Book Read: Down to Earth

Down to Earth: Christian Hope and Climate ChangeDown to Earth: Christian Hope and Climate Change by Richard A. Floyd

Wipf and Stock, located in Eugene, Oregon, publishes under several imprints, including Cascade Books, which is the imprint that Down to Earth bears. I’ve also read one of their novels, Death Comes to the Deconstructionist by Daniel Taylor, published under the Slant imprint. Wipf and Stock periodically makes free epub downloads available to readers who subscribe to their newsletter and who are willing to create an account with them. Down to Earth was one of their recent free download offerings.

At 142 pages, Down to Earth packs many thought-provoking arguments into a short work. It is well researched and documented, including 325 endnotes and a nine-page bibliography. As the subtitle suggests, Richard Floyd approaches climate change and other elements of ecological diminishment from a Christian perspective, specifically a Reformed Protestant perspective. He discusses the work of theologians Jürgen Moltmann and Sally McFague as they consider ecology and theology. The specific branch of theology where Floyd engages both theologians is eschatology: what will become of the creation and its inhabitants, human and otherwise, at the end of time.

Related questions come up from time to time in my reading and in my contemplation of the things I read. Were there predators and parasites before the fall? Will the restored creation include predation and parasitism. Isaiah 11 looks forward to what we refer to as the peaceable or or peaceful kingdom. The wolf will live alongside the lamb, but if the wolf no longer preys on lambs, does it lose its essential wolf-ness? Richard Floyd thinks that wolves might still prey on lambs in the restored creation.

In discussing Moltmann’s and McFague’s eschatologies, Richard Floyd finds much to commend and much to disagree with. I’m not qualified to take up his arguments, defend them, or prosecute them. I have been challenged in my thinking, however, about what happens to the creatures with whom we share this planet when Christ returns to restore all things. He is clear in his assertion that God cares deeply about what happens to them. God’s intentions toward them may not be the same as God’s intention toward the creatures who are capable of fellowship with God, but God’s intention is for their welfare nonetheless.

How are we to respond to that knowledge? In humility, in “taking our stand with the dirt,” which is the title of the fourth chapter. Here is how Richard Floyd closes that chapter:

When we take our stand on the bit of dirt beneath our feet, when we commit ourselves to solidarity with the dust and, by that, solidarity with the entire interconnected web of existence, when we embrace humility, it is this cosmic process and no other—this beautiful and broken, graced and grieving creation that God so loves—to which we finally consent (p. 101).

How does that work itself out in our daily interaction with the creation? Floyd cites efforts by the PC(USA), in which he is an ordained minister, to separate itself from the fossil fuel industry. Of greater interest to me is the work that churches and religious organizations in the southeastern United States are doing in sustainable and regenerative food production. Readers won’t find checklists of steps that they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Concerned readers can find plenty of sources for such lists. What readers will find are pleas to see and contemplate our connection to the creation and to act in concert with it rather than exploiting it. Here’s how he closes the final chapter:

But we may have a foretaste of glory divine, we may experience the beauty of the new creation here and now, by contemplating the world as a good in itself, rather than simply as a good for us. True, we cannot do this perfectly; we still need to eat, we still need to use creation. But we may contemplate it in this way haltingly, and we may practice to deepen our capacity for such contemplation. We may go out to meet the beautiful other; we may become beautiful ourselves in so going out; we may be suffused with the divine beauty that both lures forth ever-new, fecund possibilities and gathers up all that has become. Hope for the new creation is hope for the creation itself, in all its fragile beauty. It is hope for the dirt, the dirt in which we stand, the dirt of which we are made. In such hope we may not only taste the new creation; we may also learn to cherish and preserve the creation we already have. We may even discover that they are one and the same (p. 133).

Down to Earth: Christian Hope and Climate Change has made an important contribution to my understanding and thinking about creation care and the restoration of creation at the return of Christ.

Thank you for stopping by!


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