Book Recommendation: Food & Faith by Norman Wirzba

415lM4ko47LWill Campell-Clause, a participant in Bristol Theology-to-Go, recommends reading Food & Faith written by Norman Wirzba. Here’s why:

This book should be the ‘go to’ book for Christians thinking about food.

Wirzba starts out by asking, “Why did God create a world in which every living creature must eat?… Eating is no idle or trifling activity. It is the means of life itself – but also death.”

He goes on to explore how “to eat is to be implicated in a vast, complex, interweaving set of life and death dramas in which we are only one character among many… to eat is to savour and struggle with the mystery of creatureliness.”

There are various perspectives which Wirzba considers to help us make theological sense of the complexities within and around which form the basis for the seven chapters of his book. Although Wirzba writes how the chapters do not have to be read in any particular order, he begins by introducing a range of theological insights that provide a great start before looking at humanity’s identity and vocation in a garden, linking this with an understanding of God and Christ as the prototypical gardeners.

His examination of the dominant industrial food system in the following chapter highlights the many disorders which corrupts our eating experience, of which many of us are becoming increasingly aware of. He then considers the nature of death (“Death is eating’s steadfast accomplice“) and sacrifice, pointing us towards a re-appraisal of the concept of sacrifice, before looking in depth at the implications of the Eucharist for our food economies, and how we might learn practices that help us to root ourselves in an appreciation of God’s good (and tasty) gifts. “To be genuinely thankful presupposes that we have made some effort to appreciate and know what we are thankful for, having devoted considerable effort to recognising the great diversity of gifts that intersect and feed into our living.” Of course, he completes this wonderful book with a chapter on eschatology – will we eat food in heaven?!

Here’s a suggested reading list for further reading:

– Most of Wendell Berry’s work.

A good collection of his finest agrarian essays is called The Art of the Commonplace.

Scripture, Culture and Agriculture by Ellen Davis

  A fascinating look at how agrarian thinking and practice are present and encouraged throughout the Bible.

Living with Other Creatures by Richard Bauckham

A theological book which helps make sense of the role we have in relation to the rest of creation.

Planetwise by Dave Bookles

An easy access theology of creation care.

Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright

A brilliant book which helps us to understand the gospels implications for all creation, including eschatology.

So Shall We Reap by Colin Tudge

A non-Christian author drawing on Biblical ideas to argue that instead of acting short termistically to merely ‘feed the 9 billion by 2050’ in the cheapest possible ways, there are many ways we can create sustainable food econmies that will nourish the world’s population thousands of years from now – “the future belongs to the gourmet”.

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel

A scathing critique of the injustice in the global food system.

– The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan

A fascinating look behind the scenes of the industrial food system in the US.

Food, Farming and the Churches by Tim Gorringe

A short and to the point, a great theologian challenging the church to support local farmers and food economies.

For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann.

Deep theology focussed on the Eucharist and its implications for the whole creation.

What other books on how we engage with food would you recommend to others?

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