Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Bryan Massingale, Pol Vandevelde
This dissertation is a work in theological anthropology and environmental philosophy. It seeks to provide a conceptual framework for a Christian environmental ethic rooted in love.
The heart of the crisis of ecological degradation is found in human attitudes and behaviors. In the late 1960's it was suggested that Christianity was a key source of the problem because it promoted the idea of human "dominion" over creation. This spurred a variety of responses designed to show that Christian faith was compatible with environmental care. A key theme emerging from this debate was the image of humans as Stewards of God's creation. Since then, environmental Stewardship has assumed a prominent place in the church and theology as a model of normative human behavior toward nature. And yet the crisis remains.
In recent years Stewardship has been subject to severe critique on a number of fronts. In this dissertation, I focus exclusively on the assumptions of human nature and responsibility implicit in the paradigm, particularly notions of separation from and control over non-human species. These assumptions are critically assessed in light of insights derived from contemporary ecological science and found wanting. The nature of ecosystems and human embeddedness within them renders managerial control impossible.
In light of this, I offer an alternative Christian response to environmental problems rooted in agape love, following Christ's command to love God and others. A robust interpretation of agape serves as a conceptual bridge between an ecologically sensible relational anthropology and a theologically faithful environmental ethic. My purpose is not to build a new environmental ethic, but to present a new and better theological understanding of Christian love, self, and phronesis in environmental ethics.