GREEN LIKE GOD: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet
When reading nonfiction, I often read the back matter first. I make initial judgments based on the author’s resources and recommendations. The last 30 pages of Jonathan Merritt’s book impressed me; this included his endnotes and three appendices: “Resources” --- an eight-page list of relevant websites, books (lots of books) and organizations (with annotations), more or less the author’s bibliography; “The Big, Bad Climate Question” --- a reasoned and reasonable “disarming approach to this explosive issue,” calling for honesty, integrity, justice and prudence; and “Guidelines for a Greener Life” --- which, though it contains nothing new (“If you are to carpool anywhere, do it”), is an essential element of a nonacademic book about environmental issues.
Ultimately, reading a book from back to front isn’t a sustainable practice, so after discovering the appendices, I do move to the first chapter. Here young Merritt --- he implies he’s still in his 20s --- introduces himself and tells of the seminary-classroom lecture that struck to the core of his environmentally destructive views and lifestyle. His professor, John Hammett, referred to “two forms of divine revelation: the special revelation in Scripture” and “the general revelation we receive through nature.” Hammett continued: “So when we destroy creation…it’s similar to tearing a page out of the Bible.” Merritt writes, “As I sat in that theology class, God changed me.” The author bio (the last page of the book) notes that this “classroom epiphany prompted him to organize a national coalition of Christian leaders who care about creation, founding the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative.”
The rest of the book is divided into two parts. The first, titled “The Hidden Truths in God’s Word,” is an easy-to-follow theological discussion of creation issues, as presented in Genesis and throughout the Old and New Testaments, and the meaning and ramifications of human dominion. Right off the bat he explains that we shouldn’t be environmentalists because environmentalism is the cultural craze, but because care of creation is a theologically sound principle.
Merritt’s message --- that we are to be keen stewards of this planet Earth and its resources --- is discounted by some who say that “environmentalism is for tree-hugging secularist liberals.” Knowing the mindset of his detractors, Merritt spends a whole chapter presenting and gently countering their views, again primarily theologically.
A final part addresses our human response: “Our Assignment in God’s World.” There’s something very appealing about Merritt’s presentation. He’s not talking in extremes. For example, he’s not a vegetarian, yet he gives a reasoned appeal for his readers to eat less meat. It’s an appeal he admits he’s writing even to himself; one I want to take to heart. He puts himself in the picture: “I wrestle with Affluenza many days and lose more often than not. Like most Americans, I struggle with sinful consumerism and materialism.”
Merritt speaks to a reader who, like himself before that seminary lecture, is not quite convinced that creation care is an important element of Christian discipleship. If such a person is too closed-minded, he or she might not open the book. But I encourage a skeptical reader to start with chapter 1 (“My Green Awakening”) and just try it. It seems Merritt has a kind way of making friends. That would be with people, not just trees.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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