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A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming Paperback – 1 May 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800662717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800662714
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,120,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Sallie McFague has brought the fruits of decades of thinking about God and the world, about individual and community, about humanity and nature, about reality and metaphor, about the sacramental and the prophetic, to bear on the critical issue of climate change. She calls Christians to new feeling, new acting, and new thinking. Perhaps as the threat to our world that she describes so well presses more obviously upon us, the church will begin to listen." -- John B. Cobb Jr. "Professor Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting book for anybody interested in Theology, Ecology, Economics and Spirituality. It is very current, very well researched and yet very easy to read. I am delighted with this book
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Amazon.com: 10 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great as long as you don't take the metaphor too far 6 Feb. 2010
By Chris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The intention of this book is to awaken the readers to the seriousness of a problem already made aware and to provide a brief summary of how the problem of global warming might be controlled. Sallie McFague approaches the problem (and its solution) from a purely theological perspective, willing readers to altar their fundamental philosophies on life and community.

In this book, Sally McFague is writing to a particular geographical and socio-economic audience - middle-class Americans. This is stated explicitly in the introduction, as is an indication that the book is written for fellow theologians: "If theologians ... allow false, inappropriate, unhelpful, and dangerous notions of God and ourselves to continue as our society's assumptions, we are not doing our job." (emphasis added). Apart from this indication in the introduction, however, McFague's writing seems to be more oriented toward the educated layperson or casual theologian. Her "models of God" (ch. 4) assume the reader has placed little, if any, thought toward a proper articulation of theism. And yet, the linguistic style throughout the book implies a certain level of education.

A New Climate for Theology is written from the perspective of a concerned and educated theologian trying to argue a case already in the forefront of the public sphere. Global warming is certainly not a new topic and McFague makes no attempts to present it as such. Rather instead, she acknowledges its establishment and attempts to end debate on the issue through the reformulation of theology in terms of ecology. Rather than deal extensively with particular forms of action, McFague argues from a moral and theological perspective that we simply have a duty to act, and leaves the subtleties of such action to the creative minds of her readers.

Limits and Critiques:
Overall, McFague presents an interesting and compelling case for the transformation of human thought and action with regard to life within the ecological community abroad. However, her intentions for the book come up short in several areas. Throughout the book, it seems as though McFague is attempting to create a paradigm shift within the culture of western nations. However, her writing introduces several subtle (and perhaps unintentional) limitations to her audience that undermine this intention. For instance, early on in the book, in Chapter 2, she casually makes the statement "I would venture that many of us want such regulation," referring to governmental regulation of ecological standards. This stated assumption, though, is not universally held among peoples of the western nations, and would likely exclude the very groups whose thought she is trying to transform. Those who fall within the conservative camps of the United States (both from a political and theological perspective) rarely embrace increased regulation, and generally work hard to prevent it. Thus, this statement, combined with her express favoritism toward controversial theological camps such as ecofeminists and process theologians , creates the danger of limiting the audience to a group that already agrees with her basic argument.

Another limitation of her writing is seen through the casual reference to esoteric words. For instance, in Chapter 3 she refers to "biocracy" without definition or explanation. Certainly the roots to this word lend to a generalized understanding of McFague's intention in the minds of the readers; yet the book would be improved with a simple explanation. This is further evidenced when, throughout the book, she uses the word ecumenicity. Although this term is within the English language, it is rarely used and thus esoteric in nature. Yet, McFague employs its use four times in her writing, with the implied assumption that her readers are familiar with the word and it's definition. This assumed educational level of the reader serves to further limit her audience and thus helps undermine the basis for her argument.

Finally, McFague makes, in my opinion, a critical error in her argument through the contradictory use of logic. In Part III of the book she spends a great deal of real estate criticizing the study of theology, implying that thought exercises about God prevent us from acts of social and ecological justice. However, this discussion comes after an extensive, 3-chapter discourse on the theology of her argument. In fact, rarely does the book offer tangible forms of justice for the readers, other than the call to elect someone else to do the job. As a reader, I am left wondering how much of her day McFague spends thinking about these issues compared to actually doing something. If she lives up to what she preaches, it would be nice to read some of that in the book.

Affirmation and recommendation for use:
Despite these limitations, though, A New Climate for Theology is a well-written and well-argued book. Even those who disagree with her proposed "world as God's body" model will agree that the book makes a compelling case for an increased care and respect of creation and life. Her references to outside agencies and reports are both reputable and authoritative. Already I have used parts of this book in a sermon preached to my own congregation, and I would recommend its use for both fellow pastors and concerned laypeople.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Focused My Thinking, Changed My Life, Inspired My Own Book! 20 Feb. 2012
By Daniel A. Salomon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
McFague's approach helps to create both a New Testament and a Nicean foundation of Christian environmentalism, which was lacking in other Christian, ecological infrachurch movements, which drew almost exclusively from Genesis 1-3, which almost completely neglected the New Testament and the Nicean Creed.

Also, I have found McFague's ecotheology, less confusing, offering a more coherent, more integrated, and more direct, ecological way into the Christian tradition, than other ecotheologians, myself included.

Also, she provided me with a very professionally useful "shared language of discourse" which I have effectively used in my more recent work with the environmental and animal movements.

This "shared language of discourse" allowed me to communicate the Christian ecological vision, on its own terms, without being sidetracked with irrelevant theological/philosophic tangents, e.g., God versus atheism debates.

That is because her approach, grounded in socio-linguistics with a postmodern sensibility, helped me to isolate Christian theological-ethics from charged Christian religious language, allowing Christian ethics to be entered as an intellectually credible perspective, in the highly secular, spiritually diverse, and religiously pluralistic academy, of today's world, the place, where most animal and ecological debates, are still, for better or worse, consistently debated and deliberated. Her approach has allowed me to dialogue and collaborate more effectively as a Christian, with secular environmentalists and animal activists, and to authentically make new "in-roads" into these movements, as a Christian.

I have also found her unique method of theological reflection, "Metaphoric Theology," very useful, in both my writing and in my faith life, because it gives me as a Christian, reasonable verticality, linguistic creativity, and guidance on framing, while remaining authentic to the Christian tradition, so Christians can more persuasively confess and profess the Gospel message to non-Christians and effectuate necessary cultural changes within the Christian Church.

Her method of theologian reflection, is very affirming to me as a person with Asperger's, for it has "common ground" with the sociosymbolic life of many on the spectrum, like myself, who both "think in pictures" and relate better to concrete realities over abstraction. Such an approach makes abstract, theological concepts, more accessible and meaningful, to my own unique way of knowing, through her use of experiential "thought experiments," which helps me to enliven abstract, theological categories, and further access the Concept of God. I am very grateful that she has helped academic theology take a "turn" away from the very entrenched, yet very neurologically elitist, language-based approach to theology, of the twentieth century, which is too abstract, for many on the autism spectrum, toward an approach, which is more accessible to and inclusive of neurodiverse peoples and how we learn about and experience the world-around-us. While, at the same time, McFague's books have helped me to separate metaphor, as an approximation of truth, from metaphor being, the whole truth "is and is not," while providing me with criteria for testing, theological truth-value claims.

Finally, I thank McFague for acknowledging both peoples with disabilities and neurodiverse peoples, by name, taking about us respectfully in her writings, and including our group, on her social justice, anti-oppression agenda.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
D. Ray 8 July 2008
By D. Ray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an important and timely book. In it, Sallie McFague offers fresh insights into the challenges to contemporary existence posed by global warming, and she develops a theology that responds to those challenges with wisdom, imagination, and courage. Among other things, readers will appreciate the clarity of McFague's thinking, the accessibility of her writing, and the everyday usefulness of her theology.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely Fantastic! 2 Feb. 2009
By A.H. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot recommend this book enough! McFague writes an extremely compelling work on ecological theology and climate change. I have read many a book on the subject, and am writing my masters' thesis on the area, and this is one of the most insightful, relevant and powerful works I have come across, and I don't say this lightly. McFague offers a balanced view of the latest and best science on climate change, and then asserts that, though she cannot offer what scientists, engineers, and various innovators can in the practical application of changing the way we do business, she is responsible to deal with her area - theology - in light of environmental crisis. Thus, she seeks to change the way we think - about ourselves, about God, and about our relationships with the rest of life. Ultimately, she favors a recognition of our interconnection with all of life - it is not "us" and "nature" - we are part of nature...which is ultimately all within the "body of God." She effectively argues not only interconnection of all life, but our call to responsibly live within this interconnection, to act as stewards since we are the ones who have created the problem in the first place! It would be unfair to discuss all McFague's points in this book since part of the beauty of it is to become caught up in the experience of her exploration. Suffice it to say, this is an absolute "must read" for anyone interested in the area - destined to be a classic.
An excellent theology for a new kind of Christianity that takes seriously the incarnate God 2 Jun. 2014
By David J. Huber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
That is, the incarnate God that created all that is, and who is also immanent and incarnate within all that is.

My only critique of the book is that it gets preachy (and in a good way), somewhat heavy handed at times, and McFague repeats herself a lot.

It is also purely a Christian theological standpoint that does not address other traditions - which is fine by me, as the intent is to offer a new (which is actually more like the original) form of Christianity, and so is aimed at Christians. I bring this up only to let you, the reader, know that the assumption in this book is that the reader is a Christian, or is at least interested in Christian theology.

This is otherwise a solid theological treatise on how Christians ought to live with the earth. McFague is very critical (and appropriately so) of the hyper individualism of western civilization, and western Christianity for allowing it and buying into it. She calls for a communitarian sensibility that recognizes that all life is dependent on the health of the planet, and on the health of one another. Not just person to person, but person to tree, antelope to person, and even ocean to land to people to birds. I don't know if she coined the word "biocracy", but she uses it, and in opposition to democracy, unchecked capitalism, individualism, and any anthropology that assumes that human beings are the apex of creation and that we ought to be able to do whatever we want.

She makes the very good point that that our relationship to the earth is not just as a tenant or a consumer - but that our lives, and the life of the earth, and all other life and matter are intertwined and dependent on one another. Our way of life is throwing it out of balance. For a Christian, that behavior ought to appall us for it is sinful, but sadly, it's the status quo, and not many churches are speaking against it. But if we continue to kill the planet, we'll hit the point where no matter how much we think we have the moral right to consume and use however we want, we simply won't be able to because we will have destroyed our home. The home that God made and then told us to take care of.

An excellent read for anyone looking for an earth centric ethic and a Christian theology that is far more incarnational than most. See also books by Larry Rassmussen, former professor at Union Seminary in NYC, for more Christian theology and environmental issues.
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