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Colloquium 33.2 (2001)


 

 

 

BOOK REVIEWS

 

 

 

 

THE GIFT OF THE CHURCH: A TEXTBOOK ON ECCLESIOLOGY

 

Edited by Peter C. Phan

(Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000) ISBN: 0-8146-5931-4

 

There is a magisterial quality to this book. That fact is not surprising since this is a textbook emanating from the Catholic University of America and dedicated to Pope John Paul II. Perhaps its magisterial quality is appropriate since it is a Festschrift for Patrick Granfield, a leading Roman Catholic scholar who has written extensively on the papacy and its prospects in the ecumenism of the future.

Peter Phan has gathered together contributions from many of the major Catholic theologians of North America who have an interest in ecclesiology. The product of this gathering is a readable, informative, and thoroughly useful text that will indeed have value as a textbook, not just for undergraduate students, but also for all those who might be interested in learning more about the major foci of contemporary Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

The first section of the book contains seven chapters that are designed to survey the history of ecclesiology in the Catholic tradition. The comparative newness of ecclesiology as a discipline emerges clearly from this section, as does the pivotal experience of the Second Vatican Council, including its impact on the development of an ecumenical focus to ecclesiology.

The fifteen chapters of the book’s second section survey the primary themes shaping contemporary Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Prominent here are communion, worship, mission and ministry, structures, and the role of women in the Church. The chapters in this section are generally informative and characterised both by a high level of scholarship and clarity of expression. Less evident, however, is a sense of the dynamism – even conflict and confusion – characteristic of areas of the Church’s life such as ministry.

The final section of the book records Granfield’s academic and personal achievements. A notable chapter here is Phan’s own engagement with Granfield and his critics; this is no bloodless hagiography, but is both a stimulating read and a valuable window onto issues in ecclesiology.

Richard Lennan

 

 

 

SIN, DEATH AND THE DEVIL

 

edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson

(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans: 2000) ISBN 0-8028-4695-5

 

Sin, Death and the Devil is the result of another conference planned by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology of which Carl Braaten is the executive director. Others that might be familiar to readers are Either/Or: the Gospel or Neopaganism (1995), The Two Cities of God (1997) and Marks of the Body of Christ (1999). Since this volume was produced another has been conceived and given birth, Church Unity and the Papal Office (2001).

Jenson introduces the theme by noting that it was John Paul II’s description of a “culture of death” that provided the original germ for the conference (1). The essays seek to explore and reveal the ways in which sin, death and the devil are at work in society today and, more significantly, how and where God offers his promised victory and help over the forces of evil.

 Stanley Hauerwas describes the difficulty of even talking about sin in the modern world. People seem very concerned with placing their lives in the hands of inadequately trained doctors but don’t believe an inadequately trained priest can actually do much damage to their salvation (9).

He faces the reader with the reality of sickness and suffering and helps the reader towards the realisation that in fact the root cause is sin. We are all sin-sick as he says and that reality needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Hauerwas argues from Aquinas’ Summa Theologica II and James Alison’s The Joy of Being Wrong, to show that the doctrine of original sin is not prior to but follows from and is dependent on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and so cannot be understood except in the light of that event.

In “Necessarium Adae Peccatum” Gary Anderson uses Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to demonstrate that the doctrine of original sin does not have to end with the devil and sin victorious but that as part of a whole theology, it “makes sense” when viewed from the hindsight of redemption. This means it is not necessary to go the way of Matthew Fox, Benedictine priest, who replaces a menacing patriarchal God with notions of depravity with an affirming, feminine God revealing our profound potential (33). Anderson argues that Fox reads Scripture, especially wisdom literature in a very narrow way. While he has sympathy with Presbyterian biblical scholar Sibley Towner’s suggestion of a fall-less creation, he says that in the end the best way to approach the doctrine of original sin is in light of the central point of Scripture, forgiveness and grace. They are the centre point of creation and therefore the starting point for understanding the doctrine of sin.

I found Williams’s article on “The Eucharist as Sacrament of Union” especially stimulating and challenging. Williams explains what it means that the sacrament involves various unities - of the natures of Christ, of the persons of the Trinity, of human persons with one another, and of humanity with God (64). He suggests we can approach sacramental union from the perspective of truth or charity (66). His emphasis on the Eucharist as the place where the unity of the church is seen is welcomed, although care is needed so that baptism retains its rightful place as the foundation of unity in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. The “drama of division” which he sees played out every Sunday where there is continued Eucharistic disunity ought to serve to get each one of us to reflect on our part in the search for doctrinal truth and sacramental unity.

Gilbert Meilander’s piece on the renunciation of the devil and his ways I found to be a little classic because it restates for the modern ear Augustine’s three-fold schema of depicting the ways of Satan (Book X.30-41 in Augustine’s “Confessions”). Meilander gives specific examples about the way lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life entangle and trap people today. This was so useful I used it for one of our seminary’s student retreats. He concludes that renouncing the devil requires chastity, poverty and obedience (90) and that the last renunciation required is simply a renunciation of hope in our own powers and abilities (93).

In “Powers in Conflict: Christ and the Devil”, Braaten gives the church some straightforward analysis and exhortation. He warns christians against “flirting with the assumptions of modern scepticism that calls into question belief in the existence or relevance of the devil because the same assumptions can go to the jugular of belief in God” (97). He reminds us that the devil’s aim is destruction, both in bodily and spiritual terms. He suggests the devil can be thought of as the inventor of the de words - destruction, defamation, degeneration, desecration, decadence, debasement, defilement, deception. A handy ready reference! Braaten also reminds the church that “our” current cultural crisis (a USA perspective) is the church’s responsibility and that the seminaries and christian colleges will be of no help to youth until they return to the biblical and historical sources. It is a sobering analysis.

Richard John Newhaus explores the concept that the culture of death, spoken of in the Evangelium Vitae (1995), is anti-Gospel. He makes a helpful distinction between being too concerned about the authority behind a teaching and the teaching itself, and suggests that ecumenically we ought to be more concerned with the teaching of the Gospel of life and less concerned with the fact that is emerges from Catholicism. He also helps non-Catholics to understand that for Catholics disagreement about issues like abortion and euthanasia is disagreement about the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself since the Gospel is inherently the Gospel of life not death. Compelling reading.

The final essay by Vigen Guroian draws heavily on 1 Corinthians 15 and explores the significance of Holy Saturday in Orthodox Christianity as the means by which the victory of Christ over death is made tangible in the Christian community. He uses a personal story to tell how a friend came to the realisation that Christianity is not spiritualist in the sense of having nothing to do with our reality, but is essentially materialistic. That is, it deals not only with the soul, but with the body after death. Faith in the resurrection is grounded on personal appearances of a resurrected Christ and this is the basis for our hope of being raised incorruptible and changed. Death does not have the final say.

This is a stimulating and helpful book not just because it helps to clarify the theology of sin, the reality of death and the existence of the devil, but because it reflects on the influence of that unholy trinity in our own world. It suggests we see the Gospel and sacraments as the tools of the Spirit in helping us face the spiritual realities, renounce the works and ways of the devil and seek strength for daily baptismal living.

Andrew Pfeiffer

 

 

 

JOHN NEWTON AND THE EVANGELICAL TRADITION

 

D. Bruce Hindmarsh

(Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdmans, 2001) ISBN 0-8028-4741-2

 

After introducing Newton of “Amazing Grace” fame and the evangelical tradition, Hindmarsh takes the reader on an eight chapter journey not only through Newton’s life and ministry but also deftly through the 18th century English landscape of Christian belief and practice. That journey covers Newton’s conversion, theological formation, ordination crisis, theology, Olney curacy, spirituality, hymnody and London ministry. Each of those themes has its own chapter. The book concludes with a brief but accurate summation of the journey and its significance for understanding both Newton and the evangelical tradition.

One of the many strengths of the work lies in the way in which Hindmarsh places Newton in context and draws out the ways in which Newton is emblematic of 18th century evangelical experience. The chapter entitled, “The Defining Of Newton’s Evangelical Theology” (Chapter 4) provides a good example of Hindmarsh’s approach. He discusses Newton’s Anglo-Calvinistic inheritance, his relation to John Wesley’s perfectionism, his dealings with High Calvinism before examining Newton’s own moderate evangelical Calvinism. The taxonomy of the four major theological positions on view in the Evangelical Revival enhances the argument (pp. 124-125).

Newton emerges from this study as “a middle man.” Newton was animated by essential Gospel truths and Gospel experience. Ecclesiological niceties were not a leading concern. Consequently he could fellowship with a wide range of 18th century evangelicals, ranging from Moravians to Methodists, from Dissenters to Independents. Put another way he was committed in the first instance to the Evangelical Movement rather than to any one particular institutional expression of it.

This reader has few criticisms. There are occasional jumps in logic. For example on p. 139 we read that there were similarities in theological method between Wesley’s appeal to Scripture, reason and experience and Newton’s. But by p. 140 we find that Newton was indebted to Wesley for his theological method. Hindmarsh, however, has not actually established this claim. Instead he assumes its truth. Again, more explanation of the theology underlying Newton’s ecclesiastical inclusivity could have been given. Hindmarsh does expound Newton’s Apologia (1784), but the treatment is very brief (315-319). Does this brevity reflect a weakness in the source itself or Hindmarsh’s own ecclesiastical proclivities? Given the longstanding criticism of the evangelical movement that it lacks an ecclesiology, more exposition and analysis would have been helpful. The presentation is very clean. On p. 351 of the bibliography, however, the work by F. Hildebrandt et al is misplaced.

Hindmarsh has written a superb book, well worthy of this recent paperback reprint. The book first appeared in 1996 as an Oxford University Press publication. The scholarship is exceptional and based on exhaustive research of original sources as the bibliography demonstrates. He writes engagingly and with clarity. This book is not a biography of Newton. For example there are many tantalising hints in the work as to what Newton’s wife thought of his evangelical tastes, which are not developed (p. 112 provides a case in point). This reviewer hopes that Hindmarsh will one day undertake such a project.

Graham Cole

CALVIN: A BIOGRAPHY

 

Bernard Cottret (translated by M. Wallace McDonald)

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, ET 2000) 376 pp. ISBN 0-8028-4289-5

 

Bernard Cottret, the author of this exceptional biography, is neither a theologian, nor a minister of the church. He is, in fact, a historian of some note. Consequently, in this work we definitely have a historian’s Calvin. In my opinion, this is both its strength and its weakness, though fortunately the former far outweighs the latter.

Cottret’s aim is to reclaim the intelligibility of the reformer in his own time - though he admits that recreation is primarily an interpretation. He attempts and largely succeeds in presenting a balanced portrait of Calvin that avoids “the two usual ruts of monotonous piety” and “systematic denigration”. Basically, Cottret is certainly sympathetic to his subject, but not in any way confessional in his approach and conclusions. The whole work is permeated by the driving principle of sketching Calvin “in movement”, a kind of portrait in motion. An early example of this is the point at which the writer seeks to describe Calvin at twenty: “Calvin moves, shifts, remains hard to grasp  - like any twenty year old.” Later, with reference to 1550 on, Cottret describes the reformer as an individual gradually being absorbed by public character: “Calvin dissolved into Calvinism: he was a man, and he became an ideology, a doctrine, almost a religion  - at any rate, a culture.”

This is a realistic biography. With an eye to the sweep of European history surrounding the reformer, Cottret gives us a Calvin who never approaches monolithic size or stature - he is never out of scale with the tumultuous happenings of his time. Cottret approaches Calvin as an intellectual, a man of knowledge rather than of power, one who was inevitably involved in public affairs and theology, shy, timid, reticent of notice, stubborn and intransigent (“the reverse side of his convictions”), but possessed of a spirit of fire and passion. Cottret says that he has endeavoured to give Calvin back a body and a sense of belonging. He does this certainly as well as any other biographer, probably better than most.

The book is divided into three parts: on the reformer’s youth, on the organization and resistance in the city of Geneva, and on Calvin’s beliefs. The first section covers Calvin’s life up to 1536 and his decision to comply with Farel’s demand to help the reform in Geneva. Cottret outlines the influences on the young man - his father, his education, Renaissance humanism. Among the dissolving traditional social fabric, Calvin is rightly depicted as “more secular” than we sometimes think.

One of the book’s emphasises is the profound and intimate sense of vocation that grasped Calvin. Frequently, Cottret suggests that the reformer belonged to the prophetic tradition, by which he seems to mean that he felt himself to be called to proclaim, that was his appointed task. In this context the biographer summarises Calvin’s message in three divine initiatives: “God speaks, God chooses, God summons.” Cottret’s account and interpretation of Calvin’s conversion (which he dates as 1532-33) stresses again that for the reformer the idea of conversion was subordinated to the idea of vocation. This is a strong theme through the book, and I suspect that it corresponds well with the reformer’s own sense of God’s determination of his life’s work. After all, it was largely that which ultimately caused his reluctant return to Geneva.

Avoiding what he sees as a mythical approach (which he fears may produce a sort of Calvinist manifesto), Cottret suggests that Copp was the author of the infamous speech of All Saints’ Day. It is reasonable to suppose Calvin’s interest and friendly influence, but nothing more. From the year 1533 on, the writer traces the metamorphosis through which he sees Calvin the spectator becoming Calvin the actor. Cottret describes the forces and pressures burdening the young reformer with tremendous acumen. He outlines the reformer’s early writing, with a particularly interesting approach to Psychopannychia - the very first writing in which Calvin intended to speak as a theologian. Cottret offers a possible insight into the latent significance of the work by suggesting that Calvin wrote against an obscure doctrine of a few anabaptists because he himself was troubled by a more metaphysical anguish of annihilation. He certainly sees in it Calvin’s newly-invented style: “that biting and mocking tone of ridicule that would never leave him.”

The second section sees Calvin ensconced in Geneva - neither a dictator nor a fundamentalist. It is often at the point of relating Calvin and the city that other biographies disappoint - not so this one. Cottret refuses to read too much into Calvin’s meeting with the older Farel: “The overlap of two destinies, of a man and of his chosen city, should not mask in hindsight the part that chance and coincidence had in this providential encounter!” In seeking to understand Calvin in his time and place, the writer forcefully points out that the city was undergoing two revolutions - the political and the religious. He sees an ambitious Calvin at this stage demanding a place among Bucer, Melanchthon, Bullinger.

At the expulsion of Farel and his younger colleague Cottret pictures them as leaving “with the naïveté of pouting children”. They expected the city to fall apart in their absence but it did not. In this biography the city has a life and a dynamic of its own - violent, rough, crude and self-conscious; already evolving, but never a theocracy. We see it as a political place as much as a religious one. One in which, though Calvin was a reformer, he was not always followed. Geneva was a place where Calvin felt himself a temporary guest; but nevertheless it was a necessary refuge and an asylum. And so Cottret brilliantly conveys the tensions of the relationship between reformer and city, both its councils and inhabitants.

Cottret’s pages on the heretics, Bolsec, Servetus and Castellio, are excellent. As a historian the writer excludes anachronism from his depictions. He draws Servetus as an outcast, risking destabilising the church and the state - a man falling victim to a Christian civilisation that had no room for him. Both antagonists are treated fairly: Calvin was impassible in times of crisis, Servetus was deliberately provocative. Bolsec is pictured as at least as stubborn as Calvin, himself. Castellio (the enfant terrible) was no better.

The third section outlines the reformer’s beliefs under the headings, Calvin the Polemicist, Calvin the Preacher, Calvin the French Writer. Here Cottret deals with Calvin’s literary output which he envisages in the context of a confessional construction that affected both Protestant reformers and their Catholic adversaries at that time. There is some very profound insight into Calvin’s writing at this point, with particularly helpful analyses of subjects like the practice of religion, worship, preaching and humility. The work then moves on to study briefly the subject matter of the Institutes (of which he prefers the 1541 edition).

Cottret’s style of writing is worth mentioning. He describes and conveys thought (even provocative thought) largely through framing questions (sometimes rhetorical) and through humour, sarcastic and otherwise. Of Calvin’s conversion, for example, he asks, “Does it not risk ending in fanaticism or madness? Is it God who chooses a man, not man who chooses God, who invents and defines God?” And in that question as far as possible we are taken into the reformer’s logic and the experience. On Calvin’s stubborn treatment of those who disagreed, “Was the world divided into pious souls, recognized by Calvin, and hopeless ‘fools’ or hardened sinners? Did one know no other alternative than to sing psalms with a contrite air or be marched through the city with a torch in one’s hand?” Cottret states more than the obvious in commenting that Calvin was not the sort of man you would take for a drink, or that “a good heretic is a dead heretic.”

Cottret’s Calvin is an eminently readable book, the translation is good, the text avoids simplification of Calvin’s views or context. I am hard pressed to offer any valid criticism of the work. If I was forced I would suggest two things that disappointed. Cottret rejects Bouwsma’s treatment of Calvin as too flat and static. Having thus rejected that work (a seminal work for many Calvin scholars) he misses much of the treasure to be mined there - noticeably where he discusses Calvin’s literary imagery, for instance. Second, I believe that Cottret overstates his case on the central significance of the doctrine of predestination in Calvin’s writing, particularly his Institutes. On a theological reading this cannot really be sustained, as several important studies have shown. Nevertheless, this is to be pedantic in the face of this excellent biography of a reformer who continues to fascinate and perplex. Cottret’s work should certainly be required reading for any Reformation studies.

Michael Parsons

 

 

 

GOD MATTERS: CONVERSATIONS IN THEOLOGY

 

Graeme Garrett

(Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1999) 218pp ISBN 0-8146-5944-6

 

This collection of ten essays, four of which have already been published in earlier versions, is described by the author as “an exercise in ad hoc apologetics”, although he prefers “conversations” to “apologetics”, eager as he is not simply to persuade others to his point of view but to seek an exchange of ideas between those who share common interests while differing strongly in attitude and belief on particular issues. Theological conversations will be successful, he claims, only if they satisfy two criteria. First, if their intention is to clarify and support Christian identity, which involves taking seriously the biblical witness to God’s action in the crucified and risen Christ. Second, the particular context or disputed issue must make sense to the non-Christian facing the same issues.

There can be no doubt that the essays here meet these criteria, and do so in a lively, engaging and persuasive way. It would be even more fascinating if the conversation partners Garrett chose could have responded to his response, but the built-in limitations of a reported imagined dialogue deprive the reader of that possibility.

Part I comprises two essays on Theology and Humor. Such a discussion could well have dissolved the humour in a concoction of dreary analysis. Instead the content matches the topic admirably, illustrating the humour categories of blasphemy, mocking, irony and euphemy with highly amusing anecdotes and cartoons, as it is contended that laughter can, as religion’s “loyal opposition” provides a rich resource on which theologians can draw. This the author does in the other chapter in Part I, on Portrait of the preacher as a fool — required reading for anyone who aspires to preach or to teach homiletics. It warns against being “the wayward fool” who engages in the task without due concern for competence, while affirming the “intrinsic folly” of all preaching – the inescapable incongruity of using human words to preach the divine. His use of Alan Bennet’s famous spoof on the text “but my brother Esau is a hairy man” is itself a tour de force.

After the three essays on Experience and God he returns in Part III, Life and Christ, to further conversations with Alan Bennet, this time through reflections on the TV drama Bed among the lentils. In this widely watched and quoted episode of the series Talking Heads Susan, wife of an Anglican vicar, talks about her disillusionment with husband, congregation, bishop, church and finally God. In these four essays Garrett brings to life theological discussion on Christology, soteriology, sin and grace, along the way taking seriously the critique of both Nietzsche and some feminists that Jesus must not be affirmed as God incarnate (because weak and gloomy according to Nietzsche, because male according to feminist theologians such as Daphne Hampson). He argues nevertheless for an Athanasian-type Christology, not in order to preserve some theoretical orthodoxy merely, but as the most effective way to face the extremities of human experience and to continue to live in hope rather than giving way to cynicism and despair.

There is much more here for the reader to explore and enjoy, not least the author’s capacity to write clearly, directly, and without mistaking pretension for profundity. For example, his translation of a Tillich comment on “the necessity of surveying previous statements in order to see whether they are mutually compatible” in order to “reduce inconsistencies.” In other words, Garrett says, “it helps save us from talking too much nonsense.”

Norman Young

 

 

 

JESUS OUTSIDE THE NEW TESTAMENT: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ANCIENT EVIDENCE

 

Robert E. Van Voorst

(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans 2000) 248 pp. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9

 

The debate about the historical Jesus has not entered the public domain in Australia in quite the same way as it has in the United States, yet still causes considerable interest from time to time. Occasional visits from Jesus Seminar luminaries Robert Funk and Dom Crossan, yet another book from Barbara Thiering, and tours by Bishop Spong and the Dead Sea Scrolls, have all served to put Jesus of Nazareth back on the front pages of our newspapers and magazines. The response of the Church has often been negative and defensive, but those who have seized the opportunities for open forums have often been surprised at the response from the wider public. What has been surprising to me has been not only the eagerness of people to discuss these issues, but the extraordinary mishmash of misinformation, dogma, conspiracy theories, insight and just plain ignorance that is brought into these discussions  -  on all sides of the debate!

Robert Van Voorst has constructed an invaluable reference tool for those wishing to explore the Jesus traditions in an open and thorough way. After a brief history of research into the historical Jesus, Van Voorst catalogues, introduces and evaluates the evidence for Jesus occurring outside the New Testament. To have this evidence all together in one convenient collection is enough to justify purchasing the book and using it as a reference in courses and study groups that touch on these questions. I will list this evidence here in some detail as it provides the best justification for the book, before making some critical comments below. The listing of a tradition here does not mean that Van Voorst accepts it as valid evidence for Jesus, but rather that he critically evaluates the claim that it is in some way connected to the Jesus story.

Jesus in Classical Writings: Thallos, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Tacitus, Mara bar Serapion, Lucian of Samosata, Celsus.

Jesus in Jewish Writings: Dead Sea Scrolls?, Josephus, Rabbinic Tradition, Toledot Yeshu.

Jesus in the Sources of the Canonical Gospels: Luke’s special source (L), Matthew’s special source (M), the Signs Source of the Fourth Gospel, the Sayings Source (table of contents of Q included).

Jesus in Christian Writings after the New Testament: The Agrapha, the Nag Hammadi Literature (full text of the Gospel of Thomas included), the New Testament Apocrypha (Gospel of Peter  -  text of Passion narrative included, Secret Gospel of Mark, Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, Ascents of James).

After introductory comments, Van Voorst quotes the relevant section of each tradition listed and critically evaluates its relevance for understanding the historical Jesus. He then concludes each of the major sections above with a further reflection on the significance of the evidence. In these sections he shows that he is a cautious and conservative commentator, arguing for the later dating of the Gospels of Thomas and Peter, for example, and questioning the assigning of the apocalyptic texts in Q to a later stage than the wisdom texts. The arguments for these positions are necessarily brief and inadequate, but at least Van Voorst does cite the literature for opposing views.

One may quibble at the inclusion of the section “Jesus in the Sources of the Canonical Gospels” in a book focusing on Jesus Outside the New Testament. This gives the initial impression that L, M, the Signs Source and Q are in a similar category to the other non-canonical traditions evaluated. Van Voorst justifies this by claiming that “since about 1970, scholars have treated these sources as though they were ‘outside’ the New Testament, that is, as independent sources for our knowledge of Jesus” (p. 135). This is not convincing. We may wish to dispense with Q, but we cannot dispense with the “Q texts”  -  after all, they mostly occur twice within our canon! In fact, Van Voorst does not want to dispense with Q, though he does have many reservations about recent Q scholarship. Rather, he argues for a much greater weight to be given to L (Luke’s special sources) and the Johannine Signs Source in evaluating the evidence for the historical Jesus.

This is a very helpful and convenient collection of diverse Jesus traditions, which hopefully will be widely purchased and used to dispel some of those “urban myths” about Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and UFOs.

K. D. Dyer

 

 

 

RECONCILING WOMEN: A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE ON THE CONFESSION OF SIN IN ROMAN CATHOLIC TRADITION

 

Elizabeth Jordan,

(Strathfield, NSW: St Paul’s Publications, 2000) 189pp. ISBN 1876295295

 

As a Protestant, I wondered whether I was the appropriate person to review this book; I am very aware of the huge gap in my personal experience and theological knowledge when it comes to the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance and the tradition of confession within that denomination. My reading of this book has offered many new insights, not the least of which being a glimpse into the experience of Roman Catholic women in a practice that is foreign to me. To read Reconciling Women was like visiting a new country where, within the strangeness, the familiar emerged in a different light. This book opened new vistas on previously unknown territory and has made many links with other feminist writings with which I am more familiar. It makes an important contribution to feminist theological literature.

Elizabeth Jordan considers the way in which women’s experience of confession has been used as a means of discipline and social control within the Roman Catholic tradition. Utilising Foucauldian “tools”, especially Foucault’s genealogy method, the author offers the reader a window on the historical development of the practice of confession, which appears to be very different from a “normative” interpretation. Looking for omissions and suppressions, discontinuity of practice and examples of resistance, Jordan seeks to rediscover knowledge that has been buried and recover knowledge that has been disqualified.  Along the way, the reader is invited to consider the way in which power relations within sacramental confession have constituted women as moral subjects, and especially how their sexuality has been used against women.

Another apparently unquestioned patriarchal discourse has been confronted, in this first (according to the author) feminist work on confession. Protestants and Catholics alike will find this book disturbing and challenging. It also offers significant hope. It is disturbing to learn of how control within the confessional can be so insidious that women “came to police themselves, to monitor their own compliance with the disciplinary requirements imposed on them”(169). “Big Brother” (of George Orwell, television program and the Inquisition) is not far away in this narrative. Implicit challenges can be heard: to speak this alternative discourse within the church and for the further “surfacing of dangerous memories” in church practice and doctrine, where official church discourse still suppresses many stories and possibilities. The ambiguity of the title, Reconciling Women, is reflected in the histories told in this book. Women have become reconciled to the discipline and control exerted over them within the confessional but women have also offered (and will continue to offer) reconciliation in forms other than those described in ecclesiastical discourse. The greatest reconciliation may come as new practices of penance / confession / reconciliation are put into place by communities of faith who seek new ways of confronting moral decision-making.

Elizabeth Jordan shows quite clearly that throughout history alternative stories can be told. These different stories tell of women who do not fit the official discourse. Some women have been confessors themselves; others have practiced non-compliance and non-participation within the sacrament, as the church has required it to be practiced. The official discourse, which requires individual private confession to a priest, is not the only story. Jordan uncovers significant historical shifts from the public community oriented repentance and reconciliation of the early church era, through clerical control and mandatory individual confession, to today’s experience of a contemporary church seeking again communal reconciliation and general absolution through the Third Rite. This most recent change offers much hope. It shows how the dominant church discourse can be challenged and changed by the people of the church. Such a shift offers the hope of new discourse, which might allow for new ways for women (and men) to construct their moral identity.

The basis of this book is Elizabeth Jordan’s Master of Theology degree (from Brisbane College of Theology). One of the great benefits of this background is the presence of helpful footnotes and bibliography. The book also shows its provenance through the useful methodological chapters in part one on Foucault, feminism and theology. The second part of the book in the form of a genealogy of confession is a most readable historical overview. These combine to contribute to a valuable and interesting piece of scholarship.

Sarah Mitchell

 

 

 

WRESTLING WITH DOUBT

 

Frank D. Rees

(Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2001) v, 238pp. ISBN 0-8146-2590-8

 

This is a book for anyone who has ever experienced doubt in the Christian life, and been made to feel guilty about it. Frank Rees teaches at Melbourne’s Whitley (Baptist) College. Throughout, one senses his own struggle to overcome a culture of negativity about doubt and to proclaim a truly gracious God who “justifies the doubter” (Tillich). Rees’s book is an ecumenical, large-hearted plea for an evangelical theology more-rather-than-less biblical, able to celebrate the essential place of doubt in a blameless, faithful life. Moreover, Rees pleads for a Church secure enough in relationship with its “divine conversation partner” that doubt can be discussed openly, grown through and, if necessary, endured courageously. Perhaps, Rees muses, doubt leads to loss of faith rather than growth in faith only when the Church mishandles or excludes doubters.

The book is also a valuable critical survey of theological approaches to these questions. John Henry Newman on “assent” shows faith to be a complex personal matter both of sensibility and volition, supra logical, albeit too-quickly annexed to official Roman Catholic dogmatic requirements for Rees’s taste. Yet while applauding the dynamic understanding of faith’s emergence a la Newman, Rees also holds up the radically non-anthropological starting point of Karl Barth, who seeks certainty in God’s revealed faithfulness. Doubt remains problematic for these writers, despite valuable lessons Rees learns from them. Not so for Paul Tillich, however, with his genuine openness to doubt as an essential aspect of every adequate doctrinal “symbol”, transcending itself in the cause of truly “ultimate concern”. Rees embraces Tillich’s openness to doubt, just as he affirms Tillich’s call for trust - “courage to be” - in the face of doubt.

Rees then undertakes two excursions into religious biography, with Harry Williams and Val Webb. Williams excoriates the fragile pretence of much conventional religiosity, in favour of psychological wholeness and realism; Webb has made a liberating feminist journey away from narrow religious conservatism to advocate the sort of Church praxis Rees craves. Both are too liberal for Rees’s taste, as is Tillich - all these stand rather lighter to doctrinal grammar than Rees believes necessary. And it is this doctrinal grammar that Rees goes on to explore, with the aid of various post liberal guides (e.g. Walter Brueggemann). Thus Rees advances to reclaim healthy doubt in the name of faith, and to offer relief for unhealthy doubt.

The Bible is explored in two chapters as a book of doubt, for doubters, in which the life of faith is portrayed “conversationally” - God challenges the believer, and vice versa. Protest and lament from psalms, prophets and wisdom literature feature in Rees’s discussion of the Old Testament, while in treating New Testament epistles and Gospels he shows that trust in Jesus leaves room in the community of disciples for doubt about aspects of belief (although the texts are plainly less tolerant when a failure of trust is involved, as with the “double-minded” in James). And what is Rees’s conclusion? I think he is commending a post liberal faith in God revealed through scriptural narratives, with which the Church is called to struggle in engagement with a complex, plural world. Here is the place for doubt as part of faith’s dialectical emergence. Importantly, Rees does not bind for us an unbearable burden of expectation, by assuring us that doubt will eventually disappear. He does, however, seem to suggest that in time the nature of our doubting changes, the fever of it departs and, with the right context and encouragement, doubting is thereafter continually sublated into “faithing”. Thus Rees offers us an earthy, robust, non-sentimental challenge to “doubt boldly but have faith all the more” (paraphrasing Luther on sin and repentance), befitting a life in conversation with the God of Job, Jeremiah and Jesus.

By way of criticism, I would have appreciated the dots joined a little more as Rees makes his case, and to have seen his own argument more fully worked out - at times the “conversation” with others swamped Rees’s own voice (at least for this reviewer). Indeed, I think Rees-the-evangelical might himself have a very interesting story to tell on the subject of doubt, and I would like to have heard it. To take the cheapest shot in reviewing, I want to suggest other writers Rees might have discussed (though I limit myself to two only!). One is James Fowler, with his ever-more-refined theory about stages of faith. Rees mentions him in passing. But if faith is to be seen as the journey of a lifetime, along the course of which much inadequate baggage will inevitably be shed, then Fowler’s analysis must surely loom large. The other writer is Kierkegaard. Rees mentions the melancholy Dane, and elsewhere he seems to appreciate existentialism’s particular gift for doubting, in his discussion of Tillich. Yet for all his truly laudable compassion and broad-mindedness, I think Rees ends up a bit too chipper about our prospects when faced by doubt. Kierkegaard is so good on Angst, and if that particular problem is not addressed at sufficient depth, then trusting the conversational God - not to mention trusting the (alleged) conversational community of the Church - is not possible. One last thing. Rees dreams of a Church in which belonging matters more than believing, in which exploration and disagreement are the ligaments of robust unity, and in which all God’s creatures can find a place. Many in my own liberal catholic tradition of Anglicanism claim that this is the very thing we have achieved, by and large. Yet one yearns on occasion for a bit more plain conviction and unity of purpose - all doubts aside! So, Dr. Rees…beware what you wish for! But thankyou for writing a book that will no doubt be an education for many - and a blessing, too.

Scott Cowdell

 

 

 

THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

 

Elisabeth Behr -Sigel and Kallistos Ware

 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 200) 96pp. ISBN 2-8254-1336-4

 

In recent years there have been significant tensions between Orthodox and Protestant churches in the ecumenical movement and particularly within the World Council of Churches. Frequently these have focused on questions to do with the role and place of women in the church, especially the ordination of women to the priesthood. In this context The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church, published by the WCC in its Risk Book series, makes an important contribution to further understanding. Its three chapters bring together previously published work by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and Kallistos (formerly Timothy) Ware. Behr-Sigel, a French philosopher and theologian with long experience in the ecumenical movement, has written and spoken widely on the position of women in the Orthodox Churches. Ware is Bishop of Diokleia and Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford. Neither was born into the Orthodox faith but each has made it their own. Both are members of the Orthodox diaspora, familiar with the culture and context of the Western Protestant churches and with the women’s movement, both of which have often lacked sympathy for Orthodox attitudes to women.

In the introductory first chapter Behr-Sigel gives a brief overview of the position of women in the Orthodox Church historically and in the present. She notes many of the ways in which women play an active role in church life and refers to recent conferences in which Orthodox women have called for the restoration of the diaconate for women. In the second chapter she addresses the question of the ordination of women, tracing the major points in the development of Orthodox reactions since first faced with the question in the World Council of Churches in the 1960s. At that point Orthodox theologians were ill-prepared, for historical and cultural reasons, to take up the challenge. Since then a number of theologians have addressed the question and Behr-Sigel discusses the contributions of Paul Evdokimov, Alexander Schmemann, Thomas Hopko, and Kallistos Ware. She concludes that although Orthodox thinking on this topic is still in its early stages it is being clarified in dialogue between the Orthodox themselves and in ecumenical dialogue. This dialogue however remains confined to an elite minority, mostly made up of Western theologians, and has little connection with the great mass of believers, particularly in Eastern Europe.

In his chapter titled Man, Woman and the Priesthood of Christ Ware argues for the articulation of an independent Orthodox standpoint, firmly based on patristic principles rather than on the criteria and arguments of non-Orthodox writers. He acknowledges that his own position has moved from considering the ordination of women priests to be an impossibility to regarding it as essentially an open question. He emphasizes that on this question “there exists as yet no pan-Orthodox statement, possessing definitive ecumenical authority” (p. 51). In his view discussion must be based on the three overlapping issues of tradition, anthropology and liturgical symbolism. He briefly surveys Orthodox understanding of these three issues and concludes that they do not lead to any easy answers. While it is possible that the Orthodox practice of ordaining only men will never change, it is important that the Orthodox explore the deeper reasons for this practice, and do so with “an open mind and an open heart”(p. 89).

While many Orthodox theologians and church leaders believe that the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood has already received a negative answer from Tradition and need not be discussed, both Behr-Sigel and Ware maintain that it is a question for the Orthodox, an internal question as well as one which is posed from the outside in the course of ecumenical dialogue and engagement. While recognizing that at present the question is highly controversial, they plead for it to remain an open question, calling for more theological reflection, open discussion, continued prayer, and further ecumenical dialogue.

This is a short book of less than one hundred pages and so provides an introduction rather than an extensive treatment of the subject. Those who wish to develop an understanding of Orthodox thinking on this still controversial question should find it helpful. There is no bibliography but the notes provide useful references for further reading.

Janet Crawford

THE PARABLES OF JESUS: A COMMENTARY

 

Arland J. Hultgren

(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000) xxix+522pp; ISBN 0-8028-4475-8.

 

Arland Hultgren is a worthy interpreter of the Synoptic parables: recognising the essential simplicity and directness of the parables, he has produced a commentary on them that is itself direct and clear. The book, which is part of a series entitled “The Bible in Its World”, comments on each of the Synoptic parables individually. Thus the greater part of the book examines the parables in the manner of a standard commentary.

The format for analysing each parable is the same: the text is given, followed by a section discussing the most important textual questions and/or laying out some of the alternative translations. In some cases, where Hultgren considers that the textual issues are relatively minor, this section is omitted; for instance, in the case of the parable of “The Rich Man and Lazarus”, Luke 16.19-31 (cf. p. 111) or “Building a Tower”, Luke 14.28-30 (p. 137). Where the gospels share a parable (in the double or triple tradition), a further section entitled “General Comments on the Texts” is supplied. Here Hultgren makes comments upon the likely source of the parable, and draws attention to aspects of similarity or difference between the gospels. He also comments on the parable’s authenticity as a parable stemming from Jesus and occasionally may refer to similar material in rabbinic or other literature.

Added interest and usefulness is provided by the inclusion of the text from the Gospel of Thomas (and, in one case, the Gospel of Truth) where parallels to the Synoptic parables exist. However, while brief comparative comments may be made, the focus of attention remains on the Synoptic texts.

There follows a section entitled “Exegetical Commentary” where exegetical issues are explored and comment made following a verse-by-verse format. For parables found in the double or triple tradition, the parable as found in each gospel is given separate treatment. The exegesis is laid out clearly and it is to the point. One gains the impression that Hultgren has made a judicious selection of the most significant and pertinent items for comment. He has also attempted to keep the commentary accessible. The exegesis is not overly technical; though the commentary is based on the Greek text and Greek words are not transliterated.

Occasionally, one could wish for more: in the discussion of Matt 7.9-11//Luke 11.11-13 (“The Father’s Good Gifts”) Hultgren scarcely discusses what Matthew means by “good gifts” (these could include spiritual gifts or physical needs) or why Luke chooses to substitute “the Holy Spirit”.

Nevertheless, Hultgren provides an adequate discussion of the main lines of interpretation. He deftly summarises scholarly opinion and provides instructive comment on the pertinent issues. Where a question requires more extensive treatment (for example, the meaning of “all the nations” in Matt 25.32, cf. pp. 312-313, or the question of whose “troublesome persistence” is referred to in Luke 11.8, cf. pp. 230-232) Hultgren provides a carefully considered outline of the options, and gives his own judgment on the matter. Extensive footnotes are an added help to those who wish to follow the arguments further.

The final section is called “Exposition”, where Hultgren reflects upon the “point” of the parable within a brief compass. Comments are succinct, and pertinent both to general human experience and the contemporary world. Preachers will find gems upon which to reflect and develop further. For example, on the wise and foolish builders (Matt 7.24-27//Luke 6.47-49), Hultgren writes of how the disciple is exhorted to become mature and strong, illustrated in the parable’s metaphors of digging, going down deep, and laying a foundation on rock. “That is a process that takes time and reflection centered in the teachings of Jesus and located within a community of faith and conversation” (136-137).

Sometimes, however, Hultgren’s exposition seems to be beside the point of the parable itself. For example, on the parable of “The Two Debtors” (Luke 7.41-43) the exposition seems directed more towards the context within which the parable is set, than the parable itself.

The commentary begins by taking up some introductory issues such as the definition of a parable, the identification of two forms of parable (“narrative parables” and “similitudes”), the features that make the parables of Jesus distinctive, as well their nature as being both particular and universal. Hultgren identifies thirty-eight parabolic units in the Synoptic Gospels, though one, “The Parable of the Final Judgment (Matt 25.31-46) is more in the nature of “an eschatological discourse” (4).

In order to present the parables in “an ordered and coherent way” (p.5), Hultgren groups the Synoptic parables into seven categories. These categories allow him to present the material in a way that is helpful to the reader. But they also provide a further useful commentary on the nature of the parables so grouped. But, as Hultgren advises, one must not allow this schema to become a Procrustean bed for interpretation.

He raises three questions that have been at the centre of the interpretation of parables. (1) “Does allegorization ever have a role?” The answer to this is a qualified yes. (2) “What is to be interpreted: the ‘original’ parable of Jesus or the parable as it is in the Gospels?” Hultgren’s inclination is to attend to the canonical context: but he recognises that a distinction must be drawn, and that it is important, though difficult, to hear also the original voice of Jesus. (3) “What method is most necessary and fruitful [in the interpretation of the parables]?” Hultgren recognises that many methods will be necessary, depending upon the goals of the interpreter. His study is directed “primarily for the sake of interpreting the parables of Jesus within [and for] the Christian church” (17, cf. p. 19).

In two final chapters, Hultgren gives a brief outline of the main features of each Gospel writer as an “interpreter” of the parables, and turns his attention to the Gospel of Thomas. In the first of these chapters, he highlights the particular emphases that each evangelist’s use of the parables is designed to serve. In the second, he discusses the way in which parallel parables in the Gospel of Thomas have been presented. He also provides a brief commentary on four parables found in the Gospel of Thomas but not in the Synoptic Gospels.

Three useful appendices conclude the book: “The Purpose of the Parables according to the Evangelists” (an examination of Mark 4.10-12//Matt 13.10-17//Luke 8.9-10); “The Three Parables of Luke 15”; and “Doulos – Servant or Slave?” (this discusses how the Greek word, doulos, should best be translated). The treatment of each parable concludes with a selection of further articles from journals and books pertinent to that parable. At the end of the book, a further bibliography contains books and journal articles of a more general nature.

Hultgren’s discussion on the allegorical nature of parables, it seems to me, could well be developed and refined; as indeed, his identification of “allegorical elements” within individual parables. He is right to state that allegorical elements may be detected in many of the parables, and also to warn (as did Jülicher) against the wholesale allegorising of given parables. However, at what point does interpretation become “allegorising” where elements are identified as “symbolising” or standing for things beyond the parable? When examining the parable of “The Talents”, is it allegorising to focus upon the “talents” as gifts that are entrusted to the Christian community variously, as Hultgren does in the exposition, citing texts from Romans, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians? How legitimate is it to identify elements that point to the Parousia, and eschatological judgment? Taking the parable in its wider canonical context, these elements may certainly be seen to be present: but are they “intended” in the parable taken on its own?

Moreover, is the parable of “The Great Banquet” (classed as an “Allegorical Parable) necessarily any more allegorical in nature than, say, the parable of “The Talents” or “The Sower”? Hultgren’s own exposition scarcely picks up on the parable’s allegorical character. But perhaps this simply reinforces, on the one hand, Hultgren’s strictures against rigid categorisation of the parables, and, on the other, his insistence upon their essentially polyvalent nature.

On the question of the authenticity of the parables, Hultgren seems often to adopt, or imply, a conservative line. But, in fact, his commentary alerts one to the way the parables are embedded in their contexts within the Gospels. This is brought home by the fact that what might be taken as contextual matter, for example, the setting of the parable of “The Two Debtors” at Simon’s house, a leading question from Jesus, or a final expository comment, is often treated as integral to the parable, or giving a parable its particular point. Often, both in the exegesis and in the exposition, the elements of parable and context play off one another.

The book is written in a crisp and clear style. It admirably serves the needs of its (and the series’) intended readers (“serious general readers and scholars”). It provides preachers with a sure guide to the parables, fresh insights and food for reflection. It helps bring the challenge of Jesus’ parables into the modern context, and can be warmly commended.

Derek Tovey

 

TILLICH

 

J. Heywood Thomas

(London & New York: Continuum, 2000) 188pp. ISBN 0 8264 5082 2

 

This new book by John Heywood Thomas is the latest instalment in the Outstanding Christian Thinkers series put out by Continuum Press. That the series has already given us books on figures as influential as Augustine of Hippo, Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Barth, Bonhoeffer and Karl Rahner is ample testament to the invaluable place the series should have on the bookshelves of every serious theological student. The addition of Tillich to the complement gives further weight to an already significant collection.

Thomas’s credentials for writing this book are impeccable. Having studied and worked with Paul Tillich at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and remaining good friends with him until the latter’s death in 1962, Thomas was the first scholar to introduce Tillich to the English theological community in a manner that sought to educate rather than naively critique (see his 1963 study, Paul Tillich: An Appraisal). While Thomas could therefore perhaps be critiqued himself for having offered us a reading of Tillich that is clearly partisan, it could be argued that a theology as complex as Tillich’s requires a sympathetic audience before any constructively critical appraisals can be attempted. The present book, as with the 1963 work, provides just such a sympathetic treatment.

On the other hand, this book is not an easy read and it requires a significant amount of effort for the reader to make sense of the narrative and interpretive threads. In part, this is clearly a function of the complexity of Tillich’s theological programme and the fact that his thought relies heavily upon Kantian, Heideggerian and Husserlian philosophy. It is also, however, due to a certain cumbersome quality of Thomas’s own style. What for example, is really meant by the “understand[ing] of numbers in terms of the essences of the numbering concepts which consciousness produce[s]” (p.51)? Nevertheless, the book does a great service by putting before us a concise summary of Tillich’s main proposals, and does so in manageable size.

The first two chapters provide the historical context in which Tillich lived and worked, an understanding of which Thomas clearly regards as essential if Tillich himself is to be understood. Indeed, it is in this introductory section that the role of history in Tillich’s constructive task becomes apparent. Tillich’s experiences in the trenches of the First World War are shown to be critical events in his personal and theological formation.

The theological role and relevance of history returns in the chapter on Tillich’s Christology. Notwithstanding the philosophical and metaphysical assumptions governing Tillich’s view of Christ, there is also an insistence on the historicity of Jesus. For Tillich, “Jesus as the Christ is both an historical fact and a subject of believing reception” (p.106). Moreover, the very distinctiveness of Christianity is shown to be the historical actualisation in Jesus of humanity’s search for meaning or, as Tillich puts it, the New Being. On the other hand, the relationship of Jesus as the Christ to history remains deliberately unclear and paradoxical, leading to questions as to Tillich’s apparent docetic tendencies. Thomas’s resolution of the dilemma is simply to affirm that in Tillich’s view, the “assertion of faith presupposes historical facts, [but] can never be reducible to these facts” (p.110).

Much of the rest of the book turns on the discussion of Tillich’s indebtedness to various philosophical schools, and the way in which this indebtedness impacts upon the loci of classical doctrines such as creation, sin, and soteriology. Theology as such, for example, and correspondingly the existential human questions, are seen to revolve around the centrality of the Heideggerian Dasein motif, with God Himself being spoken of only as Being. Nonetheless, Tillich insists that in this he is at one with the classical Fathers, with Aquinas and even with Calvin. Perhaps one area in which Thomas’s book could have gone deeper is in exploring the veracity of these particular claims.

Finally, it is worth noting the extent to which Thomas argues for the proximity of Tillich to Karl Barth. According to Thomas, both men began with the same existential starting-point, asked the same questions and came fundamentally to the same answers, albeit in different guises. So, for example, while Tillich regarded the Gospel as an answer to humanity’s questions, Barth shared a similar evangelical concern but wanted to throw the Gospel at people’s heads “like stones” (p.49). It is indeed true that both Barth and Tillich shared the same distress and theological concern at the close of the First War. However, Thomas overstates the case to suggest that their resolutions were in any way the same. The very fact that Tillich sought to begin his theological programme with humanity and its ethical questions and not with God was, indeed, anathema to Barth, as was Tillich’s self-conscious reliance upon philosophy. For Barth, Tillich’s anthropological premise was a return to the “Titanism” of Nineteenth Century liberalism that Barth was so concerned to reject in the second edition of his Romans.

However, this point notwithstanding, any final assessment of Thomas’s most recent contribution to Tillichian scholarship must be overwhelmingly positive. The book is a polished appraisal of one of the Twentieth Century’s most profound and complex theologians. It is neither too cursory, nor too weighty but rather a balanced and coherent introduction to Tillich’s work that will serve both novices and serious scholars admirably.

Mark R. Lindsay

 

 

 

THE GIFT OF BEING: A THEOLOGY OF CREATION

 

Zachary Hayes

(Collegeville: Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2001) vi, 130 pp. ISBN 0814659411

 

This book is one of the New Theology Studies series from Liturgical Press. This series is intended primarily as resource books for upper level theology courses in colleges and seminaries. These books are directed particularly to Roman Catholics students and teaches, with the hope that they will also be useful to a wider audience. Zachary Hayes has made an excellent contribution to this series with his new theology of creation.

The author is well aware of recent developments in cosmology and evolutionary biology. He seeks to bring key insights of science into a creative dialogue with the biblical and theological tradition on creation The book begins by situating the current discussion of the relation between science and theology within the broader history of the relation between faith and reason. Hayes points to the ancient theological conviction that the same God speaks through both. Then the author shows how he interprets the biblical texts concerned with creation, by distinguishing the religious convictions of the biblical writers from the cosmologies they assumed. The next section is a brief but solid introduction to the Christian tradition of creatio ex nihilo. Then Hayes turns to a trinitarian theology, in which creation is understood as an expression of the divine life. He works from the insights of both the great medieval theologians and contemporary scientists, to suggest the idea that the relational universe is grounded in a relational God. The next two chapters are concerned with human origins and human sin within an evolutionary context. They are followed by a chapter on cosmic Christology, that moves from Irenaeus to Bonaventure to Teilhard de Chardin. The book concludes with some brief but helpful remarks on eschatology.

This is a small book on a big topic, but it is nonetheless a very helpful one. Occasionally I would have liked a little more. I thought for example that the treatment of the Galileo-Darwin period in terms of hostility between science and religion needed more careful nuance. I would have liked more dialogue with the scientific, philosophical and theological discussion on the mind-brain issue in the section of the book concerned with the human soul. But it remains a clear and useful introductory text. Zachary Hayes brings to his work a great love for creation and his long engagement with the theology associated with Francis of Assisi and Bonaventure. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on cosmic Christology, which is thoroughly grounded in this tradition.

Denis Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewers

 

Graham Cole is Principal, Ridley College, Melbourne

Scott Cowdell is Senior Lecturer in Theology, Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University, Adelaide.

Janet Crawford is Lecturer in Church History and Liturgics, The College of St John the Evangelist, Auckland

Keith Dyer is Professor of New Testament, Whitley College, Melbourne

Denis Edwards is Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University, Adelaide

Richard Lennan is Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Catholic Institute of Sydney

Mark R. Lindsay is Associate Lecturer, Department of History, University of Western Australia, Perth

Sarah Mitchell is Principal, United Theological College, Sydney

Michael Parsons is Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Murdoch University, Perth

Andrew Pfeiffer is Director, Pastoral Ministry Program, Luther Seminary, Adelaide

Derek Tovey is Lecturer in Systematic Theology, the College of St. John the Evangelist, Auckland

Norman Young is Professor Emeritus, United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne

 

 

 



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