Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church


Editor’s note: Reverend Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Church and Dr. John Sexton are kindred souls. Pat contends (in his PhD thesis) the need for the Christian church to re-imagine itself in the context of the modern world, including becoming more integrative and “earth-focused.” What could be more earth-focused and integrative than teaching “Baseball as a Road to God,” the name of Sexton’s course at New York University, where he is also school president. (Saturday, April 20,  New York Times, “Baseball Has Its Worshippers… And at N.Y.U. , You Get Credit.”) Takes one to know one…

In my doctoral dissertation I claim the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. For the next several posts I will be making my argument for these needed changes.

So, why should Nature be included in a more integrative and contextual theology?  Why is it expedient to affirm Nature in the current situation?  Awareness of the present threat to the environment, the impact of human activity upon the earth, and the mounting dangers of its consequences has grown over the last few decades. Communities like Telluride are home to many persons who enjoy frequent experiences in and have a great affection for Nature. Telluride is home to several environmental activists and many others who work in fields of environmental science. Christ Presbyterian Church participates in two environmental initiatives that are seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of homes, businesses, and institutions.

Nature, however, is more central to a needed spiritual worldview than either appreciation or activism alone can express. Nature is the very thing that much in Christian tradition has countered.

Classical Christianity’s emphasis on a wholly transcendent, immutable, impassive, omnipotent God has thrust spirituality and human destiny into the heavens and denied any redeemable quality to earthly existence beyond the setting for attaining eternal salvation. While that statement is something of a caricature of classical Christian theology, to regain Nature as an essential paradigm for theology and the spiritual life is to reground humanity in its current and ever-emerging reality.

In all of my interviews with Telluridians, some just could not connect the dots between concern for Nature and the Christian tradition. Later in my writing I will address ways that classical theology both affirmed and denied a sense of our being in Nature and the importance of Nature in Christian faith and spirituality. For now the question is simply this: Do you think Nature is wholly irrelevant to the ways we think about God and reality, or is Nature essential and perhaps even the place to begin our thinking about God and reality?

I would like to hear from you.

1 Comment
  • Solitary Druid
    Posted at 08:04h, 23 April

    As a druid, my spirituality is entirely connected with nature, and what really irks me about the modern Christian approach to it is that anything that is green is considered liberal, which is considered anti-Christian. Revelations has a nice line I like to quote there…. I think, however, that the greatest line of intersection between Christianity and nature would have to be the impact on humanity by the practices that destroy the earth. It is quite literally a matter of reaping what you sow, of the strong taking advantage of the weak, and of a base lack of appreciation for what is perceived to be God’s creation. I wish you luck.