Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality by H. Paul Santmire

By H. Paul Santmire

Earlier than Nature caps a collection of subject matters first dropped at the fore in Santmire’s past paintings, so much particularly the vintage The Travail of Nature. the following Santmire keeps the pursuit of a theology sure up with nature and its situation, particularly the fragility and fervent expectation of nature’s redemption. Santmire invitations readers on a theological and non secular trip to a prayerful and contemplative wisdom of the Triune God, during which practitioners are inducted right into a bountiful courting with the cosmic and common ministry of Christ and the Spirit uniting all of nature in one imaginative and prescient of desire and anticipation.

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In a year or two, they decay into good nutrients for our vegetable garden, where I spread them and dig them in. In this way, the field serves the garden by helping its plants to flourish, along with the other natural nutrients we occasionally add to the soil, such as cow manure and green sand. When I lift and push wheelbarrows of green manure from the pipeline toward our gardens to be composted or when I spread the cow manure or scatter the green sand, and thereafter, in due course, when I kneel down on the earth to weed the vegetable seedlings, I am lifting and pushing and spreading and scattering and weeding in prayer—because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 24:1) and the Lord is there, I believe, in, with, and under every furrow of the soil and every glorious green shoot, both the seedlings and the weeds.

That great cat was crossing our road as my daughter drove along at dusk. She was dumbfounded. As she slowed her car and watched, that astounding creature stopped and looked back at her for a moment before disappearing into the woods. The whole area where I scythe is a rich meeting place for many creatures, myself included. I will not say much about other creatures from the wild side of things that occasionally invade what we like to think of as our space on our side of the field, including the deer that sometimes blatantly stand there in mutual contemplation with us as they munch our hostas, and the woodchucks that devour too many of our kohl seedlings and delphinium buds (over the course of one summer, I caught three woodchucks in our have-a-heart trap as well as a cat; one other summer I caught a skunk), and the raccoons that feast on our corn the day before we intend to harvest it.

Blessedly Scything with God | 13 And there is still more. In, with, and under those waters and those sacramental actions, announced by the word of God, I believe that the “God of grace and God of Glory” that one of my favorite hymns announces is bonding eternally with the person being baptized. At such moments, I do not worry about such more or less abstract theological questions as whether all have to be baptized in order to be saved (the gracious answer to that question, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe, is no).

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