Synopses & Reviews
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:26) It has become a commonplace that Biblical religion bears a heavy share of responsibility for our destruction of the environment, and this passage from the King James version of the Bible exemplifies what is generally believed to be the Biblical attitude toward the earth.
In this provocative book, however, Norman Wirzba argues that the doctrine of creation, when understood as a statement about the moral and spiritual meaning of the world, actually holds the key to a true understanding of our place in the environment and our responsibility toward it. Wirzba contends that an adequate response to environmental destruction depends on a new formulation of ourselves as part of a created whole, rather than as autonomous, unencumbered individuals. Drawing on the work of biblical scholars, ecologists, agrarians, philosophers, theologians, and cultural critics, Wirzba develops a comprehensive worldview that grows out of the idea that the world is God's creation. While the text of Genesis has historically encouraged a vision of persons as masters of creation, a more theologically and ecologically sensitive rendering, he says, would be to say that we are servants of creation. Our present culture, Wirzba believes, results from a denial of creation that has caused modern problems as diverse as rootlessness, individualism, careerism, boredom, and consumerism. The recovery of the meaning of creation can lead to a renewed sense of human identity and vocation, and happier, more peaceful lives. He concludes by offering practical advice for individuals who wish to begin the work of transformation and renewal.
Moving beyond the usual political debates, The Paradise of God presents a compelling vision of a new religious environmentalism.
"A highly readable book illustrating the best in interdisciplinary work. As such, The Paradise of God would be a fruitful study for any scholar in religious studies whose work has an environmental angle, but especially for environmentally oriented scholars in Christian theology, biblical studies, and theological ethics.--Journal of Religion
"This delightful, sophisticated book can speak to both religious and secular hearts, touching a broad audience with imagination and power."--Environmental Ethics
"This accessible, sophisticated essay in quest of theological understanding should command widespread attention."--Christian Century
"In this thoughtful and interdisciplinary work, Norman Wirzba combines scholarly insight with moral and religious conviction to make several significant contributions to the field of ecological theology."--The Journal of Religion
"The Paradise of God is a marvelous book. If you wonder how we have gotten ourselves into our ecological mess, read this book. If you wonder how Christian faith might provide healing, read this book. If you wonder what practically we can and must do, read this book. In short, all should read this book."--The Cresset
"Coherently and thoughtfully written, this book about Christian environmental ethics and theology shows a good grasp of the biological sciences and Christian theology. the book makes an important contribution to current Western reflection on these issues."-- Choice
"We are surrounded and sustained in creation by God's unfathomable gifts and kindness on every side, and our only proper response is our own attention, care, and gratitude! With joy and wonderful spirit Wirzba deepens our understanding of this great love of God for the world, and invites us to find our own joy in the joy of the whole creation. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who desires to live rightly and joyfully in God's creation." --Calvin B. DeWitt, author of Earth-Wise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues
"An impressive achievement. The deft grace with which Wirzba integrates cultural criticism, environmentalism, and theological insight is original and invigorating. The approach of this important book is to plumb the depths of our culture's formative biblical and ecological writings in order to craft a new vision of a religiously satisfying and environmentally sustainable way of life. Robustly earth-centered, The Paradise of God offers a vision of intimacy between God and nature that should enable our continued earth-healing and care for all creation." --Mark I. Wallace, author of Fragments of the Spirit: Nature, Violence, and the Renewal of Creation
"One of the reasons this is such an important book is that it recovers voices from the Bible about our human vocation that have been too long overlooked. By listening to these voices carefully, and by comparing them to recent ecological wisdom, Norman Wirzba revises our most basic presuppositions about our position in the world. He shifts our self understanding from steward to servant, arguing that such an understanding--both ancient and modern, both scientific and scriptural--is the only path to a healthy society in a healthy creation." --Theodore Hiebert, author of The Yahwist's Landscape: Nature and Religion in Early Israel
"This is an important and original book that will surely help us rethink how religious and ecological thought can be placed in a more fruitful dialogue. To integrate insight from agrarian and Christian theological perspectives into a single coherent vision of religious-ecological responsibility is a brave and imaginative achievement." --Douglas Burton-Christie, author of The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism
About the Author
is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Georgetown College in Kentucky. He is the editor of The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry
(2002) and The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and the Land