Theology: Reflections on Creator and Creation

 Where should I begin?

If you’re new to these explorations, why not try the Tearfund video below. Then you might want to look at one of the books by David Bookless or the Hodsons, James Jones’ Jesus and the Earth, the reflections from David Osborne and Ghillean Prance, or the CAFOD study guide to Laudato Si’. You might also want to look at our lists of sermons, Bible studies and Lent courses.

Why don’t you list …? 

This is a list in progress. If you have suggestions, email them to us at ccowemails@ccow.org.uk.

Want more?

Hannah Malcolm has a brilliant reading list – and there’s another good reading list on A Rocha’s website.

An Introductory Video

Tearfund has a brilliant new introduction – take a look. It’s part of a series of videos for churches on how Christians can engage with climate change: you can find the full series here

What the Bible says about the natural world from Tearfund on Vimeo.

 

A short reading list

Richard Bauckham, Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation (DLT, 2010)  What does the Bible say about humanity’s relationship to God and the rest of the created order? A beautifully written exploration that calls us to rediscover our place as created beings and our specific role in creation’s praise of God.

Professor R J (Sam) Berry. “The Biblical Basis for Creation Care” (JRI Briefing Paper 8) A concise, 4 page summary of the Christian responsibility to care for creation which also includes a useful summary of different creation theologies.

Dave Bookless, Planetwise: Dare to Care for God’s World (IVP, 2008) What does it mean to look at creation in the light of the whole Bible story – from creation to new creation? And how does that change the way we care for the earth? Designed to be used for individual reflection or small group study, with questions at the end of chapters. Accessibly written and engaging. There’s also a good video introducing the concepts behind A Rocha and Planetwise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql4mr6ykDFQ. If you like this book, you might also try Bookless’ God Doesn’t Do Waste (IVP, 2010).

Dave Bookless, “The Earthly Jesus and the Cosmic Christ” (The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Working Paper No 1, 2016)  What does Christ’s lordship mean for the whole of the created order? An important contribution to a New Testament ecological theology. Free to download here.

Celia Deane-Drummond, A Primer in Ecotheology: Theology for a Fragile Earth (Cascade, 2017) An introduction to different forms of ecotheology, with a section on the Catholic teaching embodied in Laudato Si’. You might also want to look at the author’s  Eco-Theology (DLT, 2008) an academic text which goes into greater detail.

Vigen Guroian, Inheriting Paradise: Meditation on Gardening (Eerdmans, 1999) and The Fragrance of God (Eerdmans, 2006). A  leading Orthodox theologian offers a mixture of personal and theological reflection, helping us to reflect about ourselves, creation and the Creator.

Peter Harris, Under the Bright Wings (Regent College Publishing, 1993, repr 2000) and Kingfisher’s Fire: A Story of Hope for God’s Earth (Monarch, 2008). Two books by the co-founder of A Rocha, Peter Harris, exploring its roots and its growth – with a focus on conservation and care for the earth. Audio excerpts from Under the Bright Wings: https://www.arocha.org/en/resources/audio-under-the-bright-wings/

Martin and Margot Hodson, eds. Environment and Hope, Anvil 29.1 (2013) – A collection of short essays by  theologians, scientists and activists responding to the question – how do we define an authentic Christian hope in the Anthropocene age?   Available free online: https://content.sciendo.com/view/journals/anv/29/1/anv.29.issue-1.xml

Martin and Margot Hodson, Cherishing the Earth (Monarch, 2008) and A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues (BRF, 2016, rev ed coming in April 2021). Two excellent introductory works, both of which have associated study materials for small group study.

James Jones, Jesus and the Earth (SPCK, 2003) – What does Jesus say about creation? The former Bishop of Liverpool looks at the question, reflecting on the way in which the Gospels, as well as the Hebrew Scriptures, offer insights into the way Christians should look at the earth and their role in caring for it. Short and accessible, useful for group study.

Jurgen Moltmann, God in Creation (Fortress, 1993)  One of the leading systematic theologians of the 20th century explores the relationship between the Trinity and creation.  What does creation mean to God? How are the different persons of the Trinity involved? What is the relationship between creation and God’s Kingdom? Not one for beginners – but highly influential.

Michael Northcott, The Environment and Christian Ethics (CUP, 2008)  A comprehensive survey of Christian thinking on environmental ethics, which explores the views of God, humanity, and the created order that  underlie different ethical frameworks. Weighty, but readable – and wonderful for provoking thought.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: The encyclical itself weaves a Franciscan sense of the ways in which creation reflects God’s love with analysis of economic, social and environmental injustices to produce an ‘integral ecology’. CAFOD’s study guide (available for download online) is an accessible way of engaging with a complex work.

David Osborne, Love for the Future: A Journey (Wild Goose Publications, 2013). A beautifully written, lyrical account of a walk from Shropshire to Iona, contemplating the landscape and being led from that to contemplation of our relationship with God, the planet, and each other.

Sir Ghillean Prance, Go to the Ant: Reflections on biodiversity and the Bible (Wild Goose Publications, 2008)  Sir Ghillean was Scientific Director of the Eden Project,  Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. His engaging and accessible book links references to creation in the Bible with stories drawn from his many decades exploring creation in different parts of the earth.

Ruth Valerio, Saying Yes to Life (SPCK, 2019) – Archbishop’s Lent Book for 2020. Uses the story of creation found in Genesis 1 as a starting point to explore the theology and practice of creation care. The aspects of creation – earth, water, etc –  are explored: how does each one appear in Scripture? What is happening to each in our modern world?  And how can we respond to the crises creation faces? Helpful blend of theological reflection, case studies, and suggestions for practical action.

Rowan Williams – Christ the Heart of Creation  (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2018) How do we “think about the relation between God and what God has made”? A survey of thinking around the relationship between Christology and the doctrine of creation. Complex, deep and worth wrestling to understand.

Bible Studies, Courses, and Reflection Series

Why should Christians care about the environment? Does God give us guidance for creation care in Scripture? To answer such questions, we turn to the Bible, seeking to discern God’s will.

We’ve gathered here some materials for Bible study. Most are online and free to download, but we’ve included some that require purchases as well.

Lent daily resources
40 Days With God’s Creatures
(Sarx, Lent 2021, app updated for 2022)
We profess a faith in Jesus, and we love animals. But do we put the two together? This Lent guide from Sarx, available as an online app, “offers users the chance to reflect theologically and creatively about animals and animal issues, using biblical and theological readings, art, videos, music, photography and poetry.” Contributors to the daily reflections include Professor David Clough, Professor Celia Deane-Drummond, Professor Matt Halteman and Professor Michael Gilmour.

 

Ash and Oil
(Christian Reformed Church North America, Lent 2015)
Twenty selections for Lent, all following the theme of ‘remembering we are dust, leaning toward a new creation’. Each contains a short reflection, a prayer, and an action to take.

 

Build Forward Better – #Fast4Earth
(Anglican Communion Environmental Network, for Lent 2021 )
A simple, one-page calendar with a suggestion for each day – from doing your carbon footprint to watching an environmentally themed film or making goods from recycled materials

 

Daily Reflections for Creationtide
(Amica Benefice/JRI/Diocese of Lichfield/Season of Creation – 2018)
Not new this year. Not written for Lent. So what’s it doing in this list? Put simply, people have found it one of the most helpful sources of daily reflections on creation care – each with a simple question to inspire further reflection.

 

Drawing Closer to Creator and Creation: An indigenous journey through Lent
(Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice, 2022)
“This project was created as a way of imagining a different journey to the cross. Instead of one simply focused on personal sin,
could it be a journey towards a new worldview? Could the journey be one of collective repentance from a consumer based way of
relating to creation? Could we move towards a new framework for relationship with Creator and creation?” To receive the guide, sign up on the Eloheh website (link above) and they will send it to you.

 

(Global Catholic Climate Movement, for Lent 2021)
Join in a journey of ecological conversion, involving reflection, repentance and renewal. Suggestions for prayer and concrete action around a weekly theme. Available as a downloadable calendar and by email. There’s also a Lent prayer guide.

 

Harden not your Hearts: A Lenten Journey in Holy Frustration
(Ignatian Solidarity Network, for Lent 2022 )

“Harden not your hearts, we will be told on Ash Wednesday, as Lent begins. And how difficult it is. In addition to the injustices that have deepened during this ongoing pandemic, we are trying to live through the day to day. So many of us feel numb, our hearts hardened simply as a means of survival. Some of us are exhausted, some angry, some worn down…we are all deeply frustrated in some way with the reality of the world. But what if we can transform our frustration into holy frustration? A frustration that gives voice to our weariness in the face of injustice, uncertainty, and crisis after crisis, but also allows us to tap into the inner wells of strength that God provides. One that keeps us, even in our numbness, open to hear God’s voice, to harden not our hearts.” Sign up for daily emails.

 

Less Is More: A Lenten Guide for Personal Renewal
(Kai Nilsen, Renovare, 2013)
A free book to download, which invites you to reflect and make a journal as you go through Lent. Each week has a theme of less and more: less guilt/more grace (confession), less noise/more listening (solitude), less consumption/more compassion (fasting), less stuff/more freedom (simplicity), less spending/more peace (frugality), less me/more others (intercession), less fear/more love (responding to Holy Week).

 

Steadfast: A Call to Love was last year’s theme, and the daily reflections (archived) explored how, at a time of pain globally, we find strength in our faith to hear – and respond to – the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

 

Presbyterians for Earth Care – 2021 Lenten Devotional
(Downloadable at link above – weekly reflections)
Reflections for Ash Wednesday, each Sunday in Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Each is by a different author and contains a Bible reading, reflection, and short prayer. Helpful for personal reflection, or could be a starter for a weekly home group’s discussions. This page holds all the Lent resources since 2017.

 

Planting Seeds of Hope: 40 Devotions on Creation
(Green Anglicans, for Lent 2021)
A wonderful collection of daily reflections and prayers, contributed by Green Anglicans, members of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, the Anglican Indigenous Network, The Lusophone Network, Together 4 Creation and contributions from the Sustainable Preaching Network (www.sustainable-preaching.org). Dedicated to the memory of Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya.

 

Seven Weeks for Water 2021
(World Council of Churches, for Lent 2021 )
Seven weeks of water-related reflections, with accompanying actions, from a diverse group of North American Christians.

 

 

Lent courses

Caring for Creation
(York courses, Lent 2021 – course)
“The human race is facing its greatest challenge: global warming, leading to climate change. This, along with the damage we have done, and are still doing to the environment, God’s wonderful creation, means that we all have to make radical changes to our whole way of life.” A course which presents facts about the challenge of climate change – but seeks to inspire hope for the future, based on faith.  Contributors include Dave Bookless, David Clough, Brian Davis, Lalbiakhlui Rokhum, Simon Stanley and Ruth Valerio.

 

Five sessions, based around Laudato Si’, with a focus on biodiversity and ecosystems.

 

*For Such a Time as This
(USPG, for Lent 2021 – short course)
Our world is in environmental crisis: how can Christians respond? This six-session course offers a biblical narrative of salvation to frame our climate response and challenges all Christians to take part in God’s work of redemption and re-creation. The sessions draw on perspectives from USPG’s partners around the world. Each contains a reflection, Bible passage to study, prayer and call to action.

 

Single Session Studies

Bible Study Material on the Environment
(Church of England, 2012)
Material that could be used to structure a short retreat, or split up into several sessions. A creation-focused Morning Prayer frames the Bible study material which focuses on three questions: the importance of creation care in Christian thought, the question of ‘dominion’ (Genesis) and the meaning of hope (Romans).

 

Multi-Session Courses (teens and adults)

(C) indicates a particular focus on climate, (B) a particular focus on biodiversity
A * before the title indicates materials that would be particularly good for congregations just beginning their journey.

 

*A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues
(Margot and Martin Hodson, 2008)

“A valuable resource to help understand how we can live together for the good of all creation on this one planet with its finite resources. As such this book looks straight in the eye of the most serious set of environmental challenges humanity faces. Drawing together in accessible ways scientific evidence, biblical reflection, and practical ideas it will provoke you to better think, act and pray for the renewal of creation.” These were the Bishop of Norwich’s words commending the Hodsons’ excellent introduction. Chosen as ‘The Big Church Read’ it now has ten videos with starter discussions questions to accompany it.

 

*Cherishing the Earth
(Margot and Martin Hodson, 2008)

Six online Bible studies derived from the book of the same name, published by BRF. Can be used with or without the book.  Each study has materials for discussing the theme, reflecting on particular passages, prayer, and practical applications. Themes are: Why cherish the earth, how to care biblically, careless dominion, impact on the poor, redressing the balance, and the future. Excellent introduction for churches beginning their explorations.

 

Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living
(Nick Spencer and Robert White, Jubilee Centre and Tearfund, 2008)
Five Bible studies – they tie in with the book of the same name, but you don’t need the book to use them. Each covers a key area: creation, what it means to be made in the image of God, sin and redemption, love of neighbour, and what sustainable living might look like. Each session has an ice breaker activity, materials for praise and prayer, a study, background information, a challenge and a summary.

 

*Climate Change and the Purposes of God
(Operation Noah)
Operation Noah’s ‘Ash Wednesday Declaration’ challenged the Church to recognise that care for creation in general – and responding to climate change in particular – is a key part of Christian mission. It did this by framing the challenges and responses to climate change in the light of seven Biblical themes: finding joy in creation, listening to the prophets, repentance, taking responsibility, seeking justice, loving neighbours, and acting with hope.  The five sessions of this study pick up those themes – each includes material from the Declaration, a Bible passage relating to it, and suggestions for discussion and action. This study is no longer on Operation Noah’s website; contact us for materials.

 

*Exploring God’s Green Word
(Studies originally written by Revd Dr David Pickering of the URC for ‘Roots and Branches’, modified for A Rocha Canada)
Five Bible studies that explore what different parts of Scripture – Genesis, the Pentateuch, Psalms, the Gospels, and the New Testament Letters – have to say about God, creation and humanity. Accessible, single page sessions have suggested Bible passages, background to the passages, discussion starters on the theological themes the passages raise, and a challenge to take away. (Click on Bible studies in the accordion on the left of the page to find the materials)

 

Mission and Creation Care for Christian Disciples
(Written by the Revd John Weaver for JRI and Tearfund)
Five sessions that aim “to mobilise congregations and churches in living out the mission of God and to see individual lives, communities, and the environment flourish. A core feature of this is to challenge congregations and communities in the UK to change their values from individual consumerism to justice and sustainability both locally and globally.” Sessions cover renewing our understanding of mission; the call to care for creation;  the challenge to sustainable lifestyles;  a biblical approach to economics; and the Church’s role as an agent of change.” Downloadable as A4 booklet.

 

Plenty
(A project of Green Christian, 2020)
What kind of world do we want to see emerge after the coronavirus pandemic? This seven-session course offers space to reflect on that question from a Christian perspective. Each session has a theme, which is explored in liturgy, conversation and reflection. The course isn’t a ‘Bible study’ course in the customary sense – so some of the passages for reflection are Scriptural and others are drawn from secular sources.

 

Radical Presence
(A project of Green Christian, 2020)
What kind of world do we want to see emerge after the coronavirus pandemic? This seven-session course offers space to reflect on that question from a Christian perspective. Each session has a theme, which is explored in liturgy, conversation and reflection. The course isn’t a ‘Bible study’ course in the customary sense – so some of the passages for reflection are Scriptural and others are drawn from secular sources.

 

Saying Yes to Life 
(Ruth Valerio – Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2020)
Saying Yes to Life follows the creation story in Genesis 1. Each chapter explores the element of creation from a given day (earth, waters, etc) – following references to it throughout the Bible, looking at how it is affected by the current environmental crisis, and offering suggestions for prayer and action to protect it.  Mingling theological reflection and case studies drawn from different global contexts, the book offers a rich mix of things to ponder. There’s quite a lot of material, so it may be better for people who are already engaged.  SPCK produced some very engaging videos to accompany the book – you might want to take a look at these just on their own.

 

*Tenants of the King
(Operation Noah)
“Tenants of the King is a new Bible-based, Jesus-centred resource… designed to help you and your church consider what the Bible has to say about today’s climate crisis.” Particularly useful for congregations which may not be used to thinking of climate as a Christian issue.

The full study guide includes booklets with materials for four 1-hr interactive group sessions; video interviews* with Rt Revd. Graham Tomlin (Bishop of Kensington), Rev. Mark Melluish (New Wine), Dr Ruth Valerio (Tearfund) and Dr Justin Thacker (Cliff College); and Leaders’ Notes.

Single copies of the booklets can be ordered on the Operation Noah website (£2.99 each); for information on full multimedia study guide email admin@operationnoah.org.* Note – Single booklet orders do not include access to videos.

 

Studies and courses for young people

All Things
(Young Evangelicals for Climate Action)
Six theological reflections with questions for discussion.