Renewing the Life of the Earth – Review
Renewing the Life of the Earth: Christian Discipleship and Environmental Action, by Rachel Mash, July 2021. Grove Books, ISBN 978 1 78827 179 0, 28 pages. RRP: £3.95
This booklet is the latest title in the Grove Discipleship Series, intended to help lay and ordained church leaders engage with contemporary issues. That it is only 28 pages will certainly help achieve that aim, as will the very reasonable price and inspiring tone. Church leaders should find this a more than useful introduction to explain why they and their congregations should see environmental action as a key dimension of Christian discipleship. The author, Rachel Mash is Co-ordinator of the Environmental Network of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and works with the Green Anglicans Movement which exists in twelve countries in Africa. She is able to draw on this practical experience to help make the link between faith and environmental concern, giving several examples from the African perspective.
Chapter One, The Urgency of Caring for the Whole Creation, sketches out the context humanity finds itself in 2021. Coronavirus of course gets a mention as a devastating example of the destruction of ecosystems, as do climate change, biodiversity loss, and plastic pollution. Against this background, Mash asks “how disciples of Jesus Christ … can learn to live in God, for humanity and in harmony with creation?” The conclusion is that “a concern for creation must become mainstreamed as part of our day-to-day faith, our life and our witness.”
Chapters two and three take this concept of concern for creation into biblical theology, asking respectively what the New and Old Testaments say on the subject. Mash concentrates on some key theological issues, and New Testament ones covered include the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God, the Cross and the New Earth. The treatment of these is necessarily brief but certainly not shallow – Moltmann and N.T. Wright are quoted. Mash has a laser beam accuracy in teasing out how the contemporary ecological crisis relates to these key elements of Christian doctrine. I particularly liked her engagement with “Escapist theology”, where the Earth is seen by some as disposable as we approach the “end-times” heralded by Coronavirus and climate change. Readers will find the comprehensive references throughout the book very helpful. The majority of the 51 references are accessible on the internet. Because of this, in my view, the book is much more than an introductory primer. It is more a resource to brief committed Christians who want to know how their beliefs relate to concern for and action on the environment. The scope of the references should certainly help bring such people up to speed with contemporary green Christian thinking. Chapters four and five deal respectively with lifestyle changes of individuals and congregations, and the “big issues”, with an emphasis on campaigning. Mash provides references from various secular and Christian green campaigns. As an Anglican, she finishes powerfully by reminding us of the Fifth Mark of Mission, and of the fact that that the next ten years can change the course of human history.
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