A Theology of Creation
Ecology, Art, and Laudato Si'
4 color illustrations
- Published: August 2023
- ISBN: 9780268205614
This book provides the first sustained philosophical treatment of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ and articulates a theology of creation to recover our place within the cosmos.
In the encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis discerns beneath the imminent threat of ecological catastrophe an existential affliction of the human person, who is lost in the cosmos, increasingly alienated from self, others, nature, and God. Pope Francis suggests that one must reimagine humanity’s place in the created cosmos. In this ambitious and distinctive contribution to theological aesthetics, Thomas S. Hibbs provides the basis for just such a recovery, working from Laudato Si' to develop a philosophical and theological diagnosis of our ecological dislocation, a narrative account of the sources of the crisis, and a vision of the way forward.
Through a critical engagement with the artistic theory of Jacques Maritain, Hibbs shows how certain strains of modern art both capture our alienation and anticipate visions of recovered harmony among persons, nature, and God. In the second half of the book, in an attempt to fulfill Pope Francis’s plea for an “aesthetic education” and to apply and test Maritain’s theory, Hibbs examines the work of poets and painters. He analyzes the work of poets Robinson Jeffers and William Everson, and considers painters Georges Roualt, a friend to Maritain, and Makoto Fujimura, whose notion of “culture care” overlaps in suggestive ways with Francis’s notion of integral ecology.
Throughout this tour de force, Hibbs calls for a commitment to an “ecological poetics,” a project that responds to the crisis of our times by taking poets and painters as seriously as philosophers and theologians.
1. Laudato Si’, Technocracy, and the Renewal of Human Making
2. Jacques Maritain and the Twilight of Civilization
3. Nihilism and Modernity in Endless Crisis
4. The Ecological Poetics of Robinson Jeffers
5. The Sacramental Poetics of William Everson
6. Georges Rouault: Artist of Alienation and Transfiguration
7. Culture Care, Generativity, and the Calling of the Artist
“Finally, a leading American Catholic intellectual gives us a Francis that takes us far beyond clickbait headlines. There emerges a pope engaging, and extending, the papal tradition of Catholic social thought. In this case, a pope, a partner in the arts, contending with the risks of a post-human world.” —Graham James McAleer, author of Erich Przywara and Postmodern Natural Law
"'The ordered restlessness of the human heart' is the difficult habitation of Thomas Hibbs. Provoked by the reflections of Pope Francis on creation, Hibbs revives Jacques Maritain’s 'erotic encounter with Beauty' for a new generation of artists and spiritual pilgrims." —David O'Connor, author of Plato’s Bedroom: Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love
"Few contemporary writers have the breadth of reading in philosophy, theology, art, and pop culture so elegantly and persuasively displayed in Hibbs’s A Theology of Creation. Hibbs’s achievement is to look beyond theologians and philosophers to artists as sources of wisdom for renewing our wonder and gratitude at God’s creation. The book is a triumph!" —Joseph E. Capizzi, author of A Catechism for Business
Both Chesterton and Pope Francis find in the medieval saint an articulation of the cosmic significance of the dramatic encounter of God and human persons. With few exceptions, contemporary Christian thought and art have focused on the human drama without attending to the shape of the created cosmos or to the way in which we are to perceive and praise God through the created world. The Pope’s encyclical calls for, and offers a guide to, a renewal of human life within the whole of the natural order. There is a remarkable affinity between the document and that of the contemporary artist and writer, Makoto Fujimura, whose notion of “culture care” provides for an aesthetic ecology, at once natural and human. Influenced by the thought of Maritain and the painting of Maritain’s friend, Georges Rouault, Fujimura advocates for an ecological art. For him, the link between natural and human ecology is culture. We have already noted the overlap between the title and themes of his book, Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Life, and the key motifs of LS. Moreover, his own art—a syncretism of east and west, traditional and contemporary, secular and sacred—is a kind of fusion of the art of Rouault with the so-called tradition of abstraction in Rothko.
Fujimura’s work directly addresses the crisis of homo faber. We should note first of all that he places the crisis of art and the artist at the center of the problem of meaninglessness in our time. He sees various forces, including reductionism and hyper-specialization, as depleting the cultural soil. These are features of techno-fideism already familiar to us. He also sees sources of alienation in a laissez-faire economic system and a consumerist approach to art. Moreover, our view of culture war indicates how far removed we are from inhabiting a shared, living culture. As Fujimura observes, “Culture is not a territory to be won but a resource to steward with care. Culture is a garden to be cultivated.” Once again, the language of LS, in this case, the vocabulary of stewardship, is prominent.
The comprehensive vision that informs LS is equally operative here: “Individuals exist in community, in economies and ecologies.” Fujimura repudiates the dualism that infects so much of modern philosophy and is at the root of the anthropocentric ideal: “our multifaceted interaction with our physical and cultural environment directly affects our bodies, our minds, our spirts, and ultimately our souls.” As a basis for thinking about the conditions of a healthy human ecology, he turns to the ingredients of “thriving ecosystems.”