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Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality

Overview

In this novel exploration of Reformed spirituality, Belden C. Lane uncovers a "green theology" that celebrates a community of jubilant creatures of all languages and species. Lane reveals an ecologically sensitive Calvin who spoke of himself as ''ravished'' by the earth's beauty. He speaks of Puritans who fostered a ''lusty'' spirituality in which Christ figured as a lover who encouraged meditation on the wonders of creation. He presents a Jonathan Edwards who urged a sensuous ...

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Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality

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Overview

In this novel exploration of Reformed spirituality, Belden C. Lane uncovers a "green theology" that celebrates a community of jubilant creatures of all languages and species. Lane reveals an ecologically sensitive Calvin who spoke of himself as ''ravished'' by the earth's beauty. He speaks of Puritans who fostered a ''lusty'' spirituality in which Christ figured as a lover who encouraged meditation on the wonders of creation. He presents a Jonathan Edwards who urged a sensuous ''enjoyment'' of God's beauty as the only real way of knowing God.

Lane argues for the ''double irony'' of Reformed spirituality, showing that Calvinists who often seem prudish and proper are in fact a people of passionate desire. Similarly, Reformed Christians who appear totally focused on divine transcendence turn out at times to be closet nature mystics, exulting in God's glory everywhere. Lane also demonstrates, however, that a spirituality of desire can be derailed, ending in sexual excess and pantheism. Ecologically, holy longing can be redirected from a contemplation of God's splendor in the earth's beauty to a craving for land itself, resulting in disastrous misuse of its resources.
Between the major chapters of the book are engaging personal essays drawn from the author's own love of nature as a Reformed Christian, and providing a thoughtful discussion of contemporary issues of species diversity and the honoring of an earth community.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lane scores on every shot. He awakens a thesis that the 16th-century Reformers desired a God whose beauty is reflected "generously (and flagrantly) in the world of nature." He rescues founders of Reformed spirituality, like John Calvin, and successors, like Jonathan Edwards, from brimstoned clichés. Lane, who teaches theology at Saint Louis University, broadens the image of Edwards considerably beyond the narrow legacy of the Puritan preacher's famous sinners' sermon: Edwards cared less about a vengeful God than a beautiful one who could be known through all five senses in nature. Lane asserts that Calvin is not a sexless citrus-sucker but a man of sensuous language, pleasure, and theology. Lane demonstrates, too, the legacy of these pastors and their contemporaries in poetry and politics; he cites modern environmental theologians and ethicists with roots in Reformed spirituality. Strengthening connections to contemporary sensibilities, Lane interleaves his personal essays with his commentary. In addition to rich quotes from others, Lane offers his own memorable thoughts, his words elegant as brocade in color and texture, scholarly but never stultifying. (May)
From the Publisher
"Lane scores on every shot . . . In addition to rich quotes from others, Lane offers his own memorable thoughts, his words elegant as brocade in color and texture, scholarly but never stultifying."—Publishers Weekly

"I love this book—a serious work of theology whose language celebrates and mediates the ravishing beauty of a world shot through with the glory of God."—Marcus Borg, author of The Heart of Christianity and Speaking Christian

"Belden Lane has provided a contemporary spiritual theology perfectly suited to the restless longings of our consumer culture. Rereading Calvin and Edwards, he finds neglected (and surprising) resources in the Reformed tradition for seeing creation as a rich and wild theater of fulfilled desires. In the process he teaches the reader to share creation's passionate and conflicted yearning for God, and to join its praise of God's loveliness."—William Dyrness, Professor of Theology and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Exemplary! Christianity's ecological phase requires Earth-honoring retrieval and recasting of its deep traditions. Lane brings to the task a good historian's unflinching honesty as well as the pilgrim's personal passion. The result is Reformed spirituality transformed by its own strong sense of God's presence amid streams of earthly beauty across 'landscapes of desire.' A timely ecumenical gift."—Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York

"[A]n informative and thought-provoking work about how we treat nature." —Library Journal

"In this splendid book Belden Lane has made a double contribution-to the reordering of our perspectives on creation and to our understanding of the Reformed tradition as a contributor to this reordering. A nature lover, hiker and camper as well as a first-rate scholar, he combines a passion for sensitive stewardship of creation with profound insight into the nature perspectives of Reformed spirituality and into the interconnections between Reformed spirituality and the broader stream of world spirituality as they both relate to creation." —hristian Century

"In this splendid book Belden Lane has made a double contribution - to the reordering of our perspectives on creation and to our understanding of the Reformed tradition as a contributor to this reordering. A nature lover, hiker and camper as well as a first-rate scholar, he combines a passion for sensitive stewardship of creation with profound insight into the nature perspectives of Reformed spirituality and into the interconnections between Reformed spirituality and the broader stream of world spirituality as they both relate to creation."—The Christian Century

"Among a spate of similar books, Ravished by Beauty is easily among the most rewarding. Extensively researched and elegantly written, it asks important questions and refuses easy answers."—Modern Theology

"Lane's volume is a much-needed foray into Reformed spirituality, the theological development of desire, and a robust Reformed aesthetic. It will prove incredibly useful for anyone interested in these issues and/or questions concerning ecology, a theology of nature, or a spirituality of desire."—Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

Library Journal
When hearing the word Calvinism, you might think of predestination, depravation, and the grim belief that only a select few are worthy of God. Lane (theological studies, American religion, & history of spirituality, Saint Louis Univ.; The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality), however, invites us to take a second, fresh look at Calvinism—through the eyes of nature. This "green theology" delves into the writings of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and the Puritans to show nature's profound effect on them and their spirituality. These figures, known for strict and prudish beliefs, were overwhelmed with a desire—one might even say a lust—to feel the presence of God in nature. Lane uses their beliefs and the inherent message to emphasize our need to save our natural resources. He also explains how a spiritual need for nature can lead to an abuse of natural resources. VERDICT Ultimately, Lane mixes environmental concern with spirituality in this informative and thought-provoking work about how we treat nature. Recommended for readers and collections embracing the interconnectedness between religion and environmentalism, a new area of study known as green theology.—Sonnet Brown, Univ. of New Orleans Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199755080
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2011
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Belden C. Lane is Professor of Theological Studies, American Religion, and History of Spirituality at Saint Louis University and the author of The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Ring Lake Ranch, Wyoming
Chapter One: The Double Irony of Reformed Spirituality: Nature, Desire and the Easily-Diverted Quest for God's Beauty
Landscapes of Desire: The Whole World Singing: A Journey to Iona and Taizé
Chapter Two: John Calvin on the World as a Theater of God's Glory
Landscapes of Desire: Can We Chant Psalms with All God's Creatures?
Chapter Three: Nature and Desire in Seventeenth-Century Puritanism
Landscapes of Desire: Open the Kingdom for a Cottonwood Tree
Chapter Four: The Schooling of Desire: Nature's Purifying Role in Affliction
Landscapes of Desire: Biodiversity and the Holy Trinity
Chapter Five: Jonathan Edwards on Beauty, Desire, and the Sensory World
Landscapes of Desire: On Pilgrimage with Jonathan Edwards
Chapter Six: Transformed by Beauty: Environmental Ethics and the Wildness of God
Epilogue: Dead Creek, East Saint Louis

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