Book Review | A fresh look at Christian perspective
Creation Care And The Gospel Reconsidering the Mission of the Church
Edited by Colin Bell and Robert White
Reviewed by Dr Alfred Sangster
The book, published under the Lausanne Movement Copyright, was first printed in May 2016. It has a forward by Lascelles Newman, an introduction by Colin Bell, Robert S. White and Edward R. Brown with the specific forum outcome: Jamaica Call to Action followed by a Theological Exposition.
It has a strong Jamaican connection since it came out of the papers of a Lausanne Global Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel, which was held in St Ann, Jamaica, from October 29 to November 2, 2012.
The book is structured with 18 chapters placed in three parts: Part 1 God's Word; Part 2 God's World; and Part 3 God's Work.
It also has ten case studies, a conclusion, an appendix, and an extensive set of notes on each chapter. Overall, the profiles of some thirty authors from all six continents are given in the book of some 350 pages.
This consultation was one of several that were built on the Cape Town Commitment, which was an extension of the Lausanne Movement that took its name from the International Congress on World Evangelisation convened in Switzerland 1974 by Billy Graham.
The book has an overall philosophy and theme. It is written as expected from an evangelical base but moves to argue quite successfully that the Gospel is a lot more than preaching about salvation and its outcome, but rather argues that Creation Care is a gospel within the lordship of Christ in all its traditional meaning.
But also, the individual Christian and the Church as a whole are called to care for God's creation (world), which happens to be in crisis. The book argues that the Church has traditionally followed the first of these mandates but has often not recognised its role in the second. The Jamaica Call for Action has a ten-point basis, stated briefly as follows:
A new commitment to a simple lifestyle; new and robust theological work; leadership from the Church in the Global South; mobilisation of the whole Church and the engagement of all of society; environmental missions among unreached people groups; radical action to confront climate change; sustainable principles in food production; an economy that works in harmony with God's creation; local expressions of creation care; prophetic advocacy and healing reconciliation.
As might be expected, the book articulates its objectives in many different ways. In Part 1 God's Word, many of the seven chapters outline the theological approach to Creation Care and a quote from John Stott is very relevant. "Creation care is neither a selfish interest of the developed North nor a minority enthusiasm peculiar to bird watchers or flower lovers, but an increasingly mainline Christian concern ... Christians have been slow to respond to the imperatives of creation care, and we evangelical believers in particular even more laggardly."
Part 2 God's World deals extensively with the world of today. John Houghton's chapter details many of the challenges of today global warming, climate change, sea levels, the atmosphere, and the overall challenges to the scientific community and policymakers. Other chapters deal with the issue of population growth and disasters, care of God's creation, poverty and climate, and the concepts and models of Planetary Boundaries and Global Footprints are developed.
According to the Global Footprints model, which compares human demands on the world's biocapacity, we have exceeded the world's biocapacity since the 1970s and we are now using the equivalent of 1.5 Earths a year.
This is a measure of the crisis that faces humanity, which is so little understood by the mass of humanity and that shows so little real concern about possible action.
Turning to Part 3 - God's Work, the three chapters with the associated Conclusion describe action taken to deal with the global environmental crisis in three different parts of the world East Africa, East Asia, and in Tangier Island on the Eastern United States - as a specific example where creative action between Church and State led to positive changes happening.
This book will be an eye opener to anyone who reads it. The scientific examples shared worldwide, the challenges located so clearly, and the scope of the crisis so intensely identified that it might well lead the reader to think and possibly say, 'it is too big for me'. But this is not the objective of the book and its writers.
The individual Christian to join the environmental movement and the care for God's creation that was made 'So very good' (seven times stated in Genesis Chapter 1),
That Church and other social groups can be mobilised to act responsibly in caring for God's creation and the world we live in.
This is an excellent book for scientists, environmentalists, policymakers, Christian leaders, and anyone interested in the problems of the world today.