Fortress Press

Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality

Before Nature

A Christian Spirituality

H. Paul Santmire (Author)


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Before Nature caps a set of themes first brought to the fore in Santmire’s previous work, most notably the classic The Travail of Nature. Here Santmire continues the pursuit of a theology bound up with nature and its condition, especially the fragility and fervent expectation of nature’s redemption. Santmire invites readers on a theological and spiritual journey to a prayerful and contemplative knowledge of the Triune God, in which practitioners are inducted into a bountiful relationship with the cosmic and universal ministry of Christ and the Spirit uniting all of nature in a single vision of hope and anticipation.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451473001
  • eBook ISBN 9781451484311
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 272
  • Publication Date May 1, 2014


"With a pastoral heart and prophetic passion, H. Paul Santmire continues his lifelong conversation about creation centered spirituality. Unapologetically Christian, Santmire weaves a Trinitarian vision into a universal fabric—calling the reader toward an inner/outer journey that integrates prayer and action. With his most personal testimony to date, the author has created a theological legacy rooted in a life time of faithful ministry."
—Susan R. Andrews
Presbytery of Hudson River

"For thirty years now, H. Paul Santmire has provided us with graceful retrievals of nearly lost Christian traditions of creation theology. In the process, he has reconfigured contemplative and spiritual ecology. Now, in Before Nature, Santmire continues and extends his life-long work by illuminating nature as a relationship whose center is the Trinity and whose circumference is prayer.”
Steven Chase
Author of Nature as Spiritual Practice
"In the face of the extinctions of our time—indeed, the threat to any human future at all—how are Christians still to pray?  Here in our ‘twilight,’ Santmire invites readers into a practice of contemplative prayer capacious of both personal depth and clear-eyed vision. His Trinity Prayer makes possible a fully ecological immersion in reality, mystery, and hope: a Christian spirituality for life on Earth."
Lisa E. Dahill
Trinity Lutheran Seminary
"For several decades, Paul Santmire has produced a series of groundbreaking books on the theology of nature and the environment. They are rich and indispensable reading for anyone working in this area. Now he has added to his corpus this wonderful volume, Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. In this work, Santmire brings together Christian spirituality, his personal narrative, theology of nature, and mission, in the very best sense of that word. The result is a feast, with all the right ingredients. We will never recover a theology of nature and place without recovering the accompanying practices, and in this work we get a wonderful insight into Santmire's own practices and how to develop a spirituality for and of such practices. It is hard to stress too strongly how important is such a discussion. Even more important is that we learn from Santmire and incarnate such practices into our daily lives. The results would be truly revolutionary."
Craig Bartholomew
Redeemer University College

"In Before Nature, Paul Santmire weaves together theologies of nature, both ancient and new, which he persuasively employs to re-frame our understanding of humanity's vital—and humble—role as co-creator and servant. Engaging scientific criticism and illumined by 'fragile faith,' Dr. Santmire journeys into the origin of all things in God as Trinity: Giver, Gift, and Giving. In a narrative combining elements of theological reflection, pastoral experience, and memoir, Santmire calls readers to own their role of theologian/creation-partner through prayer and action. An invitation to vulnerability, wonder, and hope, Before Nature is an inspiring and moving challenge to living in God’s present—in an ‘era of twilight.'"
Br Jonathan Maury
Society of Saint John the Evangelist
"With grace and wisdom, Paul Santmire draws the reader into intimate, intriguing conversation culminating in an earthy spirituality of nature grounded in historic Christian traditions and in his lifelong journey of encountering God in Earth’s creatures and elements. Santmire is an artist of words. His accessible lucid prose and delightful imagery guide the reader on a critical and deeply appreciative walk through Christian understandings of God both beyond and within the created world. All is couched in courageous unflinching accounts of his spiritual journey in its fragile beauty and brokenness. His final gift to the reader is an invitation to encounter God in creation by singing the ancient Trinity Prayer as a life-giving spiritual practice. Against the lure of cosmic despair prevalent in the church and broader society, Santmire weaves a vision of cosmic hope; all of creation is destined toward ultimate fulfillment. This will become a classic of earth-honoring spirituality."
Cynthia Moe-Lobeda
Seattle University 

"No author in English is more important than Paul Santmire in the field of Christian theology of nature. Before Nature is a beautiful culmination of Santmire's nearly half a century of writings on the topic. While being through and through a theology of nature, this book is at once a moving spiritual autobiography, a creative exploration of the doctrine of the Trinity, and an admirably practical guide to prayer. Before Nature presents an embodied 'Christian spirituality' that is both conceptually rigorous and poetically imaginative, sustained by the infinite mystery of divine love."
John F. Hoffmeyer
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia