Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church


Editor’s note: In his doctoral dissertation, Pastor Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church is claiming 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. Part of the discipline is to review the theology of three contemporary theologians whose thought is very integrative of Nature and Spirit from three very different approaches.

Sigurd Bergmann is an ordained minister in the Church of Sweden and a professor of religious studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. His book, “Creation Set Free: The Spirit as Liberator of Nature,” provides a view of the Spirit that is deeply integrative with Nature, expressed in classical categories of trinity and incarnation and informed by Liberation Theology.

Bergmann’s main methodology is a correlation between interpretations of God and Nature in late modernity with those of late antiquity, specifically with the theology of Gregory of Nazianzus, a Cappadocian theologian of the fourth century whose thought exerted significant influence upon the formation of the classical trinitarian creeds. Gregory’s ideas regarding incarnation, Trinity, and Spirit was dominated by his soteriology, or his theology of salvation, which for Gregory includes the redemption, or liberation, of all of Nature.  means that he was better able to avoid the Platonic readings of salvation more prevalent in his day that separated body and soul, matter and spirit, identifying the one with evil and the other with good.

Creation and liberation for Gregory, as presented by Bergmann, were “two wholly intertwined spheres,” a liberation “wholly embedded” within creation. This not only adds a dimension of corporeality to his soteriology, but it also insists on a liberation that includes all of creation including nonhuman life forms, material forms, and natural processes.

How do you think this discussion of an all inclusive liberation will work out in our  consideration of the relationship between Nature and Spirit in our late-modern context?

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