Ask the beasts Darwin and the god of love

Elizabeth A. Johnson, 1941-

Book - 2014

For millennia, plant and animal species have received little sustained attention as subjects of Christian theology and ethics in their own right. Focused on the human dilemma of sin and redemptive grace, theology has considered the doctrine of creation to be mainly an overture to the main drama of humanity's relationship to God. What value does the natural world have within the framework of religious belief? The crisis of biodiversity in our day, when species are going extinct at more than ...1,000 times the natural rate, renders this question acutely important. Standard perspectives need to be realigned; theology needs to look out of the window so to speak, as well as in the mirror. Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love leads to the conclusion that love of the natural world is an intrinsic element of faith in God and that far from being an add-on, ecological care is at the center of moral life.

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Subjects
Published
London : Bloomsbury 2014.
Language
English
Item Description
"A Continuum book"--Title-page verso.
Physical Description
xviii, 323 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 287-316) and index.
ISBN
9781472903730
1472903730
Main Author
Elizabeth A. Johnson, 1941- (author)
  • Beasts and entangled bank : a dialogue. Creation in and out of focus ; Models of engagement ; The weight of a theory ; A wager: good dialogue partners
  • "When we look
  • ". The author and his amazing book ; Core insight ; Science: special acts of creation ; A religious odyssey ; The beholder
  • "Endless forms most beautiful". Starting with farm and garden ; Two key elements: variation and struggle ; The theory: natural selection ; The tree of life ; A crowd of difficulties ; Throughout time ; Across space ; Mutual affinities ; "There is grandeur in this view of life"
  • Evolution of the theory. The center holds ; Misuse of the theory ; Scientific advances ; A cosmic lens ; An ecological lens
  • The dwelling place of God. "We are fecund and exuberantly alive" ; Obstacles ; Life and love: a trinitarian framework ; Poetic biblical images ; The wisdom of philosophy: participation ; God's dwelling place
  • Free, empowered creation. Paradigm of the lover ; The wisdom of philosophy: ultimate and proximate causes ; Interplay of law and chance ; Unscripted adventure ; Emergence: on behalf of matter and the body ; Beasts and entangled bank
  • All creation groaning. "We suffer and die" ; Framing the issue ; Deep incarnation ; The Christic paradigm ; The cross and the tree of life ; Deep resurrection
  • Bearer of great promise. Bookends ; "We are created" ; "We are finite and will end" ; Cosmic redemption ; Muir's bear
  • Enter the humans. An evolving singularity ; Eaarth (sic) ; Extinction: never again ; The promise of nature ; Conversion to the earth
  • The community of creation. "We are all creatures" ; The dominion paradigm ; The community of creation paradigm ; "Where were you...?" ; Creation's praise and lament ; The ecological vocation ; Onwards, for the love of God.
Review by Booklist Reviews

In the empty tomb of Easter, most Christians see the promise of eternal life—for humans. As an environmentally oriented Catholic theologian, Johnson sees more. In this provocative foray in ecological theology, Johnson celebrates the empty tomb as the hope of resurrection for all earthly creatures. Rejecting a narrow focus on human salvation, Johnson deemphasizes Genesis verses identifying man as the creature uniquely bearing the image of deity and authorized to exercise dominion over creation. Johnson underscores scriptural passages in Job, the Psalms, and Revelation, highlighting the direct spiritual relations that animals and even plants enjoy with God. Besides borrowing from other environmentally conscious religious thinkers, Johnson draws key insights from Darwin, whose The Origin of Species opens a vision of a planetwide community of life. As readers contemplate the human heedlessness that has pushed many species to (near) extinction, they will understand the urgency of Johnson's ecological appeal. The Catholic Bishops' censure of Johnson's Quest for the Living God (2007) may make the orthodox wary. But a writer who stirs controversy never lacks readers. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

This unique book establishes a dialogue between science and theology, using Darwin's Origin of Species and the Christian story of God's love embodied in the Nicene Creed. Along the way, Johnson (theology, Fordham Univ.) brings in passages from Muir (on God), Aquinas (on biodiversity), and other theologians, both ancient and modern. If the first half (a close read of Darwin) was the entire work, it would be an excellent book. Combined with the second half (an exposition of ecological theology), it becomes a stunning book. The thesis is that theology has lost its way, becoming dualistic (spirit and matter) and abandoning a major tenet of early theology, a celebration of and respect for the natural world. This narrow focus on humans and their relationship with God has very dire consequences, including the extinction of numerous species in modern times, growing directly out of neglect of the rest of creation. She correctly points out that if Christianity returns to its roots, it will no longer be an enemy of creation. Johnson offers solutions for some of these problems, but all of them could be ameliorated simply by giving this book to every CEO and politician. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic, general, and professional readers. --D. A. Rintoul, Kansas State University David Alan Rintoul Kansas State University http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.184466 Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, he essentially declared an end to our lack of curiosity about human beginnings and the natural evolution of the material world. He was considered an unbeliever and a hell-bound heretic. But as time has passed, students of science and religion have come to acknowledge that Darwin was neither, spurring an energetic defense of Darwin's fundamental premise and its trajectories into our world. In this brilliantly written volume, Johnson (Quest for the Living God), a professor of theology at Fordham University, seamlessly integrates Darwin's understanding with a deeply held belief in a God who enters the world of matter, bringing to life a "community of creation"—an ever-creating God expressing god-self in life's infinite varieties. Key to understanding Johnson's thesis is the ability to look beyond the literalness of scripture to see the harmonious whole of the created order. "We evolved relationally; we exist symbiotically; our existence depends on interaction with the rest of the natural world," Johnson writes. Engrossing and wonderfully realized, this is a book to be read and loved. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, he essentially declared an end to our lack of curiosity about human beginnings and the natural evolution of the material world. He was considered an unbeliever and a hell-bound heretic. But as time has passed, students of science and religion have come to acknowledge that Darwin was neither, spurring an energetic defense of Darwin's fundamental premise and its trajectories into our world. In this brilliantly written volume, Johnson (Quest for the Living God), a professor of theology at Fordham University, seamlessly integrates Darwin's understanding with a deeply held belief in a God who enters the world of matter, bringing to life a "community of creation"—an ever-creating God expressing god-self in life's infinite varieties. Key to understanding Johnson's thesis is the ability to look beyond the literalness of scripture to see the harmonious whole of the created order. "We evolved relationally; we exist symbiotically; our existence depends on interaction with the rest of the natural world," Johnson writes. Engrossing and wonderfully realized, this is a book to be read and loved. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Considers the value of the natural world within the framework of religious belief, and draws from Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," scripture, and the Nicene Creed to argue that God created an evolutionary world.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Johnson presents this argument for the compatibility and even integration of Darwinian theory with faith in God. The book proceeds in three sections; first, Darwin's work is unpacked and explained to make accessible the historical context, his personal feelings and investment, and the scientific theory itself. The Christian side is then explored, discussing the philosophy of original creation, continuous creation, dualism, and various interpretations of grace, a picture of God's embeddedness in the tendency for nature to spontaneously produce variation and emergence, the problem of suffering and the connection of natural selection's "losers" to the story of Christ, and what lies after death for nonhuman elements of the biophysical world. Finally, the last two chapters center on human beings, our responsibility to Creation, our current impact on the natural world, and how our identity can be imagined through community with God and animals at once. Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An examination of the relationship between faith in God and the concept of ecological care within a crisis of biodiversity.For millennia plant and animal species have received little sustained attention as subjects of Christian theology and ethics in their own right. In Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, Elizabeth A. Johnson concludes that love of the natural world is an intrinsic element of faith in God and that far from being an add-on, ecological care is at the center of moral life.Focused on the human dilemma of sin and redemptive grace, theology has considered the doctrine of creation to be mainly an overture to the main drama of human being's relationship to God. What value does the natural world have within the framework of religious belief? The crisis of biodiversity in our day, when species are going extinct at more than 1,000 times the natural rate, renders this question acutely important.Standard perspectives need to be realigned; theology needs to look out of the window, so to speak as well as in the mirror.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

An examination of the relationship between faith in God and the concept of ecological care within a crisis of biodiversity.