Awe and wonder in creation… and in cultivation

Awe and wonder in creation… and in cultivation February 24, 2023

The Wonders of Creation: Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle-Earth by Kristen Page is a set of lectures given at Wheaton College with (brief) responses from other faculty members. Any set of lectures published as a book (with or without responses) is going to be spotty, because lecturing and writing are obviously two different things. And this book is no exception–though it definitely falls on the ‘readable’ and ‘interesting’ side of spotty, rather than on the ‘not so great’ side of spotty.

Image: IVP

And there’s a lot here for the Christian to reflect on. There is a lot for us to learn both about and from nature, and we should do so with a sense of wonder and awe. Creation is made to display God’s glory and it is fallen, and those two things together should shape how we interact with the natural world. This book is a thoughtful reminder of the former drawing on Lewis and Tolkien. No doubt they would have approved heartily.

The sticking point for me, as with much of Christian ecological thought, comes in the application. Yes, Christians should exercise stewardship over creation. (For what it’s worth, I’m not aware of anyone in the Christian world who disagrees with that.) But what does that mean? Is stewardship leaving nature alone, withholding the hand as much as possible in a sort-of “utter preservation” model? Or is stewardship building trails and parking lots and such so that people can get out and hike through nature–maybe a “robust national park system” model? Or is stewardship plowing some nature under and planting other nature in its place so that people have food to eat–say a “cultivation” model?

I think probably some combination of all three, with the third being the most important, then the second, then the first.  We should have wonder at the natural world, and that natural world should include both raw nature in its “utter preservation” mode and the wonderous things technology allows us to do like grow a field of wheat that is resistant to pests and drought alike and that is many times more productive than wheat was in the past. There’s a beauty in that aspect of nature as well that is as worth of awe and wonder as wild animals unassociated with mankind.

And that’s basically the extent of my knowledge/thoughts on environmentalism, as it’s outside my area of expertise/interest. I’m with the third respondent in being more about a book and a cup of coffee than a trudge over a nature trail. (No doubt that’s a part of the fallenness of the world.) But The Wonders of Creation is perhaps a good supplement, or even an antidote, to those of us with less interest in those wonders.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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