Skip to content
BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 29, 2017

Toward an Earthbound Theology

  • Austin J. Roberts EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Theology


This article considers some metaphysical and theological implications of the Anthropocene, which is the proposed name for a new geological epoch that is characterized by massive human disturbances of the Earth system. This stratigraphic time unit concludes the Holocene epoch that offered a relatively stable climate for human civilizations to emerge and flourish. The Anthropocene therefore marks the end of such natural stabilities - both real and imagined - along with a growing awareness of the dynamic agency or subjectivity of the Earth. By magnifying nonhuman subjectivity, the new epoch is widely interpreted by scholars across a range of disciplines as unsettling modern dualistic notions of human exceptionalism. Consequently, nonhuman nature is no longer a relatively inert background for human cultural activities. Humans and nonhumans must now be seen as interrelated Earth subjects. This nonmodern perspective suggests an ecological metaphysics of intersubjectivity along the lines of Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy of organism, which redistributes subjectivity, creativity, and transcendence throughout nature. Theology in the Anthropocene must therefore account for this nondual view of reality, which arguably implies a divine-world relation characterized by mutual immanence. The proposed earthbound theology ultimately envisions the divine as poetic exemplification of intersubjectivity.


Angus, Ian. Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016.Search in Google Scholar

Axel, Larry E., and William Dean, eds. The Size of God: The Theology of Bernard Loomer in Context. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987.Search in Google Scholar

Bauman, Whitney. “Climate Weirding and the Queering of Nature.” Religions 6, no. 2 (June 23, 2015): 742-54.10.3390/rel6020742Search in Google Scholar

Bonneuil, Christophe, and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz. The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us. Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2016.Search in Google Scholar

Bracken, Joseph A. “Intersubjectivity and the Coming of God.” The Journal of Religion 83, no. 3 (July 2003): 381-400.10.1086/491339Search in Google Scholar

Carrington, Damian. “The Anthropocene Epoch: Scientists Declare Dawn of Human-Influenced Age.” The Guardian, August 29, 2016. human-impact-earth.Search in Google Scholar

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (Winter 2009): 197-222.10.1086/596640Search in Google Scholar

Connolly, William E. Facing the Planetary: Entangled Humanism and the Politics of Swarming. Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Crist, Eileen. “On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature.” Environmental Humanities, 3 (2013): 129-47.10.1215/22011919-3611266Search in Google Scholar

Crutzen, Paul. “Geology of Mankind: The Anthropocene.” Nature 415 (January 3, 2002): 23.10.1038/415023aSearch in Google Scholar

Crutzen, Paul, and Eugene F. Stoermer. “The ‘Anthropocene.’” IGBP Newsletter 41 (May 2000): 17-18.Search in Google Scholar

Davies, Jeremy. The Birth of the Anthropocene. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016.Search in Google Scholar

Deane-Drummond, Celia, Sigurd Bergmann, and Markus Vogt, eds. Religion in the Anthropocene. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017.10.2307/j.ctvj4sw5vSearch in Google Scholar

Faber, Roland. “In the Wake of False Unifications: Whitehead’s Creative Resistance against Imperialist Theologies.” Claremont, CA, March 31, 2005. in Google Scholar

Faber, Roland. The Divine Manifold. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Berlin Family Lectures). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016.10.7208/chicago/9780226323176.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Griffin, David Ray. Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.10.1023/A:1012078809250Search in Google Scholar

Hamilton, Clive. Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2017. Kindle Edition.Search in Google Scholar

Hamilton, Clive, François Gemenne, and Christophe Bonneuil, eds. The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch. London; New York: Routledge, 2015.10.4324/9781315743424Search in Google Scholar

Hamilton, Clive, and Jacques Grinevald. “Was the Anthropocene Anticipated?” The Anthropocene Review 2, no. 1 (2015): 59-72.10.1177/2053019614567155Search in Google Scholar

Haraway, Donna J. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.Search in Google Scholar

Harman, Graham. Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics. Melbourne, Australia:, 2009.Search in Google Scholar

Keller, Catherine. Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.10.7312/kell17114Search in Google Scholar

Keller, Catherine. Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming. New York: Routledge, 2003.10.4324/9780203451731Search in Google Scholar

Keller, Catherine. Intercarnations: Exercises in Theological Possibility. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Latour, Bruno. Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime. Cambridge, UK ; Medford, MA: Polity, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Latour, Bruno. Gifford Lectures. in Google Scholar

Latour, Bruno. Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.10.4159/9780674039964Search in Google Scholar

Morton, Timothy. Humankind: Solidarity with Non-Human People. Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis, MN: University Of Minnesota Press, 2013.Search in Google Scholar

Northcott, Michael S. A Political Theology of Climate Change. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013.Search in Google Scholar

Sagan, Dorion, ed. Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012.Search in Google Scholar

Stengers, Isabelle. Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts. Translated by Michael Chase. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. Search in Google Scholar

The Economist. “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” May 26, 2011. in Google Scholar

Whitehead, Alfred North. Adventures of Ideas. New York: Free Press, 1933.Search in Google Scholar

Whitehead, Alfred North. Modes of Thought. New York: Free Press, 1968.Search in Google Scholar

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay In Cosmology. Corrected ed. Gifford Lectures: 1927-28. New York: Free Press, 1929.Search in Google Scholar

Whitehead, Alfred North. Religion In the Making. New York: Fordham University Press, 1996.Search in Google Scholar

Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World. New York: Free Press, 1997.Search in Google Scholar

Zalasiewicz, Jan. The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? UK: Oxford University Press, 2009.10.1093/oso/9780199214976.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Zalasiewicz, Jan, Mark Williams, Alan Smith, Tiffany L. Barry, Angela L. Coe, Paul R. Bown, Patrick Brenchley, David Cantrill, Andrew Gale, Philip Gibbard, F. John Gregory, Mark W. Hounslow, Andrew C. Kerr, Paul Pearson, Robert Knox, John Powell, Colin Waters, John Marshall, Michael Oates, Peter Rawson, Philip Stone. “Are We Now Living in the Anthropocene?” GSA Today 18, no. 2 (February 2008): 4-8.10.1130/GSAT01802A.1Search in Google Scholar

Zalasiewicz, Jan, Mark Williams, Will Steffen, and Paul Crutzen. “The New World of the Anthropocene.” Environmental Science and Technology 44, no. 7 (April 1, 2010): 2228-31.10.1021/es903118jSearch in Google Scholar

Received: 2017-11-10
Accepted: 2017-12-29
Published Online: 2017-12-29

© 2018

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.

Downloaded on 2.10.2023 from
Scroll to top button