A Christian guide to environmental issues – Review
A Christian guide to environmental issues, By Martin J. Hodson and Margot R. Hodson, September 2015. Bible Reading Fellowship, 228 pages, ISBN 978-0-85746-383-8. RRP £9.98 (paperback), £8.33 (kindle)
A church Bible study group would find this book a very user-friendly basis for ten sessions. It focusses on key issues for environmental sustainability and provides up to date information in an accessible form. At the end of each section a practical “ecotip” is offered and then some Bible study notes. Equally it would repay careful use by an individual.
The book assumes a mainstream, biblically-founded Christian perspective, but examines the issues honestly and realistically. Martin Hodson is a plant scientist and environmental biologist who writes and speaks widely. Margot is now vicar of St Mary’s Haddenham but has herself taught environmental ethics at Oxford Brookes University. Together they have co-authored previous books and were well placed to produce this informed introduction for the sort of groups and readers whose needs they understand.
References to the Hodsons’ own personal experiences make the book a thoroughly accessible and enjoyable read. They wrote most of it while enjoying a time of sabbatical leave together in 2014 visiting Spain and Portugal as supporters of A Rocha. They also tell us about their involvement with the John Ray Initiative, for whom Martin is the Operations Manager in the UK. A few years ago they spent four weeks on the road together as part of the Share Jesus International initiative headed by the Methodist evangelist Rob Frost. They spoke to thousands of adults and children at twenty venues. This energised them. Now we picture them taking the ferry to Spain. The beauty of its geography shines through, sweetening the serious data and hard questions posed. So, for example, in reflecting on the hopes we might have for environmental development, the Hodsons vividly describe amazing sunrises in the Alpujarra Mountains. The sun’s rising in autumn to make a constantly changing pink and golden backdrop to the mountains, seeming to set the whole sky on fire, connected for them with Christ’s resurrection and the hope they feel we must yet have for our environment.
This hope they cherish is striking. In a prologue they tell how one day walking through an Andalucian chestnut forest the wind made it sound as if the trees truly “clapped their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). Others might rather expect signs of mourning, looking for indications of disease and stunted growth in any European forest. Yet here we are reminded that Creation is good, for the Bible affirms it. There is a strong biblical optimism here. “The present threat of out-of-control climate change comes from the actions of humans and not God”, while assuredly God himself “is moving creation towards an ultimate fulfilment” (p 58). This may make us wonder. Yet we are left with the challenge that God “does not expect humanity to take a ‘passive role’”, and the “gospel imperative to active engagement with the world” (p 96).
Finally, Margot and Martin admit to a time when they lost hope, but end:
‘… the beginning of real hope is the surrendering of unrealistic hope. The beginning of hope is to have a positive realism about what can be achieved.’ (p 195)