Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Global weirding

As I sit and watch people struggle past in the couple of centimetres of snow that have fallen over night, I'm reflecting on Thomas Friedman's description of climate change as 'global weirding'.

In a very good chapter on climate change, in particular the way the science is treated by those who are politically sceptical about the need to change our way of life, Friedman offers an excellent guide to what is happening, what the science is actually saying and how policy makers ought to be reacting to this.

one sentence jumped out and stopped me in my tracks. In a section detailing recent climate events, including hurricane Katrina, Friedman noted: 'Katrina wasn't so much an example of global warming as it was an example of the long-term infrastructure decisions society needs to make in order to survive. The weather is so much more than "do I need an umbrella?" It's also "should I buy a condo on the coast?" and "did we build those levees high enough?"'

These are profoundly theological questions that I'm not sure we're asking in our churches even if we've started asking them in our theological colleges.

For me, this whole issue raises questions about how we are training ministers for mission for today's world. Courses in ministry formation should engage with the likes of Friedman. But such engagement would mean that ministers-in-training need to be engaging with economics as much as Calvin, the principles of scientific enquiry as much as Karl Barth, public policy as much as pastoral theology.

But I'm not sure there's room in the curriculum. More pressingly, I'm not sure there's the will to make it. And the reason for this is that churches still want ministers who will fulfill the traditional roles of preaching and leading worship and reassuring our folk that God's on the case and all will be well in the end. Is it any wonder our churches are still emptying? And, in particular, that thinking people under 35 do not consider the Christian Faith has anything intelligent or effectual to say about the world or to the world as it teeters on the brink of the consequences of global weirding.


Trevor said...

Hi Simon,

My first time posting, but not the first time I've found your blog helpful and thought provoking. Thank you!

I'm currently in my final year at Bristol Baptist College (which partners with Trinity), and the need to integrate environmental concerns has actually come up on a frequent basis in our modules on mission. A module entitled 'Mission, the Enviroment and World Development' is also available now. There are some positive developments here at least!

simon said...

That's excellent news. I'm pleased to hear it.
I guess the key issue for me is how what you're learning leaves college with you and becomes part of the minister you are wherever you'll be working.
This is one issue - among many - that cannot remain interesting theological questions for ministers in training but which don't shape how those ministers operate in our churches.
Still, it's great news you're being encouraged to tackle it.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep in touch

Anonymous said...

I can't help feeling that the foolish man building his house on the sand has as much to say to us today, both practically and spiritually, as it did in 30AD (or thereabouts). I smile when I think of The Palms and The World in Dubai in relation to this parable. Perhaps it needs re-telling.

simon said...

Yes, I thought of that parable as the world's tallest tower was lit up fireworks in Dubai earlier this week.

Andy Goodliff said...

amen, amen, amen
i think every minister and especially minister in training should be equipped to think theologically about politics, economics, geography, etc.

so often churches don't engage with the issues of the day or too late after the fact ... i think its partly perhaps because ministers don't know where to start.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. First time reader of your blog!

As a systematic theologian, I regularly try to push my students into reading cultural critique, economic theory, science, etc. as part and parcel of the task of learning to do systematic theology. If in fact we believe in the Lordship of Christ, we shouldn't be surprised that he's as concerned about foolish city planning as he is about foolish individual life planning, for example.

I've added you to my "subscriptions"!

simon said...

It's encouraging to hear what's happening in some of our colleges. Thanks for stopping by, david - please do so again.
Andy - good point about ministers not knowing where to start. But it's never too late and because our people are exposed to these issues through the media and various conversations, I've found they are more up for the issues being tackled than we expect.
I guess it's about ministers being informed and being able to keep themselves up-to-date.
Perhaps our colleagues in the colleges could offer on-line updates and refreshers on the issues from time-to-time.