Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology: Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis

IntroducingBy Daniel L. Brunner, Jennifer L. Butler, and A. J. Swoboda. Baker Academic, 2014. 255 pages. $26.99/paperback or eBook.

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Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology has an excellent and inspiring foreword by Bill McKibben, and will be of particular interest to Friends since its authors are teachers of earthcare and religion at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Ore. The authors fit into what I call the “Evangelical Middle,” and their book is a careful and thoughtful examination of the biblical, theological, and historical foundations of the Christian Evangelical call to actively care for God’s Creation.

For me, evangelical ecotheology means that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, caring for the Earth flows out of thankfulness for and relationship to the many wonderful gifts that I receive through the Creation. The authors describe evangelical ecotheology as the “Good News” of God’s love for us through the Creation, which flows into active caring for the Earth as revealed through scripture and church history.

This is an important message that has been missed entirely by far too many Evangelical Christians. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals have allied with political systems and philosophies that support a fossil fuel-based economic system over active care for the Creation, with tragic consequences for the Earth. Sadly, the theological interpretations behind this belief system are deeply flawed. Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology illuminates scriptural support for sustainable creation care, not careless exploitation of the Earth’s resources.

I was happy to learn that over a lifetime, I had intuitively understood many of the concepts described in this book. The authors admirably emphasize the often-ignored message of Genesis 2:15 NIV: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (emphasis added) which counterbalances the misunderstood and misused “dominion” passage from Genesis 1:26 KJV. It is very enriching to discover that the book’s authors have had similar journeys to my own. Honestly, I struggled for a time as a young man to understand some of the connections between my Christian faith and my passion for our environment. This thoughtful, holistic resource connects Christian theology to environmental activism effectively.

I felt a special synergy with the section titled “Practicing Centering Prayer,” which reminded me of the personal inner journey that has led to my current earthcare activism. A section titled “Earthen Vessels: Greening the Church” suggests useful strategies to integrate creation care into the ongoing life of faith communities. Many parts of this book challenge me to an even deeper commitment to caring for God’s Creation as a vital expression of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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