This is a keynote address I delivered virtually at a conference on Faith and the Environment sponsored by the Oxford Centre for Muslim and Christian Studies, March 1, 2024. My title is "Is the Human Vicegerency Bad Theology in the Anthropocene?" The term "vicegerency" is a bit archaic, but it is the word used most often in Muslim academic circles for the "human caliphate" mentioned in several places in the Qur'an, referring to God's creating humankind as deputies or trustees over his creation. The Genesis 1 creation account has God deputizing humanity in this way as well: filling the earth and ruling over it (v. 28). This was a central theme of my 2010 book, Earth, Empire and Sacred Text: Muslims and Christians as Trustees of Creation.

This is an article that I submitted to the academic journal Missiology. After the first round of peer reviews, the editor said they were interested in the article, but some changes needed to be made. I am still waiting to hear back from them about the second draft I sent which took account of the advice proffered. Yet whether this article is actually published by them or by some other journal, I wanted it to be available to those with an interest in these topics. In any case, missiology (the academic study of Christian mission), pneumatology (the branch of theology that studies the Holy Spirit), and global governance, are prominent themes running through the book project I am working on at the present.

The full title is "Mission and Global Governance: A Convergence of Pneumatology and Human Flourishing."


On October 8, 2022, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society. It was a joint session with the International Society for Frontier Missiology and the paper’s title is, “Caring about Global Governance for the sake of Human Flourishing.” This was an opportunity for me to put on paper some of the material I have been working on for my book on Christian mission and human flourishing. I had already posted a two-part blog post related to this topic (“The New Economy and the SDGs”), but this was the opportunity to ground this project more specifically in mission theology.

In particular, this paper highlights some of the interviews I have been conducting with Christians actually involved in some aspect of global governance. Following John Kirton of the University of Toronto, I have defined global governance as including the plurilateral summit institutions (PSIs like the G7/G8, G20, BRICS); the many United Nations summits on specific subjects, but especially the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Summit on Climate Change, both in 2015; intergovernmental and multilateral agencies like the World Bank and regional ones like the EU, the African Union, etc.; and finally, NGOs, both in the business and development communities, and more broadly, civil society. All are stakeholders trying in one way or another to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful and just world.

This is the fourth review of my 2020 book, Muslims and Christians Debate Justice and Love. The reviewer is Joshua Canzona, who teaches at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. The journal in which it appears (Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology) is related to my publisher, Equinox Publishing in Sheffield, UK. That issue came out in February 2021, about when the other three were published. Of all the reviews, this one emphasizes the most the case study approach I used and notes that it goes a long way in avoiding any temptation on the part of the reader to "essentialize" either Islam or Christianity (meaning, to paint either faith with a wide brush). There is so much diversity of schools and currents in both of these top two world religions! Generalizing is a pitfall that can lead to a lot more tensions between followers of both faiths.

Canzona also welcomes the contribution of this book in our present, often polarized, context, and widely recommends its reading: "In its clarity and emphasis on real-world implications, this volume will be useful to a wide audience of students, scholars, practitioners, and interested readers generally." That said, I wrote it as a textbook I wanted to use personally, and I hope that many colleagues will do the same, whether at the undergraduate or graduate levels. Still, if you exclude the sometimes technical legal/hermeneutical details of Chapter 5 relative to Yusuf al-Qaradawi's work, this is a book most people could easily pick up and read.

This review by Martin Awaana Wullobayi, a Ghanaian scholar who teaches and writes at The Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), was published in their journal in 2021: Islamochristiana 47. I take heart that an African scholar welcomes this work so enthusiastically. I hope with him that at a time when “hate speeches which divide and deprive humanity of all kinds of friendship and peace, the research topics discussed in Johnston’s book will be useful for reinforcing peaceful positive world view of coexistence between Muslims and Christians.”


The Christian Muslim Forum in London ...

  • tackles the tough issues which divide our communities
  • challenges anti-Muslim and anti-Christian hostility
  • supports local church-mosque twinning and friendship

Established in 2006 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Christian Muslim Forum brings together Muslims and Christians from a variety of denominations and traditions to work together for the common good (see more details here).

In March 2021, I was asked to make a half-hour presentation to the CMF's core group, based on my book, Muslims and Christians Debate Justice and Love. Here is the second (mostly different) presentation to some of the church-mosque leaders in their twinning program on June 2, 2021. In both cases I was seeking to present the material in the book in a way that would deepen Christian Muslim engagement in today's society. This time, part of the backdrop was the 11 days of fighting between Hamas and Israel in May 2021. What struck me was the confluence of issues in the protests that followed: Palestinian rights, racism and colonialism at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the fact that those factors are also behind much of the Islamophobia that Muslims experience in the West.