Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity, by Norman Wirzba, March 2016. HarperOne, 258 pages, ISBN 978-0062385819. RRP £7.99 (Kindle) £12.22 (paperback) £23.99 (hardback)
Norman Wirzba is an academic theologian from Duke University in the USA. He is a scholar with a deep interest in environmental questions and has written many books, notably Food and Faith, From Nature to Creation and Living the Sabbath. All these are worthwhile but Way of Love is written in a particularly attractive, accessible and inspirational style. This is a preacherly book, by which I mean not that it is written in a dry, judgmental manner but that it is engaging and immediate. Norman wants to renew our faith and turn us around, and I would recommend this book to those new to the faith and also to preachers seeking a fresh overview of Christianity.
Wirzba finds the interpretative key to Christianity in the concept of love; both God’s love for us and our response to that love. He is a skilled theologian but wears his learning lightly. Here he applies the concept of love to the fourfold themes of the Christian message, and these are the sections into which the book is divided. He begins with Creation where love is made visible, moves onto the Fall as the failure of love, explores redemption when love heals and restores, and ends with hope, which is love’s ultimate victory. Each theme is illustrated with stories drawn from life, from literature and from film.
From our point of view as Green Christians, the section on Creation is particularly clear and full of insight. Wirzba comes from a farming background and his debt to Wendell Berry is clear not only in his discussion of creation but also in his analysis of what it means to be fallen. Norman’s account of hope and of the meaning and place of heaven within the Christian vision is practical, scriptural and deeply moving. He lifts us up with a vision within which we can discern heaven in the here and now, a foretaste of the kingdom of love that is God’s will for all his creatures.
I hope that I have written enough to persuade you to read this book, and I would further recommend that you buy it if you are called upon to preach or speak on Green Christian themes. I have personally found it to be a valuable investment and that I return to it again and again.