For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? – Romans 8:19-24

EcologyThe regular reports of oil spills, the reckless pollution of air, streams and fields, the loss of species of life, and the demolition of the great rain forests of the earth are only a few examples of the modern ecological crisis that we are facing in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, this issue is something that the Church as a whole has yet to fully address through deep thought and progressive action. Although in recent years there has been a surge in theological scholarship on the topic of God’s creation, too often the research and proposals stay within the ivory tower and fail to reach the pews. This coupled with an eschatology rooted in escapism, where the people of God disappear for a cosmic paradise and leave earth for destruction (popularized by the “Left Behind” series), has kept the Christian Pentecostal movements from developing a distinctly Pentecostal Eco-theology that transforms to both reflection and action.

Historically, the Pentecostal movements have had an eschatological zeal that took form in missionary and evangelistic efforts, emphasizing signs and wonders as the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, just as Pentecostal’s can fall into the theological trap of adopting an over-realized eschatology when it comes issues such as physical healing, is it not possible Pentecostals have adopted an under-realized eschatology when it comes to ecology?

As a Pentecostal, it is my contention that the Renewal tradition is uniquely positioned to contribute to the ecology-theology conversation due to its emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s ongoing, renewing work from creation (Gen. 1:2) to the “last days” (Acts 2:17). In order for Pentecostalism’s relationship to ecology to become cooperative, there ought to be renewed focus on the eschatological Spirit renewing all creation in the “already”, in anticipation of the “not yet” of God’s Kingdom. Further, Pentecostalism’s early adoption of dispensational eschatology must be replaced with a Kingdom hope that speaks to the renewal of all things including the transformed, resurrected body (1 Cor. 15), a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21), and the wolf dwelling in peace with the lamb (Isa. 11).[1] This universal shalom is the hope that we have as Christ-followers when all creatures will live together in harmonious and joyful community.[2]

Although this is just the beginning of the conversation, I believe that to continue, there are two concise spiritual truths that must help pave the way for the development of distinctly Pentecostal Eco-theologies: First, the Spirit works in and through all things, sustaining, revitalizing and refining them. And secondly, just as all creatures and the earth are bound together in the consequences of the divine judgment on human sin (Gen. 3), all are recipients of the divine promise (Gen. 9). This pneumatological and eschatological focus is very much in line with Pentecostalism’s historic distinctives, yet it’s framework opens up new opportunities for Pentecostal scholarship in relation to the development of Pentecostal Eco-theologies.

With this in mind, let the conversation begin (and continue).

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[1] Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, third ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 102

[2] Ibid.

 

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