Christianity and Ecology

This postgraduate module is taught online by Dr Elizabeth Theokritoff (Associate Lecturer IOCS), every Thursday between 3-5.30pm (BST), in the period 5th May – 7th July 2022.

This module is a part of the MA in Contemporary Faith and Belief in the Global Context taught by IOCS and the Cambridge Theological Federation, and awarded by Anglia Ruskin University. Guest students will be able to follow the Module on Christianity and Ecology, without being enrolled in the MA programme. Participants are expected to have a BA qualification or higher in order to follow this Module.

The cost of the module is £230. To apply please send a CV at info@iocs.cam.ac.uk.

This module will engage with some of the underlying questions raised by ecological awareness and the environmental crisis: How do we regard and value the natural world? How do we see the role of the human being in creation and in relation to other creatures? How does this influence the way we live on earth and use its goods? In search of answers, this module will concentrate not on tailor-made ‘eco-theologies’ but on the witness of various facets of the historical Christian tradition, especially that of the Christian East, which is increasingly recognised for the insights of its theology of creation. This exploration of Christian sources is intended to give the student a vantage point from which to critique assumptions about the criteria for ‘eco-friendly’ beliefs and world views, and identify the sorts of ecological action that form a natural expression of Christian faith.

The basis for the module will be sources and practices that are the common heritage of Eastern and Western Christianity: patristic writings of the first millennium and their theology of creation, worship and sacramental life, the ascetic and spiritual tradition, lives of saints ancient and modern. The final three lectures will highlight some major themes and figures in modern ecological theology, suggesting how they draw on sources deep within Christian tradition: asceticism and practice of the virtues; worship, prayer and sacraments; theology.

Each lecture will be followed by a seminar for which the students will be given preparatory reading. In their seminar contributions, students will be encouraged to draw on resources from their own particular tradition in responding to the lecture and readings.

The module will consist of the following 10 sessions, taught weekly in real time (3-5.30pm BST), between 5th May-7th July 2022:

Thursday, 5 May: Session 1: Talking about creation: context, starting points and misconceptions. Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection in Scripture and early church Fathers.

Thursday, 12 May: Session 2: The Word in the world (1): Patristic writers to the fifth century.

Thursday, 19 May: Session 3: The Word in the world (2): Maximus the Confessor and later developments.

Thursday, 26 May: Session 4: The place of man in patristic thought: Image and dominion, creation and fall.

Thursday 2 June: Session 5: Ascetic tradition and spiritual life: Use of the world and matter; practice of virtue and spiritual contemplation.

Thursday 9 June: Session 6: The example of the Saints: Compassion for all creatures; paradise restored.

Thursday, 16 June: Session 7: Worship and sacramental life: Paradigms for our relationship with the earth.

Thursday, 23 June: Session 8: Modern ecological theologies (1). Building on the practice of virtue: ‘stewardship’, ‘eco-justice’, ‘ecological sin’.

Thursday, 30 June: Session 9: Modern ecological theologies (2). Building on worship and prayer: ‘ecological spirituality’, ‘eucharistic ethos’.

Thursday, 7 July: Session 10:  Modern ecological theologies (3). Building on theology: Triune Creator, cosmic Christ, divine wisdom, the life-giving Spirit.

Students are requested to purchase Elizabeth Theokritoff, Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009), which will serve as a key text for the module.