Colloquium 36.2 (2004)
EXPLORING THE BEAUTY AND STRUCTURE OF THE BIBLE
Duane L. Christensen
(New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2003) 328 pp. ISBN 0809141108
Readers who have used Christensen’s volumes on Deuteronomy in the Word Biblical Commentary series (rev. ed., 2 vols 2001–02) will be familiar with his consistent use of chiastic (or his preferred term, concentric) structures at both macro and micro levels in the text, and also that Deuteronomy is central in the canonical process and order of the books. The current work is a stimulating and creative tour de force applying those perspectives to the whole Bible, along with a history of the formation of the canon.
His starting point is the affirmation in public worship that "somehow the Bible is one book", and so his goal is "to lay the foundation for achieving fluency in the knowledge and use of the Bible as a whole" and hence to "explore its literary structure and contents as a single book" (p. 1, italics added). On that basis he first presents the stages he sees in the formation of the canon of both Testaments, which he calls the "completed Tanakh", focussing on responses to two crises, the destruction of the temple in 586 bce and in 70 ce (chap. 1 "Origin and Formation of the Tanakh", 1-9). Deuteronomy is a bridge connecting the Law and the Former Prophets (time of Josiah), continuing as bridge when the Former Prophets are updated and the Latter Prophets added. He continues with expanding patterns as the Writings are added, with Daniel as a literary bridge between the Prophets and Ezra-Nehemiah-Chronicles. Much later Paul and others gave us the structure of the New Testament, again in stages. He concludes with a concentric structure for the whole 49 books [22+27], with Gospels and Acts, a "New Torah", as the centre, noting a striking pattern of (9+4+9)+5+(9+4+9) books. The structure of the NT is meant as a theological interaction with the Tanakh. He returns in more detail to this historical development in later chapters (178–83 for the Tanakh, including comparison with the LXX; and pp. 184–91, 213–14, 305–13 for the New Testament "completion"). He argues that what is now the traditional order of the NT, originally envisaged by the Apostle John, and the order used in Jewish worship for the Tanakh (Chronicles at the end of the Writings) is the correct one because of the various concentric patterns (220–121).
In the next three chapters (10–177) he outlines the structures of the various books and combination of books in the Tanakh. It is not possible here to go into the detail – almost every page has at least one concentric structure, often "menorah pattern", i.e., 7 components, based on topic/theme and occasionally genre. Each is diagrammed clearly.
A feature is the outline of structures at various levels. For instance, the Tanakh as a whole is a 7 level menorah pattern: level 1 has Exodus-Deuteronomy in the centre (journey from Egypt to Canaan); Exodus-Deuteronomy in turn has Exod 15:22–Deut 31:30 as centre (journey from Egypt to Moab), which in turn has Exodus 34–Deut 5 as centre, with Num 1–36 as its centre, then Num 13:1–20:21 as centre, then 16:34–17:13 (Aaron as priestly leader), and finally 16:46 (Aaron to make atonement). But he also sees Genesis–2 Kings as a 3 level menorah structure, the final centre being Exodus 33. He continues with concentric structures for smaller components, e.g., Gen 1–11, the Abram narrative, "Jacob’s 12 sons", etc.
In discussing the Tabernacle and Numbers he builds on insights from Mary Douglas (32, 42), but also finds both hints and support in Jewish lectionary traditions (33–39, 44–45). The same lectionary traditions are used in the analysis of the book of Psalms and comparison with the Torah (137–40), while midrashic traditions are used to argue for intertextuality between Job and the patriarchs (140–47). When he turns to the Writings he follows various scholars who have suggested concentric structures: Bertram (1965) on Ruth, Shea (1980) on Song of Songs, Wright (1968) on Ecclesiastes, Gottwald (1962) on Lamentations, and Radday (1973) on Esther (and in the New Testament, Barnhart  on John).
He continues in similar vein for the New Testament (184–304), again seeing multi-level structures. He is willing to see overlapping patterns, thus for Matthew there is both a "Five Discourse" structure, with naturally the third as central, and a Menorah structure with parables (11:1–16:20) as centre (199–200). Surprisingly, he proposes a menorah pattern for Matthew–Luke as a whole, the centre being on discipleship, giving sight to the blind (Mark 8:22–10:52). At times he sees numerical parallels. Thus 13 letters of Paul correspond to 13 books in the Prophets, while the "22 Books of Apostolic writings" have their concentric parallels, with Paul writing to 7 churches as does Revelation, and 4 personal letters of Paul match four apostles writing general letters, with Hebrews the centre.
A side feature of some of the structures is "the riddle of the middle" (an item in the index), some enigmatic or unexpected feature which has often been debated. The most significant in the Tanakh is Deut 29:29 regarding the "secret and revealed things", part of which is marked in Hebrew codices with dots over the letters (69–70). In the NT he refers to Matt 13:24–33 (parables of the mustard seed and yeast), Mark 9:9–10 (disciples do not understand), Luke 13:22–30 ("Narrow door"), 2 Thess 2:3–10 (who is the "lawless one"?), and 2 John.
It would be easy to put aside this work as a compendium of imaginative structures, an instance of creative but idiosyncratic "reader-response". That would be to miss both the challenge of the book to much biblical scholarship and Christensen’s intention. A number of writers have drawn attention to features such as concentric arrangements and numerical features in parts of the Bible, and various attempts have been made to explain canonical development and present arrangements. Christensen has taken the clues from some of these writers and shown what is possible when applied to the whole Bible, and the Bible as a whole. All commentaries include the commentator’s "structure" of the book in question, and readers find some structures more helpful than others. There is no doubt that the practice of concentric literary arrangement is evident in parts of the Bible – he has seen it throughout. He has also listened to aspects of later Jewish reading tradition. Not all will be convinced – and this reader finds many of the arrangements forced – yet there are often stimulating insights from seeing the texts in this light. His argument does not require agreement with all the proposed structures, but the proposals do provide much basis for debate in future readings of the books of the Bible! While he could be accused of pan-concentrism, his work shows that there is likely to be more instances of such patterns than is commonly recognised.
Creative is his proposal concerning the structure of the NT canon, including the role of Paul and Luke in Rome and later of John. He is aware that there is no external evidence (he makes much of 2 Tim 4:11–13 as referring to “canonical activity”, interpreting failovnhn as "book-carrier", with bibliva “scrolls” and membravna" "parchments"), and provides some arguments as to why it was forgotten (219–21). At the same time, even if the details must be speculative, the rationale for the structure is suggestive and has the benefit of tying together the whole Bible.
There is a single index (315–328) of topics and authors. The book is so organised that a scriptural index is not needed. One needs to read the book as a whole.
INJUSTICE MADE LEGAL: DEUTERONOMIC LAW AND THE PLIGHT OF WIDOWS, STRANGERS, AND ORPHANS IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
Harold V. Bennett
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002) xiii + 209 pp. ISBN 0802839096
Bennett’s initial research into the legal codes in the Hebrew Bible caused him to look again at the role of law, which instead of protecting the oppressed appeared to bolster the power of the privileged in Ancient Israel (ix). He concentrates on the three categories of oppressed named in the title of the book. His thesis proposes that the Laws concerning these groups were used to shape the ideas of local farmers in order to prevent any potential uprisings in the Northern Kingdom during the ninth century BCE (11).
After investigating the Hebrew terms for widows, strangers and orphans Bennett suggests two possibilities concerning the social characteristics of widows. The first situation is one in which the widow has living male relatives who are willing to support her. The second situation is one in which the widow has living male relatives who refuse to give either economic or legal help. In his summary Bennett fails to suggest the possibility that a widow might be totally bereft of any male relatives who could be called on to help. However, he acknowledges that this is the case in a number of prophetic texts, but discounts them by saying that these texts are a window on how the prophets understood the dilemma of the widow. Surely, that comment can be said of every text because it is the point of view of the author.
He advocates the second position for his thesis based on the stories in Gen 38 and 2 Sam 14, 20. In Gen 38, the story indicates that Tamar returned to her father’s house where she was taken in, not refused help. Bennett has two consecutive statements, which are contradictory: first, that she was not bereft of living male adult relatives and second, that Tamar had no living relative who was willing to assume responsibility for her (34). I use this to suggest that Bennett has tried to define the possible social conditions of a widow in a very limited and even contradictory way.
Bennett examines extant literature as well as the contexts within the Hebrew Bible. In the case of the orphan, it is a person who is fatherless, and the stranger is one who has kept their cultural identity and who is therefore vulnerable in times of hardship. An adult male protector is the common denominator for each of these categories of people.
All written material contains within it an agenda, which was important to the implied author. Bennett explores this concept using critical theory (15-17). The five premises of this theory make good sense, for example, (i) the law is a powerful institutional tool for social control, (ii) law is often the result of special interest groups, (iii) it often focuses on certain categories of people in society, (iv) law reflects conflict within society, and (v) it needs to reflect the personal experience of the underclass.
Associated with a number of festivals are the commands to distribute the tithes of food to certain groups of people. On the surface, it reads as though the major concern is for the underprivileged of their society, but Bennett suggests it can be read in another way. He acknowledges that oppression can occur by well-meaning individuals and that the legal injunctions can lead to oppression of certain groups. However, in the case of the Deuteronomic code he thinks these laws were a deliberate attempt by elite groups to control any possible peasant rebellions and to gain material endowment.
After examining the context of the laws relating to the widows, strangers and orphans, he suggests that one form of oppression was the need for many of these groups to travel to particular cultic sites in order to receive the gifts of food. This group was especially vulnerable to robbers because of their lack of male protectors. This would have been further exacerbated when the laws for the centralisation of the cult were promulgated. Centralisation allowed the creators of the cultic law to oversee appropriation of the commodities using the pretext of charity for the widow, stranger and orphan (171). Furthermore, the law in some cases spoke of gifts only offered every three years, which is hardly ongoing sustenance. The laws were prescribed as the direct communication and will of Yahweh, which Bennett suggests was another form of oppression. However, since all the laws were perceived as the will of Yahweh and applied to all social categories in Israelite society (kings, priests, prophets, merchants, people) this particular form of oppression cannot be said to apply to the widow, stranger and orphan alone.
Bennett uses theories of social stratification to suggest the northern kingdom in 9th century BCE as the situation to which the laws applying to widows, strangers and orphans were initiated. However, the social groups he identifies could be present in Judah as well and, as Amos is used to support the situation in the north, so Isaiah of Jerusalem can be used to support a similar situation in the south. Another reason for 9th century BCE date is the building programme of the Omrides which leant itself to the oppression of the underprivileged in the society and to the breakdown of family groups who would normally have looked after their own kin. A further argument is that the literature cited comes from the "Elohist" or northern stream of tradition. It is true that many scholars believe the Deuteronomic material originated in the north before its final composition in the south. On the other hand, for many scholars the laws of centralisation were promulgated in the south and Jerusalem is the place of centralisation. I think it is very difficult to be as exact about the historical situation, which Bennett wants to uphold, and many of the arguments in which he uses particular texts are themselves subject to debate about their possible dating. For example, he seems to suggest the Deuteronomic Code had its terminus a quo in the 10th century BCE (173).
Bennett raises a question about the capacity of small farmers and peasants having the wherewithal to offer the gifts as stated in the Deuteronomic law. I wonder whether this could have increased the possibility of revolt by this group rather than controlling them and I think the case to prevent peasant revolt is still to be proven.
This book has a very helpful structure in its contents section; it is written using uncomplicated English, and hence the arguments are easily understood. However, the subject index is rather sparse and the use of the initials DC, BC and HB is distinctly irritating. However, Bennett’s work is a timely reminder to look again, how laws can be used to oppress certain groups whether inadvertently or by deliberate choice. His use of critical theory was a helpful paradigm and the book has broken new ground in the consideration of the underprivileged in our society.
JESUS REMEMBERED (CHRISTIANITY IN THE MAKING; VOLUME 1)
James D. G. Dunn
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003) 1019pp. ISBN 0802839312
When one mentions the name of James Dunn one instantly thinks of his work on the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, the origins of Christology, the New Perspective on Paul, learned commentaries on Romans, Galatians and Colossians, a massive Pauline theology and his study of the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism. In many ways these works are forerunners to Dunn’s current three volume project: Christianity in the Making. The intention of this project is to "give an integrated description and analysis, both historical and theological, both social and literary, of the first 120 or so years of Christianity." (6). The period to be examined is that of 27-150 CE or from Jesus to the sub-apostolic era. The first instalment in this series is Jesus Remembered and is the attempt to understand the impact made by Jesus in the memory of the early church.
Parts 1 and 2 contain the standard (though nonetheless useful) prolegomena to historical Jesus study where Dunn canvasses a brief history of the quest of the historical Jesus, deals with hermeneutical issues such as the intersection of faith, history and theology, identifies the sources for studying the historical Jesus, the nature of the Jesus tradition and outlines the historical context of Jesus. Dunn is unconvinced that we can get back to Jesus with some kind of positivistic objectivity but neither is he persuaded that Jesus is lost behind a veil of subjectivity and faith. His response is that Jesus is accessible via the memory of the early church. "What we actually have in the earliest retellings of what is now the Synoptic tradition, then, are the memories of the first disciples – not Jesus himself, but the remembered Jesus." (130-31, 335). This comprises the leitmotif for Dunn’s thesis.
The model is of course indebted N. A. Dahl (see his essay, "The Problem of the Historical Jesus" in Jesus the Christ [Fortress: Minneapolis, 1991], 94; Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1976]); nevertheless Dunn prosecutes it with great rigor and, in my mind, success. It is a model that warrants serious appraisal since behind the Gospels lies the momentous impact made by Jesus upon his disciples, but an impact only available through the memory of his closest followers.
Regarding sources for the study Dunn is highly critical of theories about Q since it is difficult to move from Matthean and Lucan redaction of Q, to a Q document with different layers and then back to a Q community (147-160). Dunn also advocates that variations within the Synoptic tradition should not be explained entirely on the basis of literary relationships but may emerge more properly from the effects of continuing oral tradition (note also his essay, "Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition," NTS 49  139-75).
The mission of Jesus is set out in Part 3 with specific focus on origins from John the Baptist, the message of the kingdom of God, Jesus’ intended audience and the call to discipleship. Dunn concurs with the growing consensus in scholarship that Jesus entertained a hope for the restoration of Israel.
The problem of Jesus’ self-understanding is treated in Part 4 where Dunn addresses issues such as whether or not Jesus saw himself as the Messiah. Dunn’s answer is that although the question certainly did arise within the course of his ministry, Jesus never claimed to be the long-hoped-for Son of David. Jesus never once used the title Messiah of himself and the early disciples, though they believed he was the Messiah, had to radically redefine the term in order to continue using it after Good Friday (652-53).
The problem I find here is that Dunn is at pains to find a non-Wredian view explaining why the disciples believed in Jesus’ Messiahship after Easter if Jesus himself did not claim the title, and I do not find the answer he gives satisfactory. Although the early church redefined the meaning of Messiahship after Easter, its meaning still possesses a continuity with Jewish interpretations of Messiahship, otherwise the very proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah becomes vacuous and the title is flung too far away from its Jewish context.
On the quagmire of scholarly debate surrounding the title ‘Son of Man’ Dunn offers a sobering evaluation of the state of research. Dunn offers a five point solution: (1) Jesus did use the term "Son of Man"; (2) He used it self-referentially in a sense of "a man like me"; (3) Jesus’ use included some reference to Dan 7:13; (4) The Similitudes of Enoch is post-Jesus; and (5) The development of the term in the Jesus tradition probably began with Jesus himself (759-62).
In Part 5 Dunn presents the culmination of Jesus’ mission with reference to the crucifixion and resurrection. In Dunn’s estimation, Jesus saw the climax of his mission as suffering the final tribulation through which the kingdom would finally come and that after that period there would be the implementation of the new covenant and arrival of God’s kingly rule (824). The echoes of Schweitzer are clear at this point. After discussing the complexities of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances, Dunn asserts that the shape of the tradition drives us to the conclusion that something was perceived as happening to Jesus and not just something which happened to the disciples like discovering a new found faith in Jesus (876). Dunn also recognises that the language of resurrection functions as both an interpretation and as a metaphor. Of the latter Dunn candidly writes, "Christians have continued to affirm the resurrection of Jesus, as I do, not because they know what it means. Rather, they do so because, like the affirmation of Jesus as God’s Son, "the resurrection of Jesus" has proved the most satisfactory and enduring of a variety of options, all of them inadequate in one degree or other as human speech, to sum up the impact made by Jesus, the Christian perception of his significance" (879).
Jesus Remembered is an excellent contribution to the field of historical Jesus research and it a necessary dialogue partner for any future study in the area. On the downside, I confess to not being convinced by many of Dunn’s arguments about Jesus’ self-understanding and many criticisms that have been made against his Christology in the Making can easily be reapplied here. The length is also voluminous (both a strength and weakness) and it is getting to the stage where historical Jesus books are simply getting out of hand when it comes to length (see also John Meier’s incomplete four volume work: A Marginal Jew).
Also, in regard to the whole project of Christianity in the Making, one must wonder what Dunn can say about Paul that he has not already said in his earlier publication The Theology of the Apostle Paul (T&T Clark, 1998) which is far from dated. One could easily imagine that monograph comprising volume 2 of the present series. However, there is the opportunity for Dunn to offer an updated abbreviation of his prior tome on Paul and interact with more recent studies by Seifrid, Boyarin, Gager, Kim, Das, Gathercole and Schreiner. We can only wait and see.
The project as a whole may well rival N. T. Wright’s New Testament History/Theology series Christian Origins and the Question of God (Fortress) as the reference tool of choice for studies in the origins of Christianity. Once both studies are finally completed it would be highly interesting to sit down and compare them.
In sum, Dunn’s book on Jesus is an excellent contribution to the Third Quest for the historical Jesus and I for one look forward to reading the future instalments on the emergence of early Christianity.
Michael F. Bird
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PARALLELS BETWEEN 2 PETER
AND OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN LITERATURE
Michael J Gilmour
(Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002) xi, 176 pp. ISBN 1589830490
Michael J Gilmour is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Providence College in Otterburne, Manitoba. This book, originally his dissertation, examines the possibilities and limitations of determining a context or locating an ancient document in history, on the basis of similarities with and differences from other texts. The fundamental question posed by the book is whether the observation of parallels between 2 Peter and other early Christian literature provides scholars with the type of data needed to fix this text to a more precise historical context. That is, the book is essentially about methodology, with 2 Peter taken as a test case of the method developed.
Gilmour provides a thoughtful and careful analysis of the topic. He begins with a general introduction to some of the usual difficulties associated with the historical fixing of 2 Peter, such as its dating (which he sets elusively in the period 70CE to the second century), its provenance (which he leaves unresolved), and its authorship (which he states is pseudepigraphical). This acknowledged historical vagueness sets up his thesis that the study of parallels can productively be used in assisting such historical research.
The second chapter presents a clear and comprehensive review of attempts at location of 2 Peter by means of historical reconstructions. It concisely yet accurately examines representative methods, from Bo Reicke’s location in the political context of late first century Roman persecution, through Baur’s tendency theories and Käsemann’s concept of early catholicism, to the theological trajectories of James Robinson and Helmut Koester. On the basis of the shortcomings of these approaches, Gilmour proceeds to establish his own criteria for determining the value of parallels.
This third chapter is a clear and careful compilation of helpful lists, including considerations such as what constitutes a parallel, and a commendably well-balanced examination of factors that lend weight to arguments that parallels are due to literary dependence and the contrasting arguments that weaken claims of literary dependence. This chapter is typified (as indeed are all the chapters) by a good grasp of scholarship and insightful analysis. In short, it provides an eminently sensible set of criteria for the consideration of literary parallels, and sets in place safeguards to avoid undue assumptions.
Chapter 4 presents an analysis of the text of 2 Peter as a case study of the method, examining its parallels (or non-parallels) with Jude, 1 Peter, the canonical Gospels, Paul, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Apostolic Fathers. While maintaining a close relationship between 2 Peter and Jude, Gilmour’s application of his criteria leads him to conclude that some of the text relationships suggested between 2 Peter and other early Christian literature are not as obvious as sometimes argued.
The book is rounded off by a chapter entitled "Evaluation of the parallels approach for locating texts" which, despite the title, really offers an apologetic for taking the study of 2 Peter more seriously than is commonly done in New Testament studies. A set of eight Appendixes is provided, which are intended to amplify the application of the method beyond 2 Peter and to provide helpful reference charts of the key criteria listed in chapter 3.
The book has many strengths. It is very well organised, with a clear direction being set in each chapter, and that direction being executed clearly. It combines an impressive breadth of scholarship with a fluent concision and clarity of expression. Of particular note is its consistency in identifying and analysing common assumptions based on historical inferences and the presuppositions that are commonly brought to bear in such studies. Gilmour is particularly wary of "hypothetical developmental schemes", philosophical assumptions of scholars, the attribution to ancient writers of a subtlety which cannot be substantiated, and the confusion which may result when terms are not clearly defined. The other outstanding strength is the balance achieved in scholarly analysis. A wide range of representative views is canvassed, analysed, and evaluated to produce an intelligent synthesis in the author’s own argument. The sub-section in chapter 3 entitled "Conclusions possible on the basis of parallels" is a typical example of such comprehension and balance in argument. The book is a very careful study indeed.
However, there are a few disappointments with it, although most are minor. There is a tendency to use untranslated (even untransliterated) foreign language, including German, Greek and French. While this is obviously acceptable in an academic dissertation, it does not necessarily carry well into a book for wider circulation. Occasionally the book suffers from unnecessary repetition, particularly in the very good chapters 2 and 3, where the concluding comments and remarks on scholarly consensus are really only repeating what has already been well established. Similarly, some argument is over-elaborate, since the point has been made very obvious without the need for an extended statement (e.g. 63-65 on the danger of oversimplification, which is almost self-evident). However, these are minor blemishes in what is generally a well-written piece.
Of more significance is the somewhat disappointing end of the book. The first four chapters are an excellent study of method and application. However, chapter 5 promises an evaluation of the method, but does not contain one word of such evaluation. Rather, it seems more like another chapter 4, that is, another case study in support of 2 Peter’s claim for greater scrutiny. Again, the actual conclusions reached in the case studies are less than impressive. In effect, they amount to an acknowledgement that the method has not managed to do any more than to locate 2 Peter "within a broad, religious milieu, grouped with other early Christian texts from the mid-first through the second century", and indeed they concede that "with such observations little is gained in narrowing the location of the text to a more specific place or time" 121). The bulk of the book is an impressive study of methodological possibilities in parallelism. The applied case studies, while skilful, sadly fail to deliver the expected outcomes.
Over all, the book is a commendable study, well conceived, thoroughly researched, and clearly and carefully presented. It provides a good set of criteria for studying literary parallels, with salutary and sensible warnings at every point. Its potential application goes well beyond 2 Peter, indeed well beyond biblical study. While the specific case studies may have pulled up a little short, the method created has much to commend it, and is worthy of further application in textual study.
A THEOLOGICAL COMMENTARY AND TRANSLATION
Iain M. MacKenzie
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002) 241 pp. ISBN 0754608425
Iain MacKenzie’s monograph adds to the recent body of scholarship focussing upon the work of Irenaeus. It is a welcome addition to that scholarship. His work usefully includes J. Armitage Robinson’s 1920 English translation of the extant MS (Armenian) of Irenaeus’s Demonstration though it should be noted that the 1953 English translation by J. P. Smith (Ancient Christian Writers Series, Vol. 16) is, on the whole, a better one. Armitage Robinson himself acknowledges some limitations in his Armenian linguistic capabilities (5).
MacKenzie makes a careful and detailed analysis of the theology of Irenaeus as evinced in the Demonstration. It must be said that it is not an easy read – the work is dense and replete with quotations from Irenaeus. Methodologically, he works systematically through the sections of the Demonstration in eighteen chapters, grouping sections together and providing a summary heading of themes he identifies in that grouping of sections. This approach allows for a comprehensive analysis of the work though it also permits of some repetition of ideas.
This study reflects the work of an author who has immersed himself deeply in the religious thought and ideas of Irenaeus, not just from the Demonstration but from the Adversus haereses as well. I found his Chapter Five – on "God as Spirit" rich and insightful. He handles sensitively and empathetically some of the great Irenaean themes such as: God as Creator, the incarnation of the Word, redemption, the "two hands of God", "the Royal Exchange", the Holy Spirit and recapitulation.
MacKenzie does not attempt any really significant connection with contemporary secondary literature on Irenaeus, though at several points in the work he does argue against direct dependence by Irenaeus upon Justin Martyr. He particularly takes issue with the views of Armitage Robinson on this question and marshals a powerful argument. MacKenzie supports the theory, taken up by J. P. Smith in the introduction to his translation (31), and first mooted by J. Rendel Harris, that Irenaeus and Justin may have both used a common document comprising Scripture proof texts, particularly from the Septuagint.
Canon MacKenzie, noting an often unappreciated element in Irenaeus’s thought, highlights the way in which he does not put a negative spin on Adam but affirms him as God’s "high handiwork" and notes he was created for "advance and progress" (118). He stresses that Irenaeus places the responsibility for "the Fall" not so much on Adam (or Eve) but the serpent-tempter.
MacKenzie addresses in some detail some of the "idiosyncratic" views of Irenaeus e.g. that Adam and Eve were created and grew up as children, that Pontius Pilate was procurator during the time of Claudius and that Jesus lived until he was fifty.
The author also brings out the way in which Irenaeus’s thought forms a bridgehead between the early preaching and attempts at theological reflection by the church and the more developed theology of the fourth century. He illustrates this by making connections between the work of Irenaeus and such writers as Athanasius, Basil and his brother Gregory and Gregory of Nazianzus.
It is widely agreed that there is little new in the Demonstration as compared with the Adversus haereses and the former work (written after the Adversus haereses) is in many respects a highly condensed statement by Irenaeus of his theology. This means that a commentator working on the Demonstration will inevitably turn frequently to the longer work for assistance in unravelling some of what is compressed in the Demonstration. If there is one significant criticism, however, of Mackenzie’s work it is that there is just too much focus upon the Adversus haereses in what is a commentary upon the Demonstration. This may be illustrated by the fact that in the endnotes to the first six chapters, there are twenty citations to passages from the Demonstration but one hundred and fifty three citations from the Adversus haereses. The extent of the quotations (particularly from the Adversus haereses) is overdone. This is most clearly evident on page 74 where there are several lengthy quotes (all from the Adversus haereses) but only some fifty words of text by the author himself.
While acknowledging that the author has chosen not to employ accenting, his use of Greek orthography is nevertheless deficient. There are some minor typographical matters that indicate the work would have benefited from a more acute editorial process. Younger readers of MacKenzie’s work may be a little irritated by the consistent citing of Scripture in Elizabethan language and the regular use of exclusive language (‘man’ to refer to humanity).
Despite these criticisms, this work represents an important contribution to the Irenaean studies and it is very reasonable to think, as MacKenzie himself hopes, "that this work will accomplish at least some increase in the appreciation of this theologian who has had such a varied reputation bestowed upon him by so many others" (34).
THE METAPHYSICS OF THE INCARNATION: THOMAS AQUINAS TO DUNS SCOTUS
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) xx, 358 pp. ISBN 0199244367
The title could be read as deliberately provocative. Theologians from John Hick to Robert Funk and many others regard the Incarnation as not literally true. Often, as in the case of Robert Funk, they do so partly on the basis of a metaphysical claim: that there is no God. Metaphysics itself suffered a long and hard assault during much of the twentieth century. At the hands of philosophers as diverse as Wittgenstein, Moore, Ayer, Heidegger, Derrida and many more, "metaphysics" became a term used mostly in derision.
More recently, metaphysical thought has made a remarkable comeback, at least within Anglo-American philosophy. This does not mean that people have again applied themselves to proving, like McTaggart, that everything is really spirit. Rather, the task of giving an acceptable account of the structure of reality has been recognised as unavoidable for physicalist thinkers as much as for theists. If you maintain that everything can be analysed in terms of physical matter, it is incumbent upon you to show how this can be done. Thus philosophers have produced, and continue to produce, detailed discussions of the nature of universals, mereology, individuation, modality and related themes. At the same time, analytical philosophy has attained a logical expertise not seen since the late Middle Ages.
The thinkers discussed in this book differ on numerous points. But they share a commitment to the rigorous logical analysis of their beliefs and those of their predecessors. They also have in common a logical and metaphysical sophistication far in advance of their successors in most of the following centuries. And, as contemporary understanding of logical and metaphysical issues has advanced, so in parallel has our knowledge of medieval thought. In particular, the richness and subtlety of medieval logic has been painstakingly recovered and described by scholars including Norman Kretzmann, Eleonore Stump, John Marenbon, Alexander Broadie, and numerous others, so that we are now much better placed to appreciate the medieval philosophical achievement, having a better grasp of its tools.
After these preliminaries, it must be said at once that this is not an easy book. It is packed with detailed discussions of what may seem abstruse metaphysical, logical and theological points. But its difficulty stems, not from opacity, but from rigorous and close argument.
Cross’s purpose is twofold. He aims to illuminate a period of remarkable achievement in the history of philosophy and theology through detailed examination of work on the Incarnation in the period from Aquinas to Scotus. At the same time, he hopes to contribute to discussions in contemporary Christology. The book begins with a chapter introducing the problems Chalcedonian Christology posed for the medievals, and explaining the philosophical context of their work on the problems. Christ, according to Chalcedon, is two natures, a divine nature and a human, united in one hypostasis. To the medievals, characteristically, a nature is a substance. So Christ’s human nature is a substance. And the problem that arises is how to describe the relation between the divine and human natures. The principal options explored in this book are, firstly, a "parts" Christology, where the divine and human natures are seen as related in a way analogous to the way parts are related to a whole, and, secondly, a range of approaches based on, or corresponding to, a substance/accident model, whereby the human nature is assumed by the second person of the Trinity in a way that is analogous to a substance taking on an accident.
The word "analogous" is critical – neither the human nor the divine nature can be classed as an accident. But the relation between substance and accident can be seen as providing a model for the relation between Christ’s two natures. Bonaventure indeed says that there can be no adequate analogies for the hypostatic union. This line of thought would, if pressed, lead to the abandonment of the entire project under discussion, and it is perhaps a pity that Cross does not canvass it further. Bonaventure himself, as Cross explains, does not stick to this position, but is among those who explore the substance/accident model.
Most of the book is concerned with individual thinkers, the majority of whom adopted the substance/accident model in their Christologies, some explicitly, some following an approach that Cross identifies as parallel to their metaphysical thought on substances and accidents. Thomas Aquinas is unusual in this period in rejecting a substance/accident account and espousing a whole/parts analogy in his Christology. (Again, it is only an analogy. As Cross acknowledges, Aquinas is forceful in rejecting the idea that the two natures could in fact be related as parts of a whole.) Cross argues that Aquinas’s position leans toward monophysitism. A contrasting account of Thomas’s metaphysics of the Incarnation, one that concludes it is consistent with the requirements of Chalcedon, is given by Eleonore Stump in her book Aquinas (Routledge, 2003). Cross enriches his discussion with descriptions of conflicting arguments put forward by Aquinas himself later in his career, and of criticisms of Aquinas’s model by Matthew of Aquasparta, William of Ware, Duns Scotus and Godfrey of Fontaines. A great strength of the book is its close engagement with numerous thinkers in its period, enabling the reader to see the work of Aquinas and Scotus in its intellectual context, and illustrating the contributions made by important but less well-known writers.
Cross is clearly more sympathetic to the possibilities of a substance/accident model, which he traces in some detail through the varying discussions of William of Ware, Henry of Ghent, Godfrey of Fontaines and, in particular, Scotus. A crucial reason why the analogy is appealing is that an accident depends on its substance, as Christ’s human nature depends on his divine nature. An important difference is that an accident can be said to require a substance to be individuated, whereas Christ’s human nature is an individual in its own right. (Of course, there is a sense in which every human nature depends on God to be individuated. But anything that could be developed from this would be along quite different lines from those followed by the thinkers under discussion here.)
Further sections are devoted to Trinitarian problems and to the communication of properties from the human to the divine nature. The latter is important because, as Cross argues in his conclusion, an adequate account of the communication of properties will enable a Chalcedonian Christology to be consistent with the descriptions of Jesus in the gospels. Cross tells us that all his thinkers are realists about universals, by which he means of course that they are moderate realists, for whom properties really exist insofar as they are instantiated. Hence it is straightforward for them to explain how properties can be communicated. Cross suggests that they could also accommodate a trope theory, a model popular among contemporary philosophers as an alternative to talk of universals, without embarking on a discussion of the philosophical merits of such a theory.
Finally, Cross examines issues about subsistence. How can it be that Christ’s human nature on the one hand subsists, without on the other hand being a person in its own right (since then there would be two persons in Christ)? One possible answer is that part of what is meant by speaking of something as a person is that it is not dependent on another. Hence, since Christ’s human nature is dependent on his divine nature, it need not be classed as a person. The treatments of this issue covered here can be traced back to Peter Lombard. William Ockham, who falls outside Cross’s period, gives an illuminating discussion of the point in his fourth Quodlibet.
In the conclusion, Cross considers the relevance of his thinkers to contemporary Christology. He suggests that an advantage of the Scotist model is that it is able to accommodate the gospel portrayals of Jesus as capable of ignorance or error. If the human nature remains a substance in its own right, and we have an acceptable account of the communication of properties, it is possible to envisage the Word experiencing the human suffering and emotion, while not being implicated in error or ignorance. Further, he argues that the metaphysical approach exemplified by Scotus allows for the theoretical possibility of incarnations of other divine persons beside the Son, and of more than one Incarnation. This he takes to be an advantage when considering problems raised by the multiplicity of religions, though it could hardly afford a solution to many of them.
The complexity of medieval thought is such that we must often look at parts of it at a time, considering, for example, views on logic, cognition, psychology, or metaphysics, rather than attempting overviews of a thinker’s work as a whole. So it is worth emphasising that the work Cross discusses here is not, as it may sound, detached from matters of faith, salvation and the historical meaning of the Incarnation. In his treatise on the Incarnation in the Summa Theologiae Aquinas writes, "For such things as spring from God’s will alone, and beyond the creature’s due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in the Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is made known to us" (ST 3.1.3). Metaphysics has its place, but its place is not first.
Not everyone wants, or thinks it worthwhile, to bestow detailed, painstaking thought on these matters. Some may judge it irreverent, or irrelevant. What Cross discusses is the record of a central period in Christian and Western intellectual history applying its thought to a central Christian doctrine, so its relevance is assured. Whether it is reverent to think as the medievals did about the content of Christian faith is a point on which everyone must make up his or her own mind. Unaided reason, whether or not it can arrive at the existence of God, cannot reach the Incarnation, and nor should it be expected to. But once we have a doctrine of the Incarnation, we can ask whether our philosophy provides an adequate framework to express it. If it is not, then either our doctrine or our philosophy will need adjustment, or we will have to conclude that the Incarnation is a mystery beyond rational comprehension.
To note that Cross does not canvass these larger issues in his book is hardly a criticism. Again, the question of whether Chalcedonian Christology itself is the best or only way of making sense of the New Testament accounts would be a topic for a different book; as would (to end where we started) the viability of the kind of metaphysics discussed here. This book does what it sets out to do well, though challengingly.
POPULAR MOVEMENTS FROM THE GREGORIAN REFORM TO THE REFORMATION
3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002) 491 pp. ISBN 0631222766
When I began preparing lectures for medieval and reformation church history classes, at a regrettably hurried pace, I found the second (1992) edition of Medieval Heresy immensely helpful. Although it covered a broad swathe of history, from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries, there was sufficient detail to give colour and warmth to the dry bones of more general textbook accounts. Key issues in the study of medieval heresy were introduced with balance and moderation. For example, on the vexed question of whether religious or socio-economic factors were the key ingredient in the genesis of heresy, Lambert argued for the priority of religious convictions, but stressed the importance for the survival of heresy of the political, economic and social climate.
He built in particular on the work of Herbert Grundmann whose 1935 classic, Religiöse Bewegungen im Mittelalter (Religious Movements of the Middle Ages), was not translated and published in English until 1995. He also drew on his many years experience as a teacher. Until his retirement in 1991 he was Reader in Medieval History at the University of Bristol.
Sympathetic to the needs of students, he organised his material well, including maps, a glossary for those confused by the profusion of sects and terms of abuse for heretics, and a reading list of accessible introductory works in English organised according to topic. Jeffrey Burton Russell of the University of California concluded in the Catholic Historical Review (January 1993) that the second edition of Medieval Heresy is "by far the best lengthy scholarly monograph on medieval heresy as a whole, and it is likely to continue so for a generation or more". Yet it has now been supplanted by a third edition. Is it worth upgrading?
For anyone still using the original 1977 edition the answer is definitely yes. In the second edition Lambert deleted a chapter on the Bogomils, added two more on the history of Hussitism, and rewrote the chapters on Wyclif and the Lollards to take into account the work of Anne Hudson. On the other hand, in spite of the "fresh insights" promised on the back cover, the third edition is substantially the same as the second.
Additions and corrections are relatively minor and do not affect Lambert’s conclusions. The main changes are in the footnotes and bibliography. References highlight works such as Euan Cameron’s The Waldenses: Rejections of Holy Church in Medieval Europe (2000); Peter Biller’s The Waldenses 1170-1530 (2001); Malcolm Barber’s The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (2000) and Lambert’s own The Cathars (1998).
The updated bibliography is no longer confined to English books and articles but includes a substantial number in French, German and Italian, reflecting the depth of Lambert’s scholarship. Unfortunately, it is no longer organised according to topic, so students will find it more daunting, but scholars working in the field will appreciate it as a guide to recent research.
Overall, Lambert approaches his topic as a historian not a theologian. He takes heresy to mean simply "whatever the papacy explicitly or implicitly condemned" (8). He describes but does not dissect in detail the beliefs of heretics. He concentrates more on what motivated men and women to defy the Church and why their movements ultimately failed to survive. As the subtitle indicates, he focuses on groups which attracted significant popular support, especially the Cathars, Waldenses, Lollards and Hussites.
Some historians have succumbed to the temptation to contrast "popular" and "clerical" religion. In reality they are closely intertwined, and Lambert recognizes this. He makes an important link between the eleventh-century papal reform movement, which encouraged preaching against abuses in the church, and the growth of anti-clericalism and dissent. By "popular" he really means "not intellectual". He thus avoids the controversies which swirled around scholars like Peter Abelard. Abelard would doubtless be most affronted at being excluded on the grounds that he didn’t attract a large enough number of followers!
Lambert cannot, however, side step the medieval schools and universities altogether. He realises that it is impossible to delve into Lollard and Hussite history without considering the Oxford academic John Wyclif, and his chapter on Wyclif highlights the subversive implications of his philosophical and theological ideas which were mediated to a wider audience by his students.
The largest section of the book is devoted to what Lambert calls "evangelical heresy" in the late Middle Ages. It is logical to assume some connection between this and the reform movements of the sixteenth century but very difficult to demonstrate. Lambert stresses the differences rather than the similarities. The advantage of this cautious approach is that it places men like Wyclif and Hus squarely in their own historical context, rather than treating them as "morning stars" of the Protestant Reformation. The disadvantage is that the chapter on "Medieval Heresy and the Reformation" is really an expanded epilogue and Lambert does not demonstrate quite the same level of familiarity with the vast range of literature on the Reformation that he does with medieval heresy.
In his examination of the Catholic Church’s response to heresy, Lambert struggles to maintain his objective tone. He does not go as far as Bernard Hamilton in The Medieval Inquisition (1981) or Edward Peters in Inquisition (1988) in trying to strip back the layers of what Peters calls "the myth of Inquisition". Peters traces the investigation of heresy in the Middle Ages back to Roman legal procedures and explores the way it has been sensationalised in art, literature and anti-Catholic polemic. Hamilton points out that relatively few people were actually put to death for heresy. Inquisitors were supposed to be experts in theology and pastoral care, concerned above all with converting heretics not punishing them.
Nodding in this direction, Lambert concedes in his third edition that "especially in the early days, inquisitors were often zealous, hardworking bureaucrats, exercising a dangerous task, inclined, perhaps, to cut corners in eagerness to get to grips with heresy, yet not gravely unfair to suspects" (196). The image on the cover of the third edition depicts such inquisitors wearily working through their files. It is a copy of Jean Paul Lauren’s nineteenth-century painting, "The Men of the Holy Office", an institution which did not come into existence until the mid-sixteenth century, so it is somewhat anachronistic, but it is an improvement on the photograph on the cover of the second edition. That depicts the ruins of a Cathar fortress. Lambert’s Medieval Heresy is fundamentally about people, not buildings or institutions, the churchmen who grappled with dissent and, above all, the men and women who refused to abide by the prevailing orthodoxy and sometimes paid a terrible price for this. While the extent of repression and persecution has been greatly exaggerated at times, when it did occur it could be horrific, and Lambert is deeply conscious of this.
The great tension in a book devoted to heresy is that heresy cannot be understood apart from orthodoxy. In several short chapters Lambert paints in broad brush strokes significant developments in the church in Western Europe. It seems churlish to want more, and readers should be aware that there was much more to medieval Catholicism than the repression of dissent. Lambert briefly draws attention to this in his chapter on the Cathars, acknowledging that the decline of Catharism was not brought about by force alone. The wraith-like Christ of Catharism proved to be no match for the incarnate Christ of Catholicism, at least when the latter was promoted by the charismatic Francis of Assisi and his followers.
It is not exactly a pleasure to read a book which deals with so much human tragedy, but the stories it contains should never be forgotten. I am very grateful to Malcolm Lambert for drawing together so much recent scholarship on this topic and therefore making my task of teaching two thousand years of Christian history much easier.
D. H. Compier
(Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2001) 154pp. ISBN 0773476180
Don Compier serves as Associate Professor of Theology in the Pacific and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Apparently his interests include rhetorical theology and politics, both of which together form the substance of this intriguing volume on Calvin’s doctrine of sin.
Compier complains at the continuing tendency to view the reformer’s thinking too generally and encourages scholars to see Calvin in context. Of course, this is not entirely new – David Steinmetz, John Thompson, William Bouwsma, for example, have all argued this in different ways, as have others. Compier takes the lead from Bouwsma in particular and gives us an authentically historicist reading of Calvin’s Institutes. What is new in the writer’s approach is his confident and consistently argued case for the political intention of the Institutes as the primary authorial one. He does this through examination of Calvin’s rhetorical handling of the theme in view.
Compier argues persuasively that Calvin’s intention in writing and in continually enlarging the Institutes was always his desire to protect and defend the persecuted Protestants in France. Compier calls this theological work "a sophisticated piece of religious propaganda" (9). The question that engages Compier’s study is, if Calvin’s aim was to help the cause of French Protestants, then how does his treatment of human sinfulness further this programme? The question is well asked. However, though I don’t doubt Compier’s conclusion, I wonder if this approach prioritises the Institutes too much from the rest of the reformer’s massive and varied corpus. The growing, and healthy, tendency today is for scholars to develop conclusions from a wider base. I wonder, too, if Calvin was so little concerned with Geneva in itself. However, Compier’s argument still holds water.
Chapter 1 singles out Calvin as a rhetorical theologian. Compier refutes the theory that suggests that Calvin turned to a new methodology after becoming a spokesman for the Protestants, that is after his "conversion". He does this very easily and extremely ably, although to my mind he overstates the case that Calvin was only concerned with specifics and not with what I have observed elsewhere as the meta-narrative of God’s redemptive activity with humanity. The author demonstrates that Calvin’s writing continued to show all the marks of a conscientious orator.
Compier examines Calvin’s commentary De Clementia (1532) and suggests realistically that even had "Calvin consciously turned against rhetoric, it seems unlikely that he could extricate himself from the terms in which he had learned to express himself" (22). Nonetheless, according to the writer, Calvin shows signs of retaining the persuasive style, and indeed that it runs through all the editions of the Institutes to the definitive one of 1559. In this chapter Compier shows that the reformer remained a rhetorician, though his responsibility now was to cultivate it to godly purposes. He simply concludes the chapter with example after example of rhetorical style and genre from the Institutes themselves.
Chapter 2 seeks to demonstrate the political purpose of the Institutes. No one doubts this, as far as I am aware, but it certainly remains a disregarded aspect of the reformer’s major work. Here, relying mainly on McGrath’s portrait of Calvin, Compier paints a picture of the reformer as exile, as a "marked man", who lived bitterly in Geneva. According to Compier, Calvin "channeled his outrage into the fashioning of the first edition of the Institutes" (49). Again, Compier argues, "The advancement of a passionately held unitary vision is often the key ingredient explaining the political success of a movement" (44). This was Calvin’s "campaign"; this was his "over-riding concern", the "thoroughly political character of the Institutes" (69).
This is a fascinating and insightful chapter. Compier argues his case well, but ultimately I believe he does it too single-mindedly. While wanting to see Calvin as a historically contextualised and specific theologian, I would still need to argue that together with the important political agenda there is a desire on Calvin’s part to see piety, an internalised religion, a spirituality, a spiritual reconciliation and transformation. While I would agree that it is anachronistic to read the Institutes as a systematic theology in the modern sense, it is possibly just as anachronistic to single out political agenda as the central theme of the work. It is even questionable whether the two aspects of reformational thought can be so clearly delineated.
Chapter 3 is an examination of Calvin’s doctrine of sin, or rather his rhetorical use of his understanding of human failing. Compier shows that in Calvin’s development of this idea he is forced into a balance between the two extremes of pessimism and over optimism. In teaching "total depravity" (no "sin-free zones", 75) the reformer seems pessimistic and needs to indicate the possibility of genuine hope for change. In indicating the possibility of change the reformer needs to show human involvement. Compier suggests that Calvin solves the impasse by his emphasis on the Holy Spirit ("a very effective orator", 85) working in conjunction with Holy Scripture. The hope of authentic transformation is then shown to be in the power of God alone – but, says Calvin, it is vital that we retain our own responsibility. Ultimately, according to Compier, "the reformer refuses to jettison the gains of humanism" (92).
Chapter 4 illustrates Calvin’s attack on the papacy of his day. Here Compier discusses three Calvin themes: the papacy’s violation of the image of God in humanity, its tyrannical government, and its abuse of confession and penitence. The writer shows that Calvin’s rhetorical style is to blame (it first points out current, intolerable inadequacy) and then it offers an alternative. This he terms Calvin’s "rhetoric of delegitimation" (106).
The conclusion of the volume is extremely short (4 pages) and in itself, I think, pinpoints a problem with the structure/substance of the book. Compier writes, "I find it particularly helpful to understand [Calvin’s] work as an attempt to recover the themes and style of Hebrew prophecy" (130) Though not entirely a new thought, Compier has said next to nothing about this in the body of his work. He has merely employed the comment that Calvin sees himself as a prophet and that his work is prophetic in as much as it is concerned with social transformation. And it seems to me that his conclusion works against his otherwise tightly argued thesis on Calvin as primarily a rhetorical theologian focused on a political agenda.
At times Compier argues that Calvin is not primarily concerned with God’s honour; that we should not read him as "a single-minded God-intoxicated man" (111). While I agree (who wouldn’t, given the way Compier states it), I would want to argue for much more space to be given to divine-human relationship, to Calvin’s Christology, to his sense of spiritual battle, to his understanding of scriptural ideas and of church and, ultimately, of evangelical and reformed mission. So, while these aspects of Calvin’s Institutes don’t argue against Compier’s main thesis that the reformer is a rhetorical theologian interested passionately with the fate of persecuted French Protestants, they certainly put the thesis into a broader (and, to my mind, healthier) perspective. (It is a shame that Richard Muller’s magnificent and groundbreaking work, The Unaccommodated Calvin, was not available to the author. Muller certainly largely pulls the rug from under the thesis presented here.)
I would suggest that even a broader reading of Calvin’s corpus would show this to be the case – particularly an examination of his sermons and letters. I find Calvin passionate about his own time, but also about "truth" that will profit later generations. He corresponds with Farel (28th July, 1542) about his own writing, for example, "This is my especial end and aim, to serve my generation; and for the rest … I shall endeavour to improve it for those who come after us".
Having said that, Compier’s volume is an excellent (if somewhat one-sided) study of the reformer’s work. It highlights a disregarded aspect of his thinking and motivation, it argues persuasively for a rhetorical style and method. Any further reading of the Institutes will have to keep Compier’s findings in the frame.
THE WORKS OF THE LAUDIAN DIVINES
Iain M. MacKenzie
(Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2002) 192pp. ISBN 0754608433
The tumultuous first half of the seventeenth century in England has drawn much attention which in recent decades has tended to focus on Puritanism and Separatism. As a result, Archbishop Laud and those associated with him have often been seen as agents of repression, endeavouring to quash alternate forms of religious expression. Iain MacKenzie has produced a work that provides a sympathetic insight into some of the key theological concerns of the period, and his focus on the concept of order leads to the inclusion of like-minded writers including some, such as Francis Bacon, who would not normally be considered "Laudian".
In his introduction MacKenzie challenges stereotypes by emphasising similarities between the Laudians and some of Calvin’s thought, and accusing the Puritans of rigidity for trying to encapsulate truth within a system: in fact, by confusing the sign and the thing signified (e.g. Scripture and Christ himself). He sees the Puritans as verging on idolatry, the fundamentalists of their day. MacKenzie then proceeds to unfold the Laudian concept of order theologically through creation, the incarnation, the Trinity and its outworking through natural, common and canon law. In doing so he clearly demonstrates that the Laudians were profoundly convinced that order is an intrinsic part of God’s being and that it is expressed in the Church through uniformity and unanimity. A proper understanding of order would result in a Church that would demonstrate dignity and reverence in worship and eschew individual interpretation of scripture.
MacKenzie explores this theology comprehensively so that the resulting Laudian reaction to dissent in the Church becomes not only logical, but inevitable. To the Laudians order and grace were inseparable and all order was Christocentric; to fight their concept of order was therefore to be anti-grace and anti-Christ. As there is order within the Trinity itself, so there should be order in the existence of those called into relation with God. To the Laudians, social disorder was linked to primeval chaos and disorder; the very existence of dissent was an affront to the nature and being of God.
MacKenzie has clearly demonstrated the centrality of the above points in Laudian thought, yet his book could have done so more succinctly. He has used extensive quotes from the authors concerned in the body of the text, which he acknowledges in both his Introduction and Epilogue (several of these quotes appear more than once), and while these serve to underscore his arguments, I suspect the book would have benefited from some of these being placed in footnotes. Theologically, the last three chapters (11-13) are highlights, focusing on the nature of God and the work of the Spirit in humanity, but they add little to the main thrust of MacKenzie’s argument, which has already been well-established by this time.
MacKenzie emphasises that order was not reduced to a draconian set of rules under the Laudians, but rather remained a principle to be followed as a reflection of God’s nature; thereby providing a sounder theological basis than that of their Puritan opponents.
Whether your personal sympathies lie with the Laudians or the dissenters, this book provides a valuable perspective on Anglican theology within these turbulent years, adding greatly to our understanding of the Laudian view and helping to rescue its proponents from being unfairly caricatured as motivated more by self-interest than theology.
DOES GOD HAVE A FUTURE? A DEBATE ON DIVINE PROVIDENCE
C. A. Hall and J. Sanders
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003) 222pp. ISBN 0801026040
To understand the significance of the book under review, and to place it in appropriate perspective, we need to understand the background of the contemporary evangelical debate on the doctrine of Providence. In 1994, five authors, including John Sanders, co-authored a popularly written book entitled, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. In that volume, the writers presented a perspective on the nature of God and his interaction with the world that has become known as Free-will Theism, Neo-Arminianism or, far more commonly, Open Theism. Written from an evangelical perspective, this book provoked a great deal of discussion in evangelical circles.
Put simply, the Open Theism proposal sees itself as an alternative lying between "process theism" and what it describes as "classical theism" (or traditional theology). Although closer to the latter than the former, Open Theism is concerned about a certain inertness that it perceives in the classic concept of God. This inertness is seen as being part of a tradition that runs through both Augustinian and Thomistic theology and which has, in its view, dominated much evangelical theology since the Reformation.
On the other hand, although drawn to the relational aspects of the Process concept of God, it is concerned about the implications of this form of panentheism on aspects of God’s self-existence (aseity) and otherness (transcendence). The alternative it presents is an "open" model in which God relates and interacts with humanity in an authentic "give and take" relationship. To the Open theologian, God is not some solely transcendent, meticulously sovereign, inertly immutable and impassible being, but is rather one who relates and interacts with humanity, creating a God-human relationship of genuine collaboration. As such, Open Theism seeks to emancipate the traditional conception of God from philosophical and metaphysical presuppositions drawn, it claims, from neo-Platonism.
In relation to the doctrine of Providence, Open Theism presents what Sanders calls a "risk" model. That is, history is not to be understood as the outworking of a foreordained, exhaustive and meticulously planned agenda by God, but is rather the result of moving and changing decisions and interactions between God and humanity. To quote Gregory Boyd, a prominent Open theist, there is no "cosmic blueprint of human history" for God has given "every free agent an irrevocable domain of genuine say-so in the flow of history". This is not to say that God is not sovereign, rather, God has chosen to limit himself and to exercise a general rather than specific sovereignty – he macromanages rather than micromanages.
However, the most controversial aspect of the Open proposal, and which has provoked the most opposition from theologians, mainly but not only from the Reformed evangelical tradition, concerns the extent of God’s knowledge. Open Theism affirms that God is omniscient, but seeks to nuance this by stating that God knows exhaustively the past and the present, but knows the future only as the future – that is, he knows it as possibility and not as actuality. In other words, according to Open Theism, to say that God knows the future as an actuality is to utter a non-sense for the future does not exist. In the same way that many often define omnipotence as God being able to do anything that is logically possible to do (for example, God cannot make a square circle), Open theists define omniscience as God being able to know anything that is logically possible to know. Hence, as the future has not come into being, it is nonsense to state that God can know it. Of course, lying behind such argumentation is a desire to preserve what is a pillar of Open Theism – libertarian freedom. For Open Theism, human responsibility can only make sense in the context of human freedom and this freedom must be libertarian – that is, it must include the power of contrary choice or the ability to "gainsay." By contrast, many of its critics argue for compatibilistic freedom in that human freedom lies alongside or within God’s overarching sovereignty.
Since the publication of The Openness of God, there has been a small avalanche of books and articles addressing the issues and perspectives raised by Open Theism and this trend shows no signs of abating. This particular book under review is one of the more recent offerings and its genesis derives from a debate that had been arranged by the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. Both Hall and Sanders had been invited to engage in a written debate over Open Theism that ran over two consecutive issues in 2001. Both authors continued to debate each other via email in the ensuing months and this book is the result of this interchange.
As such, this book is unusual in that its structure reflects the electronic nature of the debate in that each "chapter" is in actuality an email, with the author alternating accordingly. We even have included "Dear Chris" and "Dear John" greetings, personal comments on golf, families and the weather, as well as a range of goodbyes. On average, each chapter is about five pages in length as the authors work their way through the different issues. There are a number of reasons that make this type of approach attractive. Firstly, the reader, in effect, is invited to eavesdrop on a theological conversation. What becomes quickly clear is that both men are friends and, despite their disagreements, have remained friends – even though both admit to at times "feeling bruised and occasionally misunderstood" by each other. What they succeed in doing, however, is to put forward what has been called "a model of irenic debate". That is, two capable and passionate scholars show that it is possible to "discuss their disagreements respectfully and constructively". Significantly, both authors state that, although their positions have not changed on the broad issues, each has rethought and modified aspects of their understandings as a result of this dialogue.
Secondly, the email nature of the chapters means that their style is conversational. Although both authors occasionally use technical language as a type of theological shorthand, they have nevertheless clearly sought to make their debate as accessible as possible. The positive result of this is that there is great precision and lucidity in their writing. Indeed, the desire to be clear to each other, and to potential readers, has resulted in each author occasionally breaking their chapters into lines of argument in point form. Furthermore, the publishers have included a glossary of the more technical terms or names used in the debate for the benefit of those without some formal training in theology.
Thirdly, the structure and approach adopted enables the authors to cover an enormous range of material that relates directly and indirectly to the doctrine of Providence. The theological issues debated include the problem of evil; antinomies and logic; metaphor and interpretation; impassibility and immutability; omniscience and foreknowledge; the nature of divine sovereignty; the implications of the Incarnation; patristic theology; the influence of Greek philosophy on Christian theology and so on. Furthermore, throughout the discussions, both authors seek to engage with the biblical text and consistently seek to evaluate their views against it. While the discussion is popularly written, significant quotations are nevertheless cited for those who desire to research further into a line of thought.
In summary, this book is suitable both for the theologian and the educated layperson and provides an excellent snapshot, as it were, of the current state of the debate over Open Theism and its perspective on the doctrine of Providence. More than just the record of a vibrant dialogue, it is an example of two scholars willing to take the profound step of evaluating, in the light of their discussions, their own positions and, if need be, modifying them.
(Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), 285 pp. ISBN 088141252X
The Eastern Orthodox Church is an intriguing phenomenon for Western Christians. Of all the Christian traditions Eastern Orthodoxy has remained unchanged by the Enlightenment. No doubt, this has something to do with its isolation from the West. But now, as Eastern Orthodoxy makes greater contact with Western Christianity and culture, it will be fascinating to observe how it responds. In some ways John Breck’s book Good with Us is just such a response.
Breck, an Orthodox priest, is currently the Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Ethics at St Sergius Theological Institute, Paris. In this book he seeks to address a variety of current critical issues in a series of twenty-five short essays, each about 3 to 4 pages long. The twenty-five essays are divided into three sections: moral issues, Bible and liturgy, and "of God and ourselves".
The sorts of moral issues Breck tackles in the book’s first section are cloning, abortion, the right to bear arms, euthanasia, pornography, and clergy burnout. Given that these are contemporary Western issues, it is fascinating to read an Orthodox perspective on, and response to, them. Here Breck, in good Orthodox fashion, regularly draws from the well of Patristic theology and deploys it to the issues at hand. For Breck, whilst we may face new questions in the modern world, truth about God and his world does not change. It is a matter of applying principles from Scripture and tradition to the new questions at hand. For example, on the basis of Scripture and Patristic tradition, Breck argues that the start of human life is at conception and thus he is opposed to abortion and cloning (38-67).
In the book’s second section, which deals with the Bible and liturgy, Breck examines topics like inspiration, the historicity of the gospels, the quest for the historical Jesus, Orthodox hermeneutics, the atonement, icons, and the meaning of the major Orthodox feast days. Here the reader is encouraged to use the Bible personally, and not simply see it as an archaic set of documents that can only be unlocked by the academy (111-116). Breck challenges those who study the Bible purely for historical purposes: the Bible certainly contains history but it is more; it is a God-inspired book (117-133). At this point he presents a view of inspiration that may raise a few eyebrows in Eastern Orthodox circles (134-138). Breck believes that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Scripture to write down Jesus’ words, even though the sayings of Jesus might not be historically accurate. He argues that the gospels contain the words of Jesus, not because Jesus may have said them in his historical ministry on earth, but because Jesus said them through the Spirit and inspired the authors of Scripture in his post-Easter ministry. How does Breck prove this? In John 14:26 and 16:13-15 Jesus promises that after the first Easter he will send the Spirit to lead the disciples into "all the truth". This does beg a question: in what way then is the Bible historical? Did the earthly Jesus actually say he would lead the apostles into "all the truth", and if not, why does Breck read the words in a literal manner as though Jesus did?
The final section of the book turns to matters concerning theology and Christian living. Breck looks at issues like the problem of suffering, the centrality of Trinity, theological liberalism, the reality of weeping icons, marriage, physical fitness, and the uniqueness of Christ. Here Breck is unafraid to assert the unpopular. This is because he strongly believes that the Church is to be "holy" or "set apart" from the world around it. Hence Breck is at home with the supernatural. He frankly confesses that despite Judaism, Islam, and Christianity being monotheistic, they do not worship the same God (223). He hints that the liberal/progressive tradition has moved beyond Christianity itself into something altogether different (275, 283). This is because it has focused on the study of humanity’s thoughts about God rather than God’s revelation of himself. Breck propounds that God is mystery and ad intra is unable to be put into human words. But he also argues that we can speak about God because God ad extra has come and communicated to humans on human terms using language in the person of Jesus (273-276). God himself, for Breck, has set the parameters concerning God-talk and this has happened fundamentally in and through the incarnation (237-239). He admits that there is more to a relationship with God than words, but there certainly can be no relationship without words.
God with Us is not an introduction to Orthodox theology per se; rather it is an introduction to Eastern Orthodox thinking about a raft of modern issues, and a very useful one at that. On the negative side, many of these contemporary issues are those of North America. Breck has written these answers in a humble way that is unlikely to offend those of other Christian traditions. Yet this does not stop him from disagreeing with those outside of the Orthodox tradition. In this way, Breck provides a laudable model for relations between the traditions: humility and grace without covering over significant differences. The short chapter size cuts both ways. On one hand, brisk answers are convenient for the busy person who wants quick answers. But, on the other hand, condensed responses often lack a depth needed for the significant ethical and theological issues that Breck addresses.
Was there anything else that should have been addressed in this book? Such a question is a retrospective luxury. But I believe the book would have been improved if something more had been said about the relationship between Orthodoxy and the other Christian traditions. Breck continually interacts with the other traditions but one is left uncertain about the status and validity of them.
Why, according to Breck, has the Eastern Orthodox Church been able to remain through relentless persecution and the onslaught of Western culture? It is because Orthodoxy has continually married theology and worship (lex orandi lex credendi). Surely there is some truth to this. Church History has taught us that when theology is pursued in the academy alone, there is a spiritual hardening. Does Breck then think Orthodoxy can boast about her survival? Not at all. Breck believes that God in his grace is the one who has united lex orandi and lex credendi. The other Christian traditions certainly could benefit from doing the same.
ODYSSEY ON THE SEA OF FAITH: THE LIFE AND WRITINGS
OF DON CUPITT
(Santa Rosa, California: Poleridge Press, 2004) 137pp ISBN 0944344623
I had the privilege of being involved towards the end of Nigel Leaves’ excellent doctoral research on Don Cupitt and am not at all surprised to see it published and in print, albeit heavily modified. The whole work is, I suppose, the best and most understanding of its subject to date – though it is not entirely uncritical. The great strength of this book is that the author makes sense of Cupitt even though Cupitt’s work is so fluid and extremely difficult to grasp from volume to volume, and from year to year.
Leaves portrays Cupitt in a humanising manner, a theologian moving rapidly and energetically through stages of development to the point at which he is willing (and able) to say that the vertical axis of "being religious" is finally gone. He could have presented the theologian’s thought and development in a thematic way, but has chosen to work with a linear model as best representing Cupitt’s own approach and development. I appreciate this because a thematic approach would have run counter to Cupitt’s own strivings, it would have been much too artificial and systematising.
So Leaves explains Cupitt’s theological and philosophical development through seven stages: the negative theology (1967–79), non-realism (1980–85), postmodernism and anti-realism (1986–89), expressionism – religion without God (1990–97), his use of Heidegger (1998), his examination of the use of ‘ordinary language’ (1999–2000) and from 2000 his view of the religion of the future. Each stage of the career is well explained, carefully employing the works published to indicate the development.
The title of the book is understandable and well conceived. In Don Cupitt we find a man prepared and courageous enough to follow through his own convictions and to leave traditional, realist theology well behind. We find a theologian travelling from faith in a realist God to faith in humanity. Leaves speaks of it as "a bumpy ride on the sea of faith" (111). I suspect that here, too, is an image of contemporary society journeying from modernity to postmodernity, from Christian to post-Christian to "emptiness". (Cupitt himself speaks of "emptiness" and means by it "impermanence".) This symbolic parallel is, for me, part of the enormous attraction of the book. At the end of the day, though, I wonder whether we will find that faith in humanity is no faith at all, that the odyssey is really a ship-wreck.
This volume is the first of two. The next promises to be an examination and exploration of Cupitt’s thought. If there is a weakness in this first volume it is that the second is lacking. I found myself wondering why the two were not published as a single work covering both the journey’s development and the thought. However, when the second volume is published they will together make a formidable introduction to Cupitt’s work.
Cupitt comes over as a controversial, radical thinker and author ("prophet") who is difficult to pin down, both because of the complexity of his approach and because of the rather rapid changes in his thinking. Nigel Leaves is certainly to be commended for tackling such a complex subject with clarity. He is clearly an expert in Cupitt’s thinking and career. The volume is original, is corrective of former evaluations and is maturely written, critical of Don Cupitt’s many detractors (he speaks of this as his "chief aim" 9). Together with its companion volume, without doubt this will be the definitive, authoritative work for some time to come.
Patrick Jordan, Editor.
(Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2002) ISBN 0814628753
Following her death in 1980 historian David O’Brien described Dorothy Day as "the most significant, interesting, and influential person in the history of American Catholicism" (xi). In reading this collection of letters, reviews and stories which were written between 1929 and 1976 by Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933, the reader discovers a woman who was an activist, a devout Catholic Christian, a committed socialist (formerly communist), journalist, mother, intellectual and someone who sought to bring the experiences of the voiceless to public attention.
The early chapters introduce us to Dorothy the mother and her delightful daughter, Tamar, whom she refers to as Teresa in the chapters written from Mexico where she lived among the poor for 6 months. In these five chapters we catch a rare glimpse of Dorothy struggling as many parents do. This dialogue takes place at bedtime with her bouncy four year old.
"Teresa!" (says the frustrated Dorothy)
"What!" (in pained surprise)
"Either sit down or kneel down, but for goodness’ sake keep still."
"Won’t the Virgin Mary like it if I try to stand on my head?"
Unanswerable question. I’m sure she does like it, but what is one to say?
"Now come on, hurry up and finish."
"I don’t want to hurry up," piously. Teresa continued with a long list of people and things to be blessed by God. (22)
In the letters some of the many causes and issues that captured Dorothy’s attention over these forty plus years are depicted. These include the Farmers’ Congress held 7-11 Dec 1933 where they sought emergency legislation to end evictions or forced sales of farms. There is the story of three men serving life sentences in San Quentin for a murder they did not even know about. She writes of 800 people standing in a bread line, of people who never learned how to cook or any skill of self-sufficiency and were always dependent on others. The letters document her commitment to non-violence, the civil rights movement, and her opposition to military action in Korea.
There are also several book reviews including: Elisabeth von Schmidt-Pauli, St Elizabeth (of Hungary who also fed the poor ) and Thomas Walsh, The Catholic Anthology (of poetry), where she tells the story of playwright Eugene O’Neill reciting the Hound of Heaven in a pub.
For me some of the most compelling stories come from the House of Hospitality where she resided in New York. "John was a genius at making gravies," she writes in Chapter 19…. "eighteen more to go (to be fed) then five more appear…still plenty of good gravy, eight more coming up." It ends with one meal leftover and not a scrap of food on any one’s plate after they were finished. She concludes the chapter, "But it was a fine happy evening and it had been a very good meal" (83).
In that same chapter the theology which drove her work was clearly stated: "The disciples knew Christ in the breaking of the bread. We know Christ in each other in the breaking of bread. It is the closest we can ever come to each other, sitting down and eating together. It is unbelievable, poignantly intimate" (81).
Chapter 14, originally published in 1938, seems to be an important chapter because it has a lot to say about Houses of Hospitality which give shelter, food and clothing to those in need and "hold round table discussions, which point to the solution to the problems" (57). She asserts that 2000 leper houses were run by religious orders in the middle ages where one in four persons were lepers. In 1938 the grave problem is that one in five workers are unemployed. Dorothy quotes Peter Maurin who puts forth a vision of "a new social order wherein man is human to man and which can be built up on the foundation of the works of mercy and voluntary poverty." A few sentences later in her unassuming manner she says, "Peter has always pointed out that according to Canon law, all bishops should be running Houses of Hospitality" (57).
Developing her thoughts she asserts that hospitality is the work of us all. She challenges readers to start 2000 Houses of Hospitality across the country. "These needs supplied under Christian auspices would make startling changes in the character of the unemployed …. hospices in the shadow of churches would mean a constant recognition of Christ the Worker, Christ our Brother" (59).
She follows this by testifying to the virtue of starting small and regaining workers to Christ. Her readers are compelled to not be deceived by the American myth of going big. She cites examples of groups that started small with little money and no promise of money who grew and flourished. "We are literally sharing the poverty of those we help", she writes (62). In further exploring the beginning of Houses of Hospitality, Dorothy turns to St Theresa the Little Flower and writes of "‘The Little Way’, faith in God and the realisation that it is He that performs the work, and lastly, not being afraid of dirt and failure, and criticism" (64).
She tells stories as a journalist with a clear message that is unemotional but not without passion. She does not wish to bring the reader to tears or be filled with guilt, but rather her letters tell the stories, lay the foundations, issue the invitations and leave the reader to act.
For her activism she generally credits Peter Maurin, who "was very much an apostle to the world today, not only to the poor. He was a prophet with a social message and he wanted to reach the people with it … Publishing a paper and reaching the man in the street, was to Peter, performing the first four of the spiritual works of mercy. To go on picket lines, was to perform spiritual works of mercy … To bear wrongs patiently, yes, but not to let the bosses continue in the sin of exploiting you. To forgive the injury, yes, but to try to do away with the injury" (105).
Her final chapter, "A reminiscence at 75", written by request to mark her 75th birthday, meanders among many topics. Dorothy speaks affectionately of the Commonweal staff who often sent money and clothes to the Catholic Worker Houses and would invite members of the Catholic Worker to their yearly retreats at Portsmith Priory. She also writes of her love of Pope Paul who she says "upholds respect for life" and her love of the Berrigans (Daniel and Philip) "in spite of their innocently destructive tendencies" (167).
In reflecting on her acceptance and non acceptance of certain honours she says, "I have refused honorary degrees because of my respect for Holy Wisdom, just as much as for my abhorrence of our military-industrial-agricultural-educational-complex-conglomerate" (168).
Her closing remarks capture the essence of her life and struggle, "Fidelity, constancy, are beautiful words, but we must confess there is much plain stubbornness and very real poverty, even destitution which holds us together too" (169).
This book is a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with Dorothy Day, her life, her work, and her perspectives. It is a great collection of a range of writings and experiences through which we meet this complex and committed woman who inspired so many through the Catholic Worker paper and movement, both of which continue to this day. She is an inspiration to those who still believe in the power of writing. She wrote simply and directly without embellishment. In this book, the reader is drawn in closely and meets the people; sits in the soup kitchen with the hungry, hears the details of their lives, as well as becoming informed about the context and causes (in her opinion) of many social injustices as well as a vision of the actions and solutions required to put things right.
I recommend it for those who struggle with menial or manual labour, who feel all too comfortable in a middle class life-style, who desire to be reminded of the virtues of voluntary poverty, who wish to consider the role of the Church in social issues of today or who simply seek to know better one of Christianity’s most famous converts of the twentieth century.
JACOB’S HIP: FINDING GOD IN AN ANXIOUS AGE
(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003), 95 pp. ISBN 1570754373.
Kerry Walters is a professor of philosophy at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. His previous books, including Soul Wilderness, would be known to many. Like many Americans he is understandably absorbed by 9/11 and its aftermath. In Jacob’s Hip he briefly seeks to challenge the robust "right-wing" Christian reactions to this tragedy. He posits a way forward that confronts Americans’ fearful state (a diagnosis also propagated by the contentious Michael Moore), and understands that wounds can also bring blessings. The danger is that his approach is as "one-sided" as the one he seeks to address. However, the book is insightful, albeit devotional.
A major concern is his reductionist approach to the biblical story of Jacob. In fact the Jacob narrative receives little attention and it could be seen as a text plucked out of the Bible to suit his own position. When the Jacob account is considered it comes down to Jacob being an insecure "bloke" (like Americans) who keeps on "grabbing" in order to consolidate and strengthen his safety zone. This reductionism is even more concerning in light of his criticism of Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez which he sees as a popular and loose attempt at practicing Christian spirituality. Those who read the Jacob narrative with more discerning eyes will be confronted with a deeper sense of relational entanglements and hurts, as well as a broader theological perspective.
In the opening chapter Walters draws on precarity (or precariousness) and states that the word denotes instability, poverty, marginalisation, the absence of a safety net. Rather than fleeing moments of precarity like 9/11 one should encourage Christians to embrace them. They remind us of our dependence on God, and God’s own "risky" love for creation. A mature spiritual life is not one of fear that results at times in support of a war machine, but of seeking peace whilst remaining vulnerable.
In chapter two the reader is motivated to see the world as God sees it. This includes seeing the present moment as sacramental. For Walters, to "seize the day" is to celebrate the moment without trying to freeze it, or control it. He reacts against an otherworldly spirituality that fixes our eyes on heaven and seeks to escape the reality of a 9/11. Such an approach allows us to visualise God’s presence in the midst of the very precarity we seek to deny. A strength of this chapter, as with the other chapters, is Walters’ lovely interaction with minds that have shaped the history of ideas. Peter Berger would have been an interesting addition to this chapter. His insight in A Rumour of Angels (that there is on occasions a deathlessness in time, a moment when time stands still, and that this is a signal of transcendence) does seem to run counter to Walter’s premise that all time is potentially sacramental.
Chapter three is a powerful call to Christians to develop community, to redress our estrangement to hospitality and to live as if there are no strangers. This call is one the church needs to hear today as the strategy is often to demonise those whose culture and beliefs are different from ours. The final chapter is a plea to accept Henri Nouwen’s distinction between upward and downward mobility. Upward mobility is a frantic attempt to claw one’s way to the top. It values strength, efficiency and success. The lust for power comes from fear and insecurity, from feelings of not being loved. Downward mobility is more concerned with peace-making than power-brokering. It experiences love and lives love. It goes against the way of the world. It is the path of Jesus.
Each of the chapters in Jacob’s Hip demonstrates that an event like 9/11 can strengthen our reliance on God and on each other. These are seasons to reassess the "pop" Christian spirituality that surfaces at such times, and to rediscover God in precarity. However, it’s an "insider" book that warrants critical appraisal.
THE ISLAMIC MIDDLE EAST: TRADITION AND CHANGE
(rev. ed, Oxford: Blackwell, 2002) ISBN 1405101466
Noted American anthropologist and academic, Charles Lindholm draws on his experience of the Middle East and as an anthropologist in his examination of Islamic Middle Eastern culture. He is currently a University Professor at Boston University, previously teaching at Barnard College, Columbia and Harvard Universities. His previous publications include Generosity and Jealousy (1982), Culture and Identity: The History, Theory, and Practice of Psychological Anthropology (2000) and Is America Breaking Apart? (2001).
In The Islamic Middle East, Lindholm attempts to overcome the recent simplistic polarisation between the fundamental values of the West in general, and the United States in particular, and Middle Eastern Muslim culture. While acknowledging the deep-rooted cultural and historical differences between the two cultures (particularly in social organisation and family structure), he hopes to provide a basis for dialogue and reconciliation by demonstrating shared values of individualism, competitiveness and egalitarianism. He also attempts to explain the apparent contradiction between Middle Eastern individuality and equalitarianism and the generally despotic governments of the Middle East as well as common derogatory attitudes to Africans, slaves and women.
Lindholm proposes that the socio-cultural environments of the Mesopotamian regions (in contrast to the more stable agricultural society of ancient Egypt) produced fiercely independent nomadic herdsman, independent mountain farmers, and pragmatic, individualistic merchants and traders. These groups encouraged individualistic, egalitarian values, which were intensified and validated with the rise of Islam. Thus, Lindholm states: "The Middle East has at its core many of the values that are presently believed to be essential characteristics of modern western world: egalitarianism, individualism, pluralism, competitiveness, calculating rationality, personal initiative, social mobility, freedom; but these are set within a distinctive historical context based upon chivalric honor, female seclusion, and patrilineality…" (13).
Lindholm proposes that the general Middle-Eastern ambivalence and cynicism towards both despotic and religious governments results from intensively individualistic, competitive and egalitarian cultural values. The patrilineal segmentary descent structures encourage egalitarianism and competitiveness, and democratic government at the local level, but destabilises larger government units. Moreover, all governments, whether secular or religious, are measured against the idealistic standard of the golden age of Muhammad. Secular power can claim a degree of legitimacy by its ability to provide order and security, yet its leaders always remain open to suspicion of following their own self-interest and aggrandisement. While religious leaders are trusted to provide independent mediation, and can stir up popular support for revolutionary millennial rule, the failure to fulfil the high expectations of the faithful and the need for all rulers to deal with the pragmatics of politics, eventually erodes popular support and destabilises religious rule.
Thus, both despotic governments and popular insurgency and revolt against injustice have a long history in the Middle East. Lindholm concludes that the intense individualism, egalitarianism and masculine competitiveness (where there is a constant struggle for power amongst equals) without a public goal or legitimatised governmental framework actually works against stable governments and democracy. In contrast to the Middle East, American egalitarian competitive individualism is balanced by a concept of public interest and civic responsibility. Despite the grim picture Lindholm paints, he is cautiously optimistic that with open debate and gradual democratisation, Muslims may come to accept the state as the servant of the people that can function with integrity in its own sphere rather than a corrupt tool of the rulers. Nevertheless, his failure to explore in any depth the basis of such public mindedness and his lack of suggestions as to how such a process could be implemented, reduce this to little more a vague wish.
Lindholm attempts to demonstrate how the strongly held value of egalitarianism, based on the assumption of the intrinsic equality of all participants, is consonant with discriminatory practices against slaves, women and blacks. He does this by positing mitigatory factors (father-son terminology between master and slave, the feminising of inferiors and black Africans to justify their inferiority, and various traditions of chivalric extramarital romance between the sexes). This is by far the weakest part of the book. Perhaps it would have been preferable to acknowledge the often paradoxical coexistence of strongly held egalitarian values (within an explicitly or implicitly defined group) with equally strong forces of oppression and discrimination (as for instance in the ancient Athenian democracy.)
Overall, this is a strong book. In support of his position, Lindholm marshals extensive evidence from history and from contemporary Middle-Eastern societies and, in the process, presents a comprehensive and detailed analysis of Middle Eastern culture from pre-Islamic antiquity through the rise of Islam and the subsequent development of various Islamic governments and religious groups to the present day. Despite the wealth of detail presented Lindholm achieves a readable and engaging style. This a useful book for both the beginner and the more advanced scholar who wishes to understand the development, history and underlying culture of the Islamic Middle East.
360 DEGREE PREACHING: HEARING, SPEAKING
AND LIVING THE WORD
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004) 233pp ISBN 1842272470
This is a book written by a preacher for preachers. While Quicke has held academic posts, and is currently Professor of Preaching and Communication at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, it is clear that he is at home in the pulpit and longs to help others make it their home. His practical credentials are impeccable. When he arrived to pastor the 1000 seat Baptist Church in central Cambridge, England, about 70 elderly people made up the congregation. In the ensuing years the church grew rapidly, employing a full time staff of 14 and involving over 4000 people each week in a wide range of programmes. Success is attributed to the grace of God, prayer and preaching.
Lamenting that many homiletics teachers devise models that are just not "doable", Quicke explains that he intends "the principles explained in this book to refresh body, mind, and spirit for the tasks ahead and to be doable" (15). That might give the impression that this is a "three easy steps to…" book, but that would be a hasty and unfair assessment. The book reflects both an unusual marriage of breadth and depth of reading and research with a persistently practical bias.
In an age when the value of preaching is being seriously questioned, it is refreshing to read a book that acknowledges the existence of such doubts, but does not seriously entertain them. The book’s opening sentence reflects Quicke’s deeply held conviction: "We should never be desensitized to the fact that, within a dazzling range of divinely imaginative options, God invented and decided to use preaching to impact his world" (19). Not that Quicke is tied into a narrow view of preaching. He accurately notes that: "There is little evidence that early preaching resembled what has become the norm for many of us in our worship services" (26).
He argues that the diversity of preaching found in the New Testament should lead us to expect a comparably great diversity today. He goes on to give a potted picture of the role of preaching through the history of the church, coming up with some memorable statements: "Preaching is a part of the DNA of church; it is not just a part of its high profile moments but its daily life" (29) and some delightful trivia: "It has been estimated that over three billion sermons have been preached since the day of Pentecost" (29).
Linking John Stott to the "bridge building" model of preaching, where the preacher’s task is to build an arc between the Scriptures and the hearers, Quicke suggests that this 180 degree model of preaching, while not without some merit, needs to be replaced by a more holistic model of 360 degree preaching. Acknowledging that a 360 degree model is "untidy, multidimensional, and risks confusion" (50), he suggests that anything less does an injustice to the "symbiosis of human and divine actions" (50) that occur in preaching. Quicke’s added 180 degrees allows for the active involvement of the triune God in the preaching act, leading to an expectation of clear outcomes as a result of preaching. 360 degree preaching is aware of a multiplicity of sources of "power" for preaching. Quicke lists the power of Scripture, words, God the Father, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the hearer, the worship context and the preacher. All interact (often untidily) to produce preaching’s outcomes.
In relating preaching to the twenty first century, Quicke urges that we "refuse to be overimpressed or underimpressed by culture" (63). He outlines orality shifts from aural-orality before the advent of the printed word, to the era of writing and print, which he interestingly summarises as allowing for "context-free language" (77), to the current era of secondary orality, with its need for multisensory language and story. Quicke suggests that the place of conceptual language, which is analytical, precise and ideally suited to the literacy era, now needs to be supplemented (not replaced!) with symbolic language, with its stress on "experience, imagination, intuition and sensitivity" (84). Though at times Quicke labours the point in this section (I found chapter 6 "Preaching to Changing Times" to be largely repetitious), the first part of the book (chapters 1–6) is both helpful and readable.
I found the second part of the book (chapters 7–12) a little less laudable. Quicke says that he encourages his students to think of imaginative models or images for preaching, and then gives his own model, that of the "preaching swim". While I rather like the idea of a visual model, I can’t say that the thought of a "preaching swim" catches my imagination… so perhaps that prejudiced me against the rest of the book. Much of it is helpful, but it does swing into the "how to" mode. Something of the depth of imagery and the thoughtful reflection of the first section is lost.
There are some high points. Quicke urges that one begins the "preaching swim" (horrible image!!) by immersing oneself in Scripture by prayerfully reading Scripture aloud using the lectio divina - a four step method of lectio (reading); meditatio (meditation); oratio (prayer) and contemplatio (contemplation). I found this helpful.
There are other little gems: "In terms of listening, opening Scripture is like entering the middle of a conversation… Unfortunately, it is often easier to interrupt a conversation than to attend patiently to what the other person is saying" (144). While his SW (so what?) and YBH (yes, but how?) reminders may seem clichéd, they are so often forgotten by preachers that I delighted to see them in print.
In the end however, I felt the book did not fully meet its early promise. While Quicke’s careful explanation of how he applied each of his phases in preparation to a sermon based on Luke 15:1-7 was helpful, I found that by the time I got to "Appendix B" (where the sermon is carefully scripted), I skimmed it with little interest. I’m sure that wasn’t supposed to be the outcome!
In fairness, the book is thorough, often creative, vulnerable (you feel you both know and like Quicke by the end of it), relevant and practical. It will be a useful guide for beginning preachers and it should be added to bibliographies for homiletics courses.
Revd Dr Les Ball, Academic Dean, Queensland Baptist College of Ministries, Brookfield, Qld.
Revd Dr Ric Barrett-Lennard, Lecturer in New Testament Greek and Church History, Murdoch University, Perth.
Michael F. Bird, Ph.D Candidate, University of Queensland.
Revd Dr Ross Clifford, Principal, Morling Theological College, Sydney.
Peter Elliott, Lecturer in Church History, Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Revd Martin Foord, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Trinity Theological College, Perth.
Revd Dr Anna Grant-Henderson, Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, Adelaide College of Divinity / Flinders University of SA.
Revd Brian Harris, Principal, Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Ms. Josephine D. Laffin, Lecturer in Church History, School of Theology, Flinders University, SA.
Revd Haydn Nelson, PhD candidate, Murdoch University, Perth.
Dr Jeanette O’Hagan, Lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics, Nazarene Theology College, Brisbane.
Revd Dr John Olley, formerly Principal, Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Revd Dr Michael Parsons, Lecturer in Christian Thought, Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Revd Dr Brian Powell, Lecturer in New Testament and Vice Principal, Morling College, Sydney.
Michael Robinson, independent scholar, Perth.
Ms Kate Scholl, Conference Manager at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney.
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