Calvin, the Spirit, and the Earth: Reading John Calvin's Theology of Creation in an Ecological Age

Monica Schaap Pierce, Fordham University


Beginning with the premise that the environmental crisis is also a cosmological crisis, this dissertation aims to reframe worldviews, particularly dualistic conceptions of Creator and creation, humans and other species. The writings of John Calvin represent an important, tradition-grounded resource for reconceiving of these fundamental relationships. Using close textual analysis, I show that Calvin’s doctrine of creation depicts an interconnected cosmos, in which all creatures are infused with value through the indwelling Spirit. Calvin’s doctrine of creation, I propose, is characterized by a panenpneumatism —that is, a co-inherence, or “mutual indwelling,” of the world and the Spirit in such a way that the two are distinct yet radically related. I trace this theme through Calvin’s theological aesthetics and eschatology to demonstrate that the natural world is an authentic site of encounter with God, and it is eschatologically preserved and restored by the Spirit. I conclude by setting forth an ecospirituality, inspired by Calvin and contemporary ecotheologians, which might cultivate an acute awareness of the panenpneumatic character of the world and reframe praxis in light of this reconceived worldview. The cumulative effect of my work is to demonstrate that Calvin’s creation theology is an important resource for responding to the current climate of environmental degradation. His conception of the Spirit as panenpneumatically imbuing creation reveals a fundamental relationship between God and the natural world and inscribes value on the earth, value that is greatly in need of recovery in this ecological age.

Subject Area

Religious history|Theology|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Pierce, Monica Schaap, "Calvin, the Spirit, and the Earth: Reading John Calvin's Theology of Creation in an Ecological Age" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10813696.