Apocalypse? It’s now! Good news & secular salvation, climate crisis & time. With Gunnar Gjermundsen

An audio version of this talk is at my podcast, Talks and Thoughts, available via podcast feeds.

How can Christianity address the climate crisis? Isn’t the objectifying of nature and the drive to improve our lot a secular legacy of Christendom? And isn’t individual conversion more or less irrelevant in a time of systemic crisis?

I was delighted to be sent an essay by Gunnar Gjermundsen that asks these questions and more. His insights are wide-ranging, integrating, inspiring and challenging, focusing on a Christianity that is not so much moral as transformative, inviting us to consider again the sayings of Jesus, via theologians such as Maximus the Confessor and psychotherapists like Donald Winnicott.

In this discussion we unpack his argument in broadly three moves. First, an analysis of current anxieties that, at heart, are to do with time. A linear view of history has fostered a hope of panicky escape, sacrificing the present for the future as a false substitute for eternity, with devastating consequences for ourselves and the world around us.

The problem needs to be addressed at root, which comes in a second section exploring the misunderstanding of eschatology as an event to come and be feared, rather than an unfolding now, to be welcomed. We explore Jesus’s teaching as well as how it came to be so profoundly misunderstood.

The third section draws in psychological insights, particularly in terms of considering the schizoid, addictive and dread-filled nature of the modern psyche, and turns again to the Christian tradition and the remarkable notion of the kingdom of God that is near, and being born again. The apocalyptical has become a master metaphor for the contemporary imagination, inducing fatalism and denial. Christianity has a vision to undo this terror via the transformation of our consciousness and experience of time.

The apocalyptic is not to come but is an unveiling in every moment, a theosis, of the eternal present. And we can live by that alternative.

The essay we are discussing is Living on This Earth as in Heaven: Time and the Ecological Conversion of Eschatology, published in Modern Theology, online – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/f…

Gunnar Gjermundsen works in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo – https://www.tf.uio.no/english/people/…

For more on Mark Vernon’s work, see https://www.markvernon.com