Willemien Otten: “Theological and Environmental Criticism: Creation, Pantheism, and the Problem of Thinking Nature”

February 27, 2017 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm America/Los Angeles Timezone
HSSB 3041
Humanities and Social Sciences Building
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Thomas Carlson

J.E. and Lillian Byrne Tipton Endowed Lecture in Catholic Studies


Marked both by declining attachment to familiar religious traditions and by growing worries about the vulnerability of our environment, the present age offers us a unique opportunity to reflect on the status of nature. Taking the confluence of theological and environmental criticism seriously, this lecture will seize on the possibility for new intellectual synergy by reflecting, in a theologically and environmentally conscious way, on current problems surrounding nature.

Theologically, there is a large spectrum of views between the notion of biblical stewardship and the perennial fear of a pagan and pantheistic world. Focusing on the problem of nature directly can inspire us to delve into what is still largely uncharted territory, and breaking through the walls of denominational tradition in doing so helps us generate a more inclusive and expansive view of the Christian heritage. On our way to a new, viable natural theology, the lecture will claim, we should not be satisfied with channeling existing scientific information into an updated view of biblical creation but, rephrasing old problems in new ways, consider the full implications of what it means to “think nature” by listening to it rather than ventriloquizing it, by encountering it rather than instrumentalizing it.

Willemien Otten is Professor of Theology and History of Christianity at the University of Chicago and UCSB’s 2017 J.E. and Lillian Byrne Tipton Distinguished Visiting Professor of Catholic Studies. Recipient of a 2016 Luce Fellowship in support of her project “Natura Educans: The Psychology of Pantheism from Eriugena to Emerson,” she has authored and edited numerous important works concerning theological anthropology and humanism, theological poetics, and conceptions of creation in patristic, medieval, and modern contexts.

Sponsored by the J.E. and Lillian Byrne Tipton Endowment in UCSB’s Department of Religious Studies.

For assistance in accommodating a disability, or for additional information, please call 893-2317.