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Christian slant on vital issues


By Robert Barry Leal, St Pauls, $29.95

Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC

MUCH has been written on environmental issues from a secular (and often purely ideological) point of view, which is assumed by some people to be the only worthwhile approach.

In cogently arguing for a specifically Christian perspective in which wonder and enchantment have their place, Barry Leal’s new book provides a necessary corrective.

It nicely complements his earlier volume, The Environment and Christian Faith: An Introduction to Ecotheology, and reveals the same admirable qualities.

Through Ecological Eyes is an interesting and highly informative work which bears the impress of an original and imaginative thinker.

Making good use of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, it presents in logical sequence in nine wide-ranging chapters, 29 thematically grouped reflections.

The writing is clear, gender inclusive and, revealing its homiletic origins, somewhat conversational in tone.

Mercifully free of gobbledegook and technical language, it should not make heavy demands on the author’s stated audience�educated lay readers.

There is much in Barry Leal’s text that challenges even as it illuminates – the ecological implications of the Incarnation, the linking of the whole natural world with God’s covenant love, the connection between ecology and the Sabbath, the exposure of the false dichotomy between ecology and social justice, the acknowledgment of the rights of future generations, the imaginative treatment of Jesus’ parables from an environmental viewpoint, and the biblical reflections on the four elements (water, earth, air and fire).

I especially liked the writer’s critique, supported by diagrams, of the hierarchical and anthropocentric approach to creation (dominance) versus the “web of life” approach (interdependence).

The richness of the book’s content is implicit in its chapter and sectional headings which point to topics as diverse as the theological importance of water; the ecological wisdom of Job; ecological aspects of the Prodigal Son; the Christian tradition as represented by Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer; animals, birds and vegetation in the Bible; and Jesus and the natural world.

Readers of Through Ecological Eyes should find it personally enlightening. It is an excellent book which could also be used with profit by a study group and by teachers and homilists as a resource.

Suggestions for further reading are included in a brief bibliography.

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