Green Like God

Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet


By Jonathan Merritt

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ebook (Digital original)


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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 21, 2010. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

In Green Like God, Jonathan Merritt gently and insightfully observes that the bible has a lot to say about environmental problems like unclean water, material waste, over consumption, air pollution, and global warming. In fact, Jonathan writes that “in the book of Genesis, God went green and never looked back.” Relying heavily on scripture, Jonathan gives the case for green living, but not because it’s trendy and hip. Rather, it’s part of living rightly as a believer. It’s an act of obedience to our Creator-God.

Green Like God is at once practical, prescriptive, and conversational in tone. The author looks at a number of trends with tips to help the reader wade into the world of creation care living. An appendix includes suggestions of things we can do. In addition, the book includes interviews with everyday Christians to tell the story of the journey to environmental stewardship among people of faith.

This is the book that Christians are longing for and need today. Written for a new generation of Christians who are struggling with how to deal with the important issue of creation-care and green living, Green Like God is both highly relevant and theologically sound. It will have a profound impact on how Christians live and interact with the world today.



Books are often written in seclusion, but they are never the result of only one person's work. The ideas are often born out of community and then shaped by people God has placed in one's life. I want to express gratitude to all the people who helped nurture and shape this project. Many thanks to the following:

God. You are awesome. If I live a thousand lifetimes, I will never understand why You choose to bless me. I'm eternally thankful.

My family—Mom, Dad, James, Joshua—for encouraging me, supporting me, and pretending to be interested in every travel guide and book review I published along the way.

Erik Wolgemuth and everyone at Wolgemuth and Associates for working hard on this project to find it a good home and allowing me to drive you crazy with e-mails and phone calls during the process.

Joey Paul, Holly Halverson, Whitney Luken, Shanon Stowe, and the entire FaithWords team for taking a chance on a first-time author and being so great to work with.

Adrienne Ingrum, my editor, for bleeding all over my manuscript and taking the time to help me hone my craft.

Margaret Feinberg for being an amazing friend and mentor who selflessly taught me about what it means to be a writer of integrity, quality, and character. Thanks for challenging me to keep pushing when I was willing to settle for second best. There's a bit of your wisdom on every page.

Rusty Pritchard for teaching me everything I know about creation care and modeling the divine plan through the way you live your life.

Danny Akin for being a wise mentor who helped me discover my calling. You weren't afraid to tell me when I was wrong and lovingly guide me back to the right path. I'm so thankful.

Mark and Janet Sweeney for giving me a lifetime of knowledge about the publishing industry.

Everyone who listened to me read hours upon hours of my work and gave me thoughtful feedback: Lindsie Yancey, Katie Corbett, Jennifer McKay, Culvette Kunze, John and Ashley Welborn, Garet Robinson, Ryan Reid, Courtney Fahey, Ritchie Thurman, Sarah Manahan, Clayton Shaw, and Catherine Mileson.

All my teachers, mentors, editors, and encouragers who helped and inspired me over the years. Especially Larissa Arnault, John Hammett, Jim Jewell, Dean Inserra, Gabe Lyons, Mark Liederbach, Roxanne Wiemann, Corene Israel, David Gushee, Charles Detwiler, Leif Oines, Don Drollinger, Katie Paris, Joel Hunter, and Tyler Wigg-Stevenson.

For all the friends I left off this list and will remember in horror at 3 a.m…. I love you.



I fell in love with our green God in an unlikely place: theology class. Seminary was an unlikely place because it's not typically where people fall in love—fall asleep, maybe, but not in love. Seminary has a tendency to be dull and heady, which has earned it the nickname "cemetery" among many. But my professors' passions energized me. History and theology were an invitation to me. I heard Martin Luther pounding nails into the Wittenberg Church door, I smelled the fragrance of atoning sacrifices burning on ancient altars, and I sat in horror with Mary at the foot of the cross. I developed an ever-deepening love for God during those years, but nowhere was this truer than in my theology classes.

Typical academic advice says that you should rotate professors each semester of theology to expose yourself to various perspectives, but I couldn't tear myself away from Dr. John Hammett. He was humble and fair. He was brilliant. Each class seemed to trim the hedge of my mind so that I left a bit raw and more refined. But one class trumped them all.

Dr. Hammett was talking about the ways God communicates with humans. "There are two forms of divine revelation: the special revelation in Scripture that is able to lead us to salvation and the general revelation we receive through nature. Both are from God," he declared over a scarred oak lectern. "So when we destroy creation, which is God's revelation, it's similar to tearing a page out of the Bible."

Wham! Wap! Bang! Like an action sequence from the old Batman show, I took one straight on the chin. Up until that moment, I hadn't been a friend of creation. I never recycled, and energy conservation was inconsequential. Although I never vocalized it, I believed that it was okay for others to struggle a little as long as I prospered. Prior to my classroom jolt, I remember tossing crumpled fast-food bags out of the windows of my speeding blue Pontiac thinking I was being bold and cute. When people in my car called me out for being destructive, I laughed. I often describe myself as a recovering anti-environmentalist.

As I sat in that theology class, God changed me. He began shifting my perspective and replacing it with His own. He stretched out His hand and grabbed hold of my heart. My mind returned to those destructive moments, and I felt God convict me of the sins of pride and selfishness.

Since then, God and I have had chats and encounters that have shaped me and moved my faith from belief to action. His surprising opinions about creation have leapt off my Bible's pages from Genesis to Revelation. His voice has nudged me to make personal lifestyle changes that I previously thought were reserved only for granola-eating, hairy-legged hippies. He has given me a passion for sharing His heart for creation—not as an "environmentalist" but as someone who is searching for God's heart on these issues. He has opened doors for me to share with others in an attempt to build bridges.

I am just a regular "Joe" struggling to live out the whole Christian thing in an increasingly complex and broken world. I've never handcuffed myself to a tree, and you probably won't catch me wearing hemp anytime soon. You'd find some eco-hypocrisy in my life if you looked for it. I sometimes drive when I could easily walk, and I don't always choose the green option at the grocer. The trunk of my car teems with reusable canvas shopping bags, but I often forget them and am too lazy to go back.

I take a different approach. I won't attempt to make you feel guilty for having multiple children or eating meat or try to shock you with pictures of smokestacks and demolished rain forests. I won't bore you with "50 tips for greener living." This book is about the One behind the environment. It is as much about the Creator as the creation.

I am sharing my experience with this green God in the spirit that George Will penned Restoration—as a convert to a way of thinking with which I previously disagreed. I write as someone who has reflected on what Scripture says about all the things I see around me, attempting to listen attentively to the beat of God's heart. My journey in search of those divine palpitations began in seminary, but it became an ongoing mission to rediscover God's word and reevaluate God's world.

I am sharing my experience with this green God in the spirit that George Will penned Restoration—as a convert to a way of thinking with which I previously disagreed.


When I look around me and see God's creation, the wonderment drives me to know Him more intimately. The way God has shaped mountains and provided ways to sustain life turns my attention to the artist who put it all together. Even His provision for mankind to eat from earth's bounty makes me hungry for Him. I want to crawl inside His mind and know what He was thinking when He fashioned it all. I want to ask Him what He thinks about all our environmental problems, and if He has a plan for how we should tackle them.

  • Has God spoken about the nature of His creation?
  • Does God have a plan for the environment?
  • Is there a role He wants us to play?
  • Is God really concerned about how we use His creation or if we abuse it?
  • Did God make the earth solely as a resource to be consumed, or does it have inherent value worthy of preservation?
  • Where does Jesus fit into all this stuff?

Finding the answers to these questions is indescribably valuable to me. When I purchase an important product that comes with a user's manual written by the inventor himself, I take some time to read it. The God who created everything has a plan for this planet, and I want to know what it is. I want to let the Creator's intentions and desires lead me on important environmental issues.

Many approach environmental concerns primarily from a human perspective. Although their opinions are helpful, they aren't supremely important. We face unprecedented environmental crises today, and we need an "all hands on deck" approach to solving them. I want to see the stats and hear the experts, but as a follower of Christ what matters most to me is God's truth.

I left Dr. Hammett's class that day on a mission. I began combing the Scriptures for creation insights I never noticed. I read the Bible as if for the first time, and I wrote down every morsel regarding creation I had somehow missed before. Soon, the morsels made sense and a larger plan emerged. Though many of the truths I found seemed hidden or forgotten, they comprise a grand design for the world around us.


As I wrestled with God's plan for this planet and the role He wanted me, and all humans, to fill, it naturally followed that I should survey the current condition of the world and apply my findings.

The true condition of our world shocked me. Millions die unnecessary deaths each year from lack of safe drinking water. The earth's diverse creatures, from tropical bugs to arctic animals, are facing extinction. Air in many of our most populated cities isn't fit to breathe. Dense rain forests, which hold medicinal power and incredible biodiversity, are being laid bare. Soil in many places is unfit for farming, landfills are piling up at incredible rates, and carbon emissions are at egregious levels.

A world of dire ecological problems is not a distant reality. That is our world. Yet it is not until we view ecological problems through a divine lens that we can truly determine our obligations.

It is not until we view ecological problems through a divine lens that we can truly determine our obligations.

Christianity provides ample foundation for healthy living. But many Christians today are unequipped to live a life in tune with God's plan, unable to provide clear answers to questions people are asking about global problems. Other Christians shirk any responsibility that inhibits their free pursuit of pleasure.

Unfortunately, many churches and pastors aren't responding. Some are doing nothing. Churches that claim to preach the whole Bible sheepishly avoid or brush over the many passages that reveal God's intentions for the earth. About half of all Protestant pastors in the United States say they speak to their church about creation care "rarely" or "never." That percentage rises to 77 percent for evangelical church pastors only. 1 I often wonder how so many pastors who are so rich in theology can be so poor in applying a theology of nature.

The poor application of this theology has had a trickle-down effect, producing Christian laity ambivalent about caring for God's handiwork. As one of the most sweeping studies of public attitudes toward environmentalism ever conducted states, "Evangelical self-identification is strongly associated with less support for the environment." 2 One modern historian adds, "Indifference toward the environment, or at least toward claims of environmental crisis, abounds in fundamentalist Protestant writings." 3 When one's commitment to conservative Christianity increases, coolness toward the environment often increases. A recent poll shows that Christians are one of the least likely groups to recycle. 4

The church's unwillingness to address these issues also has had a trickle-up effect on those whom we elect. Legislators backed by the religious right consistently oppose environmental protections. In 2003, 45 U.S. senators and 186 congressmen earned an 80 to 100 percent approval rating from the nation's top Christian advocacy groups. But most of those same legislators received an average of less than 10 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. 5

The discrepancy between Christians' attitudes toward environmental problems and God's plan inspired and motivated me. I felt compelled to do something, to play the part I felt God chose for me.

Great writers became tour guides, leading me along the path to environmental reality. I was astounded at the vastness of human-caused problems throughout the world, but more importantly, I was shocked at how blinded I had been to them until now. Living in a wealthy, first-world nation has sheltered me from the global problems that devastate billions of citizens of our planet. Living well above the poverty line has secluded me from many of the same problems afflicting less-privileged Americans. After my classroom epiphany, I felt impelled to act.

I contacted several Christian leaders and asked them to help me draft a theologically centered response to environmental problems. Once the document was drafted, I sent it around to leaders in my home denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, asking for their support. The response was overwhelming, and in a few months, I released the final draft with the signatures of forty-six national leaders attached. I was proud of the input so many had offered that shaped the document, and I was inspired by the courage of so many to step out. I had no idea I had kicked the political hornets' nest.

Within hours of the document's release, my e-mail inbox was full. Some positive responses were sent, but the vitriolic tirades screamed louder. I was labeled a liberal, socialist, and tree hugger, and I was called names I wouldn't dare put in print. Leaders of Christian organizations in Washington, DC, threatened to ruin my reputation if I went ahead with this. People who claim to represent faith communities resorted to secular political tactics. I responded to these individuals the only way I knew how: with truths I found in God's Word and information about our environmental problems.

These things were indescribably difficult to process at the time. Everybody wants to be liked, even by people who don't know them well, and no one enjoys being called names. But the experience made me realize that we've built walls that must come down. We must do the hard work this important subject requires. We must mine the many nuggets in Scripture that address this issue and then apply them directly to the environmental situations in which we find ourselves. At the intersection of faith and facts, we sit at the feet of a green God who places the burden of action squarely upon our shoulders.



I had spoken in front of large audiences before, but this was different. This was an assembly of college students, and having recently been a college student myself, I knew that it would be a tougher crowd than Mystery Science Theater. College students are easily bored and overly critical, eager to laugh and happy to do it at your expense if you give them the slightest reason.

A horn bellowed a high note and the band started playing, which signaled the procession. I marched behind the college president, who was robed in his academic regalia, as we entered an arena filled with more than a thousand students and faculty members.

I wondered why they invited me to be the keynote speaker for the school's annual convocation. The college's vice-president of admissions later said he selected me because he felt "a young face might connect better with the students" and because my passions and recent work corresponded to their chosen theme for the upcoming school year: "It's Easy Being Green." I felt they could have scored a well-known speaker with little effort.

Three months earlier, I had eagerly accepted the invitation, but my excitement soon turned to panic. I felt a lot of pressure to perform. The night I received the invitation, I couldn't stop pacing. "Looks like I have gotten myself into another mess again, Lord." I prayed that I wouldn't be boring and that God would find a way to use my message to impact someone. I even tried some breathing exercises I found on the Internet to help me relax. (In the end, I chugged some cold medicine and passed out.)

I spent countless hours during the weeks leading up to the event asking friends and colleagues for pointers on the best angle to attack the subject. I knew preparation was the key, so I began reading every book I could get my hands on in hopes that I would be ready for any postspeech questions. I collected heaps of material from others who had spoken in similar venues and on similar subjects. Finally, I scheduled a lunch with the vice-president to chat about the event.

We met at a local seafood joint not far from their campus. The VP said they were excited to have me speak as he slowly poked at his crab cake. I was curious to know what they were doing to promote the event.

He told me that each year his staff picked a theme for the school year, which they promote campus-wide. This year they chose environmentalism. To help the students begin the journey down the green path, they provided every student a copy of an environmental book and a green T-shirt with "It's easy being green" printed across the back. Every student would read the book and then listen to me unpack the whole "green thing" for him or her. It sounded like a solid plan, and I was happy to play a part. I looked forward to seeing the book.


On Sale
Apr 21, 2010
Page Count
208 pages

Jonathan Merritt

About the Author

Jonathan Merritt is an award-winning writer on politics, spirituality, and culture. He is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, a contributing editor for The Week, and has published hundreds of columns in prominent national outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and The Daily Beast. Jonathan has also served as a ghostwriter on more than 40 books, many of which became New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and WSJ bestsellers. Jonathan is a proud biological Guncle to five little ones in Georgia and a proud adoptive Guncle to ten nephews and nieces in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, where he resides.

Joanna Carillo is an artist and illustrator whose work utilizes mixed mediums and draws on her various experiences in animation, cartooning, and fine art to create whimsical worlds. Her debut children’s book on which she served as the illustrator is scheduled to release with HarperCollins in the fall of 2023. Joanna holds a BFA in Studio Art from California State University and resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

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