In this provocative assessment of the world's current ecological crisis, the author of the critically acclaimed In the Beginning exposes the false assumptions underlying the conflicts between science and religion, and proposes an innovative approach to saving the planet.
Traditionally, science and religion have been thought of as two distinct and irreconcilable ways of looking at the world, and scientists have often chastised the world's religions for keeping their eyes on the heavens and paying scant attention to the destruction of Earth's precious resources and its natural wonders. In The Reenchantment of Nature, Alister McGrath, who holds doctorates in both molecular biology and divinity, challenges this long-held and dangerously misguided dichotomy.
Arguing that Christianity and other great religions have always respected and revered the bounty and beauty of the earth, McGrath calls for a radical shift in perspective. He shows that by defining the world in the narrowest of scientific terms and viewing it as a collection of atoms and molecules governed by unchanging laws and forces, we have lost our ability to appreciate nature's enchantments. In order to address the threats to our environment, he maintains, it is essential to reawaken our sense of awe and look at the world as a glorious creation, an irreplaceable gift of God.
In setting forth a new framework for the debate between science and religion on ecological theory, The Reenchantment of Nature points the way to integrating two different traditions in a sane and productive effort to rescue the natural world from its present environmental decline.
McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford and prolific author (this is his 15th title since early 2001, and another is due in October) could easily write a fine book on religion and ecology if he'd slow down long enough to eliminate repetition and to organize his material so that its content supports his stated theme. There is much to like in this apologia: its nonsectarian Christian viewpoint, the author's dual passion (he has Oxford doctorates in molecular biophysics and in theology) and his use of analogy and poetry to illustrate his points. Alas, McGrath does not focus. Although he announces that the book "is intended to bring out the strategic resources of the Christian faith for the environmental struggle" and says in the final chapter that its basic theme "suggests that we reclaim the idea of nature as God's creation and act accordingly," most chapters are neither motivational nor practical but defensive. Taking frequent shots at science writers and religion despisers Lynn White and Richard Dawkins, McGrath argues that historically it is not Christianity but prosaic, reductionistic godlessness that has led to the destruction, domination and exploitation of nature. Christians, unlike disenchanted heirs of the Enlightenment, value nature as God's creation and as a source of divine revelation, and this Christian worldview, he contends, is as intellectually respectable as any scientific theory. While Christian apologists and graduate students will find value in this scientist-cum-theologian's perspective, McGrath's material could have been more effectively presented in one well-crafted magazine article.