Sunday, August 22, 2010

Where are the Christian nature writers?

For a long time I've been looking for something that doesn't appear to exist: Christian nature books. We love reading natural history books - authors like Edwin Way Teale, Jim Arnosky, Bernd Heinrich - and enjoy their books so much. My kids still love me to read those sorts of books to them. But I wonder why there are no nature books from a Christian point of view?

While going through a box of books yesterday I came across something I'd forgotten: John Stott's The Birds our Teachers. This is a small book inspired by references to birds in the Bible and full of beautiful pictures of birds. Short chapters make it a natural for devotional reading - I'm going to start reading it to my family this morning.

You see, He is making the birds our school-masters and teachers... in other words, we have as many teachers and preachers as there are little birds in the air. - Martin Luther in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, 1521

The chapters focus on a particular attribute and a bird that the author (who coined the term "orni-theology") links to it: "The Feeding of Ravens: Faith," "The Metabolism of Hummingbirds: Work," "The Song of Larks: Joy." Photographs and bird facts a sprinkled throughout.

It's a book anyone in the family can enjoy and browse through. Young children aren't going to "get it" reading it on their own but they would enjoy the beautiful bird pictures.

In the introduction the author expresses my complaint:
As a matter of fact, Scripture bids us go beyond birds and include in our interest everything God has made: "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by al who delight in them." (Psalm 11:2 NRSV) Since "the works of the Lord" refer to his works of both creation and redemption, it seems to me that nature study and Bible study should go together. Many Christians have a good doctrine of redemption, but need a better doctrine of creation. We ought to pursue at least one aspect of natural history.
This book is out of print, but I saw it on Ebay and I have no idea how we came to own it! I'm glad it turned up yesterday.

Have you found any Christian nature writers?


wayside wanderer said...

I used to have this book but I have no idea what happened to it. You are so right about not many Christian nature writers. Seems very wrong, doesn't it? Maybe that is something we can do when our children grow up. :D

Aiming4Simple said...

Luci Shaw writes beautiful poems inspired by nature. I'd love to read more of her poems.