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Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love Hardcover – March 13, 2014
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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. --Bryce Christensen
“Throughout her acclaimed career as a theologian, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson has devoted much of her scholarship to contemplating God's relationship with human beings. [In] Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, Johnson turns her gaze upon God's relationship with the nonhumans of the world.” ―Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter
“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 may make the orthodox wary. But a writer who stirs controversy never lacks readers.” ―Bryce Christensen, Booklist
“Engrossing and wonderfully realized, this is a book to be read and loved.” ―Publishers Weekly
“This book is a call to broaden our focus, beyond the hierarchy we have perceived in Genesis, beyond the individualistic angst of human sin and redemption. It shows us that biblical revelation is bigger than this - God is bigger than this.” ―Melissa Jones, National Catholic Reporter
“This Spirit-imbued vision of creation yields the kind of strong ecological ethic demanded in our day. … Ask the Beasts presents a deeply sacramental, incarnational view of the natural world and our place in it.” – Stephen J. Pope, The Journal of Religion
“With 'Ask the Beasts' Elizabeth Johnson gives us a gift of the insights, scope of vision and impact of Darwin's theory on the way we humans view the history of life on our planet and our responsibility to care for With 'Ask the Beasts' Elizabeth Johnson gives us a gift of the insights, scope of vision and impact of Darwin's theory on the way we humans view the history of life on our planet and our responsibility to care for our home.” ―Blair Tabor, Association for Mormon Letters
“Elizabeth Johnson's beautifully written book shows us, more convincingly than any other book that I have ever read, how science and religion can engage in a dialogue which is mutually illuminating. She shows how the narratives of evolution and salvation are not just parallel stories but shed light on each other. The unpredictable creativity of matter is disclosed as the sphere of the working of the ever-fresh Holy Spirit. She brings us to a new understanding of the role of pain and death, and radically deepens our understanding of a cosmic redemption. I will read the Bible with a renewed understanding and pleasure. I have rarely enjoyed a book of theology more.” ―Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.
Top customer reviews
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.