a Time of Global Warming”
 
Reading discussion__________________________________________________
 
Paper proposal______________________________________________________
 
NOVEMBER 8: God
 
*Langdon Gilkey, “God” (Library reserve)
 
*S. McFague, “God and the World,” Ch. 6 of Life Abundant (Library reserve).
 
*Michael Brierley, “Naming a Quiet Revolution” (Library reserve)
 
Lecture: “Who Is God? Creation and Providence”
 
Reading discussion_________________________________________________
 
Paper proposal____________________________________________________
 
NOVEMBER 15 God
 
Edwards, ed., Ch. 5: Patricia Fox, “God’s Shattering Otherness”
 
*Mark I. Wallace, “Sacred Land Theology” (Library reserve)
 
Lecture: “Why We Worship: Praise and Compassion as Intimations of Transcendence”
 
Reading discussion_________________________________________________
 
Paper proposal____________________________________________________
 
NOVEMBER 22: Jesus Christ
 
Edwards, ed., Ch.4: Duncan Reid, “Enfleshing the Human”
 
*S. McFague, “Christ and Salvation,” Ch. 7 of Life Abundant   (Library reserve)
 
Reading discussion_______________________________________________
 
Paper proposal___________________________________________________
 
NOVEMBER 29: Spirit
 
Edwards, ed., Ch. 3: Denis Edwards, “For Your Immortal Spirit Is in All Things.”
 
Lecture: “The Holy Spirit and Climate Change”
 
Reading discussion________________________________________________