(Geneva, WCC Publications, 2000) ISBN 2-8254-1321-6
As Globalisation impacts upon society, bringing dubious economic benefits, it is encouraging to see international cooperation beginning to explore a process to bring to justice people who have abused the human rights of others, and presumed to act with impunity.
Genevieve Jacques, from her experience with the World Council of Churches, has had the opportunity to observe appalling violations of human dignity and at the same time monitored the growing concern of thinking people that atrocities on a mass scale cannot go unpunished.
The arrest in London of the former Chilean Dictator, General Pinochet, has been a turning point in the development of international jurisprudence that challenges the immunity from prosecution such people expected to enjoy.
Beyond Impunity examines some of the necessary elements of the procedures needed to not only bring to justice offenders, but how reconciliation might be achieved. Various examples illustrate how truth was searched for, even at the cost of victims having to rekindle painful memories. The problem is how to avoid being destroyed by memories, since memory is crucial to identity. The author sees the Churches as having a role to play in bringing healing to both victims and perpetrators in the implementation of Restorative Justice.
The vexed question is: who should be brought to justice when there have been mass slaughters and violence such as in Rwanda, Bosnia, East Timor and other places? Justice must not become a political pawn. The 1998 Statute of Rome for an International Criminal Court is the first step in lengthy negotiations, which will establish a recognised legal code for such prosecutions.
Reconciliation is at the very heart of the Christian ethos. Genevieve Jacques makes an eloquent plea for the Churches to actively draw on their resources to bring love, truth, justice and peace to the process. Reconciliation is of little worth without transformation – spiritual, moral, political and social. Forgiveness is an integral part of the long journey that culminates in reconciliation.
The author suggests that the Churches have often been hesitant and inadequate in responding to the challenge of reconciliation. At times the voice of the Churches has sounded more like a call for resigned acceptance than a challenge to justice and healing.
Beyond Impunity is a succinctly written little book that acknowledges the effort necessary to achieve justice for the victims of violence. It presents a vision that makes feasible the co-operation of international jurists, politicians, church people and others to set up an International Criminal Court that will be an influential step towards world peace.
Edited by Thomas F. Best & Dagmar Heller
(Geneva: World Council of Churches Publications 1999) Faith and Order Paper No. 184 106 pp ISBN 2-8254-1315-1
The ‘Lima Document’, Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry (1982) was, of course, a record of, and an invitation to theological ‘convergence’. It is not a definitive theological document, and it has little to say about liturgical practice. Despite this, it is undoubtedly the most significant document of Faith and Order for a century. The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches has held several consultations to explore the role of worship in the search for Christian unity, drawing out the implications of BEM. The first took place at the Community of All Hallows at Ditchingham, in the United Kingdom, in 1994. With the scholarly guidance of Professor Gordon Lathrop (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) and Professor Anscar Chapungco OSB (Roman Catholic Church, the leading peritus on matters of ‘inculturation’, who teaches both in Rome and the Philippines), the consultation explored the pattern or structure (the ordo) of Christian worship, the common form of the liturgy which undergirds the variety of word and symbol. Was this, perhaps, a better way forward than comparative liturgiology (and that, chiefly, of texts)? At a meeting at Bossey in 1995, the implications of this ordo for the eucharist were explored, and, incidentally, suggested that the time had come for the so-called ‘Lima Liturgy’ to be put away in the history books.
The present book is the report of an ecumenical consultation in 1997, held at Faverges in France, moving the focus to Baptism. For a short book it covers a lot of ground. In my view, the best essays are by Gordon Lathrop on ‘The Water that Speaks: the Ordo of Baptism and its Ecumenical Implications’ and its ritual anthropological companion piece by Anscar Chapungco, ‘Criteria for the Inculturation of Baptism’. Underlying Lathrop’s chapter (rightly, and no surprise to those who know his work) is a profound ecclesiology. The central marks of the Christian community are ‘the word of God, the water of new birth into the body of Christ, the love-feast of the eucharist’ (p. 13). Each of these marks has a multiplicity of meanings, but the core of the ordo is proclamation and conversion, the ‘speaking water’, the meal. The water ‘speaks’, because it is a proclamation of the Easter faith, and after baptism it continues its witness within the Christian; it is, like the eucharist, an anamnesis of the life of the triune God. Lathrop recalls the encouragement Ignatius of Antioch gave to martyrs because of their baptism into Christ: there is an intriguing parallel between becoming a Christian and becoming a martyr. But essentially, he holds together the process of conversion with baptism proper and the continuing life of a Christian within the eucharistic community: whereas in the West we have tended to reduce ‘Christian initiation’ to the brief moment when water falls (if it does) on the head of the person being baptized. It proclaims the dynamic of baptism: it is part of ‘becoming a Christian’, presence, continuous, active tense. Naturally, there are implications here for our present practices in the churches; Lathrop draws these out in his conclusions.
There is a careful response to Lathrop’s paper by British Baptist Paul Sheppy. He indicates that an authoritative comment from Baptists is impossible because of the congregational nature of that church (those churches); this produces divergence rather than convergence; nevertheless, he forms a hopeful conclusion.
Chapungco’s chapter is “Criteria for the Inculturation of Baptism’ and is a very useful summary of his views which may be read in many more complex texts. His framework is, perhaps unusually for liturgists who are seen to narrow down possibilities, diversity in unity. Inculturation of the liturgy will foster difference; the issue is finding how to preserve the unity across the diversity of practice amongst the churches. First amongst the criteria is faithfulness to the received ordo: at core, washing with water in the name of the Blessed Trinity. It is also recognised that the core rite has been elaborated in many ways down the centuries, and these developments deserve respect. They may also become links between the churches. In the celebration itself, always involving the Christian community as well as families, ‘tribal allegiance’ must never be fostered; nor is baptism ever self-administered, therefore ministry is needed. In these things churches should look to discovering ways in which the ecumenical nature of baptism can be signalled – by the presence of other churches at a celebration in a local place. In a similar way, unity is fostered by the use of widely recognized baptismal formulae: ‘before we consider creating new baptismal formularies for our local congregation, we should prudently examine what has traditionally existed and what is still kept in honour by churches in other parts of the world’ (p. 62). Chapungo also notes a number of aspects such as the renunciations, the blessing of the water etc., which need similar consideration. To these he adds gestures and symbols, and pleads that these – however significant of a local culture’s genius – never obscure the central ‘washing with water’. Finally, he explores the use of ‘dynamic equivalence’, his preferred method of inculturation, ‘ a type of translation in which the content or message of a rite, text or symbol transmitted from one people is re-expressed in the cultural form of another. Dynamic equivalence transmits the content by substituting a local equivalent for the original form.’ (p. 63). However, careful examination is required to make sure the equivalent faithfully transmits the same message, lest the unity of faith be lost in the translation. This is an intriguing task for the churches, including those of the West.
The rest of the book consists of essays on ‘experiences from the life of the churches’ – from inculturation in black Africa, the Church of South India (a boring account of confirmation in that church), the Reformed churches in Korea (very pertinent questions both for Presbyterians and Asian Christians), and Latin American Anglicans.
One essay (by an Armenian) takes up the important theme of the ethical implications of baptism: ‘by baptism the sinful self is renewed and becomes a new ecclesial being with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Henceforth, this new Christian bears the church’s marks of wholeness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity’ (p. 67). This is the work of the Spirit in the Church: how is it spelled out liturgically and in life? Faith and Order intend to follow this issue further.
Since then (1997), Faith and Order has organised two gatherings, one at Grandchamp, Switzerland, to plan its future explorations of matters raised thus far; and one in Prague on the sacramental dimensions of Baptism. This study consultation had the vigorous presence of an English Baptist theologian who really pressed the paedo-baptist churches to answer for their theology. The report, which will be published soon, is relatively uneven, but there is much more to be done.
Frank Thomas and Jack Cockburn
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998) 146pp. ISBN 0800629779
An integral part of pastoral care is the empowerment of others through encouraging the development of their particular gifts and resources. From within this pastoral perspective, Frank Thomas and Jack Cockburn clearly analyse and articulate a model of brief counselling in which transformation occurs through focusing and acting upon the strengths of the counselees. As part of a series, ‘Creative Pastoral Care and Counseling’, edited by Howard W Stone, this book on competency-based counselling could provide carers with an effective tool to use when pastoral interactions are brief.
In describing competency-based counselling, Thomas and Cockburn observe that attention is directed towards “people’s resourcefulness” instead of pathology (p. 4). Rather than reinforcing the problem and remaining trapped in destructive behaviours, Thomas and Cockburn concentrate upon a solution-orientated approach focused on the exceptions in the person’s experience. These exceptions are seen as indicators of the person’s capacity to positively interact with the situation. Nevertheless, Thomas and Cockburn are careful to indicate, in numerous places, practitioners of competency-based counselling need to acknowledge the reality of what is possible in any given situation.
The usefulness of competency-based counselling depends to a certain degree upon the assumptions of the pastoral carer. Thomas and Cockburn claim, “if you don’t carefully examine your assumptions about change, counselling, and people, you are likely to repeat old patterns and fail to apply these new tools and ideas” (p. 27). Therefore, understanding the underlying assumptions of competency-based counselling is fundamental to praxis. Thomas and Cockburn name six basic premises. The first, reminiscent of George Kelly’s construct theory, suggests that people’s problems are constructed through their perception and interpretation of their world. Second, it is helpful to see these problems as interactions that can be potentially changed. Therefore, the most appropriate question to ask is not “Why it is happening?” but “What is happening?” (p. 31) This grounds the problem in behaviours that can be observed. Competency-based counselling reflects systems thinking where it is held that even small changes in one part of the system will impact upon other parts. The third premise is that change can be expected and the fourth premise, this change can be rapid once a person becomes aware of differences in their behavioural patterns. Fifth, people will be motivated once they realise that they are experts in their lives and are already able to influence the situation. The sixth premise is the belief that problems are not limited to cause and effect and hence, they can be addressed simply and creatively. Thomas and Cockburn suggest that a counsellor will be able to effectively engage in competency-based counselling to the degree that these assumptions are held.
Competency-based counselling passes through certain identifiable processes, which Thomas and Cockburn map. From the beginning of counselling, Thomas and Cockburn pose questions that probe the successes of the counselee and explore possible solutions. Any articulation of the problem and suggested response needs to be relevant to counselee as well as realistic and achievable. The solution will be concrete, specific and describe desirable behaviours. Thomas and Cockburn provide examples of three types of presuppositional questions to facilitate the process of goal setting. The ‘Miracle’ question focuses on envisioning a future where the problem is not dominant; the scaling questions allow for objective evaluation of small steps; and the coping questions seek to minimise a sense of failure by highlighting competency. Identifying those times when a person effectively deals with the problem is central to competency-based counselling. Then, it is important to highlight these successes and to assign tasks that will keep the change occurring, that is, to build upon the person’s strengths as a way to encourage continual growth.
Thomas and Cockburn present a comprehensive discussion of competency-based counselling and are careful to locate their method within the brief counselling movement as well as solution-focused therapy. Their presentation is well documented and includes a comprehensive bibliography. Throughout their analysis, Thomas and Cockburn use excerpts from praxis to illustrate their points. In addition, they provide two case studies to demonstrate the processes and types of questioning involved. Furthermore, they apply the principles of competency-based counselling to three pastoral situations: premarital counselling, fostering the growth of lay ministry in a church, and promoting healthy family development. Thus, Thomas and Cockburn demonstrate that the competency-based counselling methodology is applicable at the level of church organization and formation as well as at the level of small groups and individuals.
Competency-based counselling shares some of the limitations associated with other methods of brief and solutions-focused therapy. Although there is recognition of the systems in which people are involved, there is a tendency to overlook these larger contexts. When it is assumed that each person in a system is equal, the power differentials in such a situation can be overlooked and social expectations may not be adequately acknowledged. This leads to the question of justice. When the focus is upon individual responsibility, there may be a failure to name systemic injustice. Furthermore, it is possible that the status quo is reinforced through the choice of questions or the focus of the counsellor. Where is the place for constructive confrontation and active value reformation in the atmosphere of unconditional acceptance associated with Competency-based Counselling? In the Competency-based Counselling method, the emphasis is upon behaviour rather than insight. However, sometimes it is beneficial to allow a time and space for reflection upon the meaning that arises with change. Here, the pastoral carer can enable a person to theologically reflect.
This book presupposes training in brief-counselling. However, some readers may be pastoral carers who do not have the depth of training that would be expected in counsellors. For these people, the book could have been strengthened by information about referral and those persons who are most likely to benefit from this method. Although there is a “cautionary note” at the end, the authors did not address, at any depth, the issues of destructive behaviour or resistance to change. What happens when the ‘miracle’ does not occur and nothing helps?
With well-documented case studies and useful questions, Thomas and Cockburn provide an excellent introduction to competency-based counselling. If pastoral carers accept the presuppositions inherent in the methodology, competency-based counselling may be an effective resource for pastoral ministry in a variety of community situations. Moreover, if supplemented by other information on brief counselling, competency-based counselling would be useful in training pastoral carers. Finally, the value of competency-based counselling needs to be tested in praxis.
Edited by Kevin Ward and Brian Stanley
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) xviii, 382pp. ISBN 0802838758
It is a indication of the retreat from the Grand Narrative in history that the bicentenary of the Church Mission Society [CMS] is commemorated with a single multi-authored volume, in contrast to the self-confident three-volume history by Eugene Stock that memorialised the centenary of the then Church Missionary Society. Nor does this latest work on the history of one of the largest and most successful Protestant mission societies attempt to delve into the entire history of the CMS. One of its editors explains that their aim is more partial, and tightly focused than Stock’s earlier work. The various authors attempt an historical understanding of the meaning of Christian mission by focusing on the inter-action between the European missionaries and the various indigenous peoples they sought to evangelise. Therefore, unlike Stock’s work, in this volume the evangelised are major actors in the missionary histories that are recounted. To do so the book is divided into three sections. Part one is about various historical and theological themes in CMS history, including two chapters on the role of female missionaries, a further variance from Stock’s history where female missionaries were mostly overlooked. The second part examines aspects of the CMS and the indigenous Christianity it was attempting to foster. Part three looks at ways in which missions influenced the Church ‘back home’ in Britain, reinforcing recent research, such as that by Susan Thorne, that missions did not just shape the cultures they were sent to but also the Christianity from which they were sent.
In part one, assessing the previous institutional histories of the CMS, Kevin Ward draws attention to various ways in which Stock at the end of the nineteenth century and Gordon Hewitt repeated or challenged social and theological mores of their respective British evangelical cultures. Stock is seen as a not uncritical exponent of missionary expansion at a time of high imperialism in Britain, while Hewitt in the 1970s was a less confident historian of missions, having accepted much of the criticism of neo-colonialist historians of missions, especially the Nigerians Ayandele and Ajayi. Paul Jenkins examines the intercultural history of the early links between the CMS and the Lutheran Basel Mission who provided a substantial proportion of the CMS missionaries in the first half of the nineteenth century. He finds that this cooperation was an aspect of a sort of Protestant ‘International’ that flourished in Europe in the decades either side of 1800. However, it was not without its tensions, especially a growing feeling among in the Swiss society that it was the inferior partner and that a growing nationalism caused the demise of the fruitful cooperation. In two chapters on the history of women in the CMS, Jocelyn Murray explores this theme from 1799 to 1917, and Guli Francis-Dehqani looks at CMS women missionaries in Persia between 1884-1934. In common with a number of recent historians Murray finds that overseas mission service offered wives, widows and single women a greater range, autonomy and validation for female work than did British society and that such women became indispensable for the maintenance of many CMS missions. This was particularly because they modelled for indigenous populations the monogamous family life that British Christians regarded as necessary to the transformation of non-Christian societies. Francis-Dehqani finds that women missionaries gave Christian missions greater access to female Muslims. The consequence was a two-way influence in which the female missionaries found their respect for individual Muslim women was a paradoxical contrast with their theological disparagement of Islam, though they were mostly content to live with the difference. Finally, in part one, the eminent Christian Islamic scholar, Kenneth Cragg, provides a penetrating analysis of the way in which missionaries in the Middle East became students or disciples of Islam as they attempted to find ways to communicate Christ there. In doing so, the CMS found that it had to be ‘theologically less self-sufficient’ than some evangelicals found comfortable, though not seminal figures such as the famous W. H. Temple Gardiner in Egypt.
The second part of the book on missions and indigenous churches begins with Peter Williams’s chapter on the strategic vision of Henry Venn, CMS secretary from 1841-72. This is a synopsis of Williams’s recent book The Ideal of the Self-Governing Church (Brill, 1990) in which he again argues that Venn worked for the ‘euthanasia of mission’ and what would today be called the indigenising and autonomy of the indigenous churches that missions gave birth to. In this Venn was in step with many Victorian thinkers on mission, but more concrete in his strategy than most. Professor Lamin Sanneh of Yale University also examines the West African mission of the CMS associated with the historically ambiguous figure of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther between 1837 and 1891. He finds that local recaptive Hausa people were instigating and modernising agents of this mission, although ultimately losing control to racist white CMS missionaries in early Nigeria, which deflected Venn’s hopes for an indigenous church. This opposition became the catalyst for independent church movements by West Africans. Allan Davidson explores the CMS history among the Maori of New Zealand in what was one of the largest CMS missions in the early nineteenth century. He points to how an assimilationist ecclesiology by the dominant European Anglican Church and by the CMS towards the end of the nineteenth century prevented the enculturation and development of a Maori Church until the late twentieth century. This was despite the fact that the real growth of the Maori mission only occurred when Maori converts became agents of mission in New Zealand. The same local responses by social groups as often instigating conversion movements is identified by Geoffrey Oddie in his essay on CMS missions in nineteenth-century India, which raises the question of how important were the European missionaries in the field? Very often such mass conversions occurred because existing religious ideas amongst the indigenous peoples predisposed them to be amenable to the teaching of Christianity. John Karanja, in examining the conversion of the Kikuyu people of central Kenya to CMS Anglicanism postulates ways in which a distinctive Anglicanism was formed among them by their culture, alongside the formal English imported Anglicanism of their ecclesiastical organisation.
In the third part of the book there are three significant essays on ways in which the CMS influenced Christian life in Britain. This reviewer found the chapter by Graham Kings on the mission theologies of two former CMS secretaries, Max Warren and John V. Taylor, especially thought-provoking. Kings is a former CMS missionary and lecturer in missiology at the Cambridge Theological Federation whose evangelical credentials are impeccable. In examining these two seminal theologians of mission Kings draws attention to the need that both identified to be respectful of others’ beliefs. Warren, with his theology of an active ‘Christian presence’ said, ‘Our first task in approaching other people, another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy’. Both evangelical theologians claimed there was a need to arrive at a religious judgement of the other from within their situation, not outside it. Given the current imperialistic model of mission propagated by some Sydney Anglican evangelicals in their practice of church-planting in other dioceses, these two CMS theologians could be revisited by some Australian Christians with a great deal of benefit.
The final two chapters are by John Clark, secretary of the Church of England’s Partnership for World Mission, and Brian Stanley, director of the Currents in Word Christianity Project at Cambridge. Clark outlines the development of mission in Britain as it moved from the concept of a ‘sending’ church to the benefit of the recipient churches, to one of an interchange in mission of mutual gain to both churches. Stanley, in a small concluding essay, looks critically out the extent to which CMS missionaries were actually committed to enculturation in the field and finds no single or simple answer. He does suggest it was more endorsed in theory than in practice.
The book is one of the first in a new series on the Studies on the History of Christian Missions being published by Eerdmans in an attractive hardback form in which, refreshingly for the reader, footnotes rather than endnotes are used. The chapters are all written by significant researchers to experienced persons in their respective fields who have produced substantial contributions to the history and theology of missions and the interface of cultures in that history. But this reviewer found one curious lack in most of the contributions, which was a critical attention to the impact and influence of evangelicalism in the history and practice of the CMS. Most of the chapters gave this dimension little attention, which was a deficiency given that the CMS, like all the mission societies did not just export Christianity from Britain, but a particular and partisan Christianity. For example, in Peter Williams’ chapter on Henry Venn, Williams failed to mention the way in which Venn, at times, could weaken his support for indigenisation where it looked likely to threaten the CMS commitment to evangelicalism (as in Ceylon). This was in contrast to his excellent book on the subject mentioned above. This did emerge in passing in one or two of the essays, but generally the authors failed to critically examine the CMS’ evangelicalism, which was, after all, a central aspect of its own identity and the identity of the missions it supported.
However, the book is a major source for recent historical writing on the history of one of the most important Protestant missions of the past two centuries, and to what Jean and John Comaroff have called ‘the long conversation’ between European missionary cultures and the indigenous peoples they interacted with.
Edited by Joel B. Green and Max Turner
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) x, 246 pp. ISBN 080284541X
When Philip Davies wrote Whose Bible is it Anyway? (1995), he answered his rhetorical question by asserting that the Bible belongs, of course, in the world at large. It is everybody’s Bible, and it is to be read (at any rate, within a university context) using the neutral processes of scholarship, to the exclusion of theological presuppositions at home in the churches. The ease with which the commonsensical ‘anyway’ and ‘of course’ can be asserted, in this renewed Enlightenment perspective, signals the end of that fragile balancing act by which Biblical exegesis has for so long been conducted largely by Christian scholars setting aside, for the moment, their specific commitments in order to engage the text ‘objectively’. The accepted divide between Biblical studies and theology, and the ‘relay-race’ model of ‘neutral’ exegesis plus ‘committed’ interpretation, have again become controversial. In recent years a number of books (several by writers represented in this collection) have argued for the contrary position: the necessity of some kind of ‘theological interpretation’ to constitute a reading that is adequate both to the text and to the needs of the reader. It is in face of this ‘great divide’ between (borrowing Gadamer’s term) the ‘two horizons’ of ancient and modern that this volume is published, as a trailer to a new commentary series, the ‘Two Horizons Commentary’, which aims consciously to engage the NT texts exegetically and theologically at once.
After the editors introduce the issues, Joel Green’s essay argues that the Bible needs to be reclaimed from its captivity to professional scholarship and the past to play an active role in ‘communities of interpretation’. Against recent trends in literary interpretation, Max Turner and Stephen Fowl, in paired essays, assert the place of authorial intention in meaning, although neither allows the author alone - or our reconstruction of what we think the author meant - to be the deciding factor: for both, meaning is also necessarily an activity of those who read texts and live in the light of them. In another pair, Robert W. Wall and John Christopher Thomas write about ‘Reading the Bible from within Our Traditions’, according to the preconciliar (and pre-scriptural) ‘Rule of Faith’ (Wall) and according to Pentecostal hermeneutics (Thomas). Particular concerns dominate the next group of essays: John Goldingay shows how the chiefly narrative character of the Bible challenges the discursive-doctrinal model which continues to dominate in systematic theology; Steve Motyer argues for the need for ‘Biblical Theology’, using that term to mean, not a descriptive and synthetic exercise but ‘a creative theological discipline...centred in the contemporary theological agenda’; Robert Wall explores the value of the canon as a context for interpretation; Trevor Hart, writing as a systematician, argues that all interpretation is theologically committed, and that Christian rules for reading have always aimed at appropriation of the text in its wholeness. Finally, before an Afterword by Green on ‘learning to think (and live) with history’, N. T. Wright presents in essay form a sample of the exegetical-theological reading to be found in his projected series-volume on Galatians.
Nothing in this collection calls into question the continuing validity and value of the contribution of archaeology, philology, history, literary analysis and so on to the understanding of the Bible in its world, and most of the authors are scholars fully engaged in those activities. But all express a frustration with the way these activities have taken the Bible over, leaving the Christian uncertain about its relevance as scripture for guiding thought or action. This shared concern is a platform broad enough to accommodate a number of ecclesial perspectives and concerns, a diversity which is to be welcomed and which presumably (given the nature of the venture) will be equally evident in the commentaries to follow.
Even limited consensus is not achieved without tensions, however, and two are very apparent here. All understand the task as ‘biblical exegesis oriented towards a constructive theological enterprise’ (p. 11), using various terms to name the non-exegetical pole of the dialogue (‘systematic theology’, Biblical theology’, ‘theological hermeneutics’), and all agree that the Bible is not being properly read when approached only for interest or information and not also in readiness to respond. But while some see the Christian tradition as providing the one right context in which to read the text, so that the current task is the reintegration of Bible and creed, others are more concerned to see the Bible become a means of lively and largely self-determining theological reflection in the market-place.
That leads to the second tension: where is this activity to be done? Green states plainly (p. 43) that the right conditions are to be found ‘far more within ecclesial structures than in professional academic ones’, and this view coheres with the current employment status of most of these writers. But does this mean theology and Biblical studies so understood are retreating into the churches, to be done ‘within and for faith communities’ (p. 22) as a private ‘Christian truth’? Nearly all of these essays (and most explicitly Goldingay and Wright) do envisage a continuing public role for Christian theology, but the shadow of an ecclesial comfort zone hovers in the background. The volume would certainly gain from including an explicit defence of the practice of Christian theology in the public university context, such as that mounted in recent years by Francis Watson. Any suggestion that the Two Horizons Commentary is of purely sectional interest, ‘for’ Christians only, or ‘for’ pastoral/spiritual purposes, and without value for the wider world of Biblical scholarship, theology or simply intelligent reflection on the issues of the day, goes against its stated aims and will be selling it and the Bible short.
The hegemony of historicism, and the modernist perception that theology and history, like faith and reason, must be at odds, are so well entrenched in modern - and, yes, ‘postmodern’ - thinking that to work towards a renewed dialogical reading of the Bible which is not simply reasserting theology over against history is immensely hard to achieve. This volume, and the commentary series it foreshadows, should do much to stimulate reflection on a question, which is, whichever way you look at it, fundamental for the theological enterprise and the pursuit of truth.
Kenan B. Osborne OFM
(New York:, Paulist Press 1999) 249pp. ISBN 0809139049
The first two chapters set out in great detail the background to this volume and the methodology employed. The reader trudges through the undergrowth with the author, hoping that having cleared the shrubbery the vision may emerge. You will, however, reach the end of this book without ever feeling you have stepped into the clearing. Along the way there are certainly moments of interest and enlightenment, but my overall impression is that Fr Osborne is watching his back. No doubt the political situation within contemporary Roman Catholicism makes this inevitable, but it is extremely tiresome for writer and reader. Theologians as docile servants of the magisterium are incapable of relaxing sufficiently to be creative. Theologians attempting survival while challenging the magisterium make a rather pathetic spectacle. The prevailing top-down repressive culture inhibits any sense of adventure, the freedom necessary to real exploration and the joy of discovery. The result is a text as dry as dust. In an avowedly post-modern sacramental theology, it seems natural to long for some stylistic beauty reflecting the subject, for the emergence of the writer’s human sensitivity engaging with the humility of the Christlike God. Sadly, such beauty never surfaces. I kept asking myself who the expected readership of this book might be. Who does Osborne have in mind? Who will buy this book? By the time it is finally made clear on page 137 that the audience Osborne and his publishers have in mind consists of other theologians and ‘church officials’ it is difficult to imagine which theologians will bother, or which curial officials will understand.
The challenge of postmodern thinkers, after all, in Osborne’s characteristic prose, is “a challenge at the epistemological and onto-epistemological levels: a challenge to both the Aristotelian scholastic onto-epistemology and the Cartesian-Enlightenment onto-epistemology.” (p. 137). Osborne’s thesis is that a sacrament is “only a reality when it takes place in a highly individualized existential moment of space and time with highly individualized subjectivities and their interfacing of divergent intentionalities.” (p. 62). Eventually, he delivers himself of the conviction that sacrament consists in God’s action met by human response. “Sacramentality, therefore, is not a thing; nor is it a created thing, a materia, a forma; nor is it a human action. It is basically an action of God. There is, therefore, no created ‘thing’ as such, that is a sacrament. There is no ‘human action’, as such, that is a sacrament. Rather, there is an action of God, a blessing, and a subsequent human response.” To stumble on so straightforward a statement takes the reader entirely by surprise, and not least because this labour-intensive discovery of sacrament as God’s action inviting human response is scarcely news. It is like Osborne’s conclusion eleven pages later that “sacramentality . . . is intrinsically finite.” (p. 81). We arrive at this juncture by dint of hard labour, only to have confirmed what we already knew.
It seems that Osborne’s real concern is that ‘church officials’ and theologians routinely make statements about Christ as sacrament, church as sacrament, and sacramental actions of Christ in and through the church with what he calls “hermeneutical ease”. Such language is usually imprecise and frequently meaningless. Greater care is required. When this is employed we come to the conclusion that “sacramentality is an action or event that involves a unique self-revelation of God and a response by unique human beings.” So far as our human response goes, sacramentality “is an event that is thoroughly existential, historical, temporal, singular and unique.” It follows that “universality, unsurpassability, and fullness are qualities only applicable to God.” (p. 196). Frankly, outside the Vatican none of this seems remarkable. But inside the Vatican? Is anyone listening?
(Geneva: WCC Publications, Risk Book Series, 2000) 116pp. ISBN 2825413208
At first glance, the theological education programmes of Tamilnadu Theological Seminary (TTS) in India and the West Midlands Ministerial Training Course in the United Kingdom, appear to have little in common. TSS, established in 1969 by the Church of South India and the Lutheran churches, is a seminary placed in the heart of Tamil culture and surrounded by Hindu religion. Besides preparing students for ordination, TSS has a strong sense of mission, which involves close engagement with the culture surrounding the college. The West Midlands Course, established not much later than TSS, initially preparing people for non-stipendiary ministry in the Church of England, more recently has developed into a community-based contextual theological education course for Anglican, Methodist and United Reformed churches preparing candidates for ministries both stipended and non-stipended, local and national. Both courses have a focus on practical training and a desire to respond to the needs of the contemporary society and church.
The major link between the courses offered at Tamilnadu and West Midlands is author, Andrew Wingate, who has taught in both these programmes. He tells the story of the development of TSS (and to a lesser extent West Midlands) as he addresses the questions of how these two training courses might make a difference - to the students and to the church. In this eminently readable book, he describes the training programmes and gives case studies of graduates from each course. Members of TSS who completed their study in 1982 have been followed over the ensuing fifteen years and their reflections form the heart of the book. A similar, but not as extensive study has been followed with graduates of the West Midlands course.
The description of the contextual and community-focussed programme offered by TSS is stimulating and offers a challenge both within India and to those of us teaching in western seminaries. Questions of how we understand mission, evangelism, social action, dialogue and worship are addressed through the description of the programme and the case studies.
Underlying all the stories, is Wingate’s haunting question: Does theological education make a difference? “No matter how dynamic theological education may be, do external constraints - such as conservatism of the local church and diocesan leaders or the social and political realities of the context in which ministry is carried out - in practice prevent hopes from being fulfilled to any measurable extent? Or is it internal factors which predominate in moulding a ministry - so that a person generally reverts to what he or she was before coming into contact with the new approach introduced in the seminary?” (p.5) Samuel Amirtham, first principal of TSS, believed 25% of students would be unchanged by their education, another 25% would take up everything they could possibly learn. The way in which the middle 50% respond to their theological education indicates how successful a seminary might claim to be. In reading the case studies of TSS, it would appear that this seminary’s programme is making some difference to the students, in spite of significant difficulties. The limitations of the ministries of TSS graduates appears to be “the realities of church structures and of the position of Christians in the society around” (p. 59).
At the conclusion of the book, it appears that the jury may still be out, as to whether theological education makes a difference to the church. New programmes such as those of TSS and West Midlands appear to offer some hope in shifting students from an inward to an outward focus. Neither TSS, nor West Midlands graduates appeared to revert to old models. The majority seemed to make substantial changes to their way of thinking. TSS students, especially, developed new ways of understanding the society in which they worked and committed themselves to dialogue, indigenisation and pastoral care.
This is a useful and practical book for all who have an interest in contemporary theological education.
Sandra M. Schneiders
(Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2000)
The old, wise adage claims that good things come in small packages. When I read Sandra Schneider’s 1986 Madeleva lecture, Women and the Word: The Gender of God in the New Testament and the Spirituality of Women (Mahwah, New Jersey, Paulist Press: 1986), I remember thinking, how could such a small book contain such a big theological vision? Schneiders currently teaches as Professor of New Testament and Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. In her second Madeleva lecture, With Oil in Their Lamps, Schneiders presents another small book, but don’t be fooled by the size of the package.
Sponsored by the Centre for Spirituality at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, the annual Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality spotlights the creative and often, controversial theological contributions of Roman Catholic women. The series honours Sister Mary Madeleva Wolff, CSC., president of the college for twenty-seven years and pioneer of the St. Mary’s postgraduate program for women in theology, established in 1943. The Madeleva Lecture series began in 1985 and has featured prominent theologians such as Maria Harris, Elizabeth Dreyer, Joan Chittister, Elizabeth Johnson, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Diana Hayes, Jeanette Rodriguez and Kathleen Norris. Schneiders returns for the millennial lecture, raising questions for the future of feminism and faith in the 21st century. Is there enough oil in the lamps of Christian women (Matt 25:1-13) for the next century of prophetic engagement in faith communities and our world? Schneiders is optimistic because women Religious will continue educating women for leadership in all areas of society.
Schneiders comes to the questions of faith, feminism and the future from the perspective of women’s Religious life in the United States. Her thesis claims that social, economic, educational, and political changes for women are not solely indebted to the secular feminist movement. In particular, changes for the Roman Catholic Church in relation to women have not come primarily from the outside, but actually from within, due to the leadership of women Religious. At the heart of this small book are the joys and struggles of women Religious toward re-visioning their vocations within a postconciliar Church and a postmodern, globalised culture. A member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since 1956, Schneiders celebrates the pioneering educational ministries of women Religious in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But she acknowledges that a paradigm shift has come about through the liturgical renewal of the 1940’s and 50’s, the initiatives of the Vatican Council in the ‘60’s, and the emergence of the third wave of feminism in the ‘70’s. These changes “shook Religious Life out of a long post-Tridentine domestication to the Church’s institutional agenda” and enabled women Religious to “reclaim their prophetic vocation” (p. 110).
For Schneiders, women Religious provide a “virtuoso” and “specialized” form of spiritual commitment for women (64). While Religious life is not a superior Christian life form, it presents a unique prophetic opportunity to serve the 3-way interaction between God, culture and the people of God. But Religious life is neither a cheap labour pool nor a privileged pipeline to God. Like Jesus and the Old Testament prophets, women Religious are free to locate themselves in “a two-fold situation of contemplative immediacy to God and marginality to the social order” (p. 110). Consecrated celibacy, evangelical poverty and spiritual obedience support a woman’s singular quest for God, excluding all other primary life commitments and allowing women Religious a voluntary solidarity with the poor and oppressed. Freed from the hierarchy between clergy and laity, women Religious are situated as laity, yet they actively engage in the Church’s public ministry. The prophetic character of their vocation is further seen in how they live an alternative ecclesiology of egalitarian structure, communal diversity, ecumenical relations and broad interaction with people across society. From Schneider’s perspective, women Religious keep alive the question (though they don’t have the answer), “What is society’s relationship to the Gospel and to the promotion of the reign of God?” (p. 66).
But in the new paradigm, women Religious share educational leadership with other laywomen — married and single — through an equal and mutually enriching partnership. Thus, female students today have a greater pool of role models to provide a “more balanced picture of possibilities” drawn from “the power of women united across previously impermeable vocational boundaries” (p. 117). In the future, feminism and faith can increasingly become a shared project for women, with the prophetic vision springing from the unique vocation of women Religious.
While looking back over the last century, Schneiders covers familiar ground. Women have made progress toward equality through greater self-possession, personal agency and self-determination. These advances have meant transformation for men too, toward a new humanity. But Schneiders flags the danger that women’s new equal status may be bought at a cost. Have women endorsed the liberal version of patriarchy with its individualism, unrestrained greed, materialism, ruthless competition and violence? The third wave of feminism needs an alternative vision of humanity where freedom and responsibility are intimately linked for men and women alike.
In one of the most interesting parts of the book, Schneiders talks about the “imaginative shock” that women in athletics have brought forth, requiring people to reconstruct a picture of reality (p. 26). No longer can the patriarchal correlation be made between human and powerful male. Schneider’s words ring true, in light of the great shocking image of seven Australian women athletes sharing together in the torch entry on the opening night of the Sydney Olympics. For 100 years, women Olympians have accomplished the ideals of endurance, grace, beauty, strength and precision, continuing through the shock waves of women Para-Olympians, who together redefine the correlation of human and powerful female.
As I said earlier, small books can offer big theological visions. But by the time I finished Schneider’s millennial Madeleva lecture, I was left wondering whether in reflecting on feminism and faith, Schneiders has not conflated the two with Roman Catholic women’s theologies. Certainly this book is a specialised lecture for a specialised audience, but what about the contributions to feminism and faith from non-Roman Catholic sources? Perhaps it is the way Schneiders talks about the Church and the Religious vocation, but I was left wondering if her team has a second string. Why not mention the accomplishments of Protestant feminist forerunners Letty Russell, Carter Heyward, Delores Williams or Sallie McFague, particularly if one of the prophetic characteristics of women Religious is their ecumenical relatedness? Why is the vocation of women Religious valued as the primary prophetic religious vocation for women? Can not mothers be mystics? Can not mothers be prophetic? Why does a woman’s primary commitments to a child and partner place her beyond the realm of contemplation and social justice? Is there not a prophetic dimension to a familial vocation? Schneiders is right in challenging the liberal vision of ‘autonomy’ in modern patriarchy, but why not take the challenge back even further to the heart of spiritual privileging of ‘spirit’ over ‘flesh’? Why must the flesh of a child or lover be seen as an encumbrance to spiritual immediacy and social justice?
Focusing on her own ecclesiastical context is warranted in a day of ‘situated’ knowledge, but Schneider’s vision of faith, feminism and the future needs greater breadth through a recognition of feminism(s), faith(s) and even future(s). While virginity as a spiritual image can be interpreted in non-patriarchal ways (as a powerful and self-determining personhood), it still remains limited, like all metaphors do, in envisioning the diversity of women’s vocations on the edge of a new millennium. Fortunately, there’s plenty of oil to share - even baby oil can fill a lamp.
(Minneapolis: Life and Light Publishing, 1999) 192 pp.
Deacon John Chryssavgis is now Professor of Theology at Holy Cross School of Theology at Brookline, Massachsetts. In this book he has written a wonderful piece of work, glowing and translucent, on ecological theology. In reading it, I wondered it I had not opened one of those rare books that will become a contemporary theological classic. Chryssavgis writes with a light sure touch. His knowledge of the Greek fathers is massive. His delight in the insights of the Desert fathers gives this book a distinctive insight into the life-embracing asceticism of the desert.
This book has behind it ten years of meditation and reflection. It has not come into print until it has been honed and polished with gentle clarity and decisive conviction. In it, Chryssavgis is concerned for the restoration of the shattered image of a marred creation. Chryssavgis is sure that the classic orthodox tradition – in particular its understanding of creation as a sacrament of God’s presence and incarnate image of God’s life – can sustain a dialogue with contemporary theological issues and illumine the debate in new ways. He has done this before in his work on a desert spirituality in the Australian context. Here he is thinking globally about the dangers in which creation lives. He brings to bear the insights of sacrament, icon, desert spirituality and divine wisdom to challenge forms of objectifying desacralisation – creation as object in trouble for which we seek solutions. Instead he thinks in terms of transfiguration and transformation and the way in which symbolic reality in liturgy, as in life, makes for reconciliation with the God who is eternally present to, in, and enfleshed in the creation, the dance of divine love.
Reading this book was an exhilarating, but also humbling, experience since one was reading a master of the spiritual life, who has a lovely, mischievous sense of humour. His quote from Wendell Berry on the tourist photographer who has been unable to see anything beyond his lens (p. 31) is a gem. However, he goes too far when he produces an outrageous pun based on a mis-read quotation from the Letter to the Hebrews 11:39 (p. 105, ‘wonder’ for ‘wander’). There is also another mis-read quotation in p. 106. Occasionally heading are out of alignment (p. 66 and pp. 70-71). It is interesting that he did not engage with the work of Urs Von Balthasar in that theologian’s The Glory of the Lord. But these comments are of no consequence in the face of a book which has the power to draw one in to see the world and its life in God in a fresh and deeply renewing way.
Daniel J. Harrington
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) viii, 222pp. ISBN 0802846335
The Rabbis talked of “Outside Books’ (hishonim) as those used by the heretics (minim) and the Sarmaritans. The word ‘apocrypha’ that describes the texts being discussed here, has its origins in the Greek apokryphos, meaning hidden. This name may have originally been complimentary as signifying those books too erudite for the general public. However, it later took on a derogatory tone indicating those hidden texts that were considered questionable in comparison with the sacred books. Ironically today it is difficult to list accurately which books are apocrypha and which are not. This the exact nature of the composition of the Apocrypha is not constant. Being apocryphal has almost become canonical and the Roman catholic canon includes the Dueterocanonical texts or Apocrypha which are considered canonical. This is always confusing to students tackling these issues for the first time. Daniel Harrington, like any other author writing on the Apocrypha, needed to decide what list to follow. His collection of apocryphal texts is larger than the Dueterocanonical Roman Catholic list of seven plus additions to Esther and Daniel. Harrington follows the NRSV apocryphal ‘canon’ and observes their order of arrangement. ‘This guide to the Old Testament Apocrypha seeks to encourage and facilitate an intelligent and sympathetic reading of these texts as they appear in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.’ (p. 1) The contents of Harrington’s book cover those apocryphal texts that are included in the Roman Catholic, Greek and Slavonic Bibles. The list covered is: Tobit, Judith, the Additions to Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus/Sirach, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, the Additions to Daniel, 1 and 2 Maccabees, I Esdras, The Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees, 2 Esdras, and 4 Maccabees.
The title of the work ‘Invitation to the Apocrypha’ is apt as the book as a whole invites further study. The book is an introduction and guide for those who want to read the apocryphal texts seriously for the first time. It is not a handbook for scholars (p. 2), nor is it meant to be. Each book is treated under four headings: 1. Basic information (who, when, where, why, what and how?); 2. Content (structure, content and literary features); 3. Significance (theological importance, issues in scholarship and influence in Judaism and Christianity); 4. Suggestions for further study (books that can enable the reader to move to the next level).
The author has chosen as a ‘theological lens’ the problem of suffering (p. 3). With the mystery of suffering as an underlying focus Harrington reflectively relates these texts to the pain of our contemporary society. Thus the theology of Baruch is linked to thinking about the Holocaust (p. 102) just as the comments on 1 Esdras raise the topic of racism (p. 164).
Although this book aims to be basically an introduction to the apocrypha it does contain some interesting details that scholars would enjoy discussing. In the chapter on the book of Judith (ch. 3) Harrington indicates chiastic patterning in the text of Judith 2:14-7:32 and also Judith 8:1-16:25. Such literary skills I find intriguing and definitely in need of testing.
Chapter 5 on the Wisdom of Solomon has what appears to be a grammatical awkwardness, or is it North American idiom? Harrington is commenting on the sources used by the author of the Wisdom of Solomon and writes of ‘the description of wisdom as personal figure from Proverbs 8 in chapter 7’ (p. 56). Apart from the grammatically awkward phrase ‘wisdom as personal figure’, it is unusual that the feminine persona of wisdom is not explicitly mentioned here as one would expect. Both Proverbs and Wisdom are explicit regarding the feminine dimensions of wisdom. Harrington seems to shy away from it a little here, although it is dealt with later in the chapter.
In the organisation of the book I would have liked 2 Esdras to follow 1 Esdras to facilitate comparative reading. The same applies to the Maccabean texts – having them together would have pleased me as a reader.
These are very minor details. I found Harrington’s book a clear, interesting, informative, scholarly and reader-friendly introduction to the Apocrypha and would thoroughly recommend it.
Dr Nancy Ault, Lecturer in Practical Theology, Murdoch University, Perth
Dr Antoinette Collins, Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Australian Catholic University, Sydney
Terence Dibble, Lecturer in Spirituality and Justice, Catholic Institute of Theology, Auckland
Dr John Dunnill, Senior Lecturer in New Testament, Murdoch University, Perth
The Revd Dr Graeme Ferguson, Minister of St David’s Church, Auckland
The Revd Dr Robert Gribben, Professor of Worship and Mission, United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne
The Revd Dr Sarah Mitchell, Principal, United Theological College, Sydney
Dr Rowan Strong, Lecturer in Church History, Murdoch University, Perth
Dr Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Murdoch University, Perth
The Revd Dr David Wood, Priest Associate in the Anglican Diocese of Perth
Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 0802843689
Kevin Ward and Brian Stanley, The Church Mission Society and World Christianity 1799-1999 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 0802838758
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 0802846505
Jerry Larsen, Religious Education and the Brain: A Practical Resource for Understanding how we Learn about God (New York: Paulist Press, 2000) 0809139340
D. Denis Hudson, Protestant Origins in India: Tamil Evangelical Christians 1706-1835 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 0802847218
David Brown, Tradition & Imagination: Revelation & Change (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 0198269919
Nancy M. Victorin-Vangerud, The Raging hearth: Spirit in the Household of God (St Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2000) 0827232217
Martin Sutherland, Mission without Christendom: Exploring the Site (Auckland: Carey Baptist College, 2000) 0958221901
Gideon Goosen, Australian Theologies: Themes and Methodologies into the Third Millennium (Srathfield NSW: St Pauls, 2000) 1876295260
Robert L. Kinast, What are they saying about Theological reflection? (New York: Paulist Press, 2000) 0809139685
Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler (eds.), The Thessalonians Debate: Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 0802843743
Alrand J. Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 0802844758
John Webster, Barth (London: Continuum, 2000) 0826450792
Nigel Yates, Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 0198269897
Larry W. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship: The Context and Character of Earliest Christian Devotion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 0802847498
J. Heywood Thomas, Tillich (London, Continuum, 2000) 0826450830
Robert J. Wickes (ed.), Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers, vol. 2 Perspectives for the 21st Century (New York: Paulist Press, 2000) 0809139715
Jasmine Corowa (artist), Norman Habel (transl. & ed.) for The Rainbow Spirit Elders, The Rainbow Spirit in Creation: A Reading of Genesis 1 (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000) 0814627161
Peter C. Phan (ed.), The Gift of the Church: A Textbook in Ecclesiology in Honor of Patrick Garfield OSB (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000) 0814659314
Diane Kessler & Michale Kinnamon, Councils of the Churches and the Ecumenical Vision (Geneva, WCC Publications, 2000) 2825413240
Marc Reuver, Faith and the Law: Juridical Perspectives for the Ecumenical Movement (Geneva, WCC Publications, 2000) 2825413259
Ans J. van der Bent, W. A. Visser't Hooft (Geneva, WCC Publications, 2000) 2825413313
W. A. Visser't Hooft, Teachers and the Teaching Authorities: The Magistri and the Magisterium (Geneva, WCC Publications, 2000) 2825413305
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