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Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love - Elizabeth A. Johnson

Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love

Author: Elizabeth A. Johnson
Book title: Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love
ISBN: 1472903730
ISBN13: 978-1472903730
Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum; 1St Edition edition (March 13, 2014)
Language: English
Category: Theology
Rating: 4.3/5
Votes: 399
Pages: 352 pages
More formats: rtf txt lrf lit

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.

Reviews: (7)
I couldn't wait for this book when I heard Sr. Johnson was going to explore the tension between Darwin and Creationism and Christian environmental ethics. If anybody was going to do it really well, my hunch was that it would be Sr. Beth Johnson. And again, she exceeded my expectations. Howeveer, I was very happily surprised when I saw that these hot issues aren't really what this book is about. I was caught off guard when she only used these issues as background to her intelligently argued and beautifully written testament to the wonder of God's creation by carefully and critically examining the brilliance of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species and how his work shaped what we know about the scientific beginnings of life on this Earth. Sr. Johnson probably offers the most understandable and even-handed summary of Darwin's life and work; quite extraordinary for a theologian. (I had the honor of meeting her and she is as brilliant as she is gracious.) She is very clear that her work isn't about Evolution vs. Creationism and all the arguments surrounding that today. As a theologian who has the utmost respect for the advances in scientific breakthroughs through the human genome project and new discoveries about cell biology that Darwin was right all along in his life-time study of the orgins of life. She carefully and, I think, wonderfully, respectfully separates the idea of any scientific view of Genesis. She argues that in the scientific realm that has been proven by the scientific method that it is scientifically unlikely that an intelligent designer literally or "magically" (I not sure this is the right word.) created life as we know it today. (That humanity was nothing one second and the next second was fully-formed like humanity today.) She offers excellent examples of why logically this couldn't be the case. Yet, she just as convincingly argues using the Christian Nicene creed that God in the Son and Spirit is the "Creator," of not just humanity but of the wonders of the natural world. As the brilliant theologian that she is, she uses Scripture and how humanity has tried to understand the question of the beginnings of life and the way the natural world works, in showing that the "Creator," through Divine Love and the workings of science and nature is at the center of the cosmos and all life. She then uses her respect for the earth-changing work of Charles Darwin, arguably with Newton and Einstein the most influencial scientist who ever lived, and her Christian faith to challenge us to respect the miracle of Creation that we see all around us and strive with all our intelligence, faith, hope, and love, to do everything we can to honor and protect this Divine love.

If you are only interested getting all defensive in another heated debate about Science vs. Religion and how a scientist can't possibly have a strong spiritual life and how a religious person can't possibly believe that if it didn't happen in the Bible, or other religion text or doctrine, it could possibly happen, this isn't the book for you. Sr. Beth doesn't engage in the tension to pull humans apart. There is plenty of that in the media already. Rather, she offers an astounding way to respect and honor the Spirit of Love in the miraculous discoveries of science and begs us to look away from the tension and toward working together as brothers and sisters in the human family to honor the spirit by protecting and caring for the beauty and glory of the natural world.

One minor thing: Although she tells us that she is intentionally looking at the subject of the science and theology of creation from the background of a Christian theologian, the few times she hinted at the ideas around this subject from a Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Nativist, Womanist/feminist, or other faith tradition was well done and I would love to have her ideas or another's just- as- thoughtful ideas from these other traditions.

Finally: Sr. Beth is a beautiful writer. Her prose literally sang so I had to read many, many of her passages aloud to revel in their beauty. (In some ways, she reminds me of Marilynne Robinson's fiction and Darwin's text.) I found myself is tears many times in the truly poetic way she articulated her respect for scientists in general, and Charles Darwin in particular and her spiritual message. I just loved this book and if you approach it with an open and loving mind, the way she successfully does, you will see what a gift Sr. Beth is to science and theology today.
For all of you out there who are not scientists but are looking for rationale to support climate activists this is the book for you! Author goes at the issue from a humanitarian and spiritual angle and makes a compelling case. A bit of a slog at times- you can skim those parts and be OK-but hang in there to the end and you are rewarded.
This book places many of our current global problems in the larger context of the history of and development of life forms within our known universe. It emphasizes the need for our human species to see and understand our connection to and interdependence with all life forms and all aspects of the created world. It suggests that if human beings upset the natural balance historically found in creation, we risk bringing about our own destruction along with the destruction of innumerable species of plant and animal life forms.
This an essential book to put aside the false dichotomy between Darwin, Science and Faith in the Trinitarian God. It is a book that will help save the planet from destruction and promote understanding of bothe the natural world and the God who created. No creationism of fundamentalism here...
Terrific specific review of how anthropogenic ally caused climate change and its consequential global warming has a d continues to negatively and dramatically affected the animal kingdom and thereby all life and how this is related to the rapidly occurring ecological collapse.
A very capable writer takes up the probable forthcoming ecological disaster with a scholarly presentation of Darwin's stance and our belief in the ever-loving Creator of us all. Her work is so easy to read and convincing in argument. Every theology student, every science follower, every lover of this fragile earth should take up this book - and enjoy!
A rather lengthy recitation, although mostly interesting, of evolutionary thought. Some helpful insights in the latter chapters about the scriptural foundations of a theology of creation. Did not deal adequately with the issues presented by Darwinism to soteriology as understood by St. Anselm.
Elizabeth A. Johnson always writes well. I bought this book because another professor said she learned a lot about evolution in the first part of the book, and its relevance for theology in the second part. I thoroughly agree, and admire the vast amount of research that informs the book, both historically and in terms of contemporary evolutionary theory.
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