A Farmer’s Search for a Theology of the Land

We are driving today to the farm of John Riddell in Petworth, England. John says we can stay there for the next week and use his barn for some meetings tomorrow. Cool!! John Riddell is a Christian farmer who has done a lot of thinking about a theology of the land.

john riddell.png“Did the Bible offer a sound theology for agriculture? My search for answers reminded me that God created the heavens and the earth, that his creation is good and that we human beings are part of it and have some responsibility for it. But then, as a farmer in North West Sussex, I looked at what we and our forbears had done to it. I saw the damage caused by neglect, bad stewardship and agronomic practices, injustice and the displacement of people. This surely was never what God intended but it did help to explain what Paul meant when he talked about healing and bringing wholeness not only to persons but to the entire created order (Col 1: 19-20). I discovered a gospel which went far beyond personal forgiveness to the transformation of whole communities (2 Cor 5:17). I understood how God’s kingdom cried out not only for a renewed relationship with the Creator, but also for renewed harmony and justice between all peoples and the entire created world order (Isaiah 55:12). “

John and his friends have started the Petworth Stewarship Forum which has managed to put some thoughts down in writing.

“We have a Mission Statement (‘Working together for the land and its people, towards a just and ethical practice’) and for the last three years have been working to develop relationships between landlord, tenants and the local community, ‘joined-up thinking’ in stewarding the land and local resources, diversification projects which serve the local community, opportunities for people to access land to grow their own food linked to local markets.”

You can read more of John’s thoughts at Together, Together, Together, Together (PDF). Sounds great. I am looking forward to seeing how it all works. Anyone else done some thinking about agriculture and theology?


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • becky says:

    Assume you know about Wendell Berry. Also, Geez magazine covers a lot of this material. BTW-one of my Facebook friends sent me this interesting link of a creation care website she set up for evangelicals who don’t like the the E word (as in environment) http://www.marvelbelievecare.org. I think you’ll like it.

  • Robert says:

    If you’re not aware of them, then it’s worth looking at material on the Arthur Rank Centre Website http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk and the Agricultural Christian Fellowship site http://www.agriculturalchristianfellowship.org.uk particularly their agriculture & theology project

  • Nick Watts says:

    There is an NRSV bible called the Green Bible with a few essays from the likes of Tom Wright and others who expound on a theology that encompasses the whole cosmos and gods redemptive purposes for it’s entirety.

  • Arocha & Lee Abbey have – sorry no links because from mobile

  • Yes, you might be interested in the Agriculture and Theology Project (ATP), which is jointly run by CMS. See: http://www.agriculture-theology.org.uk/
    There is also a short briefing paper on this topic by my wife, Margot. http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/projects/rusource_briefings/rus09/766.pdf

  • mark begemann says:

    Thanks for the post. Good comments, too. My family moved to my parents’ farm last November. Been contemplating what physical work might last into the new earth. When thinking about what we might do (build a pond, plant a cherry tree) i’ve been trying to ask, “Is this something that God could possibly want to keep around when he remakes all things?” Certainly they will be changed, but would He leave the pond where we are going to build it? What animals might graze here?
    Sometimes these potential decisions may conflict with the way Dad is farming right now, i.e. he raises natural/organic beef but i doubt we will eat meat in the new world. I’m not a vegetarian but don’t plan to carry on that aspect of the business when Dad stops. My wife may have different ideas though, and we both love a good steak. 😉 Lots more could be said but this but i’m a few days late here. Would love to hear more about what happens on the farm.

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