Climate change and Theology (part 1)
I have been looking at the TED Talks.
One which is up this month is by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt on the emergent patterns of climate change.
The first thing that struck me was the use of the word emergent, or rather the label emergent. It is one of the Buzz words going around in the church too, theologians such as Brian McLaren (whom I admire and agree with a lot of what he is saying) are described as being emergent. If we are to use labels it is important that we understand what we are talking about.
Are we talking about the same thing when we say emergent?
Here’s how Schmidt defines it in the TED Talk: He is looking at a complex model or rather lots of different models of what is happening and putting them together to find out how climate change will look in the future. Things like two tropical cyclones going around each other cannot be predicted, but they are emergent properties of the other systems working together.
So that is what emergent means to a meteorologist. Something that emerges from the interaction of other systems.
What does this mean in Christianity?
Within Christianity it’s different. We have the same language but we mean different things when we say it. The emerging and emergent strands of Christianity are Evangelicals who are involved in trying to relate the gospel message to people with a post modern world view. What they are emerging from or to is a bit of a mystery. If I were to label them I’d use the tag post-modern evangelicals.
Labels are good. Jargon is good too, it helps us to communicate clearly whilst using fewer words. But when we come into contact ith people who use the same labels in a different way it is time to ditch the jargon. Emergent can mean different things to different people.
This is a particular problem in christianity, not only do we use emergent in a different way, other tags mean different things too (e.g. Charismatic leader). It is time we used labels that mean the same thing within our faith as they do outside. Maybe we could be understood better.
The Gavin Schmidt link above is worth looking at too.