Jim Currin, former Evangelisation, Mission and Media at Churches Together in England, reviews the new book by Christopher Jones and John Martin, written as part of the Agriculture and Theology Project.
I may be a staff link person for the Churches Rural Group, and once lived in a small village in Cumbria for 11 years as an evangelist and mission advisor, but I still leant a great deal from this book exploring the biblical narrative and farming today.
Although I wasn’t altogether sure about some comments, eg ‘It is doubtful that most people make decisions about their lives purely on grounds of financial advantage’ (p59), points are well made and clearly written, with plenty of apt illustration and ample evidence offered.
Having scoped the importance of farming and food for all people, and some of the key issues facing the world, the authors take care to say what their approach to the biblical narrative is. They start by saying ‘Let’s be clear. The Bible is not a manual for farming today’ (p13) but then look at 12 great biblical themes eg God’s world; Stewardship, Fairness, the Poor, Festivals and Feasts etc. to explore farming then and now. The Bible, they say, ‘contains inspired principles with which we can set our moral compass by’. (127)
Looking at consumers and farmers, with current practice and environmental issues, free trade, ethics and technology, this book is informative and highly commendable. Farming may not be the subject uppermost in people’s minds but questions explored like biodiversity, bees, soil erosion, farm chemicals and public health affect us all. As Christians we do well to read a book like this and dig deeper (pardon the pun) to apply scripture, faith and practice.
What the authors have done here is a good exercise that others could replicate in their own disciplines. We are used to books about relationships and family life, but what about exploring the biblical narrative for finance and work? As the title, ‘Honey and Thistles’ implies, this book looks at all aspects good and bad in the farming world and offers a cogent exploration of issues hidden from view for many of us.
This is a thoughtful book that prompts further questions. Throughout, the reader is conscious of the positive approach stated at the start, ‘The authors firmly believe that when society’s values and attitudes are in line with God’s purposes, it is good for the planet, good for the global community and good for farming too.’ (p15)
Honey and Thistles; Christopher Jones and John Martin. Agriculture and Theology Project. https://www.acfhub.com/product-page/honey-and-thistles-biblical-wisdom-for-the-renewal-of-farming