An earth-focussed theology for the Uniting Church


Rev Deacon Richard Arnold

About the Author

Rev Deac Richard Arnold has been a member of the Uniting Church and the Presbyterian Church in Australia since 1957, and prior to that a member of the Congregational Church in the United Kingdom. Richard was an active lay person before being ordained as a Deacon in 1999, serving in four placements in the north and west of Melbourne with a focus on helping local congregations build links with the wider community. He has a keen interest in action to combat global warming, particularly within the church. Inspired by Thomas Berry and other contributors in the eco-theology movement, he has sought to respond to the call to develop a “New Story” towards a sustainable and flourishing future.


The Uniting Church needs an Earth-focussed theology which accepts that the Earth is our home within a vast evolving Universe.

This theology must take account of modern discoveries in astrophysics, quantum physics and evolution sciences. Science tells us we are part of a dynamic, evolving Universe, filled with potential. To be authentic, our theology must reflect this knowledge. The work of theology is to embrace this understanding along with that of a loving triune source—creator, creation, new creation.

At present the church’s anthropocentric obsession with being delivered from sin (through the death of Jesus), so that humans can be made suitable to enter into an eternal relationship with God (or ‘go to heaven after death’), is causing unprecedented damage to the Earth and threatening the whole family of created beings (including humans!). This ‘redemption theology’ has the effect of cutting the human species off from the living Universe.

An Earth-focussed theology will be one which gives followers of Jesus the courage to live boldly and be fully alive on our home, the Earth. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a then a demonstration that each human being can take their place in the evolving journey of the Universe, where the purpose of life is to witness to, and radiate, the love of our Loving Source. The resurrection particularly affirms that love continues in the spirit of the Saints (or our ancestors) and is embodied in the love which is continually breaking into each present moment, and which will one day be “all-in-all”.

To capture the hearts of human beings, an Earth-focussed theology needs to be told as story, rather than doctrine or dogma. Fr Thomas Berry,1 who based much of his theology on the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, calls for human beings to develop a “New Story”. This story will embrace all the major religions, indigenous cultures, and modern science, and will lead to a new sustainable and thriving relationship between human beings and the Earth.

But theology and story are not enough—there needs to be an embodying of love. This is where a contemplative spirituality is important—so that an anthropocentric understanding of life can be moderated, and humans can join with all created beings on the journey of the Universe.

What follows is my modest, heart-felt attempt at telling a “New Story”. The illustrations come from a book I wrote in 2020 during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic called, “Cradled in the arms of love—the incredible journey of the Universe.” It includes illustrations by an artist friend, Ann Soo, and two of my grandchildren, Theo and Yosef.

A Universe Story: ‘To Live in the Wave of Love’

The Beginning

Before the Universe began, a Loving Source in the form of a ‘Circle of Three’ danced. As they danced, they embraced so tightly that they caused a “Wave of Love” to burst forth and flow out in every direction, empowering the Universe to become a creative being, and setting it on its evolving journey which continues today.

The Universe as a Creative Being

The Universe, as a creative being, has an inner intention to bring forth new being. Within the Universe, the Wave of Love is the empowering inner energy which continually evokes all the unique, evolving expressions of creation. Sometimes there have been monumental, spontaneous changes. The wonderful thing about the Wave of Love is that it enables the Universe to move toward greater diversity, inner spirit, vitality, inter-relatedness, and consciousness. This ‘cosmogenesis’, powered by love, is the innate reality and purpose of the Universe, which is continually evolving.

The Human

Now, for the first time, after 13.7 billion years of history, the Universe is aware of itself through human consciousness. Each human has absorbed 13.7 billion years of creativity and we are the latest manifestation in the Universe that we know of—we can each say that “we are the Universe now experiencing itself”.

The Wave of Love now courses through the bodies of all humans, alluring them into a deeper participation in the journey of the Universe. We have been created by the Universe and given gifts so that we can give back to the Universe. We are free to connect with the Wave of Love and be a unique part of the journey of the Universe.

In this deeper participation, humans have a cosmological responsibility; to be co-creators and take a leadership role in evoking new being—an Earth embracing greater diversity, inner spirit, relationship, inter-relatedness, consciousness, and whole making. An Earth in which there is respect for, and harmonious relationship with, all beings.

We can help enable greater being for all people without destroying the natural evolutionary powers that have brought life on Earth to this point. The guiding purpose is to radiate the love of Loving Source back into the Universe.

Jesus the vision of the Universe

In order to flourish and become whole, humans need to connect with and become aligned with the Wave of Love. In this way the love from Loving Source is embodied and in turn greater love can evolve. Jesus is one who fully connected with the Wave of Love.

Jesus lived out of this consciousness and brought it to the whole of humanity. Jesus personified the Christ Consciousness which has always been present since the Big Bang. Jesus is the one with whom humans can relate and follow. The vision which the Universe is teaching us, which is aligned with the innate reality and purpose of the Universe, is to be like Jesus.

Jesus as healer

Humans frequently fail to follow the vision embodied by Jesus and become disconnected from the Wave of Love—fundamentally this is because humans fear suffering and death and take action to avoid both. In recent centuries this led to the view that the universe is static, anthropocentric, Cartesian/Newtonian and resulted in the rest of creation being treated as objects. This view brought a sense of control for some (particularly the elite in the Western world) and has been lived out through seeking little gods of power, status, wealth, pleasure and success. At the same it has brought the Earth community to the brink of extinction.

The disconnect from the Wave of Love is at the root of what we call “sin”.

Reconnecting with the Wave of Love is always available, and forgiveness for becoming disconnected is always offered, so that humans can return to a renewed ‘connected’ future. Loving Source longs for all its creation to be connected. What is a greater challenge for humans is having the courage to change from ego-centredness and let go those illusions, daydreams, fantasies, idols which have given us a disconnected, “avoidance” identity. Another way of saying this is that each human needs the courage to accept their true, undefended self—and this can involve suffering and death.

Jesus enables humans to have the courage to accept the true, undefended self and embrace the suffering and death which goes with this, by revealing that there is still purpose and meaning beyond suffering and death—the affirmation that radiating the love of Loving Source contributes most fully to the purpose and goal of the Universe where love will be “all-in-all”. This is the meaning of the resurrection.

Living fully Now and into the Future

When humans become re-connected with the Wave of Love, they can live fully now and at the same time be conscious of new possibilities which lie ahead. Jesus is our vision here—in him the future has already arrived. We can share his spirit and strive to realise this vision until history is fulfilled, and love is all-in-all.

Through being connected to the Wave of Love we live in the tradition of the Hebrew ancestors and the Saints—it is like imagining ourselves as partners with the Universe on its evolving journey. We each have a short time to play our part on the ‘incredible journey’ and be part of the collective history of the Universe.

Jesus gave his life in order that we might have the courage to connect with the Wave of Love—a critical part of connecting is realising the gifts we have been given by the Universe which we can give back as we participate in the unfolding journey of the Universe. We can lovingly engage the Universe in a spirit of reverence, wonder, thanksgiving and healing as we acknowledge the sacred outpouring of our Loving Source.

We can also implement the “Great Work” (a term used by Thomas Berry) of exploring the complex inter-relationship of all creation, including the study of complex systems, communication methods, creative dialogue and processes for relating and discerning decisions, and heal the Earth. We can wait with joyful hope that new possibilities for interdependence, wholeness, awareness, creativity and fulfilment are ahead, in the future, and about to break into the present.

The journey can be costly … humans who are disconnected from the Wave of Love can be very destructive.

Ultimately, we join the vast community of beings that comprises the journey of the Universe. After our Earthly life we can trust in the Resurrection; that infinite possibilities of new consciousness, wholeness and love will emerge. This reflects the essence of the Universe—attraction, emergence, decay, and new emergence as the Universe moves toward greater diversity, inner spirit, vitality, inter-relatedness, and consciousness.

The journey we are on is the journey toward increased consciousness and wholeness where these are held together in love. In striving through love, the contributions of all beings come together in a great community and become part of the incredible journey of the Universe for eternity.


  1. See Berry, Thomas Mary, The Great Work, Three Rivers Press, New York, 1999 ↩︎