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In 1971 John Rawls remarked that ‘During much of modern moral philosophy the predominant systematic theory has been some form of utilitarianism.’ Although utilitarianism is no longer the dominant school of moral philosophy, it continues to flourish, generating new defenses and reformulations. Yet with the notable exception of Joseph Fletcher, there have been very few Christian ethicistswho have been prepared to declare themselves to be utilitarians or consequentialists.
The call of Samuel in the temple at Shiloh (1 Sam. 3) is probably one of the better known stories of the Old Testament. There is an obvious imaginative appeal about the mysterious voice of God coming to a child who is unable to understand what is happening and yet who becomes able to hear the word of God for himself. But although the story has received frequent commentary in recent Old Testament scholarship, and has even had a monograph devoted to it by R. Gnuse, the most memorable part of the story, God's repeated calling to Samuel and Samuel's running to Eli, has received relatively little attention. This paper will try to remedy that omission.
If one may combine hypothesis and anachronism, I reckon that John Calvin would be highly uncomfortable in the pluralist society of the West at the end of the second Christian millennium. Even if we do not find him enunciating in so many words Zwingli's bold axiom that ‘a Christian city is none other than a Christian church’, nevertheless the central thrust of the reform in Geneva is clear – that the whole city be united in the honour and service of God. All children should be baptized, and no open dissent or defiance of the Christian order to which the city was corporately committed should go unchallenged. This, at any rate, is the conventional account of a fundamental platform of the Genevan Reformation, shared in large measure by Zūrich, Strasbourg and other cities, but not by Lutheran territories.
Moltmann derives much of the power of his theology from his willingness to endure the tensions of paradox, a willingness signalled early in his career with the title of his work, The Crucified God. Such paradoxes, however, leave unanswered questions and the need for further explorations. It is the argument of this article that an aspect of Moltmann's theology in particular need of exploration is the area of the status of Christian doctrine and its appropriate development. There is a major tension, we will suggest, between the disavowal of‘doctrine’, ‘dogma’, ‘tradition’ and ‘system’ as helpful concepts, and the strongly doctrinal and systematic content of Moltmann's theology. This tension, we believe, has something to do with the ambivalence in Moltmann's attitude to the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment, to ‘modernity’. We shall try to show that Moltmann operates with a mixture of internal criteria (based on key doctrines) and external criteria (based on perceived human needs) for assessing authenticity in doctrine. Finally, within the dynamic of Moltmann's theology, with what we shall identify as its emphasis on historicality, there are resources for advancing an account of the theological significance of the development of doctrine. We explore these and ask why Moltmann himself has not put them to greater use.
I was asked to write a review of your book but have decided to make this into an open letter. I have done so for two reasons. Firstly, there is something rather artificial in writing a review of a book by a person I feel is more than a mere acquaintance and whose work I have read and company I have enjoyed over the years. It is rather deceitful to give the readers of this piece the impression that it is an entirely dispassionate account from someone who is in no way involved with the writer of the book and is thereby unconstrained by the demands of friendship. That will not mean diat I will draw back from reflecting on the things on which I find myself parting company with you but does make clear the context in which I do so. Secondly, in a way, which I hope is consistent with a theme of your book, I want to engage in dialogue rather than the monologue which is the typical genre of the review and hope that you will respond in that precise, systematic way in which you respond so carefully to questions and comments in discussion.
I'm grateful for your open letter, your generous comments and the critical questions you raise. Two general concerns seem to emerge, and it is to these that I shall respond here. The first is that I am too dismissive of the real value of the historical-critical method. Rightly objecting to its ‘hegemony’ in modern biblical studies, I'm in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The second is that the theological orientation that I bring to biblical interpretation is too ‘cerebral’: this makes me insufficiently attentive to the provisionality of our knowledge of God and to the particularities of a place called ‘the real world’.