The environment: God said it was good (A book review of “A Different Shade of Green” by Dr. Gordon Wilson)

Oct 22, 2019 | Tim

It is “good”

In Genesis 1, after God created everything he called it “good”. 

In a sense, Dr. Gordon Wilson’s book A Different Shade of Green could simply be over 100 pages of that quote written on every page. In a book about environmentalism, Dr. Wilson’s tone seems to juxtapose what we usually hear. In the news, every single day, we are confronted with doomsday reports about climate change, habitat destruction, and a myriad of other things humans are doing to destroy our world. 

In A Different Shade of Green however, the tone is much more hopeful and enjoyable. Dr. Wilson seems to want to change our desires, motivating us with a love for God’s creation, rather than a fear-driven self-conservation approach towards environmentalism. Dr. Wilson teaches on the dominion mandate that we find in Genesis 1:25, when God gives man “dominion” over the earth. There is much debate about what that dominion actually entails. Some Christians think it means we can do whatever we want to the world without consequences. However, Dr. Wilson points out that there are always consequences for abusing authority. He, instead, points us to Jesus and how he serves people through his sacrifice and is nourishing and cherishing the church (Eph. 5:25-30). 

Dr. Wilson teaches on the dominion mandate that we find in Genesis 1:25, when God gives man “dominion” over the earth.

There are a myriad of attitudes Christians take towards environmentalism. Dr. Wilson outlines a few stereotypes—ranging from being avidly against environmentalism to fiercely in favour of it, as we see it in the news. Most Christians probably fit somewhere in the middle of the environmental spectrum, often falling ignorant or apathetic. It’s really hard to keep up with the debate when some people say that we’re completely fine and others say the world will end in our lifetime. 

Who’s right? Is it even worth the effort to find out? 

Dr. Wilson encourages us to comb the Scriptures and think critically when it comes to the dominion mandate. “As Christians, we should want to take dominion responsibly not ignorantly and recklessly” (pg. 76). 

It’s really hard to keep up with the debate when some people say that we’re completely fine and others say the world will end in our lifetime.

How to value the created world

A good place to start is with gratitude. We often spend dangerously few moments pondering how God uses creation to sustain our lives every day. “Think of the chain of events that produced the food and brought the food to you and thank God. He created the animals and plants that provide us with our food and so much more, but He also sovereignly orchestrates every step along the long and convoluted way to our mouths, clothing, and homes” (pg. 25). 

You will not be able to read this book without hearing that God said that everything was very good. Dr. Wilson repeats this quote from Genesis 1 over and over again in order to drive home the point that if God made something that makes it valuable. Today, a common environmentalist buzzword is “sustainability”. This means giving back to the earth as you take from it. Tree planting is a great example of sustainability. When we cut down a tree we just replace it with a new one. 

Dr. Wilson, however, encourages us to move beyond sustainability into something richer:

“Therefore, what God says is very good is worth conserving. But conserving is not enough. Since the God of the universe said it was very good, it’s worth cherishing” (pg 38). 

When God says that something is valuable that means it’s worth not only our time and effort but our joy and delight as well. 

Beyond activism 

Environmentalism tends to focus on the outward behaviours of people as the problem and solution. We, as humans, have polluted, over-hunted, and overdeveloped the earth so we need to fix it through our behaviour. While this might be true, Dr. Wilson takes us deeper into the root cause of our apathy and ignorance towards the environment:

“Activism consists of vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. It is all about external political coercion, while the Gospel is about internal transformation” (pg. 169).

Dr. Wilson, like the gospel, aims for the heart. The root problem is not our outward behaviour, but the posture of our hearts away from God. Our sin is what shapes our behaviours and it’s the gospel that can rid us of that sin. 

Dr. Wilson often quotes Francis Schaeffer who says, “If I love the Lover, I love what the Lover has made” (Pollution and the Death of Man, pg. 93). If we love God then we will love what he has made. We will cherish the earth and everything in it. We won’t want to waste it or destroy it. We won’t even just want to sustain or conserve it. If we love what God has made we will want to help it thrive, even the not so cute and cuddly parts: 

“What matters is what God proclaimed after day 6. We might not think this or that creature is particularly useful, particularly pretty, particularly interesting (we might not know it even exists), but we do know it has absolute value simply because God made it and said it was good” (pg.21).

If we love what God has made we will want to help it thrive.

Dr. Wilson writes his book in a way that intends to capture the heart of the reader. You won’t feel despair or urgency when you read this book. Rather, you will hopefully gain a deeper love and curiosity for creation.

A Different Shade of Green points us towards our own hearts, convicts us of a lack of love for creation, and helps us to move forward, relying on the grace of Jesus to give us an affection for creation that will lead to renewed individual behaviours and eventually larger, systemic reforms. 

But will the trickle-down effect of individual affection for creation really work? Will it enough people experience a heart change, to lead to individual behaviour change, and thus lead to larger systemic change in time to protect and conserve our world from degradation and human impact? 

It’s impossible to assess fully. But starting with our hearts, and starting within ourselves, is often the only thing we CAN do tangibly. We can’t just flip a switch and convince the world, policy makers, politicians, and the media to be unified in valuing creation care. Our hearts need to align with God’s when it comes to loving and caring for our world, and we can encourage others to do the same. 

Dr. Wilson knows that the only way to change the world, and make a difference in the environment, is to start with the transforming power of a grace that will change our hearts. He’s willing to leave behind fear, guilt, or shame as motivation, and as Power to Change – Students, so are we. 

Interested in learning more? Here are a variety of resources from different viewpoints: 

Check our Dr. Gordon Wilson’s book A Different Shade of Green and his documentary film, The Riot and the Dance

Read our article “Climate change and the Christian” 

Watch this video from PragerU called “Climate Change: What do Scientists Say?” 

Watch Katharine Hayhoe’s TED talk on climate change. (She’s joining us at P2C PLUS this year too!)

Check out more articles on Creation Care from Christianity Today.

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About the Author

Tim

Tim loves discovering how the gospel applies to everyday experiences. He enjoys sports, history, and reading. Sometimes all at once. He works with Power to Change – Students in campus ministry alongside his wife, Sarah.

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