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Dr. Michael Dominic Taylor is a Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College, where his intellectual interests center on the illumination of the beauty and wonder of Creation as expressed through ecology, anthropology, ethics and metaphysics. The author of The Foundations of Nature: Metaphysics of Gift for an Integral Ecological Ethic, he recently worked as the Executive Secretary of the Laudato Si’ Institute in Granada, Spain.
He spoke at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, January 16 in a presentation that 1,000 people watched in person and online in the inaugural lecture of the Center for Integral Ecology. Excerpts from his remarks follow. Watch the recording of the lecture here.
1. “Young people around the world, so disappointed by the modern society we live in, recognize something special in nature and they are seeking desperately at times to find out what it is. People are dying on the shores of life, unable to find the Creator in the midst of his creation.”
2. “We desperately need a new evangelization and a new purification. Of course personal witness and sanctity are not optional, but it is nonetheless imperative to offer a clear vision of what we believe and why others ought to believe it too. I think this is the crucial role that an institution like Benedictine College and the Center for Eco-Stewardship play.”
The Benedictine Revolution
3. “Thanks to St. Benedict, Western monasticism, with its evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, educated and civilized a huge area of the world from the heart of Christendom. Meanwhile, Saint Boniface, a missionary to the Germanic peoples in the 8th century on the periphery of the Christian world, who, according to legend, chopped down a great oak tree that was venerated by the pagans of the region.”
4. “Chesterton says nature-worship always ends in a worship of the Unnatural, and in the worst ways. Paganism could not avoid this downfall because it failed to account for original sin. But, Chesterton concludes, ‘the pagans were wiser than paganism; that is why the pagans became Christians.’”
5. “Our world has become obsessive consumerism. Not simple market exchanges, but that sickly consumerism which tries to fill the God-sized hole in one’s soul with material possessions.”
6. “Then, there is the worship of the body, which is magnified through the advertising that feeds this consumerism and is put on display, for example, on Instagram. Finally, we have the worship of technology, by which we like and share and have our being in the social networks that we have invited into every aspect of our lives. Modern man puts his trust and faith in its promise of unlimited power.”
Winder vs. Wonder
7. “Deism “conceived of God as a kind of Cosmic clockmaker, a Great Architect who set the world spinning and then stepped away. Man himself was no longer a natural unity, the highest expression of the cosmic harmony between the physical and the spiritual. Rather, man has become a ghost in a machine. It would not be long until that ghost stopped believing in himself at all.”
8. “It was inevitable that nihilism and atheism would appear as systems of belief in this context for the first time in human history. … True philosophy and especially metaphysics, following Saint Thomas, begins in wonder and leads to love, and in the middle, there is a task for us: to pursue the truth, goodness and beauty of reality.”
God of Beauty, God of All
9. “In the words of atheist, Richard Dawkins, all living things are merely ‘gene-machines,’ and our manifestation as unique individuals with individual dignity is an illusion. In this view, the value of a creature is merely instrumental, making everything a product to be bought and sold.”
10. “The ecophilosophers tend towards a pagan worship of the utterly immanent. It is only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the personal God, Jesus Christ who is both fully immanent and fully transcendent, and it is only in Covenant with Him that all our contradictions, fears, and failures are reconciled.”
“What is the act, par excellence, by which Creation is brought to the encounter with God? In the Mass – where, by the work of his hands, wheat and grapes have been made into bread and wine, and Jesus himself, through his priests in persona Christi, comes to us, to accompany us through this earthly pilgrimage towards a new heaven and a new earth.”