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Rediscovery of Early Twentieth-Century Ecotheology

Panu Pihkala
  • University of Helsinki, Finland
Published Online: 2016-04-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0023


In this article, I examine the early history of Christian environmentalism (“ecotheology”) in the twentieth century. I delineate four strands of early ecotheology: agrarian ecotheology; social Christianity; British contributions; and “post-liberal” foundations for later ecotheological movements. I show that ecotheology was a slowly-rising movement, which had notable proponents. I argue that these early ecotheologians are significant for several reasons. First, these writings support the view that there are momentous roots of environmentalism in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Second, these texts reveal important information about the relation of Christian and other environmentalism. Third, early ecotheologians contributed to discussion about themes which would later form distinctive environmental disciplines, such as environmental aesthetics, education, ethics, history and philosophy. Their thoughts offer interesting reflections pointing to these fields. Fourth, the contributions by the early ecotheologians are not only historically interesting, but they have relevance for the current discussion. These theologians were in a special position to notice the major changes brought by technological development in the twentieth century and they provided important critical reflections about these issues. Because they developed their thought independently, they display creative thinking, although often in an unfinished manner.

Keywords: environmental theology; religion and nature; religion and ecology; environmental history; social ethics


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About the article

Received: 2016-03-15

Accepted: 2016-03-30

Published Online: 2016-04-28

Citation Information: Open Theology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0023. Export Citation

©2016 Panu Pihkala . This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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