Posted by: Mike Grenville | 10 April 2009

Let us be human

We could say that our inability to face up to Peak Oil is a failure of our imagination. A booklet by The Revd Sam Norton, ‘Let us be human: Prophecy, Peak Oil and the Path for the Faithful‘ looks at Peak Oil from a Christian perspective and issues a call to articulate a vision of hope and develop new communities along the model of ‘Transition Towns’.

Taking the prophet Jeremiah as the Biblical guide for our time, Nortonpoints out that he lived through a time of great upheaval and warned the people of Israel that they had fallen away from the living God and that, if they didn’t do something about it, great suffering would descend upon them. Norton concludes that we are living in similar times.

While we do not face a direct equivalent of a Babylonian army camped outside of our gates he sees our predicament as very similar. He says that for nearly two generations there have been warnings that have been ignored. We have sold our inheritance for a mess of pottage and we have forgotten who we are and how to be human. As a result we have now left behind the time of decisions and have entered the time of consequences.

While the pamphlet focuses on Peak Oil, Norton is clear that this is simply one example of a resource constraint since it is impossible for there to be never-ending physical growth within a finite environment. To illustrate the Peak Oil point Norton describes the reduced water flow while filling a bath from a watertank and the effect on supply of a pub offering cheap beer.

Norton believes that the church is called to a prophetic ministry at this time of crisis; specifically we must cultivate our ‘Prophetic Imagination’ first described by W. Brueggemann in 1978. This prophetic perspective centres on a distinction between what Brueggemann called the “Royal Consciousness” and the “alternative community”. He says that change begins with the imagination – setting the understanding of the people free so that they can discern that the Royal Consciousness, the status quo, is not permanent and given (it is not God) and that as a result it can be overthrown. The alternative community that we need to develop is brought to life through the prophetic imagination.

The booklet is part of a Just So series with stories and critical comment on social justice themes and can be downloaded here: Let us be human: Prophecy, Peak Oil and the Path for the Faithful PDF 502k
Sam Norton
Sam Norton is the Rector of West Mersea in Essex. Prior to ordination he spent several years working in the then Department of the Environment looking in particular at nuclear energy issues. He maintains a blog where he has been exploring the theological implications of Peak Oil for some years, and he hopes to finish a book on this subject in the second half of 2009.



  1. […] to a review of a booklet considering the peak oil concept from a Christian […]

  2. […] come across any Christian writing on the subject of peak oil, so I was intrigued to see a link from Transition Network News to an essay on the subject. Sam Norton is an Essex-based reverend who has been pondering the […]

  3. A welcome note. Yes I agree and was getting wind of this some years ago – please see Solar Power Story at

  4. Sorry about the misspelling – now corrected and SHOULD work

  5. How good to see a Chrstian in the Transition movement. I have been trying to connect the two for ages but too often there seems to be two separate camps.

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