Thursday, September 5, 2013

Calvinism & Environmentalism

John Gatta writes:
'Edwards’s notion of “benevolence to Being in general,” as articulated in The Nature of True Virtue, is a theocentric ideal that resists the anthropocentric assumption that nature exists solely to fulfill human needs and desires'
 Belder C. Lane writes in a blogpost 'A Passionate Green Calvinist':
'We're familiar with Reformed theologians like Karl Barth who emphasized a God of majesty who is "wholly other." We don't normally associate Reformed Protestantism, therefore, with a spirituality of desire or an attentiveness to creation. A more careful consideration of the tradition requires our distinguishing two parallel strains of thought in Reformed Christianity. The one begins with a sense of awe at God's majesty, the other with a delight in God's beauty. Both, strangely enough, can be traced through Calvin, the Puritans and Edwards. The more passionate and earthy strain simply hasn't been recognized enough'
Both statements immediately remind of Klaas Schilder's dissertation begriffsgeschichte des Paradoxons and the first chapter of his commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism. The article Jonathan Edwards on Beauty, Desire, and the Sensory World by Belden C. Lane further explores the ecological implications of Jonathan Edwards's approach (by the way, Belden C. Lane is working on a new book, titled: Nature and Spirituality in the Reformed Tradition from John Calvin to Jonathan Edwards.) and quotes Joseph Sittler (some background here):
"environmental ethics should take its cue from the first question of the Westminster Catechism in the Calvinist tradition. What is the chief end of man and woman (and of all creation, for that matter)? The answer: To glorify God and to enjoy God forever."
Belder C. Lane's thesis is:
'For Jonathan Edwards, creation functions as a school of desire, training regenerate human beings in the intimate sensory apprehension of God.'
Avia Zakai is absolutely correct when he states in his article 'Jonathan Edwards and the Language of Nature: The Re-Enchantment of the World in the Age of scientific Reasoning':
'His force of mind is evident in his exposition of the poverty of mechanical philosophy, which radically transformed the traditional Christian dialectic of God's utter transcendence and divine immanence by gradually diminishing divine sovereignty with respect to creation, providence, and redemption, thus leading to the disenchantment of the world.'
Someone who has read Klaas Schilder's sermon will immediately see the resemblance.

Jonathan Edwards dissertation on Nature of True Virtue is literally a commentary on Hutcheson's work.

It's obvious reading both Francis Hutcheson and Jonathan Edwards is essential to understand 18th century Princeton (Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, John Witherspoon).

Marsden's quote illustrate why John Witherspoon's instrumentalisation of Hutcheson's moral philosophy is unique:
'The grand hope of the modern moral philosophers was that they could discover universally valid moral standards with which they could adjudicate competing absolute claims and in effect stand above them.'

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