by Patricia K. Tull
Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 193 pages
Reviewed by SUSAN GILBERT ZENCKA
When I first heard about Patricia K. Tull’s recent book, I wondered whether another book on Christians and the environment was really needed. Having read it now, I am convinced that this book is an engaging and important one that can be enjoyed by a variety of people from the curious to the committed (regarding either the environment or the Bible!).
Tull writes as a biblical scholar (she is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary) and her thorough grounding in biblical scholarship means that the book is not an environmental treatise scattered with occasional proof texts. Instead, it is a thoughtful exploration about how the Bible understands the relationship between humans and the earth, letting the Bible converse with farmers, with science and with contemporary culture. The result is a book that is perfect for Christians wondering about the environment; for environmentalists curious about a Biblical perspective; for adult study groups looking for an accessible book that will spark conversation about the Bible, the environment and our obligations; and for individuals who are seeking guidance in shaping their own approaches to personal stewardship of the earth.
Noting that the book has study and reflection questions, I gathered a small group of adults to study a couple of chapters together. These adults had long commitments to environmental work, some also with farming experience; yet they all learned new things about how much the Bible can teach us about stewardship for the earth. While they have all long been active in environmental work, they found the reflection questions to be engaging and inspiring for novices or for the convinced. And although these readers were already well-read
on environmental issues, they wanted to read more than we had for our study session. They also thought that “Inhabiting Eden” would be an appropriate introduction to earth care and faith issues for people of diverse backgrounds.
Tull addresses a wide variety of issues, including consumerism, agriculture (both crops and animals), food issues, climate change, sin, hope and individual stewardship. She includes one of the best introductory explanations of climate change I have found. It is easy and delightful to read, both informing and inspiring for those who wish to learn about the environment, the Bible and then consider how to personally respond. Implicit in the book is the assumption that faithful individuals will want to respond to important issues and will want to be guided by God’s Word and science as they do.
The book is gentle in tone, sharing information and letting readers intelligently and faithfully make their
own life decisions. Often when I read books about the state of the earth, I feel guilty and ashamed for not doing enough. After reading Tull’s book, I felt empowered to do more. I think people are more effective when they feel empowered than when they feel ashamed. I am very grateful to have this inspiring book to share with people inside and outside of the church. “Inhabiting Eden” is an ideal book to introduce people to environmental issues, and to the wisdom of the Bible about earth care.
SUSAN GILBERT ZENCKA is pastor of Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She is past president of the board of Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light and is a founding member of Interfaith Community for the Earth in Stevens Point.