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Re-Imagining Nature: The Promise of a Christian Natural Theology

Re-Imagining Nature: The Promise of a Christian Natural Theology

Alister E. McGrath

ISBN: 978-1-119-04635-6 August 2016 Wiley-Blackwell 256 Pages


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Reimagining Nature is a new introduction to the fast developing area of natural theology, written by one of the world’s leading theologians. The text engages in serious theological dialogue whilst looking at how past developments might illuminate and inform theory and practice in the present.
  • This text sets out to explore what a properly Christian approach to natural theology might look like and how this relates to alternative interpretations of our experience of the natural world
  • Alister McGrath is ideally placed to write the book  as one of the world’s best known theologians and a chief proponent of natural theology
  • This new work offers an account of the development of natural theology throughout history and informs of its likely contribution in the present
  • This feeds in current debates about the relationship between science and religion, and religion and the humanities
  • Engages in serious theological dialogue, primarily with Augustine, Aquinas, Barth and Brunner, and includes the work of natural scientists, philosophers of science, and poets

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Introduction 1

1 Natural Theology: Questions of Definition and Scope 6

The Aim of This Work 8

A Brief Genealogy of Natural Theology 11

Natural Theology: Six Approaches 18

The Natural Theology Project: Thick and Thin Descriptions 22

In Defense of a “Christian” Natural Theology Project 25

The Christian Accommodation of Classic Natural Theology 35

2 Natural Theology and the Christian Imaginarium 41

Sensorium and Imaginarium: Christianity and the Re-Imagination of Nature 42

Modernity and the Suppression of the Imagination 47

Metanoia: Seeing Things as They Really Are 50

Imaginative Transformation: The Church as an Interpretive Community 55

Theoria: Imaginative Beholding and Rational Dissection 57

Nature as logikos: Reflections on the Doctrine of Creation 61

Metaphors of Beauty and Order: Harmony and the Dance 66

3 Text, Image, and Sign: On Framing the Natural World 69

Natural Theology as a Habitus 69

The Intellectual Challenge of the Ambiguity of the World 73

Nature as a Text: Natural Theology and the Book of Nature 78

Nature as Image: Natural Theology and Landscapes 87

Nature as a Sign: Natural Theology and Semiotics 93

4 Natural Theology: Contexts and Motivations 101

The Importance of Cultural Location for Natural Theology 101

A New Vocational Space: Natural Theology as a Religious Calling 105

The Wasteland: Natural Theology and the Recovery of a Lost Nature 107

Wonder and Mystery: Transcendent Experiences 110

Re-Enchantment: Sustaining a Sense of Wonder 113

The Rational Transparency of Nature and Faith 116

Connectedness: The Human Longing for Coherence 120

Meaning: Nature and Ultimate Questions 122

Natural Theology as a “Natural” Quest 124

5 Natural Theology: Some Concerns and Challenges 128

Natural Theology: Improper and Redundant? 128

Ontotheology? Natural Theology and Philosophical “First Principles” 133

David Hume: The Intellectual Inadequacy of a Deist Natural Theology 135

Charles Taylor: Natural Theology and the “Immanent Frame” 138

Barth and Brunner: The Debate which Discredited Natural Theology? 144

Fideism: Natural Theology as Self-Referential and Self-Justifying? 149

6 The Promise of a Christian Natural Theology 154

The Natural Sciences: Natural Theology and the Subversion of Scientism 156

The Affective Imagination: Natural Theology and the Spirituality of Nature 163

Boundaries and Trespass: Natural Theology and Systematic Theology 168

Apologetics: Natural Theology and Public Engagement 173

Conclusion 181

Bibliography 184

Index 240