This refreshing work offers a distinctly agrarian reframing of spiritual practices to address today’s most pressing social and ecological concerns.
For thousands of years most human beings drew their daily living from, and made sense of their lives in reference to, the land. Growing and finding food, along with the multiple practices of home maintenance and the cultivations of communities, were the abiding concerns that shaped what people understood about and expected from life. In Agrarian Spirit, Norman Wirzba demonstrates how agrarianism is of vital and continuing significance for spiritual life today. Far from being the exclusive concern of a dwindling number of farmers, this book shows how agrarian practices are an important corrective to the political and economic policies that are doing so much harm to our society and habitats. It is an invitation to the personal transformation that equips all people to live peaceably and beautifully with each other and the land.
Agrarian Spirit begins with a clear and concise affirmation of creaturely life. Wirzba shows that a human life is inextricably entangled with the lives of fellow animals and plants, and that individual flourishing must always include the flourishing of the habitats that nourish and sustain our life together. The book explores how agrarian sensibilities and responsibilities transform the practices of prayer, perception, mystical union, humility, gratitude, and hope. Wirzba provides an elegant and compelling account of spiritual life that is both attuned to ancient scriptural sources and keyed to addressing the pressing social and ecological concerns of today. Scholars and students of theology, ecotheology, and spirituality, as well as readers interested in agrarian and environmental studies, will gain much from this book.
Part I – Agrarian Fundamentals
1. On Not Losing Creation
2. Why Agrarian?
3. Placing The Soul
Part II – Agrarian Spiritual Exercises
4. Learning to Pray
5. Learning to See
6. Learning Descent
7. Learning Humility
8. Learning Generosity
9. Learning to Hope
Norman Wirzba is the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology at Duke Divinity School and senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He is the author and editor of sixteen books, including This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World.
"Norman Wirzba has done it again: this is—literally and figuratively—the most grounded (and grounding) book I've read in a long age. It will lead you to contemplation, and then, if you're lucky, to change." —Bill McKibben, author of The Comforting Whirlwind
"With uncommon depth and breadth, Norman Wirzba’s Agrarian Spirit urges us to embrace and celebrate human and non-human creatures as co-becoming, embodied expressions of God’s creating and sustaining love. He urges us to acknowledge our self-insufficiency and our dependence on others as a gift and as a challenge to develop the nurturing relationships that can heal our world and inspire our hope." —Steve Bell, author of the Pilgrim Year book series
"Norman Wirzba's agrarian spiritual exercises reposition us 'down and among' all living things, close to the God who sustains the life of every creature. Agrarian Spirit renews our desire to make a home in this world and to keep faith with the generations coming after us." —Stephanie Paulsell, co-editor of Goodness and the Literary Imagination
"If 'incarnate spirituality' sounds like an oxymoron to you, let Norman Wirzba be your guide to the agrarian arts of faith. This book is the culmination of decades of thinking and writing and work, and there is no writer better equipped to articulate how an agrarian sensibility should shape our spiritual practices.” —Jeffrey Bilbro, author of Reading the Times and editor-in-chief at Front Porch Republic
“Agrarian Spirit isn’t luddite, nostalgic, or angry. Rather, it’s a gentle, wise, and hopeful call forward, casting a vision for how to live as God’s people in God’s world. I loved this book, and it flooded my imagination with pictures of what the Kingdom of Heaven could be, right now, right in my neighborhood.” —Andrew Peterson, author of The God of the Garden
"This is an inspiring synthesis of current ecological thought and spiritual reflection in the Christian tradition. . . . Wirzba acknowledges the difficulties in constructing this vision alongside the spotty record of ecological care in Christianity's past, yet he still finds possibilities within the tradition to create a framework that draws on religious meaning and energy to advocate a holistic, responsively ecological way of living." —Library Journal
"There are multiple books on the philosophy and history of American agrarianism, but Norman Wirzba provides—for the first time—a comprehensive 'spirituality' of agrarian consciousness. . . . Wirzba’s book comes at the right moment, pointing us to the shared vulnerability—the deep interconnectedness—that is at the same time our plight and our salvation." —Current
"This is an outstanding place to start for both personal and communal work in the redemption of our earthly call to live fully within God’s creation and live wholly in our creaturely selves. . . . Wirzba offers this gift to the church as a way for all of us to cast aside an ideology we may not have known we have, one that puts humans in a singular relationship with God and leaves all the rest of His good creation as merely a backdrop." —Christian Scholar's Review
"I knew this would be a good book, and it is. In his typical clear style, Norman Wirzba takes complex philosophical arguments, agrarian practical insights, and solid theological teaching and mixes them together in accessible prose to encourage and challenge readers." —The Christian Century
“At its heart, this book is an attempt to prompt readers to think more deeply about themselves as but one creature among many in God’s creation and to live more lovingly and gently in creation as a result. . . . Readers will find this a source of inspiration for pursuing a more bountiful way of life among God’s other creatures.” —Reading Religion
"Our current economic habits reveal a vision of the world in which people and creation are disposable capital, to be caught up in the machinery of production and profit. In Agrarian Spirit, Wirzba offers a balm—a restorative perspective that undermines the values of disposability and exploitation." —Englewood Review of Books
“Genuine, theologically nuanced and inviting.... Embodying the very dispositions he advocates in the book, Wirzba demonstrates in word and spirit how loving neighbour and place brings one closer to God's loving power, at work in the depths of the world.” —Scottish Theological Journal
"Agrarian Spirit makes an important contribution to the church and academy alike. . . . Refreshingly, it is a work to be used as much as read." —International Journal of Systematic Theology
"Lush. . . . a teeming garden of theological interlocutors, considerations, and concerns." —Studies in Christian Ethics
"With the wisdom of a sage living close to Scripture and the land, and with the motivation of a philosopher analyzing the existential threat of today’s Anthropocene, Norman Wirzba launches readers on a spiritual journey to embrace their creaturehood and awaken to the grace and sanctity of life....A book study group, inside or outside the church, would find Agrarian Spirit a fascinating read that challenges common Gnostic-informed assumptions about spirituality, the Christian faith, and life. For pastors, church educators, and spiritual directors the book provides a wealth of material for developing various sermon series, Bible studies, and spiritual counseling resources that help seekers and people of faith reconnect Christian faith with ecology, economic life, and embodied spirituality.... In a world that seems to be racing towards ecological collapse even as it promises a technology-supported transhumanist future, Wirzba provides a spiritual path to honor and protect our creaturely humanity—no matter what trials and uncertainties the future holds."—Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
Catholic Media Association Book Award: Catholic Social Teaching, Honorable Mention
Notre Dame Press Shorts with Norman Wirzba, author of "Agrarian Spirit"
Author and editor of sixteen books, Norman Wirzba introduces his newest work, "Agrarian Spirit: Cultivating Faith, Community, and the Land." This is a gentle, wise, and hopeful call forward, casting a vision for how to live as God's people in God's world.