burn in hellTurn or Burn T-shirtWe’ve all met them. The “turn or burn” type evangelicals. Those who give evangelicals their bad name. Those who drive the idea that faith is about a fear for hell. But time has passed, most of us don’t take them very seriously, few people I know actually still try this take on evangelism, and even with someone like Kimball that still try to make hell and important concept, it’s important that hell should not become the motivating factor for evangelism.

But more and more we are getting the “turn or burn” message with global warming as well. Those angry liberals (and sometimes I’m one of them) who keep moaning about the conservatives (and yes, I think this is stupid labels) who only worry about heaven (and more often than not more about hell than heaven) and is of “no earthly good” now have there own hell. It’s a hell on earth. And if you don’t turn… well, you will burn. If you don’t change your ecological lifestyle then you will have it hot in a couple of years time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I feel very strong about the ecology. I accept what scientists tell me about global warming (yes, I know that there isn’t consensus). I took a lot of trouble this year to make global warming a larger part of the Engineering curriculum at the University of Pretoria (OK, it’s just one week’s worth of ethics lectures more, but I tried!). Sometimes I even think an extremist like James Lovelock might be right!

What I’m concerned about is when the motivation for change become fear, which just cause people to again react against it (what I think underlies a post like this). Global warming should be feared, but when that is all that motivate the changes we make, then I doubt how deeply we really change.

Now, those not converting people by making them afraid of hell, could either tell them of the utopia of heaven, or tell them about a story by which to make sense of life. This isn’t a post about evangelism, so I’ll not go into that too deeply. Point is that I believe that there is some deeper reason to change why we do things the way we do. Not because of our fear of a hell on earth, neither because we are promised an earthly utopia when we do change. Rather because there is a way of making sense of our lives which call us to live different.

Our Green Spirituality should be based on respect for creation, on a love for creation. If ever we do find ways of undoing every bit of damage we do to the earth, would that give us a pass to do whatever we want? If fear is all that drive us, then yes, it will. But if we live life in a way which search for harmony with creation, then a different approach is needed. Oh, and with harmony we obviously need to remember to humans are part of creation, so human extinction projects is not what I’ll be proposing.

As followers of Jesus we should talk about ecology, but then remember that there is a positive motivation for change. Global Warming seem to be the result of humans not living in harmony, not the motivation for changing our lives which is not in harmony. And this can be true whether Global Warming is the issue or not!

This post is a part of the June Synchroblog on “Green Living and Spirituality.” 

Other bloggers:

Is it All About the Green? by Phil Wyman
Rediscovering Humanity’s Primal Commission by Adam Gonnerman
Bashing SUV’s for Jesus by David Fisher
Little Green Man by Sonja Andrews 
Saints and Animals by Steve Hayes


As the call to papers for the synchroblog about “Emerging heresy” came out, I was having a conversation with Deborah on my Beowulf post. Early on in the conversation Deborah said:

Be wary of the Emerging Christian doctrine that you mentioned in your post. It’s as false as the liberal propaganda that comes out of Hollywood. I would advise always, always to measure what you read or view in this world against the pure doctrine of God’s holy word.

I still haven’t found exactly what she has refered to, but maybe it was another post, since I didn’t refer to anything “emerging” in the post. The conversation went on for pages and pages, and I guess I knew from the start that the chances was very unlikely that we would find some common ground, but as I explained previously, I still consider fundamentalism as an ecumenical challenge, so I continued the conversation. May I just mention that Deborah do not consider herself to be a fundamentalist, her reaction to my mention of the word was:

Now, let’s get to the bias you think me to have. Am I evangelical? No. Am I a fundamentalist? No. Now, again, that could depend upon your definitions, but according to my definitions, the answer is “No.” As far as being a fundamentalist, I think of Islamic terrorists as fundamentalists. So, no, I’m not a fundamentalist. Evangelical? In what sense? Do I go out and evangelize? No. Do I believe in preaching the Gospel? Yes, for that was Christ’s Great Commission (Mar 15:16). But that makes me doctrinal, not evangelical.

I don’t think the conversation was a success, maybe I should even be ashamed of the things I’ve said. But I do have some thoughts on how conversations may continue. I’ve had some friends who are very comfortable with the evangelicals, and we had loads of very constructive conversations, and others that we couldn’t even get through a cup of coffee. So, if you have some emerging friends you think might be heretics (whatever that may mean, give your interpretation to this word), but still want to be “conversing with the heretics”, here are my thoughts:

  • If your heretic friend consider him/herself to be a Christians, try to consider them as Christians
  • Remember that both of you have biases, and that you can maybe help each other notice them
  • Try focusing on social justice, you might find you both want to help the poor and suffering, although you differ on some theological stuff
  • Remember that you may be wrong, both of you, remember that just maybe you are wrong! I guess this is the most difficult part. I’ve written some more on this here.

Just one of these can sometimes provide an entry point for some good conversations, without the need to give up dearly held beliefs. Oh, and by the way, don’t ever mention that you have a direct link with God which mean that you are definitely right, no matter what anyone says. This tends to kill a conversation, because you can’t really fight with God.

Well, maybe I’m too demanding. But I am serious to keep the conversation going. If you think I should back down on some points, tell me, if you think I should add some, also leave a comment. And maybe you have some things which you think your heretic friends should also keep in mind when the attempt at conversation is made, please make a mention of those as well.

Well, you can read the conversation between myself and Deborah here, and you’re welcome to give some pointers where you think the conversation could have been done better (especially if I should have done thing differently). But I must say, it’s gonna be a loooong read if you do read this.

Well, that’s my thoughts for the day, also read these other fine sychrobloggers!

Aratus – The Gender of the Creator and Face forward
Cobusvw – Conversing with the heretics
Liquid Light – Coming out a heretic emerges
Nic Paton – The Lif Cycle of Heresy and The Blessings of Heresy
Roger Saner Towards a heretical orthodoxy
Ryan Peters – title not cited yet
Steve Hayes no title cited yet
Tim Victor – Confessions of a heretic

David Bosch is considered by many to be one of the best South Africa theologians of the last century. Tony Jones seem to like to introduce Stanley Hauerwas with the story of how he reacted to Time magazine saying: “best is not a theological category”, probably this should be said about Bosch as well, but in history certain people has come to forward at times of need, and helped the church in an exceptional way. Bosch helped us to formulate our Theology of Mission in a time when mission was in a time of crisis.

The crisis does not seem to be over, however. Still the arguments rage on about what mission is about, what we should understand under eschatology, and what the task of the church is about (see for example the recent post of Dan Kimball), and where the challenge of social justice should lay. In am article a few years ago Duncan Forrester defined Public Theology like this:

“Public Theology, as I understand it, is not primarily and directly evangelical theology which addresses the Gospel to the world in the hope of repentance and conversion. Rather, it is theology which seeks the welfare of the city before protecting the interests of the Church, or its proper liberty to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments. Accordingly, public theology often takes ‘the world’s agenda’, or parts of it, as its own agenda, and seeks to offer distinctive and constructive insights from the treasury of faith to help in the building of a decent society, the restraint of evil, the curbing of violence, nation-building, and the reconciliation in the public arena, and so forth. It strives to offer something that is distinctive, and that is gospel…”
Forrester, D. 2004. The Scope of Public Theology

This seem to imply that theology, and not the church, talk to the public about issues of social justice (the work of David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination, seem to say something similar). I might not be the worlds biggest expert on Public Theology, but I’ve never read the name of David Bosch in the works of public theologians, although the work of Bosch is having a big influence in the conversations about being a missional church, and missional in this sense is then understood as being primarily an issue of social justice, not repentance and conversion; of hope in this world.

At this point I have to get out of the closet with why I’m writing this. Maybe I’ve misused this synchroblog, because I don’t bring new insight, or practical wisdom. Today I bring my questions to the table. My interest in public theology, missiology, and David Bosch (I learned to respect this name while still in school), and the fact that I have to write a mini-Dissertation within the next few months kind of came together… or at least, is struggling to come together, because I still struggle to formulate a research proposal which can help me with the problem: “How do Bosch and Public Theology fit together, if ever they do?”.

On social justice, what I think I am starting to pick up, is that the Public Theologians are looking for ways to communicate about social justice within a pluralist and non-Christian world. Bosch, it would seem, rather wrote about what the task of the church, within this same world, is when it come to issues of social justice.

But the Bosch that the world know (Bosch the theologian, not Bosch the missionary in Transkei) was a theologian, and concerned himself with a theological response, not with practical answers (although he also reminded us that you cannot write theology without keeping missionary practice in mind). It would seem, and this is just my guess, like Bosch had a different approach when talking about the same things someone like Forrester would talk about. He rather chose to stick with the category of mission, and rethink is for a new time.

It is something in this line which I would like to research in the coming months. Obviously I’ll keep you posted as I go along, and post parts of the dissertation as I’m writing, and would love to get some feedback as I go along. But for now I only have questions as to how both Bosch and the Public Theologians can be part of our conversation regarding social justice. And on a more urgent level, I need to formulate a research proposal, so any comments and questions would be helpful.

Was this out of line for the Synchroblog? I hope not…

For more on this months Social Justice Synchroblog, also read these other great bloggers: