Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World, by the father and son team of Douglas and Jonathan Moo, is an interesting and informative book aiming to provide a biblical theological account of the whole of creation. The book comprises fourteen chapters in three sections, all of which attempt to inform the reader on the driving question of the book: what role does the nonhuman creation play in God’s plan? Most chapters have a wide range of biblical texts through which the authors engage with a range of relevant topics, and each chapter has a number of interesting and relevant quotations sectioned off for reading, as well as questions at the end of the chapter to enable further thought on the topics examined.
As a whole, Creation Care does a fantastic job of selecting biblical texts, which are then put into conversation with vital topics concerning the wider creation. The first section is devoted to how one might even go about such an enterprise, and why this is one worth doing. The second section represents the majority of the book, in which a wide range of topics—such as the human creature’s relation to the rest of creation—are covered to create a biblical theology of the natural world. The final section looks at the ethical implications of this theology, making use of modern environmental studies and highlighting the ethical imperative humans have as the creature called to care for creation.
By and large, the book succeeds in drawing its reader into the realm of creation care, and continually engaging the Bible with relevant discussions in this regard. Some of the more interesting points Creation Care makes include highlighting the muted yet very real presence of nature and the new creation in the New Testament based on its much more significant presence in the Hebrew Bible (126-45), as well as their continued case for creation care as part of the human calling. In doing so, Moo and Moo do not shy away from verses which might present a challenge to their overall project of making a case for the relevance of caring for creation for Christians. For instance, they discuss an interesting account of 2 Peter and the debates around whether there will be a destruction or renewal of the Earth (153-59).
While I applaud the many positive aspects to this work, I was particularly struck by a brief comment made near the end of the book with respect to the human use of animals. Here, the authors suggest that fishing and hunting are ways of actively participating in the life of the Earth and reconnecting us to God’s creation (224). Given the use of verses that describe a cosmically peaceful state such as Genesis 1, Isaiah 11 and 65, and the repeated message that the earth and animals are mourning precisely due to the human harming and mistreatment of them, to see a comment promoting the killing of animals as a means of actively participating in the life of Earth seemed out of tune with the overall thrust of the volume.
One more issue which arose for me was the authors’ view that the nonhuman animal creation was not fallen, but merely suffered as a result of the sinful effects of humans. While this is by no means a unique view, it left undiscussed the theological issues arising from it. For instance, if carnivorousness is an inherent part of God’s plan for creation, this brings about significant theodicy issues if animals are considered to be morally relevant creatures (which the authors seem to suggest, given their highlighting of Matthew 10:29 and God’s care for the birds). If killing and suffering are an inherent part of God’s plan for creation, then the goodness of God is called into question. If God was unable to create otherwise, this brings up issues with respect to the omnipotence of God. That the authors did not go into great detail addressing such aspects is understandable, but at least noting the implications of their choice at this juncture (the whole of chapter 6, entitled “A Creation Subjected to Frustration,”) would have made for a more thorough account.
Such criticisms, however, are relatively minor when compared to the whole of the project the authors have put together. This is a highly useful biblical theology of the natural world, which many would do well to read. The writing is well-researched and sufficiently detailed, and makes for an enjoyable read. It has the added benefit that one need not be a scholar of Christian environmental theology (though one could certainly be!) to benefit from this book.
Kris Hiuser is an Independent Scholar.
Date Of Review:
June 1, 2018
Douglas J. Moo (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is the Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. His work centers on understanding the text of the New Testament and its application today. He has written extensively in several commentary series, including the NIV Application Commentary, Pillar Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, and the New International Commentary on the New Testament.
Jonathan A. Moo (PhD, University of Cambridge) is associate professor of New Testament and environmental studies at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. In addition to his work in biblical studies, he earned a graduate degree in wildlife ecology from Utah State University and has written a number articles and books on the understanding of nature in early Judaism and Christianity. He has worked extensively with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge (UK) and was a key contributor to the Lausanne Movement’s Global Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel.
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