Book Review: From Nature to Creation
From Nature to Creation:
A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World
by Norman Wirzba
Review by Kristin Visser
In his book From Nature to Creation, Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology at Duke University, raises the question: How would our thoughts and actions change if we shifted from viewing the earth as nature to viewing it as creation? He challenges readers that more knowledge of the world is not enough; rather we must view it as “created, sustained, and daily loved by God.” As a high school science teacher I am often quick to justify the content of my course by saying that students must be knowledgeable about the world in order to best care for it. Wirzba suggests, however, that knowledge is not enough; we must learn to love the world and delight in it as God does.
When we shift to viewing the earth as creation rather than nature, not only do we come to understand the love God has for creation, we also recognize that creation is not a single, one time event, but rather a dynamic place in which God is at work. We recognize that the world is a “divine theater in which creatures are loved by God and we are invited to play a contributing role in a drama that seeks the full flourishing of all.” Wirzba calls readers to a “creaturely life” in which we see God as creator and the world as his handiwork.
Too often Christians separate nature from culture and view the natural world as a wild place removed from our everyday lives and thus not necessitating attentiveness and responsibility on our part. Additionally, we become quick to think of creation as a resource store where the needs of our consumerist lifestyle are met—ideally as cheaply and conveniently as possible. Other negative outcomes result from idolizing nature as well. For instance, we tend to place unrealistic expectations on creation that it wasn’t intended to fulfill, thus turning what was intended as a gift into a god. Basically we see creation as we want it to be, not as it actually is. Additionally, we are quick to idolize those parts of nature that we deem beautiful while ignoring other parts of God’s created world that seem less noteworthy.
In the final chapters Wirzba gives practical examples of how we idolize creation and how we can shift from using it to our advantage to delighting in it as God intended us to. While he would not go so far as to suggest that everyone should move to the country and work on a farm, he does note that we cannot relate well with creation when we are too far removed from it. Throughout history humans have sought to produce more in less space and at a greater rate. Therefore fewer people work the land and more people simply consume without recognizing the results of their actions. Not only do we want an abundance of food and natural resources, but we also want them for less and less. This has led to the earth being depleted, and causes many to view the world with blinders on—looking only for what they can get from it unaware of the effect on others who depend on the earth to meet their daily needs.
Modernity has led us to become impersonal beings. Money is used to purchase goods or services, thus eliminating our dependence on one another in relationships built on giving and gratitude. Thanksgiving, Wirzba notes, is a cure for our self-centeredness. Thankfulness is the first step in establishing a right relationship with the world as well as with one another. Wirzba’s argument helps readers view the natural world as God’s creation rather than simply nature, changing how we relate to the world around us. Additionally, the ideas he presents in From Nature to Creation gives teachers a foundation on which to build a justification for what they teach and why it matters. Wirzba suggests that we need knowledge coupled with an appreciation for the world and what God provides for us through it.
From Nature to Creation
Oct 01, 2015