Serve God, Save The Planet: A Christian Call To Action, by Matthew Sleeth
It may not be a charitable tendency of mine, but I tend to feel a great deal more comfortable when I understand where a writer is coming from. There is a great deal about Sleeth’s writing that I can appreciate, and I find that I appreciate his writing and approach a lot more when I think of him as a paleoconservative, of an agrarian sort even, with a strong interest in protecting creation from the exploitation of soulless consumerism than when I place him among adherents of the social gospel. Sleeth’s writing is a good example how some contemporary dualities of politics break down in the face of an understanding of where the author is coming from, and that is definitely for the best in this case. The author is attempting to encourage a high degree of concern for God’s creation among those who may not think very highly of left-wing social gospels, but who would think higher of a more old-fashioned conservatism that was tied to a concern for God’s creation, in which the author’s interest in the Sabbath fits in beautifully and where his career as a doctor makes perfect sense.
Overall the book is about 200 pages and is divided rather straightforwardly into chapters. After a foreword, the book begins with a discussion about Genesis (1) and the importance of prevention in helping to preserve the world (2). After that the author makes a Christian case for caring about the state of the earth (3) and comments on the fact that God is ultimately the owner of earth while we are only its stewards (4). The author discusses the importance of moving from faith to works (5) and comments on the cluttered nature of our lives (6). This leads to a discussion of the Sabbath (7), the failures of television (8), and the need for steward parents to raise servant children (9) as well as the importance of good food (10). The author then looks at the question of housing (11), the wonders of life (12) from his career as a doctor, the importance of power and light (13), and the need to do no harm (14) to God’s creation. The author makes some unwise speculations on population control, at least not supporting abortion (15), before closing the main part of the book with a discussion about God’s love (16). The book also contains five appendices, including an energy audit (i), stewardship one appliance at a time (ii), an earth care to-do list (iii), some quotes from notable Christians on caring for creation (iv), and some excerpts from an Evangelical climate initiative (v).
It is easy to see in this book where the author is sound and where he is unsound. He is sound when pointing back to the Bible and critiquing the restless and cluttered and over-stuffed nature of our contemporary lives. However, the author errs in his adoption of leftist climate change and population control rhetoric, since he evidently does not understand the way that the Earth itself is able to counteract the sort of changes in ocean temperature and air temperature that most concern environmentalists and that would make it a good thing for mankind to reheat the earth by cooking with coal. Likewise, the author seems to lack faith that God can and will provide for a world that was devoted to raising godly offspring and fulfilling the dominion mandate. Despite these notable shortcomings, though, for the most part the concern the author has for the earth springs from older roots in the Bible and in the conservation methods of earlier generations who viewed God’s creation with gratitude and wonder rather than a ruthless desire to ruin and exploit such as we see at present.