Book Review: The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation
WCIU Journal: Environmental Studies Topic
July 19, 2012
Review by Bill Bjoraker
In this book review of The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation by Richard Bauckham (2010), William Bjoraker gives a synopsis of the book and lists six environmental themes he deems to be inadequately addressed by the author, vis-a vis contemporary contra–biblical philosophies regarding nature and the environment:
1. Biblical Creation Care? Or Post-Christian Environmentalism?
2. Humans as “Imago Dei” are Different in Kind, not Just Degree
3. On Climate Change & Anthropogenic Global Warming
4. The Nature of Nature: Enchantment, Dis-enchantment and Re-enchantment
5. Animal Rights Movements
6. Intelligent Evil in Nature Before the Creation of Humans: The Problem of Animal vs. Animal Violence, Suffering & Death
How does the Bible speak into our contemporary ecological awareness, views and controversies? This book answers this question by offering the thesis that a Biblical perspective of ecology or a theology of creation (an eco-theology), must move from a “dominion mandate” paradigm (based on Genesis 1:26 and 28) to a community of creation paradigm.
Bauckham’s book is significant in that it is a worthy attempt at presenting a Biblical theology of nature (the non-human creation), or a Biblical ecology of nature, that takes into consideration the whole range of Scripture on the topic, from Genesis to Revelation. This is timely and relevant, as Bauckham convincingly argues, because of the ecological crises we face today. He is keenly aware of the abuses of nature by the modern scientific-technological project and charges by modern secular environmentalist and “green” movements to the effect that Christianity and the Bible are to blame for this abuse, due to the de-divinizing nature, and the “dominion mandate” and thus exposing it “to the ruthless exploitation that has brought us to the brink of ecological disaster.”
Western civilization and Christianity are conflated in the perception of most people in the majority world. Thus, indeed, we in the Bible-believing tradition have work to do to de-couple modern Western culture (guilty as charged) from what the Bible actually teaches about God’s Creation and about responsible creation care. Baulkham’s study provides a commendable resource for doing just that. Bauckham’s call for new “community of creation” paradigm is a worthy proposal to replace the assumptions of modern political liberalism (of both the “Left” and the “Right”). Other Bible scholars, writers and practitioners working in this field will need to consult his work. With some caveats, and critique, it can function as a basis for developing a new Biblical Creation Care paradigm (as an alternative to post-Christian environmentalism), from which applications can be drawn for advocacy and policy-making in the public sphere.
Dr. Bjoraker originally presented a version of this material at the February 2012 Winter Institute of International Development. For more materials from that event, see the Spring 2012 issue of the William Carey International Development Journal on Christians and the Environment, videos from the conference, and Beth Snodderly’s recap from the event.