Editor’s note: In his doctoral dissertation, Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church is claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. This is another installment of an ongoing series.
The three views that I will bring into discussion are Sigurd Bergmann’s “Spirit as Liberator of Nature” David Ray Griffin’s “Consequent Nature of God,” and Mark I. Wallace’s “Green Face of God.” These three theologians are keenly integrative in their presentations of Spirit and Nature, proposing varying views of Spirit that provide insights into the current discussion. By choosing such diverse voices I hope to identify some of the questions that are relevant to a theology that seeks to better integrate views of God and Nature.
Sigurd Bergmann provides a Liberation Theology perspective of Spirit that is closely tied to classical theology. His integrative view of Spirit, based on the theology of Gregory of Nazianzus, provides a bridge between patristic and neo-orthodox theology and the pluralistic, spirituality-focused religious dialogue of today. David Ray Griffin presents a well-developed view from Process Theology that thoroughly integrates Spirit with Nature while still holding out for transcendence. Mark I. Wallace introduces a naturalistic perspective into his theology of Spirit based on his Native American background and other earth-based religions and provides a postmodern rhetorical reading of the Spirit and Nature with an ethic for a spirited response to the environmental crises.
From each of these theologians I will be asking: How do you portray the Spirit? How far do you go toward integrating the Spirit and the natural world? What metaphysical claims do you make? Do you make use of traditional Christian metaphors and concepts? Is your thought involved in serious conversation with the late-modern worldview? Is your thought able to be in mutual dialogue with other religious and spiritual traditions? For me the most important question will be: how do you relate your concept of Spirit to spirituality and the mission of the church, and how can it be enacted in the life of the church?
I hope you will join me as I look at the diverse thought of these three theologians and discern their significance for informing an interdwelling perspective of Nature and Spirit.