Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
A draft of the book Faith in a Changing Climate is available. If you would like a review copy, please let us know.
The chapter headings are shown below. The full, current Table of Contents is available here.
Chapter 1 — Dress Rehearsal
Although this is the first chapter, it was the last chapter to be written, and will remain a work in progress until the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.
In this chapter we consider some of the lessons that we have learned during the pandemic, and how those lessons can be applied to longer-term issues such as climate change and biosphere loss. We also consider what we have learned regarding church leadership during times of radical change.
The New Normal series of posts explore the same topic.
Chapter 2 — An Age of Limits
Provides a background to the ‘Age of Limits’. It introduces the ‘New City of God’. Also discussed is the ‘Ladder of Awareness’, the 300-Year Party, and the “Aha!” moments that people have as they learn more about the challenges that face us.
Chapter 3— The City of Man
This chapter makes a distinction between the City of God and the City of Man. Human organizations always face eventual decline and collapse — only the City of God is permanent. We have built a faith in the ‘Church of Progress’. That faith is now being challenged as we enter the Age of Limits. It describes the ways in which human organizations decline and collapse..
Chapter 4 — Hubris and Nemesis
This chapter describes how the development of science and technology over the last 500 years has provided a foundation for our faith in the ‘Church of Progress’. However, the success of the scientific way of thought has led to hubris — a belief that it can solve all our problems. However, we cannot solve our predicaments through the use of more science and technology; they are at their nemesis. The situation does, however, provide an opportunity for the church to provide leadership into a new way of living.
Chapter 5 — Truth and Consequences
We are surrounded by competing statements and claims of all kinds. We live in a world of fake news, factoids, truthiness and advertising. Even when people are speaking with integrity, it is very difficult to understand how the complex systems discussed in this book behave, and how all the different pieces interact with one another. Yet it is important to try and determine what is true and what the future may hold for us; indeed, doing so could be a way in which people of faith establish their credibility.
Chapter 6 — Predicaments
In the previous chapters we have seen that there is a distinction between problems and predicaments. Problems have solutions, predicaments do not. When faced with a predicament we can respond and we can adapt, but we cannot make it go away.
In this chapter we look at some of these predicaments in more detail, including alternative energy sources, climate change, biosphere loss, population growth, finance, and project management realities. We also discuss potential responses and at the likely effectiveness of such responses. It has been a difficult chapter to write because the future can seem to be so hopeless. We are faced with so many crises in so many areas, that we are tempted to give up. Nevertheless, we need to face facts, and to understand the complex systems that are discussed in this book. We also need to understand that most of the solutions that are put forward are not really solutions at all; at best they reduce the impact of the changes, at worst they may actually make the overall situation worse than it was before.
The fact that many of the proposed solutions will not actually solve the dilemmas we face does not mean that we should not support them. Programs to develop alternative sources of energy, for example, deserve our full support. They can at least slow down the rate of change and give us more time to build a new way of living. We should also explore new technologies, such as small modular nuclear reactors — it is possible that there will be a breakthrough in one of these areas.
But the main lesson for people of faith is that we need to develop a lifestyle that puts us in balance with nature. We cannot continue with our current, energy-profligate lifestyle. And we need to recognize that the new lifestyle incorporates a spiritual component, a new or modified theology, as discssed in the next chapter.
Chapter 7 — Theology
For people of faith, theology comes before action. They need a framework in which to understand current events in the context of their relationship with God and their spiritual life. In this chapter we look at how theology can help everyone understand what is taking place, and how they should respond, as we move through the Age of Limits.
Based on the observations and conclusions from the previous chapters, the following three ideas are presented for consideration as part of a new theology.
Understand and tell the truth;
Accept and adapt; and
Live within the biosphere.
Discussion to do with these elements is provided at the Theology page.
Chapter 8 — The Church's Response
The previous seven chapters provided an overview of the predicaments that we face, how we got to where we are and some thoughts to do with a theology for the future. One of themes of this book is that the predicaments we face provide the church with an opportunity for leadership. In this chapter we explore what that statement might mean in practice.
Individuals of faith, and the church as a whole, are faced with decisions as to how to respond, what actions to take. There are no right or wrong answers, of course. We have stressed that none of us know, in detail, what the future holds. Therefore, any response that we develop has to be flexible — we will have to adjust our response as circumstances dictate. (Which is why the first chapter of this book — ‘Dress Rehearsal’ to do with the COVID-19 pandemic — was the last to be written.)
As discussed at the Response page, there are, broadly speaking, there are two ways of responding to the crises that we face: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down approach calls on people to work with large institutions such as national governments and major corporations to change the overall trajectory of society. This point of view maintains that actions taken by individuals may be worthy, but they don’t really have a significant impact on the overall predicaments that we face.
The bottom-up approach says that true change only comes from the actions of individuals and of people living in small groups who act out their principles. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme.”
In practice, both approaches are needed; individuals will tend to follow that which fits their personal interests and skills. Some are skilled at high-level actions such as building social media networks or lobbying politicians, others prefer to set an example by working quietly within a smaller community.
This chapter has three major sections,
Leaving the Church of Progress, the world in which live now.
An evaluation of today’s church, and its responses to the challenges that we face.
Responses and actions that we can take.