A scene from the Leben der heiligen Altväter (1482)

Review of Bergmann, Creation Set FreeThe Spirit as Liberator of Nature

Cultural Encounters (Summer 2007), 129-132

Sigurd Bergmann is a theologian who teaches at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. Creation Set Free, a volume in Eerdman’s Sacra Doctrina: Christian Theology for a Postmodern Age series, is Bcrgmann’s first major publication in English. It will seem to most of the Anglophone theological world that a new voice has just made itself heard in Christian doctrine, but Bergmann has in fact already authored a number of other books and essays. Indeed, a full ten years have passed since the publication of the original German edition on which this revised English translation is based.

The cosmos is enslaved by its alienation from God’s life of triune communion, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the world out of that enslavement and into relationsip. That is probably the central Idea of the book. I say “probably” because Creation Set Free Is really not about a central idea, and readers who look here for something so straightforward will Inevitably be frustrated a few dozen pages into this wide-ranging book (nearly 400 pages). The book Is about connections, conversations, and whole constellations: ideas Interacting with each other in dynamic complexes. The actual proposals emerge only as Bergmann moves around among the many Influences and projects which are simultaneously at work in this book. For example, the thesis that the enslaved cosmos is freed by the Spirit represents the convergence of three fields: liberation theology, ecotheology, and pneumatology. Bergmann calls his work “an ecotheology of liberation,” and devotes one chapter to reviewing the literature on “The Ecological Challenge to Theology,” one chapter to “Considerations from the Perspective of Liberation Theology,” and one chapter to “Methodological Considerations,” exploring his method of correlation and the construction of local theologies. As Bergmann enters each of these conversations, be reports the views of other writers and then develops his own position with considerable nuance.

To develop an “ecotheology of liberation” with such attentiveness to dialogue partners may seem lie quite enough for one hook, but the above summary does not even mention Bergmann’s major dialogue partner, the fourth-century Cappadocian Father Gregory of Nazianzus. This hook is an instance of retrieving the theology of one ancient Christian thinker and bringing him into conversation with contemporary theology. The sub-title of the original German edition of Creation Set Free was “The Trinitarian Cosmology of Gregory of Nazianzus in the Horizon of an Ecological Theology of Liberation.” Bergmann provides a careful and substantive reading of Gregory’s theology, especially the richness of his account of the relationship between the triune God and the created world which in all its dimensions is connected to and dependent on the creator from whom it is radically distinct…