"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Christianity and Ecology

I have watched, even in my own short lifetime, how Christian theology has recovered a sense of the ecological and its importance. In 1991 at the World Council of Churches assembly in Canberra, the theme of "justice, peace, and the integrity of creation" was already everywhere in discussion, and that has only continued over the last thirty years, with each of the last three popes contributing to a 'thicker' eco-theology if one may use that not entirely satisfactory phrase. Other thinkers have also played large parts here.

On the Orthodox side, the Ecumenical Patriarch has long been dubbed the "green patriarch" for his advocacy of a fully recovered Christian stewardship of "this fragile earth, our island home," to borrow a Canadian Anglican euchological phrase. Orthodox theologians have made signal contributions to this discussion. 

And now we have a new book that gathers together much of the best of Christian scholarship: The Oxford Handbook of the Bible and Ecology, eds. Hilary Marlow and Mark Harris (Oxford UP, 2022), 496pp. About this collection the publisher tells us this:

Environmental issues are an ever-increasing focus of public discourse and have proved concerning to religious groups as well as society more widely. Among biblical scholars, criticism of the Judeo-Christian tradition for its part in the worsening crisis has led to a small but growing field of study on ecology and the Bible. This volume in the Oxford Handbook series makes a significant contribution to this burgeoning interest in ecological hermeneutics, incorporating the best of international scholarship on ecology and the Bible. The Handbook comprises 30 individual essays on a wide range of relevant topics by established and emerging scholars. Arranged in four sections, the volume begins with a historical overview before tackling some key methodological issues. The second, substantial, section comprises thirteen essays offering detailed exegesis from an ecological perspective of selected biblical books. This is followed by a section exploring broader thematic topics such as the Imago Dei and stewardship. Finally, the volume concludes with a number of essays on contemporary perspectives and applications, including political and ethical considerations.

The editors Hilary Marlow and Mark Harris have drawn on their experience in Hebrew Bible and New Testament respectively to bring together a diverse and engaging collection of essays on a subject of immense relevance. Its accessible style, comprehensive scope, and range of material means that the volume is a valuable resource, not only to students and scholars of the Bible but also to religious leaders and practitioners.

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