Calvin professors publish new book rethinking Christian environmental stewardship


Sophia Morgan

Warners and Heun’s book

This fall, Calvin biology professor David Paul Warners and engineering professor Matthew Kuperus Heun released their co-edited book “Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care” which calls readers to reexamine “Christian environmental stewardship.”

“The climate is too big; how can we steward it? We need a different approach and a different way of thinking,” explains Warners. 

“Historically, Christains have been taught they have dominion over the earth,” explains Heun. Dominion, however, “doesn’t describe a healthy relationship”. Published in 1980 and also authored by several Calvin professors, “Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources” redefined man’s relationship with the earth by calling Christians to be stewards: the earth belongs to God, and we are here to take care of it. 

Warners and Heun, however, believe that, 40 years later, the relationship between human and nonhuman creation must be reexamined. “When faced with global climate change and mass extinction…. stewardship no longer seems to be enough,” describes Warners. 

“A steward is someone who takes care of a vineyard while the owner is away,” Warners continues. Among other reasons, stewardship needs to be replaced because it fails to recognize God’s immanence in his creation. “If we think God is standing right there and is present within this willow, I think we’d be less likely to clearcut it.” Warners wonders “if approaching creation care from a stewardship perspective… has made [creation] a little easier to destroy.”

Their goal is to create a place of dialogue and discourse to explore how humans relate to non-human creation. The book itself offers some options: symbiotic stewardship, kinship, placemaking and place-keeping, just to list a few.

Heun elaborates, “If you are kin or symbiotic with something else, you don’t ever think about using that other thing; you think about honoring and maintaining and serving that other thing as opposed to, oh, I’m going to steward a resource now.”

It is Warners’ and Heun’s hope that thinking well will lead to acting well. As readers envision a new relationship with creation, they will begin to act differently.

Each chapter of the book is written by a different author, each an expert in their field ranging from engineering and economics, to education and urban studies. “An interdisciplinary problem requires an interdisciplinary approach,” says Warners. 

“Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care” was published by Calvin University Press Aug. 8, 2019. For more information on the book and online purchasing, visit Also available online is the “Beyond Stewardship” podcast series with interviews from the chapter authors. “Beyond Stewardship” can also be purchased at the campus store.