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From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World

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How does Christianity change the way we view the natural world? In this addition to a critically acclaimed series, renowned theologian Norman Wirzba engages philosophers, environmentalists, and cultural critics to show how the modern concept of nature has been deeply problematic. He explains that understanding the world as creation rather than as nature or the environment How does Christianity change the way we view the natural world? In this addition to a critically acclaimed series, renowned theologian Norman Wirzba engages philosophers, environmentalists, and cultural critics to show how the modern concept of nature has been deeply problematic. He explains that understanding the world as creation rather than as nature or the environment makes possible an imagination shaped by practices of responsibility and gratitude, which can help bring healing to our lands and communities. By learning to give thanks for creation as God’s gift of life, Christians bear witness to the divine love that is reconciling all things to God.


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How does Christianity change the way we view the natural world? In this addition to a critically acclaimed series, renowned theologian Norman Wirzba engages philosophers, environmentalists, and cultural critics to show how the modern concept of nature has been deeply problematic. He explains that understanding the world as creation rather than as nature or the environment How does Christianity change the way we view the natural world? In this addition to a critically acclaimed series, renowned theologian Norman Wirzba engages philosophers, environmentalists, and cultural critics to show how the modern concept of nature has been deeply problematic. He explains that understanding the world as creation rather than as nature or the environment makes possible an imagination shaped by practices of responsibility and gratitude, which can help bring healing to our lands and communities. By learning to give thanks for creation as God’s gift of life, Christians bear witness to the divine love that is reconciling all things to God.

30 review for From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Huff

    This was a short, but very thoughtful, book written to explore common philosophies and -- more importantly, a theology -- concerning Creation. A refreshing, deeply considered alternative to popular environmentalist diatribes about "nature", Wirzba's five eloquent chapters remind us that the "nature" that surrounds and sustains us is God's creation. And, as such, it is a gift that He calls us to steward lovingly and wisely. Wirzba compellingly points out the significance of Adam and Eve being pla This was a short, but very thoughtful, book written to explore common philosophies and -- more importantly, a theology -- concerning Creation. A refreshing, deeply considered alternative to popular environmentalist diatribes about "nature", Wirzba's five eloquent chapters remind us that the "nature" that surrounds and sustains us is God's creation. And, as such, it is a gift that He calls us to steward lovingly and wisely. Wirzba compellingly points out the significance of Adam and Eve being placed in a garden (and not, it occurred to me, an urban parking lot). He writes of God "as the one Who constantly desires to live intimately with us here on earth ... In Genesis, we first discover God with knees and hands in the dirt, breathing into soil the breath of life that creates you and me, along with all the plants and animals and birds." He draws upon church fathers, philosophers, writers such as Bonhoeffer and Wendell Berry, and many more, to make a compelling case for how to think about God, and love Him, through His creation. And, I found his reminder of the importance of ontology very interesting and eye-opening; he has changed my view of how I understand and use the word "nature". As Wirzba concludes, "Knowing God transforms our understanding of life, because now we see that this life and this world are saturated by God's love and delight. The world is not a random, pointless accident. It is instead the sphere of God's daily attention and concern. Remembering that the world was created not as an afterthought or out of boredom, but as a blessing, people can now join with God in the cherishing of every created thing." A well written essay on a timely topic!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    How do you critique a culture? Especially your own culture? One way might be to rely on a putative religious revelation, thought of as a mode of insight independent of one’s existing cultural presuppositions and commitments. This is, more or less, the approach Wirzba pursues in From Nature to Creation. We might think of it as another take on the “American mind” regarding our ecological crisis, with a particular focus on the influence of Christianity, or lack of it. For Wirzba, Christianity is bet How do you critique a culture? Especially your own culture? One way might be to rely on a putative religious revelation, thought of as a mode of insight independent of one’s existing cultural presuppositions and commitments. This is, more or less, the approach Wirzba pursues in From Nature to Creation. We might think of it as another take on the “American mind” regarding our ecological crisis, with a particular focus on the influence of Christianity, or lack of it. For Wirzba, Christianity is better thought of, not as a position one might or might not occupy within the encompassing structure of our culture and society, but as an alternative culture informed by a different myth and core concepts. He hints that this might be especially true if we think of our culture as a culture of “consumer capitalism,” a culture whose most fundamental meanings, its grammar, is based on imagining the world and ourselves as passive material to be manipulated into the most consumable formats we can manage. (cf. 9-10, 25ff.) In his introduction, Wirzba notes the theological disaster of Christian nature-rejecting supernaturalism. Blind to Biblical witness to the goodness of creation in God’s reckoning, from the gardener God celebrated in various Hebrew Bible texts to the incarnate God of New Testament writings, such Christianity has contributed to, if not made possible, the ecological catastrophe of the present moment. The failure is imaginative, fundamentally, and an imaginative renewal is needed.Scientific knowledge and technological abilities are valuable, but insufficient. So Wirzba’s complaint is with “the diminishment of our capacities to have humility before and sympathy for the things we desire to know.” His argument is, that “[i]f people are going to learn to receive the world as a gift, and then learn to share it, they are also going to need to appreciate and affirm it as a miracle that is itself an expression of divine love. Put simply, as desirable as it may be to have information about the world, what we most need are capacities that will help us love the world.” (3) I have some serious questions about Wirzba's method, and the residual anti-realism that seems to me to attend it, but overall this is a richly thought-provoking book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hicks

    Here Wirzba engages in a lively discussion concerning the Created Order of things. He begins by making the observation that the way in which we narrate the world reveals the underlying teleological postures we have for the things in the world. He goes on to explore the history of the narration of nature throughout modernity and how the human being was transformed into the autonomous individual. This transformation had a direct impact on our understanding of the world, particularly the material w Here Wirzba engages in a lively discussion concerning the Created Order of things. He begins by making the observation that the way in which we narrate the world reveals the underlying teleological postures we have for the things in the world. He goes on to explore the history of the narration of nature throughout modernity and how the human being was transformed into the autonomous individual. This transformation had a direct impact on our understanding of the world, particularly the material world. Using the contrast of idols and icons, Wirzba shows us what it means to see nature as a means to an end (self-liberation and fulfillment), which would be idolatry, and Creation as a sign and testament to a Creator that endows his creatures with gifts and blessings, which would be an icon. His last major turn is the exploration of a creaturely understanding of human beings - meaning understanding ourselves as creatures, both creative and created. Being created, we should live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving. Being creative, we should work to cause other creatures to flourish and find conviviality with the material world around us. Wirzba says nothing particularly new in this book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading. It’s a good reminder of the fact that Christianity and certain postures of environmentalism are inseparable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    This is a solid piece of accessible academic work that addresses the role of environmentalism to Christian spiritual life. It would go well with Matthew Dickerson's two books on the environmental theories: the first, of J.R.R. Tolkien and the second, of C.S. Lewis. This is a solid piece of accessible academic work that addresses the role of environmentalism to Christian spiritual life. It would go well with Matthew Dickerson's two books on the environmental theories: the first, of J.R.R. Tolkien and the second, of C.S. Lewis.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Helpful, clear, and short.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sam Myers

    A really interesting effort to combine modern ecocritical takes on American culture with a distinctly Christian way of thinking about the world. Notably, this isn't a book for beginners to this field; I've studied this a lot over the past few years both formally and informally, and I still found myself having to Google things here and there. Some parts are stronger than others - I found Wirzba's discussions of eating and agriculture particularly compelling, which isn't surprising given his previ A really interesting effort to combine modern ecocritical takes on American culture with a distinctly Christian way of thinking about the world. Notably, this isn't a book for beginners to this field; I've studied this a lot over the past few years both formally and informally, and I still found myself having to Google things here and there. Some parts are stronger than others - I found Wirzba's discussions of eating and agriculture particularly compelling, which isn't surprising given his previous works. As a couple other reviewers noted, one off-putting thing in this piece is that Wizzrobe shifts pretty suddenly from abstract, high-level dialogues with niche philosophers to very practical discussions. I would've preferred it if this book was structured differently. Maybe if Wirblez had divided this book into two sections - one where he did the theological and philosophical grunt work and one where he put that all together and shown us the lifestyle he thinks is best more holistically than he did in the book as we have it - it would have been more effective. However, I think Washrack makes some really great and convicting points, and that this should be on the list for evangelicals trying to imagine what environmentalism might look like as an ideal for us to strive towards. 3.5/5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kendall Davis

    Wirzba does an excellent job demonstrating how a Christian understanding of God's creation and preservation of the world affects how we see and interact with the world especially in reaction how we have been formed to see the world by modernity and consumerism. He lays the groundwork for re-engaging the world as God's good creation as well as what it means to understand ourselves as God's creatures. This is much needed work that addresses vital issues of theological anthropology and ecology. My o Wirzba does an excellent job demonstrating how a Christian understanding of God's creation and preservation of the world affects how we see and interact with the world especially in reaction how we have been formed to see the world by modernity and consumerism. He lays the groundwork for re-engaging the world as God's good creation as well as what it means to understand ourselves as God's creatures. This is much needed work that addresses vital issues of theological anthropology and ecology. My only complaint is that the writing is in some places unnecessarily academic and unclear. At times the book felt somewhat meandering and repetitive, but that's not to say that he's long-winded or doesn't get to the point. Sometimes you've just got to get through some thorny bits of prose to get to the good stuff. Definitely recommend.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I wish I could give this 3.5 stars. I felt Wirzba spent too much time focusing on concepts of gifts and thankfulness in the abstract. Yes, we should recognize Creation as a gift and be thankful to God for that gift, but I thought greater focus should have been placed on emphasizing the inner-connectedness of creation. Hence, since three chapters were quite good and the other two dragged, the book earns 3 stars. Basically, I enjoyed the overarching premise of the book, but all it made me do was w I wish I could give this 3.5 stars. I felt Wirzba spent too much time focusing on concepts of gifts and thankfulness in the abstract. Yes, we should recognize Creation as a gift and be thankful to God for that gift, but I thought greater focus should have been placed on emphasizing the inner-connectedness of creation. Hence, since three chapters were quite good and the other two dragged, the book earns 3 stars. Basically, I enjoyed the overarching premise of the book, but all it made me do was want to read more Wendell Berry and actually follow the eating/dining/purchasing advice of Michael Polian. And that's probably not a bad thing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Gies

    An interesting look at how society has changed it's view of nature, and how Christians have changed right along with it. It definitely had moments of staleness and I struggled to get through it as a whole. But there were some very interesting concepts and it became more relevant towards the end. As Christians, what is our responsibility towards Creation? at the very least we should be grateful for it and not take the things we have for granted. This book goes beyond that, with even more ideas fo An interesting look at how society has changed it's view of nature, and how Christians have changed right along with it. It definitely had moments of staleness and I struggled to get through it as a whole. But there were some very interesting concepts and it became more relevant towards the end. As Christians, what is our responsibility towards Creation? at the very least we should be grateful for it and not take the things we have for granted. This book goes beyond that, with even more ideas for prioritizing and valuing Creation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Suire

    Wirzba’s book is an interesting reflection on the doctrine of creation and theological anthropology by having a combination of scripture, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox theology (Bonhoeffer and lossky), environmental ethics(Wendell berry), continental philosophy (Marion, Nancy, Levinas) and racial theory(willie Jennings).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Enjoyed listening to Professor Wirzba and his scripture based perspective on how we can heal the world and do our part in the battle on climate change. Good reading companion to his lecture.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I like the ideas.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    Good ideas — way too verbose

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie Ruth

    Wirzba invites us to ponder how we might move from a theology of nature to one of creation. A kind of theology that rejects speciesism and invites us all into solidarity with the world around us.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    We hear a lot these days about climate change and what that means for us. We also hear that the Christian or even Western monotheism poses a danger to the natural world. After all, in Genesis the human creation is given “dominion” over the earth and its inhabitants. Unfortunately the word dominion has often been understood to mean – do what you will with the earth. These are simply resources placed at human disposal by God. Of course, there’s another way of reading this mandate. It could be that We hear a lot these days about climate change and what that means for us. We also hear that the Christian or even Western monotheism poses a danger to the natural world. After all, in Genesis the human creation is given “dominion” over the earth and its inhabitants. Unfortunately the word dominion has often been understood to mean – do what you will with the earth. These are simply resources placed at human disposal by God. Of course, there’s another way of reading this mandate. It could be that God was calling on humanity to be stewards of creation, taking care of God’s creation. There are Christians arguing for both of these positions, though too often the voices heard the loudest are those claiming divine approval for doing whatever we please with the earth. One who would argue for a stewarding model of the earth is Norman Wirzba, a professor of theology and ecology at Duke Divinity School. Wirzba is concerned that too many Christians have looked at this life as something to escape, with heaven as the destination. This has led, he believes to disastrous results – both for nature and for theology. Rather than escape this life, faith should “lead us more deeply into the movements of love that nurture and heal and celebrate the gifts of God” (p. 1). In writing this book, which is published as part of Baker Academic's "The Church and Postmodern Culture" series, Wirzba is calling on Christians to develop “an imagination for the world as created, sustained, and daily loved by God” (p. 3). Without this re-imagining creation as loved by God we will find ourselves participating in the degradation of the earth. Wirzba writes as a theologian who is concerned about creation. In writing this book he wants us to think theologically. He warns against idolizing nature as well as calling on us to honor the creation of God. The book is comprised of five chapters, the first entitled “On Not Knowing Where or Who We Are,” in which he reflects on the suggestion of Nietzsche that God is dead. While some have rejected the idea of God the Creator, many of us are essentially practical atheists who proclaim themselves believers but “may not appreciate the hypocrisy of a misplaced faith that has not learned to seriously scrutinize the idols of modernity that have taken God’s place” (p. 9). Thus, we may not have ditched the Creator, but we’ve bought into a consumerist mentality that is essentially godless. The result is an indifference to the degradation of the earth. In response, Wirzba wishes to invite us to “learn the art of creaturely life, which is “a human life that tries to be attuned to God as Creator and the world as God’s creation” (p. 30). Continue reading at Ponderings on a Faith Journey -- http://www.bobcornwall.com/2015/10/fr...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Phil Aud

    My introduction to Norman Wirzba’s work came a few years ago when I read his incredible “Food and Faith.” Seeking to do some research on the topic I saw the title of his book and decided to pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised at the deep level theology and philosophy that was being written. I was excited when I saw the current title being released and am thankful to be able to review it. (Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy). In “From Nature to Creation,” Wirzba does not disappoint. In rea My introduction to Norman Wirzba’s work came a few years ago when I read his incredible “Food and Faith.” Seeking to do some research on the topic I saw the title of his book and decided to pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised at the deep level theology and philosophy that was being written. I was excited when I saw the current title being released and am thankful to be able to review it. (Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy). In “From Nature to Creation,” Wirzba does not disappoint. In reading this book I was reminded again what an important voice Wirzba is to the church. His theology is, quite literally, on the ground. It impacts and challenges us at the core levels of our humanity. By engaging the question of what it means to be a human creature, Wirzba explores the questions that are fundamental to the flourishing both of humanity, but also the world. In his words, “To ask about who we are is also to ask about how we are to live where we are. The question of ‘who?,’ in other words, is not theorized in the abstract. It is worked out and discovered in economic and social patterns of life practiced in the world.” He explores the the importance of seeing the world in the right way, since how we see “is an imposition of ourselves upon what is seen.” Related to how we see is how we name, and how we name something will inevitably determine our relationship with it. In the second chapter Wirzba offers a sharp challenge to the development of nominalism and there, as well as in the final chapter, confronts any knowledge that is not rooted in relational intimacy. Such thinking ultimately leads us away from transcendence and towards idolatry. To return to understand creation in the right way means, ultimately, a return to Jesus. “Creation, we might say, flows from Jesus at its beginning, flows through Jesus as it is healed, and flows to Jesus as it is fulfilled. Jesus is the pivot of the universe’s movement and the key to its deep meaning and significance." Wirzba makes a compelling case for an agrarian reading of Genesis and engages wonderfully here with Bonhoeffer. I was also drawn to his writing on the embrace of human limit. Finally, his dealing (in the final chapter) with gratitude and a proper understanding (challenging Derrida) of gift were incredible. One leaves this book reminded of the immensity of the gospel and challenged that mission is deeper than we often assume, and yet right under our feet.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    I came across Norman Wirzba's essay “The Dark Night of the Soil: An Agrarian Approach to Mystical Life,” while reading portions of the book Wendell Berry and religion : heaven's earthly life (edited by Joel James Shuman and L. Roger Owens). That in turn led me to this book. This is a scholarly work, which I had to read in small bites…..read and think, read and ponder some more. I should have been taking notes!! The thought of Wendell Berry has obviously impacted Wirzba very deeply, as I can hear I came across Norman Wirzba's essay “The Dark Night of the Soil: An Agrarian Approach to Mystical Life,” while reading portions of the book Wendell Berry and religion : heaven's earthly life (edited by Joel James Shuman and L. Roger Owens). That in turn led me to this book. This is a scholarly work, which I had to read in small bites…..read and think, read and ponder some more. I should have been taking notes!! The thought of Wendell Berry has obviously impacted Wirzba very deeply, as I can hear Berry’s voice throughout (both direct quotes, as well as an overall respect for God’s creation as a whole). This book challenges Christians in particular to see creation as God's gift to us, and to live in humility and gratitude for the wonders around us. I will most likely purchase this book and reread it, this time with highlighter and notebook in hand.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Claire Holland

    If you are new to doctrine of creation/agrarian theology, this book gives a great breakdown of it by weaving scripture, theology, philosophy, and modern scholarship. I often return to this book as a resource for a theology of the trinity as well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dale Lature

    awesome theological eco journey

  20. 4 out of 5

    Todd Putney

    Excellant contribution to a theology of creation

  21. 5 out of 5

    George

    A persuasive argument for the relevance of a religious conception of nature as creation. Very important and gracefully written.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave Pettengill

    Powerful book on what is means for us to be a part of creation and what it means for us to fully live and love.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lacey

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Bowler

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

  26. 4 out of 5

    David Collins

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hal

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Eisele

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carlisle Davidhizar

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