Creation Care and the Gospel – Review
Creation Care and the Gospel, Edited by Colin Bell and Robert S. White, 2016. Hendrickson Publishers, 350 pages, ISBN 9781619707252. RRP £19.99 (paperback)
This timely and important book, subtitled ‘Reconsidering the Mission of the Church’, is effectively a copy of the papers presented at the Lausanne Global Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel in 2012. I was immediately struck by the powerful testimony the book makes to how far many Evangelical Christians have moved on the issue of the reality of climate change and the implications that has for the Gospel. I think without exception all the contributors insist on setting concern for the environment within the overall mission of the church. I find this to be a refreshing and encouraging development in Evangelical theology and spirituality, although as the book makes clear such thinking is not really new to Evangelicals and has its roots in the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 with its affirmation of God as Creator.
There are some familiar and significant names among the many authors of individual chapters. Dave Bookless, Director of Theology for A Rocha International, says in his chapter, “Mission itself is beginning to be understood as not just about people, but also about the non-human creation, not merely preparing for heaven, but also caring for earth.” (p. 87). Sir John Houghton, a former scientific adviser to the government, in a very helpful chapter on Global Warming, Climate Change and Sustainability, brings exemplary clarity to the science of climate change and ends with a clear justification of Christian responsibility when he writes:
“We may feel daunted as we face the seemingly impossible challenge posed by care for the earth and its peoples and the need for sustainability. But an essential Christian message is that we do not have to carry the responsibility alone. Our partner is none other than God himself… An unmistakable challenge is presented to the worldwide Christian church to take on the God-given responsibilities for caring for the creation and caring for the poor. It provides an unprecedented mission opportunity for Christians to take a lead and demonstrate love for God the world’s creator and redeemer and love for our neighbours wherever they may be” (p.143).
However, the real value of the book is the way in which concern for Creation and the environment is rooted in a disciplined use of Scripture, recovering a theology of creation that is as compelling as the need for it is urgent. Ten helpful case studies are distributed throughout the book. Richard Bauckham’s chapter includes a firm refutation of climate change denial and Ed Brown, in the opening chapter, addresses Psalm 8 and the right understanding of dominion as our calling in the environmental crisis. This book is a treasure trove of Scriptural insights and a challenge, not only to Evangelical Christians but to all those who are concerned to cherish the earth and preserve it for future generations, to find in Scripture both the motivation and the rationale for commitment to environmental action.
Donald C. Macdonald