Yes We Should: A Book Review

Often Christians lag behind the wider cultural when it comes to social change. This is felt most acutely in the realm of the environment. Suspicions about secularism and New Age spirituality have caused many conservative Christians to dismiss the environmental movement. Advancing a controversial claim among some environmentalists, Dan Story argues that Christianity and the Bible provide the best framework for environmental stewardship.

Dan Story wrote Should Christians Be Environmentalists? with three purposes in mind.  First, he wanted to encourage environmental stewardship among Christians by providing a bible-based theological framework for creation care (11). Second, he wanted to provide an apologetic for Christian environmentalism against claims that Christianity is the ‘root cause’  of environmental problems (a thesis famously argued by Lynn White in 1967 but also several others) (11).  Lastly he wanted to encourage Christians to use their concern for creation as a point of contact for evangelism(12). Story succeeds in each of these objectives. Along the way he manages to reference a good deal of  academic literature regarding theology and the environment yet remain accessible.

The book divides into three parts. In part one, Story assesses where we are as a culture in our approach to environmental concerns. He argues that the materialist underpinnings of secular culture provides no real basis for long term environmental stewardship, he challenges the notion that Christians are responsible for environmental crisis and the notion that other religions are ‘more in tune’ with the environment. But he also makes clear that humans have made a significant impact on the earth and that we are all responsible for  mismanaging natural resources and causing damage to our world. In  part 2 he provides a Bible-based theology of nature (through the framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Stewardship. Story describes the trajectory of the Biblical story (from Eden to (re)New(ed) Earth), the way human ‘dominion’ has been misunderstood to mean exploitation rather than stewardship and how the ‘fall’ has caused us to use and abuse the earth selfishly and greedily. In part three he focuses he advocates Christian concern for the environment (from the biblical framework he just sketched).

My only  major critique of this book is the title. Certainly Story is cognizant of the fact that many Christians have been wary of the environmental movement, but this is not really a book which explores if Christians should be environmentalists. Instead it is a book which advocates strongly for creation care and stewardship of the environment from a Christian perspective, provides an apologetic for Christian involvement because of anti-Christian environmentalism and discusses the evangelistic opportunities we Christians will have if we care for the earth. Exploring whether or not a Christian should be involved in environmentalism is not an open question in this book. Story is emphatic, you should. Part of me wonders if Should Environmentalists Be Christian? would have be a more apt and provocative title.

Titles aside this is a good introduction to environmental stewardship Christian style and I happily recommend it. Because Story does write out of conservative Christian conviction, he is able to make a compelling case for Creation care to a segment of Evangelicalism which still regards environmentalism with suspicion.  This might be a good book for a book group or a church small group.

Thank you to Kregel Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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11 thoughts on “Yes We Should: A Book Review”

  1. James–thanks for the thorough review of my book. You right on track in terms of the title; I do think environmentalists should be Christians! It would benefit the church and the environment both.

    1. Thank you Dan! I have thought about your book and the conversations with friends my review sparked. I think your book helps bridge the gap for those who are suspicious of the environment because you are so careful to build your case biblically and frame your analysis theologically. So thank you for that!

  2. Just read your review of ‘In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day’, which lead me to this site. As a Christian in the environmental field, I was elated to see your review of ‘Should Christians be Environmentalists!?!’ I don’t need to go into it since it has little to do with the book but I will say God’s timing is strange and perfect, a real comfort. I was encouraged …. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for sharing Meg! I am in the Northwest which culturally values caring for the environment. I hope where you are, you have a church community which supports you in your vocation! God bless you and your work!

      1. That’s interesting – I can’t say my church supports my views, actually some are vocally opposed to environmental anything but it does leave me with the opportunity to ‘go with the flow’ of what others deem important or … to see it as a challenge and allow that atmosphere to help me discover who God truly made me to be. It’s given me plenty of time to question myself (still do at times) but I guess I’d rather question and live my life as an honest answer to those questions than never question at all. I like to think God appreciates the questioning. 🙂
        PS I use to live in MT and loved the respect of nature and awe of the outdoors found in the people. You must live in a similar area – you are so blessed!

      2. That sounds like the mark of Spiritual health! As I read my Bible I can’t think of any honest questioner which God turned aside.

        I live on the coast of Northwest Washington (on the very verge of Canada). Beautiful country. I do not know what your church is like, but I know of several evangelical authors (in addition to Dan Story) who advocate strongly for environmental care. If you are looking for supportive voices, I may be able to recommend some books (some popular level and some more academic).

      3. Ah, yes, very beautiful country. Your reccommendations, especially academic, would be much appreciated. Thanks James!

  3. Thank you for the review- this sounds like a good read. I am wary of “environmentalism” but in the extremes that some take it, and also I am for stewardship of the earth. I just don’t know how to talk about it.

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