Joseph Sittler and Early Ecotheology

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-0499-1
Title: Joseph Sittler and Early Ecotheology
Author: Pihkala, Panu
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Systemaattinen teologia, ekumeniikka
Publisher: Unigrafia
Date: 2014-12-19
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-0499-1
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/144312
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This study analyzes early twentieth-century ecotheology about which it provides a great deal of new information. The focal point is the work of Joseph Sittler (1904 1987), an American Lutheran and ecumenical theologian. Through the use of systematic analysis and historical methods, Sittler s thought is placed in context in relation to other early ecotheology and environmentalism. Many strands of early ecotheology are here reintroduced into the discourse on ecotheology, such as the British contributions by both Anglican and Reformed theologians. For the first time, a relatively comprehensive overview of early ecotheology is given. American and British sources are the most prominent, although some discussion about Scandinavian ecotheology is included. German sources are not used, but early German ecotheology is briefly discussed. The study confirms that there were significant forms of Christian environmental thought and action well before the age of environmentalism began in the 1960s. This fact has consequences for the definition of ecotheology. The study includes substantive discussion of definitions, typologies and methods of environmental theology. It argues that ecotheology (or ecological theology) has many benefits as a general term for the subject matter. The existence of early ecotheology requires that the concept be widened to include these early forms, even though a significant change took place in the 1960s, when a wider ecotheological movement was born. For the first time, the growth of ecotheology is placed in the historical context of theological developments in the twentieth century. One of the findings is that certain socially-oriented forms of Christian theology included environmental concerns early on. Especially significant in this regard is Walter Rauschenbusch, the famous Social Gospel theologian, whose ecotheology receives a close reading for the first time in this study, and the multitalented Liberty Hyde Bailey. The study shows that their concerns were picked up by different post-liberal (in a general sense) and neo-liberal theologians, such as several of the realist theologians in the United States. Paul Tillich s theology of nature evidently made a powerful impact. The most influential early ecotheologians combined insights from both liberalism and neo-orthodoxy. Through their work, the legacy of early ecotheology was carried on to the next generation, who made their mark in the age of environmentalism. In this study, Sittler s early theological development is comprehensively examined for the first time. Although Sittler grew up in a traditional American Lutheran environment, he was affected by ecumenical currents relatively early on. Already in his youth he manifested a strong interest in the natural world and the fine arts, both of which later became major themes in his theology. Sittler was shaped by neo-orthodoxy and Scandinavian theology as propounded by his teachers John O. Evjen and Walter M. Horton, and he later became closely involved with the realist theologians, including Tillich. Sittler contributed to the changes in American Lutheranism, especially with his first book, The Doctrine of the Word (1948), and he soon moved in an ever more ecumenical direction. He was influenced by process thought, but developed his (eco)theology in a more traditionally theistic manner. Sittler began addressing environmental concerns in the early 1950s, especially in his seminal essay A Theology for Earth (1954). At the same time he found his theological stance: Sittler wanted to develop neo-orthodoxy-influenced theology in a more earth-affirming direction. Many of the ecotheological arguments Sittler used are already found in some form in earlier ecotheology, but out of these arguments, Sittler constructed a more comprehensive ecotheology in a creative fashion. He included basic notions of stewardship, yet Sittler was exceptional in emphasizing the status of nature as man s sister and the interdependence of humans and the rest of nature. He further developed many of his insights in his later work, which is a topic for future research. Overall, early ecotheology emerges from this study as multifaceted. There was dominion (Horton) and stewardship ecotheology (the agrarians, Walter C. Lowdermilk, the Malvern Conference 1941); there were eco-justice elements (Daniel Day Williams, Sittler), emphasis on spiritual experiences in nature (Bernard E. Meland) and ecological subjectivity (Charles E. Raven, Herbert H. Farmer, Tillich, Sittler). There was both strong and weak anthropocentrism, and some early ecotheologians emphasized the theocentric, intrinsic value of nature (Bailey, Tillich, Sittler). Numerous themes are featured, such as aesthetics, eschatology, Christology, Incarnation, sacraments and theological anthropology. The role of these early ecotheologians is discussed in relation to environmental history and environmental education. The findings show that ecotheology was not as emphatically separate from other kinds of environmentalism as it was after the end of the 1960s and the Lynn White debate. Early ecotheologians contributed to the general development of environmental thought and action.Ekoteologia tarkoittaa (kristillistä) ihmisen, muun luonnon ja Jumalan suhteen käsittelyä. Ekoteologiset teokset esittävät mallin siitä, miten ihmisen tulisi elää luonnon maailmassa. Perusteluina käytetään raamatuntulkintaa, kristillisten oppien tulkintaa ja yleisiä filosofis-eettisiä argumentteja. Akateeminen ekoteologia, josta voidaan käyttää myös nimitystä ympäristöteologia, tarkastelee ekoteologisia malleja erilaisten kysymyksenasetteluiden kautta. Ekoteologian on yleensä ajateltu saaneen alkunsa niin sanotun ympäristökriisin aikana 1960-luvulta lähtien. Tämä tutkimus tarkentaa kuvaa ekoteologiasta osoittamalla, että jo 1900-luvun alkupuoliskolla oli olemassa merkittävää ekoteologista ajattelua ja toimintaa. Samalla tutkimus paljastaa, että kristillisen ja muun ympäristötoiminnan välillä ei ollut vahvoja ristiriitoja ennen 1960-luvun loppua. Tutkimuksen keskipisteenä on amerikkalaisen luterilaisen ja ekumeenisen teologin Joseph Sittlerin (1904 1987) ekoteologia ja etenkin sen varhainen vaihe. Tutkimus tarkastelee ensi kertaa Sittlerin teologian kehitysvaiheita ja hänen ajattelunsa suhdetta muihin teologisiin virtauksiin 1950-luvulle saakka. Sittlerin varhaishistorian tutkimus tarjoaa näköaloja amerikkalaisen luterilaisuuden vaiheisiin ja antaa uutta tietoa teologisesta vuorovaikutuksesta Euroopan ja Amerikan välillä. Tutkimus esittelee paljon uutta tietoa 1900-luvun varhaisista ekoteologeista etenkin Yhdysvalloissa ja Britanniassa. Ekoteologisia elementtejä löydetään sellaisten teologien (Paul Tillich, Walter Rauschenbusch) ajattelusta, jotka tunnetaan pääasiassa kontribuutioistaan muille teologian osa-alueille. Amerikkalaiset maaseudusta ja maaperästä kiinnostuneet ajattelijat, kuten Liberty Hyde Bailey, osoittautuvat eräiksi ekoteologian pioneerihahmoiksi. Brittiläisen teologian myönteinen suhtautuminen luontoon piirtyy tärkeäksi taustajuonteeksi ekoteologian kehitykselle. Anglikaaninen kirkko julkaisi myös erään ensimmäisistä ekoteologisista kannanotoista 1940-luvun alussa. Erilaiset jälkiliberaalit teologit kehittivät ekoteologiaa eteenpäin. Prosessiajattelijat Bernard Meland ja Daniel Day Williams olivat merkittäviä uranuurtajia. Sittlerin 1950-luvun alun ekoteologiset kannanotot toivat vaikutusvaltaisella ja luovalla tavalla erilaisia argumentteja yhteen. Sittler korosti ihmisen vastuuta, luonnon omaa arvoa ja ihmisen sekä muun luonnon yhteenkuuluvuutta. Hänestä tuli 1960-luvulta lähtien entistä keskeisempi kansainvälinen ekoteologinen vaikuttaja. Tutkimuksen metodi on systemaattinen analyysi. Lähteinä ovat merkittävät ekoteologiset kirjoitukset ja etenkin Sittlerin tuotanto vuosilta 1904 1954. Tutkimus sisältää liittymäkohtia erilaisiin ympäristöaloihin, kuten ympäristöfilosofiaan, ympäristöhistoriaan ja ympäristökasvatukseen ja edistää vuoropuhelua niiden välillä.
Subject: teologia
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