Over past decades a concept of ecological ethics has taken root, which is often equated with
environmental ethics. Church and theology have also responded to the environmental crisis.
In the last third of the past century an intense discourse about the concerns and extent of a socalled
creation ethics was conducted. In connection with the question of a creation ethics, and
the global responsibility of humans for the biosphere of our planet, the topic of creation has
also gained new attention in dogmatics. In this way, ecology has also become a topic of
systematic theology. The article focuses on the debate in the German speaking context.
Occasionally, a quasi-religious elevation of ecology to the status of a doctrine of salvation is
observable. Because theology always also has a function of critique of religion, it must also
critically engage the sometimes open and sometimes hidden religious contents and claims of
eco-ethical concepts. For this purpose, the first step of the present contribution is to more
precisely determine the concepts of creation and nature. Thereafter, the problem of
anthropocentrism is analysed. In a further step, the concept of sustainability is analysed. In
conclusion, the main features of a responsibility-ethics model of ecological ethics are outlined.
This research is part of the
project, ‘Theology of Nature’,
directed by Prof. Dr Johan
Buitendag, Department of
Dogmatics and Christian
Ethics, Faculty of Theology,
University of Pretoria and
Dean of the Faculty of
Theology. Prof. Dr Ulrich
Körtner is a research associate
of Prof. Dr Buitendag.