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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In the early eighteenth century nature seemed to be governed by universal mathematical laws benevolently established by the Creator. Over the next hundred years, philosophical and cultural changes led to a new experience of nature’s meaning. Kant concluded that the tension between inert matter and living beings, between necessity and freedom, means that we cannot ultimately understand nature (the ground and origin of everything). Schelling’s idealism and its presumption of an immanent pre-existing harmony of mind and nature undermined this conclusion and ultimately led to new expectations for nature. Romantic ideas, from Schleiermacher (who located the religious impulse in the intuition of the universe as a whole) to Goethe, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Emerson, and Thoreau (with their faith that an encounter with nature could be suffused with holiness) came to be central to the modern environmental movement. The ideas of Charles Darwin changed how Christians came to understand the natural world.

Keywords: deist, Naturphilosophie, natural theology, evolution, imagination

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