What is Earthbound Theology?

Earthbound theology is an approach to Christianity that sees the triune God, ethics and spirituality as inextricably linked to human existence and experience as people who live within the universal reality of the cruciform, present and resurrected Christ here on earth.

Christianity is by nature earthbound. God became human and entered into the contradictory reality of human existence. God manifested concretely on earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the cruciform Word of the cosmos; the One who concretely reveals, embodies, and enacts God’s superlative love on earth. Christianity reveals to us the essential nature of God, helps us makes sense of our collective and individual realities, shows us a Way to walk in the dark wastelands of our fallen world, and gives us concrete hope “here” and “now”— and for all eternity.

Because God (1) created human beings in His image, (2) sent His Son into the world in the likeness of a human being, (3) inspired human beings to write sacred scripture in their historical and cultural context, and (4) promises to restore creation through the eternal consummation of His presence…followers of Jesus are called to pursue an ethic and spirituality in life that faithful to God and His call to love and care for the earth and its ecosystems, broken humanity, to defend the oppressed and powerless, contribute towards the healing of all creation and to interpret sacred scripture through a cruciform hermeneutic and earthbound context, that places the cruciform love of God in Christ at the centre of all existence.

Earthbound theology affirms that cruciform love defines God; that Jesus, who superlatively reveals God to us as the inexhaustible Word (Logic) of the cosmos, came into human existence to show us existential solidarity. For those who believe in him, he calls us to a real and lived-out ethical resistance against the dark forces of empire (seen and unseen) who operate (whether consciously or unconsciously) to wreak havoc on the earth through (1) greed and pride of power, (2) ways of existing that enable relational and psychological destruction, (3) ideologies that fuel toxic religious nationalism and the cult of personality, and (4) public rhetoric and political philosophies that stoke social and political vitriol, hyper-identity politics, violent dehumanization, and ecological disintegration.

As “resistors,” this God who welded himself to human beings and the earth at the Cross of suffering love, calls us to put our hope in the coming and already present realization of God’s cosmic and earthly renewal through the power of Christ’s resurrection, the fully-embodied existence and mission of Christ-existing as church community, and the Spirit’s prevenient work throughout the world.

Inspiration and Direction for Earthbound Christianity … but much more ‘theologizing’ to come.

“Revelation is not about the end of the world. Revelation is about God’s victory over Empire.” – rivalnations.org

“Hearing the apocalyptic gospel rivets our attention to the events of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection as the hinge on which the ‘ages turn.’ The concrete outworking of the vocation of the Son sent ‘in the fullness of time,’ these events are confessed to be the very parousia of God who draws near to save. Created, arrested, and summoned by sovereign grace, faith meets, acknowledges, and so is given to know God in and through this salutary ‘apocalypse of the Son’ (cf. Gal. 1:16). In Christ, we are met by a revelation that acquaints us with the ‘dunamis, the meaning and power of the living God who is creating a new world.'”

– Philip G. Zieglar, Militant Grace: The Apocalyptic Turn and the Future of Christian Theology, p. 26, referencing Karl Barth (from Christian in Society).

“In an essay on the petition in the Lord’s Prayer for the kingdom of God to come…,Bonhoeffer contrasts the kind of [reality-grounded and earthbound Christianity] that he later connects to the form of Christ taking form in the church with, on the one hand, an [other-worldly Christianity] that grows out of a hatred of the earth, and on the other, a pious, ‘Christian’ secularism, which sees believers as bound completely to the earth and fully involved in the confrontation of power with power. These secularists seek to build strong fortresses in which they can dwell safely and securely with God, and in their own strength secure the right of God to be in the world. For all the obvious differences, what connects the two groups is that they no longer believe in God’s kingdom. It is a third group, the wanderers (die Wanderers), who neither seek to flee the earth nor hold hard and fast to it, that performs genuine [earthbound faith and discipleship]. They love the earth that bears them because it is on the earth that they travel toward the foreign land, that city which is to come, which one ‘can believe in God’s kingdom.’ A genuine love for both God and the earth, according to which our love for the earth find its origin, essence, and goal in our love for God, is possible only for those who, as Bonhoeffer puts it in Creation and Fall, live from the end, think from the end, act from the end, and thus live and speak ‘within the old world about the new world.’ It is these wanderers who truly can cultivate the profound [earthbound nature of the] Christian faith.”

– adapted from Barry Harvey, Taking Hold of the Real

“The wanderers and sojourners that Bonhoeffer juxtaposes with both the otherworldly who hate the earth and the sectarians who try to possess it are those whose love for God entails a genuine love for this world. Only the wanderers truly ‘love the Earth that bears them,’ because ‘it is on it that they travel toward that foreign land that they love above all; otherwise they would not be wandering at all. Only wanderers of this kind, who love the Earth and God in one, can believe in God’s kingdom.'”

– Barry Harvey, Taking Hold of the Real (p. 46); Bonhoeffer quotes from DBWE 12.

“What does it mean to believe in Christ, who is himself love, if I still hate? What does it mean to confess Christ as my Lord in faith if I do not do his will? Such a faith is not faith but hypocrisy. It does nobody any good to protest that he or she is a believer in Christ without first going and being reconciled with his or her brother or sister—even if this means someone who is a nonbeliever, of another race, marginalized, or outcast. And the church that calls a people to belief in Christ must itself be, in the midst of that people, the burning fire of love, the nucleus of reconciliation, the source of fire in which all hate is smothered and proud, hateful people are transformed into loving people. Our churches of the Reformation have done many mighty deeds, but it seems to me that they have not yet succeeded in this greatest deed, and it is more necessary today than ever”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Christianity stands or falls by its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power, and by its apologia for the weak. —I feel that Christianity is doing too little in making these points rather than doing too much. Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offence, more shock to the world, than it is doing. Christianity should take a much more definite stand for the weak than for the potential moral right of the strong”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Zieglar makes his case for the apocalyptic nature of Bonhoeffer’s theology…According to what in scholarly circles has been dubbed the ‘new perspective,’ the category of apocalyptic should not be restricted to a literary genre or a class visionary imaginings that provide a timetable for calculating when and how the world will come to and end. As employed by the New Testament, it is first and foremost a conceptual format for interpreting Christ’s life and passion as ‘the effective and definitive disclosure of God’s rectifying action’ in the world. What takes place in Christ, says Zieglar, ‘is the incursion of God’s power into the world with effect. Revelation is ‘no mere disclosure of previously hidden secrets, nor is it simply information about future events.’ It first and foremost initiates a new state of affairs in the world, simultaneously ‘a making way for’ and ‘a making known’ the way that God sets to rights the human condition as new creation.'”

– Barry Harvey, Taking Hold of the Real (p. 37); Zieglar quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer – An Ethics of God’s Apocalypse?”

“In Jesus Christ the reality of God has entered into the reality of the world. The place where the questions about the reality of God and about the reality of the world are answered at the same time is characterized solely by the name: Jesus Christ. God and the world are enclosed in this name. In Christ, all things exist (Col. 1:17). From now on we cannot speak rightly of either God or the world without speaking of Jesus Christ.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“It remains an experience of incomparable value that we have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed and reviled, in short from the perspective of the suffering.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Justification has everything to do with the setting right of the whole creation, at the very heart of which is apocalyptic language of ‘the new creation of the new human being.’ The cosmic scope of Christ’s reconciling and redemptive death and resurrection means that the world can no longer be thought of as an autonomous realm, for that would entail a rejection of the fact that in Christ the reality of the world has been grounded in revelational reality. For Bonhoeffer, God remakes the world as a whole in Christ.”

– Barry Harvey, Taking Hold of the Real (p.41)

“Bonhoeffer’s theology thrusts us into the middle of an ongoing apocalyptic drama, a place that enables us to see all that is happening in the world around us as implicated in God’s work of judgment and reconciliation in Jesus Christ. He lives and speaks to us as a witness to the fact that to participate in Christ, and thus to be performers in this drama, is to belong to those ‘on whom the ends of the ages have met’”

– Barry Harvey, Taking Hold of the Real (p.3)

“The incognito of Christ makes it possible for him to come alongside us in a personal way. Indeed, Christ’s orientation toward the world would be much too austere were it not for his hiddenness. As the hidden One, he plants himself deeply into the reality of the human, from which place he joins in the condition of cursed humanity, and through which he redeems it.”

– Craig Slane, Bonhoeffer as Martyr (p. 176)