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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"From Nature to Creation" (Norman Wirzba)

TITLE: From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World (The Church and Postmodern Culture)
AUTHOR: Norman Wirzba
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (176 pages).

Should Christians live more for the future and less for the present? Is God's gift of salvation mainly a ticket to some heavenly future without earthly responsibility? Absolutely not. If our Christian living is merely preparing ourselves for the heavenly realm, our Christianity is a "theological disaster." So begins author and professor Norman Wirzba in this book that aims to bring back the integrity and value of the world we live in. Our salvation is important. How we live is also important. The world we live in is a gift for us to cherish and to care for. If God had created the world and called it good, how can we say otherwise? Wirzba is Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Agrarian Studies at Duke Divinity School. A keen scholar of the doctrine of creation, he has written this book with chapters based on his 2013 Jellema lectures at various locations as well as a 2012 biannual meeting of the Society of Continental Philosophy and Theology. This book is a call for Christians to take the environment and the ecological concerns seriously. Develop an imagination of a world loved and sustained by God. Treasure the earth resources as a gift. This book is an attempt to help us cast and sustain a vision of care for nature and creation.

The basic problem is erroneous theology. Some people think that God is some distant deity that is uninterested in the affairs of the world. No. God is still intimately involved and passionately interested with the world we live in. Wirzba's conviction is that Christians could and should cultivate an imagination of how the world can be one of much goodness and gift. This also means being honest with the limits of our endeavour. This world is sanctified but not perfect. It is loved but not necessarily reciprocating of God's love. In order to see the redemptive movements of God, the author probes the major trends in both modern and postmodern cultures, to show us the way forward in the eyes of love rather than the techniques of utilitarianism. This world matters because God has made it and has called us to care for it. What is needed is a refreshed vision of how we are to understand and to care for this world. This is where this book enters. Wirzba's vision is simply three-fold. First, begin with an imagination for the world as according to God's love for it. Second, do not allow science and technology to exploit this world's resources for whatever self-glorifying ends. Third, contribute to the healing and helping the world to flourish, to be thankful for what we had or already have, and to be hopeful for the wonders that are to come through God's love. We are to imaginatively participate, cautiously limit exploitation, and to hopefully care for the world to ensure the benefits to flow for the next generation, and the next, and the next.

At the heart of Wirzba's argument is the conviction that there is a God and this world is worth protecting. Before that happens, we need to recognize the importance of who we are and where we live. If we buy into the "God is dead" philosophy, invariably, it leads to either a death of creation or the death of a creature. The effects of sin have rendered mankind hopelessly lost. Science and technology for all its wow and wonder could not remove this inner state of man. A tarnished person renders the world at risk of being tarnished. Learning to care for the environment means learning to see our responsibility in the light of God's mission for us to care. At the same time, we are not to idolize nature. This is also a theological concern. The problem of sin has rendered the heart of a person an idol factory. We need to distinguish the cultivation of the wilderness and to beware of the wild nature within us. In order for us to shape the world outside, we need to be properly shaped inside. We need a right kind of perception of the world, one that is anchored on God. Let God help us re-discover our artful forms so that we do not abuse the world or manipulate the things of the world for our sake. Let God enable us to use the resources wisely and to care for the earth responsibly. Thanksgiving is a core expression of what it means to be human.

Wirzba incorporates philosophy, theology, and cultural symbols of modernism in this book to show us that God remains concerned for the world. We can do our part. In order for the world to be transformed, we need to be transformed in our minds and hearts first. This world is a battlefield of ideas and philosophies. We need a right perceiving that is anchored in the love of God. Christian living is not merely within the confines of our church walls or our home cell groups. It is very much loving our neighbour by taking care of the environments and contexts that matter to them. It can be a powerful witness that we not only share the world we live in, we are committed to loving the world as much as God has called us to love. There are increasingly more consumers growing each day. It is time to turn every consumer into a considerate pilgrim, who not only uses the resources provided but also makes it a point to invest in making it renewable for future generations to come. The love of God begets the love of people. The love of God and of people leads to a love for the things that matter to God and people. If Christians are called to inherit the earth, should they not be on the forefront of caring for her?

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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