Covenantal ecology : the promise of covenant for a Christian environmental ethic.
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Frick, Brandon, 1980-
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Environmentally responsible lifestyles are becoming a more mainstream, if not trendy, choice in the United States. However, there is still much room to improve in terms of “green” living. This dissertation sets forth a new theological framework for the Christian church that aims to compel more environmentally conscious living. While some may argue that focusing on the church is far too parochial given the extent of environmental degradation happening daily, but the church remains uniquely situated to compel positive change. For decades, the church has promoted creation care by urging congregations and individuals to live as better “stewards” of creation. I argue that stewardship’s dependence upon an anthropocentric cosmic imaginary make it a poor choice for a Christian environmental ethic. In its place I argue for a covenantal ecology, i.e., a framework that establishes God, humanity, and nonhuman creation as partners within a covenantally established and maintained relationship. In addition to overcoming some of the theological distortions of stewardship, a covenantal ecology promotes a deepening of commitment to nonhuman creation. After describing the flawed biblical hermeneutic of stewardship and the theological distortions it engenders, I draw upon the works of Robert Murray, Michael Northcott and Karl Barth to establish the theological foundations of a covenantal ecology. Having established a theological lens with which to interpret scripture, I begin an exploration of scriptural texts. The Old Testament establishes the God of Israel as the God of covenantal relationships. These texts describe God’s covenantal relationship with all of creation, the relationship between human and nonhuman creation established by the law, the cosmic significance of tsedek and mishpat, and the eschatological renewal of creation brought about by God. I continue this biblical exploration into the New Testament, arguing that Jesus Christ’s incarnate ministry initiates the fulfillment of a covenantal ecology, which is completed in the New Jerusalem. In its description of the new heaven and earth, scripture provides a picture of the fulfilled covenantal ecology in which God, humans, and nonhuman creation live in intimate, nonexploitative relationships.