The Tangled Bank: Toward an Ecotheological Ethics of Responsible Participation

By Michael S. Hogue

A critical discussion of the theological ethics of ecology that calls for a naturalistic approach that recognises human beings as part of nature.

ISBN: 9780227173350


In response to the confluence of moral uncertainty with the increase of human power to alter nature, and through critical integration of the philosophical naturalism of Hans Jonas and the critical religious naturalism of James M. Gustafson, The Tangled Bank argues for an ecotheological ethics of responsible participation.

By making the case that the moral pressures of our time call for a vision that is as deeply naturalistic as it is theological, a critical perspective is advanced that is attuned to human embeddedness within nature as well as to human distinctiveness. In support of this, a moral anthropological method is deployed as a creative new way to integrate the comparative, critical, and constructive tasks of theological ethics.

The insights of Jonas and Gustafson, interpreted comparatively for the first time, are critically drawn together to suggest new directions for scholarship and teaching in theology, religion, and science studies.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 282

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Michael S. Hogue is Assistant Professor of Theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School (Chicago, Illinois).



Part One: Hermeneutical Dimensions
1. Human Power and Existential Biology
2. Divine Power and Critical Religious Naturalism

Part Two: Fundamental Dimensions
3. Technos, Bios, Anthropos
4. God, World, Human Being

Part Three: Normative Dimensions
5. The Imperative of Responsibility
6. Theocentric Ethical Participation

Conclusion: Toward an Ecotheological Ethics of Responsible Participation


Endorsements and Reviews

In this elegantly written book, Michael Hogue insightfully compares two leading figures dedicated to reconstructing ethics in the light of our environmental situation, the philosopher Hans Jonas and James M. Gustafson, a Christian theologian. … This book is a welcome addition to religious and philosophical reflection on ecology and ethics. I heartily commend it to anyone and everyone engaged with the pressing moral challenges we all now face.
William Schweiker, author of Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics

Michael Hogue takes the interaction between environmental and Christian ethics to a new and satisfying level. … He writes with clarity, grace, depth, and humor.
John Opie, author of Nature’s Nation

Michael Hogue breaks down the usual stereotypes about the value of philosophy and theology and challenges his readers to expand our ideas about how to live on Earth. Scholarly yet lucidly written and engaging, this book charts new territory in environmental thinking.
Jerome A. Stone, author of The Minimalist Vision of Transcendence

This book is helpful especially for those interested in the thought of Jonas or Gustafson …
Jacob W. Shatzer, Marquette University, Milwaukee, in Theological Book Review, Vol 23, No 1

The Tangled Bank is an interesting book, quite complex and deep. The book is philosophical and theological as much as ecological in presenting the ideas of Jonas and Gustafson … suggesting an environmental ethics … the concentration on and intertwined examination of Jonas and Gustafson allows for an in-depth analysis, which digs deep into the philosophical and theological nature of humanity and its relationship to God and nature, combining naturalistic and theological ideas, stressing human distinctiveness, but also human embedded-ness within nature … It allows for more than a cursory analysis, which is welcome, because the problem is complicated and deep, with no easy solutions … The book is insightful, useful and worthwhile.
Tony Watling, in The Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol 27.1

The Tangled Bank remains a stimulating read for those concerned with interrelated challenges of sustainability and faithful living today. In the present phase of human existence, when our capacity for action may very well cause ecological collapse precipitating our ruin, it is particularly important to consider a moral dimension to these challenges. As such, Hogue’s work is a cogent comment on the need for responsible ethical participation in the face of contemporary manifestations of human power.
Patrick Madigan, in Heythrop Journal, Vol 53 (5)

Hogue argues in this book for the enduring validity of twentieth century liberal theology – with its emphasis on experience, choice and autonomy as the keynotes to theological anthropology – in addressing what he sees as the central challenge of the twenty-first century, this being the ecological crisis, and it deserves to be widely read.
Michael Northcott, in The Expository Times, Vol 124 (2)

Through Jonas and Gustafson, Hogue brings together philosophy and religion in a new and powerful synthesis. … It is not the only possible synthesis of religious and philosophical thinkers, but one that will certainly attract deserved notice for its boldness and depth.
David K. Goodin, in Environmental Ethics, Vol 34, No 1