Grey into Green: A Pentecostal Contribution to Ecological Hermeneutics
When Lynn White, Jr., published his provocative article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” in the journal Science in 1967, the environmental movement in the United States was in its early stages, and went largely unaddressed by Christians. To many Christians in the United States, the media images of the movement looked too much like the larger countercultural movements, with longhaired young people speaking out against governmental inaction and corporate disregard for the wellbeing of the natural world. These people were deemed un-American and the movement they represented might be summarily dismissed. But then White’s article laid the bulk of the responsibility for the ecological crisis squarely on Christianity. He argued that biblical passages such as Genesis 1:26–28 had been interpreted throughout Christian history as a warrant to exploit the natural world for human expediency and thriving. Coming from a historian by training, White’s charges carried weight among a secular audience that had little exposure to the resources of historic Christianity. However, once White’s charges were published, they caught the attention of several Christian thinkers who set out on a quest to defend Christianity from these charges. Here was born a concerted effort to develop a Christian ecotheology. Secondarily, the seeds were planted that would eventuate in a branch of biblical interpretation known as ecological hermeneutics.
The present essay will highlight key moments in the development of ecological hermeneutics for the purpose of identifying a possible contribution from another hermeneutical quest, the development of a distinctive Pentecostal hermeneutic. Both endeavors have generated considerable momentum in their quests, with voices contributing from quite varied global audiences. No attempt will be made here to provide exhaustive historical analyses of these hermeneutical ventures, nor will there be any attempt to identify all of the various expressions of these hermeneutics. Rather, the focus will be to conduct a sort of conversation between two contributors to their respective quests. Representing ecological hermeneutics will be Australian Norman Habel, considered by many the father of ecological hermeneutics, while representing Pentecostal hermeneutics will be American Chris Green, one of the leading voices in Pentecostal theology today. To begin, we will look briefly at the development of ecological hermeneutics and Norman Habel’s distinctive contribution to it.
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