Ecojustice, the NT, and the Christian Theology

Ecojustice, the NT, and the Christian Theology April 1, 2019

It is an interesting question not often asked How it is that one actually does Christian theology? Many pile up the Bible verses, arrange them into topics and sub-topics and topics-that-don’t-quite-fit, and then synthesize into the “biblical” view. How then does one do “biblical” theology on ethnicity or race or abortion or euthanasia or capitalism if one doesn’t have any Bible verses to add up — or not enough?

A new book opens up this conversation in informed ways: David G. Horrell, The Making of Christian Morality: Reading Paul in Ancient and Modern Contexts.

Before I get to there, a brief on this very good book.

He opens with four excellent studies of the sociohistorical context of Pauline churches — local Pauline Christians were in “ecumenical” churches not just Pauline churches, the domestic space for churches in Corinth is studied through archaeological remains, he isn’t convinced Philemon is wealthy (here his disproofs might fall to the same disproofs for his own conclusions), and he has a wonderful study on how “brothers” morphs into “house of God” in Pauline chronology — and then Horrell explores Pauline ethics in their historical context (he’s big on identity, common ethics between Christians and Corinthians, on the flexibility of Paul on idol food with attention to others, and how the famous hymn of Philippians 2 has ethical implications.

Then Horrell turns to how to do Christian ethics, exploring the communitarian ethics of Hauerwas and the liberal ethics of Habermas and how Paul provides resources for thinking about modern Christian ethics with hope for a more tolerant, liberalism ethic. Then he turns to ecological ethics, and this leads to some summary lines from his book on how Christians can use Paul for thinking with Paul for Christian ethics.

In other words, if new creation in Christ is a cosmic and not merely personal or human transformation, then the responsibilities incumbent on those who respond to the vision are cosmic in scope and not merely interpersonal; they encompass, we might say, not merely social justice but also ecojustice.

It should be clear that in this essay I have not intended to offer a proposal as to
”what Paul really said.” I am not arguing—crudely put, but in more subtle ways reflecting a stance that underpins a good deal of biblical interpretation—that Paul wanted to work for the reconciliation of the whole of creation, so we should too. Rather, I am attempting a constructive exercise in which a rereading of the Pauline tradition is explicitly shaped by the perceived priorities of the contemporary context, yet at the same time draws on and develops potential latent in the Pauline texts.

3aul may help to resource our efforts to reconfigure our vision of the world around us, and to ground a revised theology that (re)integrates humanity into solidarity with the whole community of creation—crucial tasks indeed—but neither he nor any of the biblical writers can give us substantive answers to the question as to what, in concrete terms, we then should do.

"I used to use The Navigators Bible schedule to track where I was at, but ..."

Reading the Bible Fast and Slow
"Hello Matthew,thank you for your response, and I do understand. I'm sorry for my confusion ..."

Reading the Bible Fast and Slow
"Thanks so much for the comment. Sorry for the confusion.Your experience in the Roman Catholic ..."

Reading the Bible Fast and Slow
"I read straight through the Bible, usually in a year or less, in a different ..."

Reading the Bible Fast and Slow

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • It should be clear that in this essay I have not intended to offer a proposal as to ”what Paul really said.” I am not arguing—crudely put, but in more subtle ways reflecting a stance that underpins a good deal of biblical interpretation—that Paul wanted to work for the reconciliation of the whole of creation, so we should too. Rather, I am attempting a constructive exercise in which a rereading of the Pauline tradition is explicitly shaped by the perceived priorities of the contemporary context, yet at the same time draws on and develops potential latent in the Pauline texts.

    You know, I respect this declaration tons. This is what most theologies do implicitly, then declare it’s what Paul (or whoever) genuinely and self-consciously intended. I really respect an author saying, “I think there are raw materials for this in the text, but what I draw out is not probably intended by Paul. Rather, by reading this writings in a contemporary context, I’m trying to determine if there’s applicability to our present concerns.”

    Agree or disagree with the outcome of that project, this shows an amazing level of theological self-awareness and transparency, and I’m inclined to be partial to the book for no other reason than that.