Divine and Human Creativity and the Blessing and Curse of Fossil Carbon

Thomas Emeleus

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The purpose of the thesis is to develop a theological response to the ambiguities of our reliance on fossil carbon. This response is placed within broader Christian responses to global issues exacerbated by climate change. In the first part, a science-theology conversation and public theology frame the response. The second part brings Biblical and theological themes to issues which cluster around climate change.

The sevenfold growth of human population over three hundred years correlates
with the rise of industrial-scale use of fossil carbon and of modern science. Science has become widely regarded as a sufficient explanation of the existence of the universe and all in it, making it necessary to explore the often fraught history between theology and science. Today, older deterministic scientific models are giving way to probabilistic models, with complexity and emergence becoming an integrating theme across sciences and humanities. It is argued that complexity and emergence is a productive basis for a science-theology conversation in which each is open to the possible and the unknown.
A science-theology conversation is developed using this approach and it shapes
arguments throughout the thesis.

In scientific narrative, humankind emerges as part of the evolving universe. A
‘deep’ theology responds by finding humankind formed in the image of God by the creative processes of the evolving universe. Scientifically, humankind is related to all life and creation in the depths of creative process. Theologically, Jesus incarnates the Divine Logos and Cosmic Christ, who relates all to God through creation and new creation. ‘Deep’ theology resists dualism which diminishes human relationship to and responsibility for the future of the Earth-environment and all creatures with which we share it.

Our dependence on fossil carbon is a direct result of the benefits it brings, but its ongoing use is driving potentially catastrophic climate change. A theological response to this ambiguity is made using biblical themes of blessing and curse. The contest between forces resisting de-carbonization and those working for it are explored using Biblical themes of prophecy, including denial and living in denial in face of existential threat.

Climate change is of major public concern, making a theological response part of public theology. The church is part of the theologian’s public. Enabling church
membership to relate faith to immediate questions such as use of fossil carbon is then part of public theology. Participation in public life as expression of Christian discipleship may be seen as Christopraxis, or participation in Christ’s presence in the world. Theology which finds Christ in the depths of all creation also finds Christ present in the suffering inherent in evolution processes, and in the suffering caused by human activity. Christ is redemptively present in truth-telling and reconciliation of relationships between people, people and all creation, and all with God. The resurrection of Christ brings hope for all creation, allowing visions which go beyond scientific future possibilities. It offer hope against hope, even if fossil carbon reduction is too little and too late and the worst case scenarios of climate change eventuate.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Pearson, Clive, Principal Supervisor
  • Drayton, Dean, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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