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Open Theology

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Toward an Earthbound Theology

Austin J. Roberts
Published Online: 2017-12-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0006

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Earth system; Gaia; nature; stratigraphy; Alfred North Whitehead; process theology; ecology; environment; nondual; new materialism; climate change; metaphysics

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About the article

Received: 2017-11-10

Accepted: 2017-12-29

Published Online: 2017-12-29


Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 71–83, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0006.

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© 2018. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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