I think he starts with the right approach. The first half of the book charts his own progress in becoming a Christian environmentalist. The conversion seems to be primarily a theological one. He tracks through the major biblical passages as well as his own life experience.
He has some interesting comments about the Genesis passages that some Christian anti-enviromentalist frequently cite. For instance, the King James Version translates Genesis 1:28 as “have dominion over the earth.” But Merritt argues that it should be translated as “rule over the earth”. A subtle difference, but an important one in light of the Hebrew conception of rule. A Hebrew king was to be unlike the kings of the other nations. The Hebrew king was not the ultimate ruler, God was. The Hebrew king was given limited authority, an authority based on stewardship, not dominion. Reading Genesis 1:28 in context of the rest of scripture, we have a better understanding of the type of rule that humans should have.
Genesis 2:15 (The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it) is a charge that was not temporary before the fall, but was part of our purpose of creation. The hebrew word for “put” in this verse means literally “to dedicate something in the presence of God.” God is dedicating us as humans to the work of caring for creation.
This is not theological or social liberalism, but careful exposition of the text. Merritt continue with the New Testament. He is careful to not put words into Jesus’ mouth. Jesus does not explicitly talk a lot about environmentalism. But the basic point that Merritt makes is important. He quotes another author, “Because Christ took on flesh, we believe that matter matters.” I think this is a point that is important. Too many evangelicals are closet Gnostics. They want to pretend that Jesus saves us from this world, instead of understanding that Christ came to redeem this world, not condemn it. To avoid Gnostic thinking we need to remember that matter, the stuff that God created, is good.
Merritt is also clear about going too far. “Creation isn’t divine. Only God is divine. Creation is sacred and therefore worthy of respect.” It is sacred because God made it, the same reason that we hold human life as sacred. And Merritt is also careful of being too prescriptive. This book is not a “Five Steps to Save the Planet” book. It is really a book on discipleship. The long, hard road of making little decisions and choices to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and place God and others before ourselves.
This was a brief book. I read it in a couple short hours. And like many books, if we just read it and do not allow it to affect our life, then it is worthless. Christian life is about change and this is one book that will change many for the better.
Disclosure: An advance reader copy of this book was provided free for review. The copy was given away.