The Nature of Environmental Stewardship, by Johnny Wei-Bing Lin, December 2016. Lutterworth Press, 326 pages, ISBN 9780718894672. RRP £24.95 (paperback)
In recent decades the Christian Church has rediscovered or reconnected with its theology and spirituality of the environment. As the reality of climate change has come into sharper focus, Christians are asking themselves what they can contribute to the discussion about how to combat its causes and effect. A major, but not the only, answer to that question must be the Christian understanding of stewardship of Creation. The ill-informed Enlightenment interpretation of “dominion” in Genesis 1.26 to mean “domination” has resulted in the terrifying destruction of habitats, overuse of species for food and the pollution of rivers, land, sea and air. By contrast, a true understanding of dominion invites people to acknowledge that we live in one world in which we all share the responsibility to manage creation equitably, both for our own and future generations. The proper stewardship of creation is key to this. But what exactly does “Environmental Stewardship” mean? That is the essential question this book seeks to answer.
It has not proved simple. Indeed, the strength of this book is that it is totally realistic about the complexity of the answer. The consequence is a book of considerable detail, offering an exhaustive analysis of the options and identifying the priorities with clarity. It would be a shame if the wealth of detail were to deter the general reader, for in this volume we have not only a sympathetically critical scientific appraisal of the choices (the author was Professor of Physics at North Park University in the USA) but also a detailed Biblical context and justification for his proposals.
To make his points, Dr. Lin employs the device of an extended “parable” which begins each chapter and narrates the day to day decision making of a hypothetical church community in relation to creation care (Lin’s preferred term). Experienced environmentalists may find the tone of the narrative slightly patronising, but it succeeds in imaginatively illustrating the depth of environmental concern and the different ways in which creation care might provide solutions. Lin also provides, at the end of each chapter, helpful and penetrating questions for discussion.
This book argues strongly that environmental stewardship is a Biblical imperative and that its implementation as a solution to Climate Change will be complex and varied. In the end, the author is optimistic about our ability to respond to the challenges of global warming. As he writes: “the nature of environmental stewardship, while undetermined and complex, does not compel us to respond with pessimism … our examination of environmental stewardship instead justifies an optimism regarding the future” (pages 277-278). This book is an excellent tool to help concerned Christians to understand the demands of environmental stewardship and to discover ways to respond that are effective, Biblical and necessary.
Rev’d Canon Donald C Macdonald