Original Research

What is in a name? Does the difference between onto-theology and theo-ontology direct the way from eco-theology to theo-ecology? Specific Russian theological perspectives

Johan Buitendag
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2400 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2400 | © 2022 Johan Buitendag | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 October 2021 | Published: 13 January 2022

About the author(s)

Johan Buitendag, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


I approach this venture of figuring out the correct terminology to understand reality through the prism of two distinctive Russian Orthodox theologians, Pavel Florensky (1882–1937) and Sergius Bulgakov (1871–1944). The lens I apply mainly to their works is their respective understanding of cosmology, that is, ontology and epistemology. Therefore, I concur with Grenz to abandon the term ‘onto-theology’ and qualify the inverse as a Trinitarian theo-ontology. This honours the intimate connection between knowing and being, and prevents the bifurcation between fidelity and rationality. Mutatis mutandis, the same applies to ‘eco-theology’. This inversion reminds one of Hans-Urs von Balthasar, who bartered the concept of an aesthetic theology for theological aesthetics. Turning this question around would advance our dialogue with the sciences as the common denominator of the discourse is rather nature (creation) discerned from an acknowledged a priori (as all cognition do). In other words, the term theo-ecology is proposed.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The purpose study is not ecological but rather an asyndetic use of the terminology about the science and religion dialogue, with reference to the nomenclature of ecology and theology. All observation terms and sentences are theory-laden. Religion can be viewed as a linguistic framework that shapes the entirety of life and thought. Truth claims should focus on the grammar (or rules of the game) and not the lexicon when expressive symbolism is employed.



ontology; epistemology; ecology; ‘science & religion dialogue’; ‘faith seeking understanding’; ecotheology; Russian Silver Age; theo-ontology


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Crossref Citations

1. From spiritual ecology to balanced spiritual ecosystems
Silvio S.S. Scatolini
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 78  issue: 2  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v78i2.7202