Thursday, September 23, 2010

‘Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet’ by Jonathan Merritt – Book Review and Giveaway of Three Copies

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For far too long, Christians have not embraced the preservation of God’s Creation, His earth. In his debut book, ‘Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet,’ Jonathan Merritt makes a convincing case, using Scripture, to show that we need to be more proactive in keeping His Creation as pristine as we can.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Accompany one pilgrim on a spiritual expedition from enviro-ambivalent to standing at the forefront of the green movement in the church. Jonathan Merritt confronts tough questions dividing America and the faith community while exploring God’s plan for restoration. He shares his journey in the hope that you, too, will unlock the divine plan for our planet.

Here is the biography of this author:

Jonathan Merritt is a faith and culture writer who has published more than one hundred articles in respected national publications as USA Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Newsweek’s “On Faith” blog, and Relevant, HomeLife, Outreach, and Charisma magazines. As a respected Christian voice, he has been interviewed by ABC World News, NPR, PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
Jonathan first began speaking out on the divine plan for our planet after a classroom epiphany prompted him to organize a national coalition of Christian leaders who care about creation, founding the Southern Baptist Environmental and Climate Initiative. Jonathan  holds a bachelor of science degree from Liberty University, a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a master of theology degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Jonathan is a sought-after speaker for colleges, seminaries, churches, and conferences on cultural and religious issues. He resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

And here is Jonathan on CNN being interviewed about the issue of the environment and evangelical Christians:

In the Introduction, Mr. Merritt says that we need to work together as the Body of Christ in order for the world to be a better place:

As we work together to solve our world’s many problems, we release redemptive power into the world. When we choose to live responsibly and sustainably, we bring hope to those whom our lifestyles affect. When faith enters the environmental conversation, simple issues become inspiring missions. When we become green like God, everything changes….
But where do we begin? As an editorial in Christianity Today put it, “The Bible is not the enemy of the environmental cause, but its greatest asset.” Christianity has the most compelling religious narrative known to man, and that is why this book begins where it begins – with a study of the Scriptures. In the pages that follow, we will encounter a divine plan for this plan, a plan I never knew existed. We will come face-to-face with mind-blowing problems all over the globe. Together we will survey the past as we search the Scriptures for God’s heart. Then we will fast-forward to the future and consider those who will live on this earth long after you and I are dead, buried, and forgotten. When the church starts preaching and promoting the stewardship principles found in Scripture, humanity can really begin to solve the environmental problems.
God’s people are on the move, and this book is your personal invitation to join in. The creation care movement views our world through God’s eyes. Its sees our environmental crisis primarily as biblical and moral issues rather than economic, sociological, or political. The creation care movement seeks to honor God’s heart for this planet and the people on it.
I’ve fallen in love with our green God. My prayer is that you will do the same while reading this book. (pp. xiv-xv)

Jonathan’s eyes were open to the way God viewed the environment in a theology class in seminary. He explains it this way:

Dr. Hammett was talking about the ways God communicates with humans. “There are two forms of divine revelation: the special revelation in Scripture that is able to lead us to salvation and the general revelation we receive through nature. Both are from God,” he declared over a scarred oak lectern. “So when we destroy creation, which is God’s revelation, it’s similar to tearing a page out of the Bible.”
Wham! Wap! Bang! Like an action sequence from the old Batman show, I took one straight on the chin. Up until that moment, I hadn’t been a friend of creation. I never recycled, and energy conservation was inconsequential. Although I never vocalized it, I believed it was okay for others to struggle a little as long as I prospered.  Prior to my classroom jolt, I remember tossing crumpled fast-food bags out of the windows of my speeding blue Pontiac thinking I was being bold and cute. When people in my car called me for being destructive, I laughed. I often describe myself as a recovering anti-environmentalist. (p. 2)

Jonathan felt as though God has a special calling for him:

The discrepancy between Christians’ attitudes toward environmental problems and God’s plan inspired and motivated me. I felt compelled to do something, to play the part I felt God chose for me.
Great writers become tour guides, leading me along the path to environmental reality. I was astonished at the vastness of human-caused problems throughout the world, but more importantly, I was shocked at how blinded I had been to them until now. Living in a wealthy, first-world nation has sheltered me from the global problems that devastate billions of citizens of our planet. Living well above the poverty line has secluded me from many of the same problems afflicting less-privileged Americans. After my classroom epiphany, I feel impelled to act. (p. 7)

Jonathan speculates on why people don’t understand what God thinks about His planet:

One reason many do not know the divine plan for our planet is they do not understand the Bible. The Bible holds the answer to many of life’s most important questions – including the most important question regarding eternity – but every answer to every technical question isn’t found there. (p. 27)

It is important that we understand God’s place in creation:

By affirming God’s place both before and after creation, we are also able to reject the popular new age and pantheistic streams of thought that claim nature is God and vice versa. God and nature are not blended together like a strawberry-banana smoothie so that one element is indistinct from the other. As the Anglican scholar N.T. Wright says, “God and the world are not the same thing, nor is everything simply held within something called ‘god.’ Within biblical theology it remains the case that the one living God created a world that is other than Himself, not contained within Himself.” (pp. 29-30)

God has given us an incredible responsibility:

As God gave dominion to Israelite kings, we have been given limited authority over the natural world. We don’t have carte blanche power, but rather the privilege of responsibly enjoying the world’s many benefits and resources. This earthly domain is to be a place where God reigns above all. Every creature is to be treated with care. Humans are given the task of ruling the earth as “benevolent kings.” (p. 46)

Jonathan particularly loves this characteristic of God:

Of all the things I’ve grown to love most about God, topping the list is that He is so unexpected. Parting the Red Sea? Who would have predicted that one? Feeling a crowd from a child’s lunch box? No way. Wrapping His only Son in human flesh? No one but God can take such eccentricity and squeeze out such profundity. Throughout Scripture, God shows up in strange and surprising ways. It is a mistake, however, to find only wonderment.
If I am not careful, I’ll read these stories with fascination but never distill the transcendent elements. As clichéd as it sounds, everything God does is purposeful. In every surprising story is truth about God, His character, and His plans. But I must be willing to savor each passage long enough to discover what God wants to communicate. This is especially true in the narrative-rich Old Testament where we run into floating ax heads, talking donkeys, burning bushes, and dry fleeces on wet grass. (p. 57)

God has given us (at least) two ways to learn of Him:

Christians believe that God has written two books: world and Word. These books – nature and the Bible – are different in both form and function. Through creation, we know about God, but through the Bible, we can know God. We have access to God’s glory through the world around us, but we have access to God’s grace in salvation through the Bible. Both books are powerful and should be revered. The revelation of God through creations is so powerful and so obvious, Paul says that no one is excused for refusing to believe our Creator exists. The world is God’s apologetic about Himself. (p. 73)

Jonathan urges us to connect with God in nature:

Force yourself to take a moment and go where no one can find you. I have used the Blue Ridge Parkway when the leaves were changing for autumn, the front porch of a vacant house when the year’s first snow was falling, and even a local park no more than ten square acres. The season doesn’t matter and neither does the expanse as long as you are immersed in nature. Turn off your phone. Once you get there, turn off your MP3 player too. Be silent. Take Psalm 46:10 seriously: “Be still and know that I am God.” Ponder the things around you; ponder God. I guarantee the experience will do your heart and mind much good. It will make you more reverent, more grateful, and more aware of the One who stands behind the creation calling you to Himself. (p. 77)

I know that I often feel closest to God when I am out in His creation and am not distracted by man-made things that keep me from Him.

One of the arguments Christians use to reject environment issues is “Creation Care Distracts Us From More Important Tasks.” Jonathan refutes this idea:

Creation care speaks to people in developing nations where people have a greater connection to nature in everyday life. Creation care is a bridge for the gospel in these places. But it also bolsters the gospel in the Western world where many people know of, if not respect, Jesus. People aren’t as connected with creation in these places, but they are often more familiar with Christianity. The whole world is increasingly equating an externally focused, sustainable, earth-friendly lifestyle with what it means to be a “good person.” When the world see the Christian community perpetuating systems of wealth and waste, its damages our witness. When they see us living compassionate, sustainable lives, our witness becomes authentic and convincing. (p. 91)

In the United States, we are all culpable for our excesses:

Shameless consumerism drives life in America. We have permitted a culture that rushes through the graceful holiday of Thanksgiving to celebrate the High Holy Day of Mindless Consumerism. This comes at a high price, not merely measured in graphs, charts, gross domestic products, and dissertations by students at Harvard Business School. It is paid for with the natural resources that we have harvested to feed our insane consumer habits. It is paid for with the useless land destruction and results in the mountainous piles of waste we produce. (p. 129)

Making changes for our environment is our calling:

Transformation, redemption, compassion, and creation care are not options for us; they are our calling. Along with creation care are poverty and justice, hunger and war. Hurting orphans and hungry grandmothers wait for us to raise our voices. God’s Word demands that we minister in culture, politics, and media. Everyday we wake up and are faced with a choice to do nothing or make a difference. We either ignore the desire of God’s heart for our world or embrace it. Let’s clinch the task God has given us and transform this place called Earth into a garden where the creation will sing hymns about the Creator and the gospel of Jesus Christ will flourish. (p. 156)

Included in the wonderful resource are Guidelines for A Greener Life (Appendix 1). Appendix 2 is ‘The Big, Bad Climate Question,’ which addresses the divisive issue of climate change, aka global warming. There is also a list of useful websites and other books on this subject.  

I have to admit that, although I have always loved the Great Outdoors, it had been a long time since I have considered myself ‘a tree hugger.’ I think I am coming full circle. It is clear to me that Christians have gone too far to the other extreme to fight the extremism on the other side. The issue has become more political than it should have been. That seems to be the general trend – to go so far to the other side of the people you disagree with that you are just as extreme as they are. I think that is a disservice to God. And the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexican has opened my eyes again to the damage that multi-national corporations do to our planet in the name of profit and the bottom line. I am certain it grieves the heart of God.

I am so glad that God has revealed the truth of how important the Earth is to Him to Jonathan. And I am also glad that Jonathan has been brave enough to disseminate this message so widely. He has withstood a lot of ridicule, and he should be applauded for being so obedient to the Lord’s leading. It is encouraging to see a twenty-something who is interested in God and others.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by FaithWords, a division of the Hachette Book Group, and provided by them for review and giveaway purposes.

I have three copies of this impactful book that I would love to send along to three winners! 

There are several ways to gain entry:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog, sharing with us an action that you take in your family to protect the environment; we would love to possibly implement your idea! Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.

2) Follow me on Twitter; I will more than likely follow you back!  If you are already a Twitter follower, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

3) Follow me as a Google Friend on this blog; if you are already a Friend, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

4) Become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

5) Follow this blog as a NetWorked Blog Follower after you’ve become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

So there are five chances to enter!  Please limit one entry per option.

This giveaway is for U.S. AND Canadian residents only.  The deadline for entry is Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator  on Friday, October 8, 2010 and will be contacted via email.  The best to all of you! 


Andrea said...

Blessings and prayers,

Paris said...

Sounds like an awesome book!

I'm a follower:)

hendy said...

The main thing we do to protect the enviornment is we recycle (and pay for it). We also turn off the sinks while brushing our teeth to conserve water.
hmhenderson AT yahoo DOT com

hendy said...

I follow via GFC as hendy
hmhenderson AT yahoo DOT com

The Green MomSter said...

We recycle all that our county allows us to, compost food and paper scraps and stopped using paper towels.

elkmeese at gmail dot com

The Green MomSter said...

gfc follower Lindsie

elkmeese at gmail dot com

Emma said...

I'm a new follower.We recycle. This book sound wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you

Charity said...

I would love to be entered in this giveaway. We always try to recycle and use things more than once in our household. Don't throw away the plastic bags, we can use them for something else and the packages we get in, we always re-use them. Please enter me in this giveaway. Thanks for the chance at winning it!


Charity said...

I already follow you on Twitter-kingsdaughter24


Charity said...

I am also a GFC follower:)


kim cornett said...

SO I missed this one for the book on Environment.. but I am big on environment as I believe although everything is temp other than eternity, that we are called to be caretakers of all that we are given. As you know we are FACEBOOK friends, and twitters.. and I will have to sign up for the blog now! yeah! kimba!

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