Christian History Institute

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Magazine Issues

  • Issue 119: The Wonder of Creation

    The Wonder of Creation: how Christians have responded to God’s “book of nature”


29 Aug 2016

Something here sounds familiar

by Loren Wilkinson | Issue 119

POPE FRANCIS wrote me a letter last year—and he wrote you one too! 

The pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ may well turn out to be the most important in a long line of papal writings on Catholic social teaching. More deliberately than any previous encyclical, this declaration is addressed not just to clergy, or to Catholics, or even to Christians. Rather, Francis says, “I wish to address every person living on this planet.” And perhaps no encyclical has immediately been noticed, read, and commented on by so many people, both inside and outside...

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29 Aug 2016

Fellow travelers?

by Matt Forster | Issue 119

John Muir (1838–1914)

Few American environmentalists and nature writers are as well known as John Muir; born in Scotland, he moved to Wisconsin at age 11. His family belonged to the Disciples of Christ, and as a child, Muir memorized more than half the Old Testament and all of the New. 

CH 119Order Christian History #119: The Wonder of Creation in print.

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While studying botany at the University of Wisconsin, Muir discovered his inspiration. In The...

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29 Aug 2016


by the editor | Issue 119

Christians have talked about God’s creation as an inspiration and a responsibility for 2,000 years. All the books, people, and movements won’t fit in this timeline, but here are some highlights from this issue and (at the bottom) some world events for context.

natural philosophers and scientists     mystics and poets     monastics and theologians     famous publications     communal societies     environmental activists and stewards


Origen (c. 184–254)

Antony (c. 251–356)

Pachomius (c. 292–348)

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29 Aug 2016

Getting back to the land

by Ellen F. Davis | Issue 119

kentucky farmHOW DO WE CARE FOR God’s creation? Christians have answered this question in various ways throughout church history. You’ll read about many of them in the coming pages.

One contemporary Christian response to this question comes from what has been called the “new agrarian movement,” largely based in the writings of Wendell Berry. Berry defined it as follows: “It is not so much a philosophy as a practice, an attitude, a loyalty and a passion—all based in close connection with the land. It results in a sound local economy in which producers...

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29 Aug 2016

Cows and pigs, not leprechauns: Celts and creation

by Garry Crites | Issue 119

According to a medieval legend, when the Gaelic Milesians arrived in Ireland from Iberia (modern Spain) they were met by druids (priests) of the Tuatha Dé Danann, an ancient tribe that had inhabited the island for millennia. The druids called up a mighty sea storm; the Milesian bard Amergin responded with the chant: “I am the wind on the sea / I am the ocean wave / I am the sound of the sea / I am the bull in seven fights/ I am an eagle on a rocky cliff / I am a beam from the sun. *hellip;” 

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26 Aug 2016

Editor’s Note

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 119

Jenn's farm
I WRITE THIS editor’s letter looking out over eight acres of rolling Kentucky bluegrass, a barn, a chicken shed, and a few different breeds of chickens: Barred Rocks, Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons. Somewhere in the meadow there are 26 goats, also of varying breeds: Saanens, Boers, Kikos, and our herd sire, a Myotonic (yes, that is the fainting goat breed; no, I have not yet seen him faint).

A little off to the right is a quarter acre’s worth of garden, which in late May is producing spinach, lettuce, radishes, turnips, scallions, and mint. The...

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26 Aug 2016

Did you know?

by the editors | Issue 119

Reading God’s Book of Nature

Teatise on science

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea
around the old eternal   rocks.

    —Attributed to Patrick
(c. 373–c. 466)

He who longs always after God, he sees Him: for God is in all things.…God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature. —John of Damascus (c. 675–749)

Throughout the entire...

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26 Aug 2016

All life has its roots in me

by Hildegard of Bingen | Issue 119

Hildegard writingAs wisdom is personified in Proverbs 8, so Hildegard personified the fire of God’s Spirit in this excerpt from her Book of Divine Works.

 I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every spark of life, and I emit nothing that is deadly. I decide on all reality. With my lofty wings I fly above the globe: With wisdom I have rightly put the universe in order. I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars. … I awaken everything to life. The air...

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26 Aug 2016

Canticle of the Creatures

by Francis of Assisi | Issue 119

Francis of Assisi

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
all praise is Yours, all glory,
all honor and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, 
do they belong, and no 
mortal lips are worthy to 
pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You, my Lord, 
with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun, 
who is the day 
through whom You give us light. 
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars; in the heavens you have made them
bright, precious and fair.


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26 Aug 2016

The heavens declare the glory of God

by Glenn E. Myers | Issue 119

Greek monasteryPSALM 19 PROCLAIMS, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psalm 19:1–2). Since the beginning of the church, Christians have affirmed this insight and joined together with the creation pictured in Psalm 19 to worship God. 

Many of those vibrant believers were monks and nuns who set their lives apart for prayer and memorizing Scripture; but these monastic Christians also tended the garden of creation where the Lord had...

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26 Aug 2016

Cosmic worship, sanctified matter, transfigured vision

by Kathleen A. Mulhern | Issue 119

John of Damascus“GRACE IS EVERYWHERE.”

So testified the dying priest in Georges Bernanos’s The Diary of a Country Priest (1936), a gritty, tragic tale of an ordinary man’s journey to God. Though deprived of the church’s final sacrament, the priest had no concerns, for he found it all around him in the “light and dazzling beauty” of common roads and kicked-up dust. 

Freed slave Sojourner Truth (c. 1797–1883) also saw something extraordinary in the ordinary, writing, “’Twas God all around me. … An’ then the whole world grew bright, an’ the trees they waved...

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26 Aug 2016

A cathedral, a retreat, a challenge

by Russell E. Richey | Issue 119

All glory to God in the sky ,
And peace upon earth be restored!
O Jesus, exalted on high,
Appear our omnipotent Lord!
Who, meanly in Bethlehem born ,
Didst stoop to redeem a lost race ,
Once more to thy creatures return,
And reign in thy kingdom of grace.

When thou in our flesh didst appear,
All nature acknowledged thy birth ;
Arose the acceptable year ,
And heaven was opened on earth :
Receiving its Lord from above,
The world was united to bless
The giver of concord and love,
The Prince and the author of peace .

O wouldst thou again be made...

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26 Aug 2016

“Our garden must be God’s garden”

by Charles E. Moore | Issue 119

arnoldsIN JUNE OF 1920, Eberhard Arnold (1883–1935); his wife, Emmy (1884–1980) [the pair shown at the left]; and their five children moved from Berlin to the German village of Sannerz. Their new temporary home: a shed behind the village inn. Their goal: to put into practice the teachings of Jesus in the spirit of the first Christians in the book of Acts. Their vision: a community of goods and work, with an open door, as an embassy of God’s coming kingdom.  

the way of peace

What compelled the Arnolds to leave their comfortable home, and...

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31 May 1994

The Canticle of Brother Sun

by Francis of Assisi | Issue 42

M ost High, all-powerful, good Lord, 
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing. 
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, 
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

P raised be You, my Lord, with all your creatures, 
especially Sir Brother Sun, 
Who is the day and through whom You give us light. 
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; 
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

P raised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, 
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

P raised be You,...

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