Volume 35, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2015
D. M. Yeager
"Suspended in Wonderment": Beauty, Religious Affections, and Ecological Ethics
Three figures in the American Reformed tradition—the novelist Marilynne Robinson, the theocentric ethicist James Gustafson, and the biocentric poet Robinson Jeffers—treat the perception of beauty as the framework of moral discernment in ways that seem particularly significant for ecological ethics. Their work makes vividly concrete dimensions of Calvin's theology of creation that have been the subject of increasing theological attention over the past twenty-five years. By focusing on receptivity to natural beauty, their approach suggests a reorientation of the Christian ecological conversation that would root responsibility in grateful awe rather than stewardship, and would substitute graced responsiveness for obligation. This shift away from duty, sacrifice, and self-denial has the prophetic potential to inspire life-way changes that have been hard to effect through caustic critiques of wasteful materialism or exhortations to just regard for generations as yet unborn.