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Theology and the Environment

Meet the researcher

Dr Andrew Shepherd is a Lecturer in Theology and Public Issues. His working life has alternated between academic teaching roles and leadership responsibilities in Christian and non-profit organisations. After his initial degree in English Literature and History he completed post-graduate studies in Theology. His doctoral thesis offered a theological ethic of hospitality in conversation with French philosophers, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida.

About the project

This project builds upon the previous “Creation, Hope and the Environment” project. The new phase will:

  • explore the ways in which theological beliefs interact with other narratives of meaning to shape the ecological practices of faith communities and societies
  • focus on the potential for theological beliefs and practices to reshape cultural and economic narratives – assisting faith communities and broader society to both grieve what is being lost and to live with hope in times of significant change

Human-induced climate change, pressure on limited freshwater supplies, habitat-destruction, the pollution of soils, waterways and oceans, and the accompanying decline in biodiversity are all evidence that contemporary human civilisation is living beyond ecological limits.  Some contend the world has moved into a new geological epoch – the “Anthropocene” – others, asserting that the overshooting of ecological limits is inextricably linked with the ideological logic of hypercapitalism, suggest our contemporary age is better termed the “Capitalocene”.

Half a century ago, Lynn White Jr. (in)famously argued that Christian theological beliefs were the “roots of our ecological crisis.”  In contrast to White’s thesis of the ecologically-damaging nature of beliefs, others argue that it is a re-discovery of “green theology/religion” and “eco-practices” that are a potential panacea to the ecological challenges being faced.  The truth probably lies somewhere between White’s scapegoating of Christianity and the over-optimism displayed in “green faith.” 

Project events

25 March 2020 Dr Andrew Shepherd, ‘A Throwaway Society? Reflecting on Rubbish’ at St. Michael’s Kelburn Autumn Series ‘Stuff That Matters’
15 April 2020 Dr Andrew Shepherd, ‘A Throwaway Society: Reflecting on Rubbish’, at Faith Thinking on Zoom, University of Otago
11 June 2020 Professor Celia Deane-Drummond, Director of the ‘Laudato Si' Institute in Oxford, ‘Are Animals Persons: Implications for domestication and farming’. This event was hosted by New Zealand Christians in Science (NZCIS) and the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, Theology Programme, University of Otago.
30 Nov 2020 Dr Andrew Shepherd, ‘The Doctrine of Creation: Justice & Joy’. Verbal presentation at Conference of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies and the Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Publications

Andrew Shepherd, Creaturely Theology: Sharing life & worship with other species. In IFES Word & World, Issue 8, January 2020: 17-22.

Andrew Shepherd, ‘COVID-19—An Invitation to Ecological Repentance?’, Stimulus – The Journal of Christian Thought and Practice, Vol. 27.2, (May 2020).