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Though Moltmann and Ricoeur have a history of interaction, little attention has been paid to this relationship and its implications for their respective programmes. These thinkers have much in common, however, and the Ricoeurian categories of surplus and possibility elucidate critical aspects of a theology of hope, serving to strengthen its contemporary implications. Nuance is provided for the resurrection's role in redemption, and an existential mode of hope is delineated. Focusing on Moltmann's interactions with Ricoeur concerning the resurrection elevates these latent themes and demonstrates the fruitfulness of a continued conversation between these two thinkers. Furthermore, examining Moltmann's thought in Ricoeurian perspective opens new directions for conceptualising resurrection hope and praxis in a postmodern context.
T. F. Torrance has made a significant contribution to theological method with his model of the stratified structure of theological knowledge. According to this model, which is grounded in Torrance's realist epistemology, the knowledge of God takes place at three distinctive levels of increasing conceptual refinement. First, at the level of tacit theology, we intuitively grasp God's trinitarian reality through personal experience, without yet understanding that reality conceptually. Second, at the level of formalised theology, we develop an understanding of the economic trinitarian structure which underlies our personal experience. Finally, at the meta-theological level, we penetrate more deeply into the structure of God's self-revelation in order to develop a refined conceptualisation of the perichoretic relations immanent in God's eternal being. The conceptuality achieved at this meta-theological level constitutes the ultimate grammar and the unitary basis of all theological knowledge; and a concentration of thought at this level offers the promise both of thoroughgoing theological simplification and of a shared ecumenical vision of the essential content of theological knowledge. Central to Torrance's entire model is the homoousial union of Jesus Christ with God: the homoousion enables a movement from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ to a knowledge of the economic Trinity, just as it further enables a movement from the economic to the ontological Trinity. Although our theological thought thus moves towards increasingly refined concepts and relations, it remains always grounded in and coordinated with our personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The question ‘Who is the Servant?’ is one which remains a debated topic among many interpreters of Isaiah 40–55. This article seeks to address the same question with the aid and perspective of narrative identity. Narrative identity, as explicated by Ricoeur and Frei, is a means of understanding a character within a literary plot, or real life, as displayed in a narrated sequence of events. A person's identity, especially within literature, is the constancy of the self in the tortuous events of a narrated sequence over time. This article seeks to adjudicate the question of the Servant's identity by observing the character of the Servant within the plot of Isaiah 40–55. The conclusion drawn is that the Servant is the unique means of God's reconciliation of both Zion and the nations. Also, the divine action and description of YHWH and the Servant begin to bleed in such a way that the Servant can be described as a unique member of the divine identity.
This article reflects on Rowan Williams' postmodern approach to sacramentalism and ecclesiology, tracing it through various books and articles. Partly under the influence of the Roman Catholic reception of Wittgenstein, he expounds the centrality of the Eucharist in cultural-linguistic and semiotic terms. Through this central ritual the church signifies the Kingdom of God in a uniquely strong sense of ‘signifies’. He foregrounds a dramatic model: the worshipping community performs the new humanity, it is remade through this unique form of ‘community theatre’. Its guardianship of the ultimate form of Christian sign-making is what authorises the church, Williams teaches, and necessitates hierarchical control. The postmodern idiom therefore serves a very conservative ecclesiology. Williams balances this high ecclesiology with a recurrent apophatic theme: the church must remember that its performance of the Kingdom of God is provisional, ironic. Yet the article questions whether this is sufficient: Williams does not fully confront the danger of such an ecclesiology becoming the ideological justification of a form of social power. This danger is raised with especial pertinence by the issue of homosexuality: it shows that the ecclesial policing of sacramentalism is potentially erroneous. This issue therefore threatens to unravel his ecclesiology, or at least to expose its innate violence. The article concludes that Williams is only half-willing to confront the negative dimension to his sacramental ecclesiology: its ideological character, its potentially violent policing of all Christian culture.
‘Biblical theology’ has long influenced modern theological method, especially Protestant, as both boon and bane. Its role has been seen as either pivotal or problematic in the attempt to construe the Christian Bible as scripture with unified teaching for the contemporary church. The attempt to unfold biblical teaching as having organic unity, related to an internal structure of theological concepts, is frequently perceived as a failure, a has-been that leaves us only with fragmentation – between parts of the Bible, between academy and church, church and world, clergy and laity, and between various theological disciplines. Today a new movement is afoot, often labelled ‘theological interpretation of scripture’. Some of its adherents define this practice as distinct from, even opposed to, biblical theology. Others treat the two practices as virtually coterminous, while perhaps contesting what ‘biblical theology’ is typically taken to be in favour of new theological hermeneutics. Much of the difficulty in defining the relationship, then, stems from lingering debates about what biblical theology can or should be. The rest of the difficulty is perhaps rooted in the dilemma of any interdisciplinary efforts: how to breach unhelpful sections of disciplinary boundaries without redefining territory so nebulously that no one knows where they are.
A key feature of Jürgen Moltmann's doctrine of God is his dismissal of divine impassibility as a heretical importation of Hellenistic metaphysics. This argument is a broader one assumed among many detractors of this theological tenet that is illegitimate given its rushed historical judgements. By dismissing the important features divine impassibility provided by past articulations, Moltmann offers a doctrine of God that in many ways repeats or avoids problems within the (im)passibility debates. Rather than dismissing divine impassibility from the onset, Moltmann would have benefited from a more careful appraisal of this axiom, one that would have chastened and enlivened his project within the ongoing conversation of God's relationship to suffering.
This exploration focuses on Moses ben Maimon's attempt to give philosophical voice to the revelation of the Torah to offer a window into the comparative (though not actually collaborative) efforts of Jewish, Christian and Muslim medieval thinkers to adapt the metaphysical strategies available to them to the hitherto inconceivable task of articulating a creation utterly free, with nothing presupposed to it. Short of a divine revelation, nothing could have suggested such an affirmation, so crafting the adaptations demanded of familiar philosophical categories would require exploiting the illumination inherent in those distinct revelations. Far from being a merely historical exercise, these efforts are presented as object lessons for philosophical theologians today, as we move to show how Aquinas and Ghazali complement Maimonides' way of negotiating recondite regions where reason and faith interact. In that sense, this exercise inspired by medieval thinkers may be dubbed ‘postmodern’, since the deliverances of faith can be seen to be interwoven with rational inquiry and indispensable to its execution. Moreover, their witness can also challenge current ‘philosophers of religion’ who may all too easily presume their categories to be adequate to the task of probing the reaches of religious faith. In this way, the call to transform philosophical strategies in ways not unlike that undertaken by our medieval thinkers can suggest a benign reading of the ‘postmodern’ situation in which we admittedly live.
A historic debate with great implications for theology has resurfaced in New Testament circles; however, it has not received the attention it should by theologians. It concerns how to translate and interpret approximately ten instances of the Greek phrase pistis Christou and its near equivalents in the letters of Paul. This phrase occurs within theologically crucial sections of Romans and Galatians, which have provided the foundation for the Reformation understanding of ‘justification by grace through faith’. The question is whether ‘faith’ in these phrases refers principally to the believer's ‘faith in Christ’, as traditionally understood, or should be translated and understood as ‘the faith of Christ’. In this article, I hope to introduce theologians to this debate and make a contribution to it from a theological angle, by describing the two primary ‘patterns of soteriology’ which are in play, and then examining how easily these different patterns of soteriology can be read onto what Paul writes concerning three crucial issues in his letters: salvation, the Law and the ‘righteousness of God’. I argue that the overall theological vision which includes three facets – a christologically centred understanding of the pistis Christou passages, a broader understanding of pistis, and the centring of soteriology around the concept of ‘participation in Christ’ – provides the most convincing interpretational matrix for reading Paul. I also point out implications this has for contemporary theology.
This article seeks to offer an alternative to traditional understandings of how doctrine can inform the ways that medical professionals and others care for people who suffer. Placing traditional christological reflections in conversation with an aesthetically generated christology, I consider how the beauty of encounter can shape us. First, I consider how encounters in general can shape us, and then I reflect in particular upon how encounters with Christ, as construed by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, can shape us. I suggest that personal encounters shape us by forcing us to cross stories with others and by affecting us at the level of personal desire. Then, I articulate how an encounter with Christ – especially with Christ's questioning, liberating gaze as described by Von Balthasar – can motivate people to approach others with this same gaze. Lastly, I focus upon how caregivers can embody Christ's gaze at the bedside in acknowledgement, intimacy, communion and respectful silence with those who suffer.
In recent scholarship the spiritual reading of the New Testament resurrection stories has come under pressure from new studies of the relevant data. In this article, two of the most conspicuous of these studies are compared and evaluated. First, Richard Swinburne's monograph opens our eyes to the fact that, in interpreting the resurrection stories, much more is at stake than is usually recognised in so-called ‘undogmatic’ exegesis. However, the rather crude way in which Swinburne deals with these stories, suggesting that they represent Jesus' resurrection as a bare fact not qualitatively different from other historical facts, neglects their peculiarity and displays insufficient hermeneutical sensitivity for their unique theological meaning. Second, Tom Wright's monumental volume is sometimes criticised for a similar single-minded focus on historical questions and a concomitant lack of attention to the eschatological character of Jesus' resurrection. As a result, George Hunsinger has argued, it becomes unclear why the resurrection reports embody life-transforming good news now. Close scrutiny of Wright's book, however, does not vindicate this criticism. Wright neither isolates the question of the resurrection's historicity from its theological meanings nor overlooks the fact that a plausible historical case for the resurrection does not in itself elicit faith. Still, he rightly argues that what people believe about what actually has happened often plays a vital role in their personal transformation. Moreover, the eschatological nature of the resurrection does not rule out the fact that it can be seen and discussed with integrity as a historical issue.
The Transfiguration narratives have received considerable attention from New Testament scholars, but so far very little has been written about them from the point of view of their reception-history. The purpose of this article is to examine the ways in which they have been interpreted in the Latin West from the time of Hilary of Poitiers in the fourth century to Peter of Blois in the early thirteenth. Among these writers, from the big names like Jerome to the lesser known figures like Peter of Celle, a varied tapestry emerges where light allegory plays an important part, whether in the symbolisms given to the choice of the three disciples, Peter, James and John, or to the dazzling clothes of Christ as baptismal – a particular insight of Bede, which keeps recurring in subsequent writers and preachers. Unlike the East, where the Transfiguration became a major festival on 6 August from the seventh century onwards, the Latin West was slow to absorb it; but it was given particular impetus by Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, in the twelfth century. Whether read as narrative in connection with Lent (‘glory before cross’), or as a festival in its own right, the Transfiguration emerges as an unusually rich source of biblical interpretation that poses real challenges to the use of the religious imagination today. And it provides a significant contribution to the development of a balanced view of reception-history in our own time.
This paper provides a reading of the late Augustine which supports the hypothesis that, while the early Augustine believed that pride is the basic sin, he changes his views during the Pelagian controversies, and advocates instead (contra Pelagius) the thesis that sin, post-fall, does not take on any one form. Augustine makes some key, though rarely discussed, statements about the nature of sin that, particularly when his views are put into perspective within his larger doctrine of sin, indicate that Augustine does not think all sin can be reduced to pride. Indeed, Augustine's controversial views about original sin incline him to believe that, far from being self-aggrandising, sin often takes the form of (and is often a sign and result of) ignorance and weakness. Thus, a careful reading of Augustine's doctrine of sin shows that he has significant commonalities with his feminist critics, precisely at one of the points on which he has been most criticised.
There was a time when the interpretation of the Bible was a seamless integrated theological activity. Today, the separation of biblical studies from theologically interested exegesis amongst theologians encourages a sceptical arms-length relationship between Old and New Testament scholars and theologians. Theologians criticise biblical studies' so-called objective and disinterested approach to interpreting the Bible for requiring scholars of both testaments to suspend their theological convictions. Biblical scholars condemn theologians for misusing biblical texts in support of their own preconceived theological agendas. The article suggests a way to bring these divergent exegetical approaches into conversation in a charitable, yet critical fashion, by comparing Karl Barth and N. T. Wright's exegesis of Romans 3:21–4:25. It concludes that the biblical scholar's and theologian's respective sensitivity to the historical and theological sense of the biblical text can, when brought together, benefit each other's reading of the Bible.
Henri DeLubac's work on multi-sense scriptural reading has become a major resource for Catholic and Protestant theologians seeking a new integration of biblical studies and theology. Rarely, however, is it noticed that De Lubac's account of scriptural interpretation involves a robust notion of the soul and its transformation in the Christian life – and that in linking these themes De Lubac accurately reflects a central theme of pre-modern exegesis. This article thus suggests, first, that defending a notion of soul is important for those seeking to appropriate pre-modern exegesis. The article then argues that such a project is only possible if we move beyond Harnackian notions of early Christianity's ‘hellenisation’ and see the soul as a theological doctrine. The soul is the fundamental locus of a transformation in which Christians act in and through the Spirit as members of the body of Christ. Once the status of the soul is acknowledged, we are then best able to follow De Lubac's call for the reintegration of moral-practical aspects of Christianity and the discipline of theology. The article finally argues that Christian accounts of scriptural interpretation should find their core in an understanding of scripture as a graced resource for the formation of Christians, and that these accounts should be ever attentive to the place of scripture within the drama of salvation.
Hans Frei and the ‘Yale School’ of narrative theology are often understood to be Barthian in orientation, but only rarely have the origins and contours of Frei's engagement with Barth been treated in the secondary literature. Frei's dissertation itself remains unpublished, with the exception of an oddly edited abridgement that appeared ten years after Frei's untimely death. This lacuna is unfortunate, because Frei's dissertation on Barth, and especially his treatment of Barth's method, are of signal importance in that they set the agenda and orientation for much, if not all, of Frei's later work. Consequently, in this article I analyse Frei's dissertation on Barth, focusing primarily on his treatment of Barth's protest against ‘relationalism’. On Frei's reading, three moves constitute Barth's break with relationalism: the primacy of ontology over epistemology, the subordination of method to positive affirmations about God, and the conformance of interpretative method both to Barth's methodological commitments and to his affirmations about God. In his dissertation, Frei argues that Barth believed that, without these moves, theology would be vulnerable to Feuerbach's critique. Frei's construal of Barth's break with relationalism sets the agenda for Frei's own later work, in which he appropriates these Barthian moves by insisting on the primacy of biblical narratives in theological method. Similar to Barth, Frei takes twentieth-century hermeneutic theology to be vulnerable to deconstructionist critique. His insistence on the primacy of a literal reading of the biblical narratives is his attempt to rectify this vulnerability.
The relation of science to secularisation is discussed in relation to the sociological frameworks of rationalisation and social differentiation in the context of cross-national and cross-cultural comparison. It is argued that there is no consistent relation between the degree of scientific advance and a reduced profile of religious influence, belief and practice. The crucial factors are sociological and historical, in particular the relation of religion to power and to the role of the intelligentsia in promoting radical social change. It is also argued that mental space constitutes a manifold so that there is in principle no zero-sum relation between science and religion. That there is such a relation derives from the Enlightenment master narrative and it acquires much of its emotional power not from the logical consequences for religion of science as from a putative relation between religion and moral evil and the legitimation of oppressive regimes. However there are indirect consequences of science for religion through the social consequences of technological change. In practice the consequences of historical studies, for example biblical criticism, are probably greater than the consequences of science.
John Zizioulas's doctrine of the Trinity emphasises both the holy love and the transcendent sovereignty of God. I believe that he offers a major contribution to contemporary theology. Although it is part of the tradition of Western theology, Zizioulas's ‘Being as Communion’ thesis has too often been underappreciated and sometimes even marginalised. On the other hand, recent theology has made much of the love of God, but often this has come with a corresponding and unfortunate loss of recognition of divine holiness, transcendence and freedom. Zizioulas may help us keep both the love and the holiness of the triune God in perspective. Unfortunately, however, Zizioulas's own way of doing this is fraught with problems. In this essay I try to shed light on two major themes in his trinitarian theology. One – what I call the Sovereignty-Aseity Conviction – appears at base to be an existentialist thesis: the existence of the Father precedes the divine essence. The other – what I refer to as the Being as Communion thesis – is an essentialist thesis: the holy love shared in the perichoretic life of the triune God is ‘constitutive of his substance’. I argue that Zizioulas's ascription of the first to the Father alone is problematic, and I argue further that these two theses do not work well together. I conclude by suggesting that Zizioulas's theology needs revision if it is to be truly helpful.
The practices, habits and convictions that once allowed the inhabitants of Christendom to determine what they could reasonably do and say together to foster a just and equitable common life have slowly been displaced over the past few centuries by new configurations which have sought to maintain an inherited faith in an underlying purpose to human life while disassociating themselves from the God who had been the beginning and end of that faith. In the end, however, these new configurations are incapable of sustained deliberations about the basic conditions of our humanity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology provides important clues into what it takes to make and keep human life human in such a world. The first part of this essay examines Bonhoeffer's conception of the last things, the things before the last, and what binds them together. He argues that the things before the last do not possess a separate, autonomous existence, and that the positing of such a breach has had disastrous effects on human beings and the world they inhabit. The second part looks at Bonhoeffer's account of the divine mandates as the conceptual basis for coping with a world that has taken leave of God. Though this account of the mandates has much to commend it, it is hindered by problematic habits of interpretation that leave it vacillating between incommensurable positions. Bonhoeffer's incomplete insights are thus subsumed within Augustine's understanding of the two orders of human society set forth in City of God.
This article examines Karl Barth's conception of the interpersonal relation of male and female and demonstrates that, although Barth superimposes the concept of order within the Trinity onto the specific interpersonal relation of male and female, there is provision within his anthropology concerning interpersonal relations in general (i.e. interpersonal relations which are irrespective of sexual distinctions) to correct this error. I focus on Barth's exegesis of the creation narratives in Church Dogmatics III/1 and his discussion of the interpersonal relation of male and female in Church Dogmatics III/4. Then, because of Barth's principle of analogia relationis, I will briefly examine his doctrine of the Trinity in Church Dogmatics I/1. Whereas the role of christology in Barth's anthropology is frequently highlighted, there is often little regard for the trinitarian grounding of Barth's anthropology, especially with regard to the interpersonal relation of male and female. Finally, I will look at Barth's discussion of interpersonal relations in general in Church Dogmatics III/2 where he delineates a principle of the ‘priority of the other’, which serves to redeem his anthropological statements on the humanity of male and female. I contend that the recognition of the imago Dei in the interpersonal relation of male and female, sustained by the priority of the other, is a better way to achieve the personhood of both sexes than Barth's proposed static relational order.
According to a tradition in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve (GLAE), Seth and his mother Eve were confronted by a wild beast that attacked Seth. This article asserts that Seth's battle with the beast should be understood as a struggle between the ‘image of God’ and Satan, and viewed in a Christian context. The claim is based on three aspects of the story: how the beast is described, why it attacked Seth and only he could control it, and why the beast was confined to its dwelling place until the Day of Judgement. The struggle between Seth and the beast/Satan should be seen as a link in the chain of struggle between the image of God and Satan. It begins in Paradise between Adam, the image of God, and Satan, as recounted in the story of Satan's fall from heaven, continues on earth between Seth, Adam's descendant, and Satan, and will culminate with the final victory of Jesus, the ultimate image of God, over Satan at the end of times.