What is the substance of hope in the age of climate change? How can theology shape our action in responding to environmental challenges? What are criteria that make our hope effective? These were questions at the centre of attention at the seminar organised by the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) from 28 – 29 August 2017 in Budapest.
Theologians, pastors and activists from Europe and overseas took part in the event. They presented through lectures and discussions different approaches, and underlined a variety of aspects characterising the specifics of Christian hope in distinguishing it from secular conceptions. It was underlined that hope needs continue to be a shaping virtue of the Christian approach to challenge of climate change.
Panu Pihkala from the University of Helsinki underlined in what ways hope differs from simple optimism. In elaborating different taxonomies of hope, he put emphasis on the act of hoping instead of hope as a possession. Hope is the existential resilience and the ‘courage to be’.
Daniel Smith from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California emphasized the double character of the Christian message: the focus on authority of ‘the word’, which is actively shaping and in dialogue with ‘the world.’ The substance of hope cannot be found in the scientific data. Hope, as a theological virtue, has a central place in shaping our approach to the world.
Peter Pavlovic, secretary of ECEN focused on outlining biblical resources for hope and differences between Old Testament and New Testament optics. He underlined that hope in the Christian perspective includes an active element, and is never detached from other virtues such as justice and transformation. He furthermore emphasised the centrality of the Apostle Paul’s perspective of mutuality between hope, faith and love.
Janos Zlinsky from Catholic University in Budapest elaborated perspectives of hope in developing the concept of environmental sustainability, drawing on the limits to growth outlined by the Club of Rome starting in the 1970s.
Tamas Kodacsy from the Karoli Gaspar University in Budapest focused on the elaboration of hope using the biblical example of Abraham, underlining that hope is the gift of God based on the promise and the vision, received by grace, not through human achievements or calculations.
Aron Kocsis from the Eco-congregation movement in Hungary outlined some of the impacts of theology of creation on concrete activities of churches’ environmental activities.
Loukas Andrianos and Henrik Grape from the World Council of Churches offered reflections on links between theology and practice, diakonia and stewardship, and outlined plans for future work of the WCC in addressing climate change.
Presentations and discussion of the event focused on responding to the central question: Does the theology of creation serve as a vehicle for a secular green movement or it is a genuine contextual theology of today? The seminar contributed to make a step forward on this way.