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The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology

ISBN: 978-1-4051-2691-5
384 pages
April 2008, ©2008, Wiley-Blackwell
The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology (1405126914) cover image
Natural theology, in the view of many, is in crisis. In this long-awaited book, Alister McGrath sets out a new vision for natural theology, re-establishing its legitimacy and utility.
  • A timely and innovative resource on natural theology: the exploration of knowledge of God as it is observed through nature
  • Written by internationally regarded theologian and author of numerous bestselling books, Alister McGrath
  • Develops an intellectually rigorous vision of natural theology as a point of convergence between the Christian faith, the arts and literature, and the natural sciences, opening up important possibilities for dialogue and cross-fertilization
  • Treats natural theology as a cultural phenomenon, broader than Christianity itself yet always possessing a distinctively Christian embodiment
  • Explores topics including beauty, goodness, truth, and the theological imagination; how investigating nature gives rise to both theological and scientific theories; the idea of a distinctively Christian approach to nature; and how natural theology can function as a bridge between Christianity and other faiths
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Acknowledgments.

1 Natural Theology: Introducing an Approach.

“Nature” is an Indeterminate Concept.

Natural Theology is an Empirical Discipline.

A Christian Natural Theology Concerns the Christian God.

A Natural Theology is Incarnational, not Dualist.

Resonance, Not Proof: Natural Theology and Empirical Fit.

Beyond Sense-Making: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Part I: The Human Quest for the Transcendent: The Context for Natural Theology:.

2 The Persistence of the Transcendent.

Natural Theology and the Transcendent.

The Triggers of Transcendent Experiences.

The Transcendent and Religion.

3 Thinking About the Transcendent: Three Recent Examples.

Iris Murdoch: The Transcendent and the Sublime.

Roy Bhaskar: The Intimation of Meta-Reality.

John Dewey: The Curious Plausibility of the Transcendent.

4 Accessing the Transcendent: Strategies and Practices.

Ascending to the Transcendent from Nature.

Seeing the Transcendent Through Nature.

Withdrawing From Nature to Find the Transcendent Within Oneself.

Discerning the Transcendent in Nature.

5 Discernment and the Psychology of Perception.

Perception is Brain-Based.

Perception Involves Dynamic Mental Structures.

Perception is Egocentric and Enactive.

Perception Pays Attention to Significance.

Perception Can Be Modulated by Motivation and Affect.

Human Perception and Natural Theology.

Conclusion to Part I.

Part II: The Foundations of Natural Theology: Ground-Clearing and Rediscovery:.

6 The Open Secret: The Ambiguity of Nature.

The Mystery of the Kingdom: Jesus of Nazareth and the Natural Realm.

The Levels of Nature: The Johannine “I Am” Sayings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins on “Seeing” Nature.

7 A Dead End? Enlightenment Approaches to Natural Theology.

The Enlightenment and its Natural Theologies: Historical Reflections.

The Multiple Translations and Interpretations of the “Book of Nature”.

The Flawed Psychological Assumptions of the Enlightenment.

The Barth--Brunner Controversy (1934) and Human Perception.

Enlightenment Styles of Natural Theology: Concluding Criticisms.

8 A Christian Approach to Natural Theology.

On “Seeing” Glory: The Prologue to John’s Gospel.

A Biblical Example: The Call of Samuel.

The Christian Tradition as a Framework for Natural Theology.

Natural Theology and a Self-Disclosing God.

Natural Theology and an Analogy Between God and the Creation.

Natural Theology and the Image of God.

Natural Theology and the Economy of Salvation.

Natural Theology and the Incarnation.

Conclusion to Part II.

Part III: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: An agenda for a Renewed Natural Theology:.

9 Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Expanding the Vision for Natural Theology.

10 Natural Theology and Truth.

Resonance, Not Proof: Natural Theology and Sense-Making.

The Big Picture, Not the Gaps: Natural Theology and Observation of the World.

Natural Theology, Counterintuitive Thinking, and Anthropic Phenomena.

Natural Theology and Mathematics: A “Natural” Way of Representing Reality.

Truth, Natural Theology and Other Religious Traditions.

On Retrieving the Richness of Truth.

Truth and a Natural Theology of the Imagination.

11 Natural Theology and Beauty.

Recovering the Place of Beauty in Natural Theology.

The Neglect of Beauty: The “Deconversion” of John Ruskin.

Hugh Millar on the Aesthetic Deficiencies of Sense-Making.

John Ruskin and the Representation of Nature.

The Beauty of Theoretical Representations of Nature.

Beauty, Awe, and the Aesthetic Engagement with Nature.

Aesthetics and the “Seeing” of Beauty.

Beauty, Natural Theology, and Christian Apologetics.

12 Natural Theology and Goodness.

The Moral Vision of Reality.

Natural Theology and Natural Law.

The Eternal Return of Natural Law.

The Moral Ambivalence of Nature.

The Knowability of Goodness in Nature.

The Discernment of Goodness: The Euthyphro Dilemma.

Conclusion to Part III.

Conclusion.

Index

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Alister E. McGrath is Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University and Gifford Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen for 2009. He is a world-renowned theologian, and is the author of numerous best-selling titles.
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  • A timely and innovative resource on natural theology: the exploration of knowledge of God as it is observed through nature

  • Written by internationally regarded theologian and author of numerous bestselling books, Alister McGrath
  • Develops an intellectually rigorous vision of natural theology as a point of convergence between the Christian faith, the arts and literature, and the natural sciences, opening up important possibilities for dialogue and cross-fertilization
  • Sets forth a new approach to the study of natural theology, re-establishing its legitimacy and utility

  • Treats natural theology as a cultural phenomenon, broader than Christianity itself yet always possessing a distinctively Christian embodiment
  • Explores topics including beauty, goodness, truth, and the theological imagination; how investigating nature gives rise to both theological and scientific theories; the idea of a distinctively Christian approach to nature; and how natural theology can function as a bridge between Christianity and other faiths
See More
Unlike many working in the sciencetheology field, McGrath makes a real effort to address issues of biblical criticism, which gives his work some significant depth, as he incorporates an engagement with the Jesus of history and an application of this to contemporary understandings of natural theology. ( Reviews in Science and Religion, May 2009)

McGrath seeks to develop a specifically Christian approach to natural theology, anchoring it in the Christ event, and interpreting natural theology as something that is both historically located in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth and theologically interpreted by the church. (New Testament Abstracts, January 2009)

As we have come to expect from McGrath, the book is historically well-researched, conversant with recent literature, theologically creative, and carefully argued. It will certainly reshape contemporary discussions of natural theology and natural law. (Religious Studies Review, March 09)

"McGrath's book starts from distinctively Christian Trinitarian theology and then develops what the author sees as ways for Christian beliefs to create a means of seeing nature with a new sense of vision with the purpose of understanding the connections between Christian belief and natural science. It is extremely well-researched and footnoted, with an extensive bibliography of sources cited. Summing Up: Recommended." (CHOICE)

"The book is learned, covering a great deal of historical ground." (First Things)

"Alister McGrath's The Open Secret provides nothing less than the foundations of a vigorous renewal of natural theology for our time. Theologians and others who have considered natural theology an exhausted topic will have second thoughts after reading this richly nuanced, scholarly, creative, and enjoyable book."
John F. Haught, Georgetown University

"This is vintage McGrath: confident, capacious in scope, brisk in exposition, decisive in argument. Noone is better placed to make a case for a revisionary theology of nature; this book is sure to command a wide audience and to generate profitable debate." 
John Webster, King's College, Aberdeen

"For much of the twentieth century natural theology was regarded as intellectually moribund and theologically suspect. In this splendid new book, best-selling author and distinguished theologian Alister McGrath issues a vigorous challenge to the old prejudices. Building on the foundation of the classical triad of truth, beauty and goodness, he constructs an impressive case for a new and revitalized natural theology. This is a well-conceived, timely, and thought-provoking volume." 
Peter Harrison, Harris Manchester College, Oxford

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http://www.alistermcgrathwiley.com

Please click on the link to visit the Wiley website for Alister E. McGrath, Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King?s College London, UK, and head of its Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture. This innovative website brings together information about McGrath?s numerous Wiley books, including textbooks and scholarly research.

You will also find links to our companion websites for key textbooks, such as Christian History, and a host of additional resources such as podcasts, images, and videos, all designed to enhance your experience of using his books ? whether you are a student or a teacher.

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