God's Own Green Paradise: New Zealand Churches and the
by H.H. Miskotte, pub.
Shaker Publishing B.V.
St. Maartenlaan 26,
6221 AX Maastricht, The Netherlands
Sea of Faith Network New Zealand Newsletter 25
by Rinny Westra
In 1993, Mans Miskotte, Professor of Practical Theology at the
University of Amsterdam, spent six monmths in New Zealand
researching the relations between "mainstream" N.Z. churches
(Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist) and the
environmental movement. He did this by conducting scores of
interviews with church members, ministers, priests, and
theologians, while at the same time travelling through and
experiencing the full impact of N.Z.'s magnificant landscape and
environment. The results of his research are gathered up in
The book is, in my opinion, a "must" for all N.Z. church people,
whether environmentally-inclined or not. It presents the view
of an "outsider" and yet an outsider who met and conversed with
numerous ordinary kiwis both inside and outside the churches.
It reflects us back to ourselves both positively and
critically, and raises important questions not just about our
environmental commitments but also about our theology and our
Some interesting questions emerge from his research:
What are the theological perspectives that we bring to our
While some (especially in the Anglican Church), operate from a
Christ-centred and incarnational perspective, much theological
reflection on the environment seems to start from an abstract
philosophical approach and then tries to fit biblical insights
into that. Should it not be the other way around?
Miskotte writes of "a severe underestimation of the importance
of the Old Testament for all Christian theology" (p.186) in N.Z.
Is our theological training sufficient to enable students to
come to grips with a "theology of nature"?
What about the role of Maori spirituality ... how do we
interpret the acknowledgement of Tane Mahuta, Tangaroa, and
Papatuanuku by Maori Church people?
Miskotte has written this book in English, which is not his
first language. That is an amazing thing to do for someone who
thinks in Dutch. The result is "Dutch English" and one needs
to keep that in mind as one reads the book. But it is not a
difficult book to read in fact its "Dutchness" makes it all the
The book is a sympathetic study of where the N.Z. churches are
at in relation to the environment and we do well to receive
this as an unsolicited gift and challenge as we prepare to move
into the third millenium.
Rinny Westra [abridged]