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Cosmology, Ecology, and the Energy of God

Cosmology, Ecology, and the Energy of God

Donna Bowman
Clayton Crockett
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Cosmology, Ecology, and the Energy of God
    Book Description:

    This book brings together process and postmodern theologians to reflect on the crucial topic of energy, asking: What are some of the connections between energy and theology? How do ideas about humanity and divinity interrelate with how we live our lives? Its contributors address energy in at least three distinct ways. First, in terms of physics, the discovery of dark energy in 1998 uncovered a mysterious force that seems to be driving the inflation of the universe. Here cosmology converges with theological reflection about the nature and origin of the universe. Second, the social and ecological contexts of energy use and the current energy crisis have theological implications insofar as they are caught up with ultimate human meanings and values. Finally, in more traditional theological terms of divine spiritual energy, we can ask how human conceptions of energy relate to divine energy in terms of creative power.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4933-6
    Subjects: Astronomy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Donna Bowman and Clayton Crockett

    What does energy have to do with theology? We face an energy crisis, an energy deficit, not only in material resources but also in terms of creative thinking. Theology is reflection about what concerns us ultimately, and many theologians and religious people give that object of ultimate concern the name God. Today we live in a world that is threatened in ecological and environmental ways, and many humans, including theologians, are drawing on traditional, modern, technical, and spiritual resources to reflect upon and provide resources to intervene with this situation. Eco-theology is a vital and important discourse, but there has...


    • CHAPTER 1 The Energy We Are: A Meditation in Seven Pulsations
      (pp. 11-25)
      Catherine Keller

      Delight has the bodily feeling of buoyancy, of dancing lightly, effortless motion, radiant pulsation. The light of delight vibrates, its energy throbs. No wonder modernity turned into an energy addict. Yet the manic excitations that rock our civilization—instant communication, zippy cars, frequent flights, processed foods, monstrous war waste, even the air conditioning that corrects natural summer slowdown—also drive our dependence on nonrenewable energy. It would seem that we have arrived, we earthlings, at a great turning point. Either we take responsibility for our energies—for the planetary effects of our overuse, overproduction, and abundant waste of energy—or...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Fire Each Time: Dark Energy and the Breath of Creation
      (pp. 26-41)
      Mary-Jane Rubenstein

      The hot big bang hypothesis can be traced back to 1929, when Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding.¹ While Hubble observed this phenomenon directly, the possibility of an expanding universe had already been opened by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which he completed in 1915. According to general relativity, space and time are neither independent nor static substances; rather, they compose a dynamic “space-time” that can grow, shrink, bend, and warp in relation to matter and energy. Prior to Hubble’s observational confirmation, then, Einstein’s own theory suggested that the universe might either be expanding or contracting—that space-time...

    • CHAPTER 3 Solar Energy: Theophany and the Theopoetics of Light in Gregory of Nyssa
      (pp. 42-58)
      T. Wilson Dickinson

      In the seemingly material problems that surround the word energy, I cannot help but hear the metaphysical echo of the Greek termenergeia.¹ In the faint resonance I hear between these two terms there seems to emerge a rather unlikely pairing: that of the looming ecological crisis and that of the ancient disciplines of philosophy and theology. Though at first this pairing might seem forced, in this essay I argue that the possible melodious performance of these two unlikely partners might very well provide a way forward. While many will propose that solar energy might be the most promising resource...

    • CHAPTER 4 Beyond Heat: Energy for Life
      (pp. 59-69)
      Clayton Crockett

      In his bookTheology of Money, British philosopher of religion Philip Good-child claims that “theology consists in the ordering of time, attention and devotion” in a broad sense rather than the determinate faith in Jesus Christ or any other particular religious tradition.¹ If God becomes questionable in the modern world, largely as a result of scientific discoveries and developments, then theology either disappears or becomes transformed, unless it simply digs in its heels in a reactionary way. I suggest, following Good-child, that theology involves the ordering of time, attention, and devotion in relation to what matters most, what is of...

    • CHAPTER 5 Emergence, Energy, and Openness: A Viable Agnostic Theology
      (pp. 70-84)
      Whitney Bauman

      In their book,Into the Cool, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan argue that the second law of thermodynamics, describing the increase of entropy through energy exchange, is truthful, but not the whole truth.¹ Thermodynamics was tested and “created,” so to speak, in the laboratory, in closed-system experiments. In other words, it was discovered in a situation outside of the interconnectedness that organisms find themselves in outside of the laboratory. For closed systems, entropy is the final word.² However, most living systems in the world (and perhaps the universe itself) are open. “Our biosphere may not be an organism per...


    • CHAPTER 6 Ecological Civilizations: Obstacles to, and Prospects for, Religiously Informed Sustainability Movements in a Post-American World
      (pp. 87-105)
      Jay McDaniel

      We live in an age of declining energy reserves, and it is likely that by 2025 nations will be battling other nations in order to secure scarce resources. At least that is what a recent report from the National Intelligence Council proposes. Optimistically minded theologians might counter that if people lived with compassion and a willingness to share resources, the resources might not be so scarce. Finite resources are real, they say, but scarcity lies in the eyes of its beholders. Theologians with more suspicious leanings might add that the rhetoric of scarcity is but a tool used by powerful...

    • CHAPTER 7 “One More Stitch”: Relational Productivity and Creative Energy
      (pp. 106-120)
      Donna Bowman

      The first warning sign for many Americans of the current recession and its associated crises was the 2008 spike in oil prices. Suddenly everyone was talking about four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline. The prospect of the increasing cost of fuel raising the price of nearly everything—from food, to travel, to labor—frightened many people, who saw shortages, inflation, and a return to the dark days of the 1970s on the horizon. Gasoline prices subsided, but the larger problems facing the American economy were only beginning to become visible: uncollectable debt, failing financial institutions, lack of credit availability, bankrupt businesses, unemployment. Consumer spending...

    • CHAPTER 8 Energy, Ecology, and Intensive Alliance: Bringing Earth Back to Heaven
      (pp. 121-140)
      Luke B. Higgins

      It should probably come as no surprise that a certain instrumental, techno-scientific rationality continues to dominate the discourse in which we currently engage conversations around energy consumption and its environmental effects. After all, it was modern science that defined the very concept of energy upon which much of today’s industrial civilization was built. Science definesenergy as the ability to do work, expressed as a quantifiable, exchangeable unit. The utility of the scientific concept of energy derives from its capacity to abstract from particular processes and exchanges that occur throughout the natural world, reducing them to exchangeable units, or “currency.”¹...

    • CHAPTER 9 “Go Big or Go Home”: A Critique of the Western Concept of Energy/Power and a Theological Alternative
      (pp. 141-150)
      Oz Lorentzen

      Discussions of energy typically include two different forms of energy. One is directed toward being or becoming, often called psychic or spiritual. This has to do withpotentia, looking at the ability to actualize the intrinsic or essential properties of an entity. The other is directed toward action or doing and is often called physical. This has to do with the ability to work, to accomplish tasks in the external world. While both forms of energy are part of any concept of energy, typically one or the other is the focal point and subsumes the other, either intentionally or by...

    • CHAPTER 10 God Is Green; or, A New Theology of Indulgence
      (pp. 151-162)
      Jeffrey W. Robbins

      In 1940, shortly after speaking with Colonel Oster at theAbwehrmeeting during which he was enlisted in the plot against Adolf Hitler that would eventually lead to his imprisonment and execution, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned what remains one of the most scathing attacks against theoretical or systematic ethics. As he wrote in the opening paragraph of the chapter “Ethics as Formation,” ethical reasoning had become entirely superfluous, not because of indifference and certainly not because of irrelevance. “On the contrary,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “it arises from the fact that our period, more than any earlier period in the history of the...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 163-190)
  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 191-194)
    (pp. 195-202)