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ed. Sarah Tillett,
The Bible Reading Fellowship
Price £8.99, ISBN 1841014397.
A review by: Charles Jolly
Predictably, and not before time, there is a mini-flood of books about Christian responsibility towards Creation. Is the victim of a terminal illness simply turning to the medical dictionaries, or can any book really help avert the impending catastrophe? ‘Caring for Creation’, with contributions from many distinguished environmentalists and theologians, just might – if it is taken up, as suggested, for group discussion.
The theological analysis, Conservative in the best tradition of taking the Bible absolutely seriously, is necessary and commended in the foreword by John Stott. But it is the short, sometimes artless, stories of A Rocha environmental projects that touch the heart. More than once I felt a manly tear well-up; not because the stories are sentimental – far from it – but because we have perversely drifted so far from an empathy with Creation.
This is the key issue taken up by Dr James Houston, formerly Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, Vancouver. The true problem lies deeper: God has been displaced from His creation; replaced by the moral ambiguity of ‘Mother Nature’. The answer is not a restored harmony with nature if it denies the sovereignty of God or weakens human responsibility. Indeed, restoration of harmony with Creation, rather than with Nature, depends on rediscovering the principle of the Sabbath. Dr Houston’s dismissal of La Place: ‘No further need of that hypothesis’ (i.e. God) is over-harsh. La Place was presumably alluding to Newton’s ‘excuse’ for his inability exactly to predict the planetary orbits: God had left Himself a small role in the scheme of things! La Place’s mathematics was simply more powerful (and La Place more self-confident).
Sir John Houghton’s formidable intellect, on the other hand, has no difficulty in accommodating rigorous science (in the modern sense of the word) with a humble dependence upon the Creator. The Psalmist expresses the idea of God’s two books, familiar to the early scientists, in the remarkable Psalm 19. As we would describe them now: Experimental Science and the Bible. Indeed, the Psalm ends with a prayer to be in tune with God’s revelation as presented in both books. How ironical, the reader might feel, that the objective, if statistical, science of climate change is increasingly referred to
Thus ‘Caring for Creation’ explores the causes of the spiritual malaise behind the environmental crisis. As a symposium of contributions by distinguished thinkers that do not always dovetail comfortably, it leaves the ongoing task of a new synthesis with readers. Therein lies its strength, for if we are to set the example that Jesus surely expects of His Church, then we need the faith and courage that comes with clear understanding. Maybe readers will be inspired to join A Rocha projects. Good. But if groups are inspired to think globally, campaign nationally and work locally then there really is hope.
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