By Natalie Vredevoogd
Beyond Stewardship is a recent publication which includes chapters written by Dr. Bjelland and Skillen from the GEO Department at Calvin. The book addresses issues of Christian stewardship in today’s world. This book is currently being sold at the Calvin bookstore and on Amazon. More information about the book can be found at this link : https://spark.adobe.com/page/4ddndTy8JoFcT/
On “Stewardship and the Kingdom of God” by Dr. James Skillen:
With his passion for the environment and the policy that governs our use of it, Dr. Skillen was a natural choice to be an author of a chapter from Beyond Stewardship. Skillen took an eschatological approach to the subject. He states that humans should strive to be stewards of nature in the way God intends. However, he argues that we are hampered in this calling by both our sinful fallen nature and our ignorance. He concludes by saying that we will inevitably cause damage to the natural systems we care for because of our own sin and because our knowledge of the systems is incomplete. He recommends using a pattern of humility in land management that allows us to regularly be reminded of our faults and constantly be thinking of how we can improve our land management and use of resources. He concludes by saying that although our stewardship is tainted through our fallen and ignorant natures, we must have the faith and humility to recognize that God will ultimately bring restoration.
Skillen was inspired to write this chapter to address the problems of sin and ignorance that go far deeper than a purely legalistic approach to stewardship of the environment. He believes that his work in Beyond Stewardship may be innovative in how it links sin and ignorance instead of viewing them as residing in separate moral and practical worlds. Although Skillen does not foresee continuing work in this vein, he plans to continue an ongoing collaborative work on a book about how reformed and catholic social teaching relates to responsibility to the environment.
Originally from Maryland, Dr. James Skillen is a graduate of Wheaton College (1996) with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science. He has an MA in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological seminary (2000). After receiving his PhD in Natural Resource Policy from Cornell University (2006), he taught at Valparaiso University. He came to teach at the GEO Department at Calvin in 2008.
On “From Stewardship to Place-Making and Place-Keeping” by Dr. Mark Bjelland:
The chapter that Professor Bjelland wrote for Beyond Stewardship takes a unique spin on the stewardship topic. He focuses on the fact that stewardship shouldn’t just apply to the natural world but that it can also apply to the “built environment” of human landscapes. He argues that God’s call to stewardship is a call for us humans to make places and care for those places.
Bjelland’s inspiration for this chapter stems from a realization in his youth. He related that he used to hate living in the city and that he idealized the natural world. He said that he “just wanted to escape to a place that was natural” and unpolluted by humans. However, he came to see that nature within cities is also valuable and that there is “beauty [in] a tree on a city street”. He argues that we humans are called to care for all places, not just the natural ones.
As a continuation of this idea, Bjelland is currently writing a book called Good Places for All which explores our call as Christians to make good places.
Dr. Mark Bjelland is originally from Minnesota. He graduated from The University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, then he went to the University of Washington to pursue his Master’s in Environmental Engineering, after which he obtained a degree in Theology and Ethics from Regent College. Bjelland completed his studies with his PhD in Geography at the University of Minnesota. Bjelland started his career as an engineering consultant (1988-1994), however he soon began teaching at Gustavus Adolphus College. He joined the Calvin GEO Department in 2013.