Watching our language in reference to the Ecological Crisis

My friend Tim Gossett tagged me yesterday re: an article in the Guardian on “language usage about the environment”with this:
“You have some new phases to add to your vocabulary, Dale Lature “

I replied, which resulted in several comments , which I will post this morning as comments (as often happens in comments as people interact with me on this and other topics).

This matter of language is a very important one as we seek to lead in the ways that lead to life (and “the way” that is becoming more and more crucial and important is that it be sustainable. Otherwise we have none of it. More on the expected reply/protest to the notion that this is all we have: What about “eternal life”? )

I’ve been using “Climate Crisis” and now, usually “Ecological Crisis”, for some time now, in lieu of Global Warming or Climate Change**, unless specifically called for as a focus on that one aspect. The one that would be entirely new to me would be “global heating’, and I concur that it is a more accurate depiction of the dangers than “warming”, which could tend to sound soothing rather than disturbing. I just saw this article earlier today. Language is important. That’s why I find myself frequently switching my usage.

* or even in lieu of “the environment”, as the title of the Guardian article does with “Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment”

Language (about the ecological crisis; see previous post) seems like it would be even more important when we move into the church/theological world. “Creation” is a big word for me there.

Also important is the negative impact of words/senses in theological usage. The one that pops into my head first is “dominion”, in that infamous “Have dominion” passage. There’s also care needed in dealing with the sense of “new”, since the “New Heaven and New Earth” is often invoked to say that “God is in control, and he’s going to give us a new earth” .

I think the “new” should be seen as “redemptive” and “restorative”, as in the passage where Paul says “if anyone is in Christ, they are a NEW CREATION. We do not see that as the obliteration of the person we are and replacement with a different person, but a redemption/restoration of the person that we are. A HEALING, RESTORED creature-hood. This kind of Biblical word study is, I believe, important theological work for the church to undertake in enabling the Eco-Reformation that we need.

“To till and to keep” also seems important to “translate” into equivalent senses for non-agriculturally minded urban folks like us (and I speak for myself more here than others who have a much deeper sense of the depth of the “soil-rich” sense of relationship we were created to have with it (Norman Wirzba talks a lot about this) . “Serve and Protect” is what a lot of Genesis commentators come up with from “to till and to keep”, especially after caling our attention to how the Cain and Abel story uses the same word for “keep” there in Cain’s question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” as is used with “to till and to keep”.

 I also use “Climate Crisis or Ecological Crisis” in lieu of “the environment” most all of the time now. “The environment” is apt to conjure notions of the days before we we knew we had an unprecedented crisis, and attention was on polluted air, water, and cleaning up trash.

All real problems to be sure, but now we know these problems are only the tip of the iceberg; mere “symptoms” of a real crisis of unprecedented proportions. And the church, in so many instances, is ignoring it (often intentionally, so as not to “lose members”)

If they are afraid of “losing members”, they should take in the scenarios Climate Scientists are now warning us about with increasing urgency. This will put a real “dent” in membership. The really unfortunate thing is that this will be true for the world’spopulation, too.

The mass die-off I just mentioned was the closing portion of a parable told by @markyadavies (I just heard him tell this in a sermon a couple weeks ago, after reading it months ago when he posted it at

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