July 11, 2010


Ok, there are tons of 'ologies' out there, including theological terms. In Christianity we study:

  • Angelology- study of Angels
  • Anthropology- study of humanity's nature
  • Christology- Study of Christ's nature
  • Cosmology- Study of the the origin of the cosmos/ Creation
  • Demonology- Study of Satan and his forces
  • Ecclesiology- study of the church
  • Epistemology- Study of knowledge and understanding
  • Eschatology- study of the life after death and the end of the world
  • Ontology- study of existence
  • Pneumatology- study of the Spirit
  • Sacramentology- study of the sacraments/ordinances
  • Soteriology- study of salvation
  • Theology- study of God

There are also many branches of Christian study that do not end with '-ology', such as:

  • Ethics- study of right living (moral or practical)
  • Hermeneutics- study of interpreting a text/Scripture
  • History- study of past events (Also Archeology)
  • Liturgy- Study of public worship (Also liturgiology)
  • Metaphystics- study of supernatural forces
  • Pastoral theology- study of the role of the pastor
  • Philosophy- Systematic study of reality
  • Science-Systematic study of tangible reality
  • Theodicy- Study of the existence of evil given a just God

Though this list is not exhaustive, I would consider these to be the major branches of Christian study.

However, there is one branch of Christian study which I believe is a major aspect of Christian understanding that, as far as I am aware, has no name. Therefore, I gave it a name: ecotheology.

What is Ecotheology

The prefix 'eco-' is used to reference environment, usually in terms of Nature, but not necessarily. 'Theology' is of course the study of God. Therefore, what I mean by 'Ecotheology' is the study of the interactions between a faith community or religious perspective with its cultural environment.

Interestingly enough, this area of theology has already had a lot of development within Christianity. The most notable ecotheological movement would be Emergent Church movement which is defined by it "discussion" ecotheological issues. However, Fundamentalism and the Amish would also be groups which are defined by an ecotheological stance (In that they both view that interactions between the faith community and the cultural environment should be limited, or non-existent). Again Liberalism is also a position based off of an ecotheological stance (That the faith community should adapt and accommodate to the ambient culture's academy). Thus I am not proposing that we create a new area of theology inquiry, but that we should identify as a legitimate category of Christian study that already exists.

Christian Ecotheology

Within Christianity, we conveniently have a base question from which we can base our study: "how can we be in the world and not of the world?" Any attempt to answer or consider this question is Christian ecotheology.

Therefore, Christian ecotheology starts with two basic assumptions: A) That we (the Church) are something distinct and other within our culture and B) that we do belong where we are. Thus we can see that Christian ecotheology is intimately related to ecclesiology (The study of the Church). This shouldn't be surprising since in the definition I gave ["the study of the interactions between a faith community or religious perspective with its cultural environment"], the faith community mentioned there would be the church within Christianity.

However, I would argue that ecotheology is indeed something entirely distinct from ecclesiology since it is a study of interactions rather than a study of nature. It would be similar to the distinction between Christology (the study of who Christ is) and soteriology (the study of what Christ accomplished).

Indeed, ecotheology is intimately concerned with ethics: How are we to maintain our otherness, and yet still fulfill our purpose in being within this culture? This is merely a rephrasing of the first question, and yet shows that this has as much to do with personal ethics as it does with the nature of the Church. It is balancing holiness with mission, placing evangelism itself firmly within ecotheology's purview. However, it is also concerned with how to interact with educational institutions, mass media, and political structures.

However, it is not limited to ethics, for there is the ultimate question of how the church as a whole interacts with the world as a whole. How are we portrayed? How much of that portrayal is our fault? What can we do to improve that image? Should we do something to improve it? How well do we understand the needs of our culture? Are we reaching out to it the right way? These are major questions, and are worthy of direct and systematic study.

Anyway, what do you guys think?


TrueHope said...

I believe Greg Laurie and many other Calvary Chapel pastors do a good job in maintaining otherness while being within this culture. In building a bridge and crossing over, they remember to bring the cross over.

Mason said...

JC, nice to see you writing again.

I like where you are going with Ecotheology (my first guess was environmental theology), and thought I'd throw a couple things out.

First off it sounds a lot like a theology of Missional, particularly the work of Eddie Gibbs. If you've not read Church Morph, I imagine you'd quite enjoy it.

Also, doesn't our inherently contextualized nature make it very difficult to objectively evaluate our engagement with the world around us?

Jc_Freak: said...

Thanks for the compliments Mason. I've always enjoyed your writing as well.

1. I would consider missiology an aspect of ecotheology rather than the extent of it. Missiology is primarily concerned with goals and methods, and doesn't really concern itself with much of the ethical and sociological issues that I mentioned above, except as a means to an end.

I would also say that I would not restrict ecotheology to a Christian study, though I focused on how it would apply to Christianity here. All religous communities could engage in a study of how they interact with their cultural environment, and though within Christianity there is going to be a missiological emphasis, that would not be true with other faith communities.

2. I would say that our inherently contextualized nature makes all theology difficult to do objectively, but that does not stop the task from being done, or from it being necessary. In fact, part of my argument is that ecotheology is already being done, but just not as a distinct discipline.

bethyada said...

Doug Wilson frequently writes on what you term ecotheology, at least from the little I understand. He is a preterist so his take is on how we transform culture.

As far as study of areas, I think the study of the Fall is important (and not emphasised enough). I don't think it is covered by anthropology, if so it is a restricted component of it. I don't know if it has been named. I haven't found a designation and wonder whether lapsology would be an appropriate term? If you know of a distinct term let me know.

Jc_Freak: said...

I don't know of a term, but if there was one, it would probably be lapsology. Still, I don't see what purpose there would be in examining the fall apart from Anthropology. Could you elucidate?

bethyada said...

Well I suppose it could be considered a subset of anthropology, like Christology could be considered a subset of theology.

I see the study of what creation was and what it became, including the effect on people, their relationships, life and death, the problem of pain, flora and fauna, geology, and other objects of the universe a worthy pursuit. Further one's perspective of other aspects of study such as eschatology and epistemology are significantly affected by one's perspective of the Fall, both the degree of its significance, and what it entailed.

Lapse is from Latin, perhaps there is a preferable Greek term?

Tara (Martin's sister) said...

1. To start with the negative first, why ecotheology over something like sociotheology when what you're really studying in the relationship between society, or culture, and religion?

2. on to the positive - I agree with everything else. Particularly your last paragraph, about raising all of those questions, and I believe that is something Christians (as a whole) simply do not address. In my experience Christians either tend to ignore those questions, relying on the "well if that's how you want to worship, more power to you" mentality (which I don't entirely disagree with, but I am referring to Christians who take this to the extreme to allow for action to be excused) or they tend to address these questions by saying it doesn't matter because their sole mission in life is to save as many souls as possible, often failing to realize that their tactics tend to chase people away rather then bring them in.