The Pedagogy of Fourteen Boxes

colorful stack of plastic milk cratesI have lately donated most of my ecotheology books to a theological library in England. I am pleased that these books have now found a new and more permanent home. Call this the pedagogy of fourteen boxes. Let me explain.

When I published my first book in 1970, Brother Earth: Nature, God, and Ecology in a Time of Crisis, ecological theology was not yet recognized as a bona fide scholarly field. Indeed, I and a few others who worked with such themes in that era had to expend much effort even to be heard. Most professional theologians in those days had other interests: most of them focused on the theology of God and humanity, in one form or another. The thought that theology needed to be concerned with God and humanity and nature had not crossed many theologians’ minds back then.

That era of the birth pangs of ecological theology has come to an end. This was signaled by the promulgation of Pope Francis’ comprehensive and profoundly insightful encyclical, Laudato Si’, in 2015. We have entered what might be considered to be a golden age of ecological theology. With the Pope, many, if not all, theologians today take it for granted that the proper task of theology is to reflect about God and humanity and nature. And good studies in theology thus understood abound. I, for one, have found it challenging to keep up with them all.

Still, we forget the theological struggles – both the breakthroughs and the false starts – in ecological theology between 1970 and 2015 to our own disservice. Sometimes, indeed, as I suggested in my 2020 book, Celebrating Nature by Faith: Studies in Reformation Theology in an Era of Global Emergency, it can be helpful, even existentially mandatory, to take one step backward, in order to take two steps forward. Learn from the theological past, methinks, even the most recent theological past.

That’s why I am so grateful that my idiosyncratic collection of books in ecological theology, most of them published between 1970 and 2015, have found a new home, which at least a few theological students will be able to visit from time to time. In my view, that’s the pedagogy of those fourteen boxes.