A (very) Critical Review of Nicholas Healy(‘s book)

Hauerwas: a (very) critical introduction
by: Nicholas M. Healy
Reviewed by Tony Hunt
My thanks to Eerdmans for the review copy

Why write a very critical review of Nicholas Healy’s very critical introduction to Stanley Hauerwas? In my opinion, Healy’s book has not as yet been subjected to the kind of exacting critical analysis that is appropriate for a supposedly systematic review of an entire life’s corpus. There have been a few good summaries of his main points, with several somewhat critical interjections, true, but none have as yet taken as hard a line as I wish to take.

I should clarify, though, that this is not a review of the entirety of Healy’s book. I only want to get a handle on the book as a whole and assess it as such. I will not discuss even those chapters that are rightly judged to be important or especially insightful, such as the chapter advancing the crude analogy between Hauerwas and Schleiermacher. For one thing, I do not have the expertise to be able to say anything of special interest about such matters. For another, although these are central chapters to his main arguments, I do not think they actually contribute all that much to those arguments. Thus the entirety of chapters 3 and 4 have been left out of the scope of this essay.

Now I do hope that this is not seen as criticism of Healy as a person. From what I’ve been able to gather he is an amiable fellow. I have not met him in person and have purposely gone to some length not to contact him, lest talking to him taint my interpretation of his work. That is the last thing I would want. Clarifications of his arguments, or elaborations of his points would only disturb the picture I have of Healy’s book as it stands. I would like here to introduce my first distinction, that between the work and the person. A theologian could be a powerful sociopath but their work is entirely distinct from this. No, who a person is has no bearing on the much clearer and straightforward message of the author’s texts on their own terms.

But before proceeding further I think it is important to understand just what kind of work Healy’s is. To do this I need to elaborate somebody else’s typology at some length, assume its authority, and locate Healy’s work on it.

Rowan Williams, in his book On Christian Theology, claims that theology operates in three registers: The celebratory, the communicative and the critical. Celebratory theology  is “an attempt to draw out and display connections of thought and image so as to exhibit the fullest possible range of significance in the language used. It is typically the language of hymnody and preaching.” (p.xiii)

Communicative theology, on the other hand, “seeks to persuade or commend, to witness to the gospel’s capacity for being at home in more than one cultural environment, and to display enough confidence to believe that this gospel can be rediscovered at the end of a long and exotic detour through strange idioms and structures of thought.” (p.xiv)

Finally, critical theology works in at least two different ways. “The critical impulse may issue in agnosticism, even nihilism;” But it may also dialectically move back toward the celebratory “by hinting at the gratuitous mysteriousness of what theology deals with.” (p.xv)

Why it is necessary to locate Healy on this schema may not be readily apparent but trust me, it’s important enough to dedicate three whole paragraphs and a series of criticisms to it. In fact I’ll probably keep referring back to Williams’ typology for the rest of this review. At any rate Healy can’t be found clearly in any one style and it’s perfectly natural that a work would move between registers anyway. On the other hand, that Healy navigates and sometimes combines the three categories of theology as organized by Rowan Williams probably is a kind of indictment, because problems arise when the three are conflated. The celebratory ceases to function well when it is mixed with the communicative, etc.

In the next section of my review I will elaborate further what kind of book Healy’s is. We have already seen that – in my view problematically – it does not fall distinctly into one of the three varieties of theology that Rowan Williams describes. Now we will attempt to get at the core of Healy’s style. Introductions to authors traditionally work by what I would like to call an “exegeticocentric” method. That is, for ages past when someone wanted to give a systematic presentation of an author’s entire life’s work they discussed at length the arguments of the texts, usually situating them in an historical context and relating them to the author’s influences and conversation partners. Healy takes a different route: His is a “typologicocentric” book, wherein what is important is to elaborate novel and extensive categorical schema within which an author may be placed. So for Healy, Hauerwas’s work is not traditional because it breaks with the “theocentric” strain of theology and instead advances the “ecclesiocentric” model typified by at least one old German dude. This problematizes Healy’s entire project because synthetic descriptions of other’s work are most faithful when they are exegeticocentric rather than typologicocentric.

A few examples may be appropriate. If Healy were using the traditional exegeticocentric method, he would have needed to include a discussion about the sizable influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein on Hauerwas, noting how Wittgenstein’s account of the acquisition of language and its use bears on the relationship between the liturgy, scripture reading, sacraments, and discipleship; a relationship Healy feels Hauerwas gets wrong. Then again, for Healy, Hauerwas may have his unique influences, but we do not need to know them to understand and assess his theological arguments. (Although it may have modified Healy’s argument that MacIntyre informs Hauerwas‘ understanding of tradition)  Or again, when criticizing Hauerwas for the apparent disparity between the church he proclaims and the empirical church, Healy would have needed to bring in the importance of eschatology for Hauerwas’ work. But with Healy’s typologicocentric method, neither Wittgenstein nor eschatology receive a single mention. Indeed Yoder himself is only brought into the book in passing.

In conclusion, if after reading this far you have learned very little about the content of Healy’s book; if you’ve found a disproportionate amount of space in this review dedicated to measuring the book by arbitrary organizational schemes; if you’ve been introduced to novel, vague, and misleading neologisms; if you’ve been surprised by the fact that I left out central chapters for consideration; if you feel that systematically introducing a life’s corpus should include locating the works in the context of primary influences and conversation partners – If all of this is bothersome for you, you will be equally frustrated by Healy. Indeed more than a few sentences in this review have been taken directly from his book.

A person who came to Healy without knowing Hauerwas would learn very little about Hauerwas. This is reason enough to criticize the book. But that it also succumbs to the aforementioned problems, makes it so that I cannot recommend this book at all.

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A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper[?]: A Review

Tony Sig

If we have any long-time readers, they will surely recall that there was a time when we talked much more regularly about Pentecostal matters. All the writers past and present have been Pentecostal at one time or another and two of us are proud sons of Assemblies of God pastors. But that aspect of our blog identity has largely faded. Here I would like to make another contribution our forgotten past by talking about Dr. Chris Green’s book Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper. I should confess up front, though, that I am friends with Chris, I like him a lot, agree with him most of the time, and he gave me the book. I should also say that I do not plan to systematically review the book in light of the rather extensive review a mutual friend of ours, Jason Goroncy, wrote. Do please give his a look.

This book is a modification of Green’s thesis and thus includes what is customary for such works: A history of research section, a section of historical theology, constructive work, and suggestions for further research. At Chris’s own instigation, I skipped ahead of the history of research chapter and dug right into the surprising and energetic chapter three, a (revisionist) historical account of the Lord’s Supper in the primary works of early Pentecostalism, including both the Weslyan/Holiness and Finished Work veins. Contrary to received opinion, Chis shows time and again how central the practice of communion was in early Pentecostalism. In the practice of the Lord’s Supper many testified to healings, many experienced affective intimacy with the Lord, and many even spoke of the Supper as a sharing in Christ’s very life. They were able to talk about the Supper in a way that was far more ‘metaphysically suggestive’ than their universally explicit denial of baptismal efficaciousness.

I found this section to be entirely fascinating. Growing up, there was little to nothing that we ever learned about the early Pentecostals. Ironically, I have learned more about Pentecostal history after becoming Anglican than I did before. Like learning that early Pentecostals were mostly pacifist and that they overcame (however temporarily) racial and gender boundaries in worship and ministry, learning about this persistent reflection on and experience of the Eucharist was a delightful surprise. One thing to note, though, is that there remained a strong resistance to suggesting grace was mediated by practices. Grace just sort of floated around while things were going on. In this way, Pentecostals still remained anti-sacramental in thought if not in practice.

Another great section of the book is dedicated to exegeting three key passages of Scripture related to the Lord’s Supper. Of these three I found Green’s investigation of 1 Corinthians to be creative and insightful enough to entirely reorient the way I think about the theme and structure of the letter, as well, obviously, as its content. For Chris, it is not hyperbolic to see the whole letter as a tract on the Supper and how the Corinthians’ various misdeeds are a violation of the reality of the meal.

After all this footwork, Chris enters upon some of his own constructive work on the Lord’s Supper, specifically what everything he’s just talked about means for Pentecostals. Interestingly I found very little in this section that is controversial, the lone exception being a rather scholastic point about whether the bread and wine are entirely transformed (as in McCabe, who he uses as an example) or whether they remain both objects of this world and of the world to come simultaneously, which is the position Chris advocates. But! This is only because of my own Anglican tradition and exposure to the larger tradition. I am confident that to a Pentecostal, most of this chapter will be a scandal, as it indeed ought to be. Yet if this chapter was not for me controversial, it was uplifting and suggestive, stretching and challenging.

Truth be told, this work is an apologetic, revisionist, and polemical work, in all the best senses of those words. That the polemic is rarely aggressive or rude doesn’t detract from its force. Green is calling on Pentecostals entirely to reorient their thoughts and practices on the Lord’s Supper. Luckily for us all, he has given them vast resources from which to pull in order to accomplish this. Whereas some in the Pentecostal world view the work of Assemblies liturgical theologian Simon Chan as alien and covert catholicizing, Chris pulls extensively and to great affect on Pentecostal sources and on extended Scriptural exegesis, such that they are without excuse!

If I have any critiques of the book, they are few and relatively minor. The index was not thorough: Consider that Sergius Bulgakov is cited seven times in the book (pp. 263, 278, 282, 285, 291, and twice on 292) but only pg. 285 makes the index itself. I also felt the book could’ve used some editing of Chris’ unique style, whose neologisms were extensive enough to confuse my brain – and more importantly, the flow of the argument –  as I read; mixed metaphors and manners of speaking also contributed to this. I also wonder to what extent it was in Green’s best interest to rely so strongly on Robert Jenson; not because Jenson isn’t a worthy theologian, but because his ecumenical Lutheranism isn’t exactly conducive to Pentecostalism.

The harshest things I have to say are less about the book and more questions about Pentecostalism itself. I wonder, given the extent of “what is required” of Pentecostalism to live up to Green’s excellent work, does this not tend to suggest that Pentecostalism, as a tradition, lacks the resources to be more fully Christian without ceasing to be uniquely itself? An example: Green says that Pentecostals will have to forcibly transform the way they read Scripture. Their current way of reading Scripture shows how novel their view of Scripture is, and how weak is the christology that feeds it. What is in fact called for in this hermeneutical transformation is nothing less than a revision of their de jure christology. And there are several other such examples. I have long claimed that there are several important gifts that Pentecostals can give the larger Church. Yet there are resources at hand in most churches to ‘receive’ those gifts, whereas I’m less sure there are resources within Pentecostalism to accomodate the Tradition without a substantive shift in Pentecostal identity.

Stuff I’ve Written Elsewhere

Tony Sig

Review: Mark A. McIntosh, Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology

Tony Sig

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (December 4, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 1405102713
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405102711

My thanks to Blackwell for the review copy.

Very often times it feels like the very last thing the world needs is another introduction to Topic X. Not least to theology. Aren’t intro’s just the easy way for a teacher to get published with very little work or creativity? And it’s not like there aren’t good ones out there. Alister McGrath is now into the 5th ed of his (mostly historical) Christian Theology: An Introduction (with a simpler version of it, as well as a Reader 4th ed, and an intro to historical theology). Christopher Morse’s famous Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief is also a great intro. (My thanks to David Congdon for the recommendation).

 Yet even in such a world, Mark A. McIntosh’s Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology offers something unique and irresistible. I found myself learning much more from this intro than I do often times from “academic” pieces. There were so many places to pause and reflect, to soak in a rich theological wisdom. And at a shy 252 total pages, it was really quite astonishing what he was able to fit in.

This brevity, among other things, makes this book a standout from a pedagogical standpoint. Being as short as it is, there is a significant amount of free room that a teacher could take to supplement and expand the book in whatever way is deemed necessary for the kind of school or class that they are teaching. Are you at a Pentecostal school? Feel free to throw some readings in on pneumatology. Are you at a Catholic school? Take the time and compare McIntosh’s readings of Saints Augustine and Thomas on Sin or the Trinity. Are you Anglican? Throw some Herbert in there… anywhere could do as the whole book revolves around the contemplative life of prayer as being taught by the actions of the Holy Trinity.

And this life of prayer as participation in and learning from the Trinity is the broad outline of the book, hence the title. McIntosh has much experience in this. His PhD work was in Balthasar and he has written several works on “mystical theology” (see here and here) and even a little book for teaching in Church on the Mysteries of Faith. He is an Episcopal priest and is now teaching at Durham (in England). He is also an Anglican representative at this latest ARCIC meeting between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

The beginning of the book functions as a sort of prologue for those led to be skeptical of theology as mere irrational nonsense. Can one understand theology and not be a believer?, he asks. His answer is, surprisingly, no, not really. One can come to acquire knowledge of a tradition and this can be taught, but McIntosh says to be truly taught by God, one’s own inner life must be made ready to receive this knowledge as a gift. To show how this is so, he introduces a method that he uses several times throughout the book. On the left third of the page, he has a text, here it is Romans 6.3-11 but he does this for several other Scriptural passages and also works like the Nicene Creed; and on the right he comments on it. It’s really quite helpful. Nevertheless he does address the relationship of reason and faith by way of an exposition of Cardinal Newman’s Oxford Sermons.

From this first part of the book, “How God Makes Theologians,” McIntosh moves onto the larger more constructive part “Theology’s Search for Understanding,” in which he begins with the Mystery of Salvation, to the Divine Life, and finally to Creaturely Life. This movement, he believes, represents the kind of shape that Christians have experienced from the beginning. Trinitarian reflection came from a deep meditation and struggle with what had happened to them in Christ and Pentecost. He would no doubt agree with David Bentley Hart that early Christian trinitarian thought was a kind of phenomenology of salvation. Among his teaching methods, at the end of each chapter, McIntosh pauses for “Landmarks” and “Pathfinding.” In this section on salvation he includes Irenaeus, Augustine and Anselm. While recognizing that there are exaggerated critiques of Anselm available, he ultimately agrees with Lossky that Anselm (and much subsequent Western reflection) focuses on the Cross to the exclusion of the entire movement of the mysteries of faith. In the “Pathfinding” section, he brings in Orthodox, Feminist and Girardian contributions to soteriology.

But this critical thought about salvation itself gives way to a deeper movement from how God revealed God in Christ, to how God has always been if this is the one God. This middle section on the Trinity takes up the bulk of the book and includes a comprehensive walk through St. Augustine’s entire book de Trinitate! These 20 pages alone are worth the price of the book. But he also includes Karl Barth on the “God Who Loves in Freedom.”

The final section on Creaturely life doesn’t disappoint either. He begins with the fact that it is Easter which gives the ultimate shape to creaturely life, drawing generously on James Alison. But the main section rightly revolves around Aquinas, yet he also brings Pascal alive in a way I hadn’t expected. The combination of the two acted as a kind of apophatic trinitarian anthropology, it was quite a surprise and ended the book well. I appreciate that he didn’t feel the need to begin with this section to “ground” theology in epistemology. In this way he followed the general shape of traditional dogmatics so that even a strident Protestant couldn’t protest too much.

The book is not confessional in any denominational sense. And while the book is clearly more on the “catholic” side of things, this lack of polemic or overt sense of identifying with any group means that Divine Teaching can be used profitably by anyone who wants to teach from within the Nicene tradition.

McIntosh’s uncompromisingly Christian and trinitarian approach means that this book might not be ideal for use in a school where there is generally taken the traditional “comparative religion” or “religious studies” approach. Yet, if a school was open to actually teaching Christian theology from a “post-liberal” (in the broadest sense of that word) position, this is precisely the book I would use; not least since approaching Christian thought from the position of prayer and “mystical participation” would likely connect well with my generation of kids. But in order to do this, one would have to supplement the book with something to do with other faiths, as this is one area not really addressed in the book. Graham Ward’s True Religion could fill that void quite nicely I imagine.

I don’t know what it says about the book, but, as I often meditate on how I would teach theology in the future, this book has jumped to the very top of the list. There are so many strengths to the book, many of which I’ve tried to point out. Chief among them is that this book is all about how we might actually learn about God from God, in our inmost being, not as bits of true information, but as an abiding light that will illuminate all other seeing and knowing.

At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time by Sarah Arthur — A Review

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At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time

by Sarah Arthur

Paraclete Press, 2011

$16.99

++++

According to the infallible internet, Flannery O’Connor once wrote that,

“When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God.  He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others.  I think that for a writer to worry is to take over God’s business.”  

She was of course speaking of her own books, but the same could be said about both Sarah Arthur‘s writing, and that of the poets and authors she anthologizes in her new book, At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time, published last month by Paraclete Press (and also available here).

In what might be seen as a devotional for Christian English majors, Arthur has skillfully chosen poems and fragments of fiction that “sneak up” on her readers and cause them to drift (or tumble) into meditation, contemplation and prayer.  For each of the 29 weeks of Ordinary Time (the season of the church calendar between Pentecost and Advent), Arthur has provided us with a theme, an opening and closing prayer (usually a snippet of verse), a psalm and Scripture readings, and between 3 and 6 selections of literature, mainly from English and American authors (with a couple of predictable Russians, and a Pole).  The Scripture readings seem to show some relation to the Revised Common Lectionary, but Arthur states in her introduction that her 29 weekly sections are not arranged according to any lectionary and can theoretically be read in any order.  The lack of concrete connection with the lectionary is one of only two things about this book that annoy me, but I’ve been accused of being a liturgy snob before.

Her goal in selecting the readings is not to assault the reader with over-powering thematic overtures that tie neatly into the cut-and-dry, therapeutic Scripture readings.  This is no resource for those looking for poems to go along with their tidy, little 3-point sermons.  In her introduction she describes her chosen authors as those:

“…who have known the things of God, but speak in metaphor…In not stating out loud what they know, they have left much to our imaginations–which is a way of saying they have trusted the Holy Spirit.”

Arthur has found authors who were willing to give their books up to God to be used in unexpected, and maybe even frightening ways.

Arthur is up-front with the fact that even attentive and astute readers may not always immediately (or ever) understand the relevance that a particular selection has to the Scripture readings, or to the sometimes vague weekly themes.  All of this is refreshing for me.  If I wanted straight forward and overt, I’d be reading Oswald Chambers.  If I wanted pat answers, and black-and-white interpretations, I’d be reading John MacArthur (and subsequently stabbing myself in the eye).  I’d take reading Sarah Arthur’s eclectic band of poets and novelists over 99% of what passes for Christian devotional literature these days.

Which leads me to the selections themselves…which then leads me to air the second of my two complaints:  Where in the name of peafowl and horn-rimmed glasses is Flannery O’Connor?  Hot tar and molasses!  Of all the authors to overlook, why did it have to be that foxy Catholic lady from Georgia?

Other than that lacuna, Arthur does a pretty good job.  Having a Wheaton background, she can’t resist a healthy dose of C.S. Lewis, but she doesn’t over do it.  Perhaps because of her Presbyterian background, she favors George MacDonald.  Overall, she seems to be a raging anglophile (the teapot calling the teacup porcelain, I suppose) and consequently George Hebert, John Donne, John Keble, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, and an entire murmuration of English Romantics dominate.

As I alluded to before, she includes some obligatory Tolstoy and Dostoevsky passages, one of which is that beautiful section of The Brothers Karamozov where Aloyosha has a vision of the recently deceased Zossima.  My homeboy, Garrison Keillor, makes a populist/Lutheran offering, and on the Roman Catholic side of things we get G.K. Chesterton, Anne Rice, as well as SS. Francis, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross et al.

In a “Further Reading” section she includes some runners-up that I wish had made the cut (but no Ms. O’Connor, even here!)  These include  Grahame Greene (RCC), Frederick Buechner (Presbyterian), Charles Williams (Anglican), Wendell Berry (Baptist), and Chaim Potok (Jewish).  Oh well. I guess it’s always good to keep back some A-listers, just in case there’s a sequel.

Maybe what I have most to thank Arthur for is the introduction to several contemporary poets of whom I had never heard, and who deeply impressed me; Robert Siegel and Elizabeth B. Rooney, especially.  Here’s one of the a latter’s:

I saw the world end yesterday!

A flight of angels tore

Its cover off and Heaven lay

Where earth had been before

I walked about the countryside

And saw a cricket pass

Then, bending closer, I espied

An ecstasy of grass.

All in all, At the Still Point is outstanding; a veritable cornucopia of literary spirituality.  Arthur’s introduction is helpful, light, and intimate, and despite the afore-mentioned Flannerylessness, she is an expert at choosing passages that delight and surprise.  As I re-read this book throughout Ordinary Time, I trust and pray that the Holy Spirit will use some of these passages to save my soul, and to try it; or–to paraphrase old Clive Staples–I hope the God uses these passages to baptize my imagination, immersing it in the surprising vision of His Kingdom. Lord knows all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ could use a little more of that sacrament.

My Continuing Debt to +N.T. Wright

Tony SigWhile it was William Barclay who first got me excited about the Scriptures, his commentaries generally stay shelved (though I still make recourse to those lovely gems).  Rather, I am quick to grab something of +Wright’s anytime I have an itch.  Be it the Christian Origins Series (the Paul book cannot come fast enough), his incredibly dense but rewarding The Climax of the Covenant or his own Barclay’esque New Testament for Everyone commentaries (there used to be a page where you could subscribe to the series and get a book or two a month, but I can’t find it).  I have yet to procure his commentary on Romans and I’ve hesitated to get his “little” Paul books with his larger one pending.

My debt becomes especially clear when Easter rolls around.  Reading his Resurrection book was no easy task, his middle section on Paul was at times laborious, but that and Surprised by Hope first suggested that perhaps Easter is the single most important celebration of the Christian year and the key to the Gospel – as opposed to a single-minded focus on the Crucifixion.  As the last few years have come and gone, tired and stressed though I always am from school, I find myself anticipating the Easter celebrations and welling up with overwhelming joy at the first Alleluias after Lent and at the proclamation that  “Alleluia. Christ is risen! – The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

So this is sort of a fluff post, but I was compelled merely to note that I find myself extremely grateful to the good bishop every Easter.

Graham Ward: A Minor Annotated Bibliography IV

Tony SigBe it the gripping Torture and Eucharist, the insightful Mystical Theology or the symphonic On Christian Theology, books in the Blackwell series “Challenges in Contemporary Theology” have yet to not drastically shift my worldview after reading, and Graham Ward’s Christ and Culture is no exception (I can’t wait to read the rest in the series).

Despite the fact that this is a collection of previously released and delivered essays, there is a certain deep similarity in theme, style and content between them.  These pick up on all the collective themes of Christology; “incarnation, atonement, the economics of the Trinity what it is to be human [and] the Church” (23) but do so in a manner steeped in discourses very distant to the sort of christology of predication that I’m used to reading such as hermeneutics, metaphysics and cultural theory. Topics like embodiment and the operation of desire also play a large role. (23)

Yet all revolve around very close readings of Scripture.  Ward pays particular attention to St. Mark’s Gospel but Scripture is used thoroughly and uniquely all throughout this book.  Even if one were to disagree with all of Ward’s conclusions, many of which are controversial, this book is hugely important as I see it for its christological and exegetical method(s).

Ward builds off Aquinas where in the Summa he says, “God is not known to us in His nature, but is made known to us in His operations. (Summa Theologiae, I.Q13.8).  Therefore Ward asks not “who is the Christ or what is the Christ [but] where is the Christ” (1) … and I might add, “what is Christ doing?”

The introduction alone is worth the price which not only concisely lays out his own vision but offers a substantive and wide ranging critique of Karl Barth, especially his christological dialectics which as Ward sees it, makes of Christ “either the absolute subject or the absolute object.” (12) (This seems not too unlike to some of Rowan Williams’ critique of Barth, cf. – “Barth on the Triune God,” Wrestling With Angels, pp.106-149) Briefly summing it up, Ward lays it out like this:

“Barth’s dogmatic approach to Christology (a) all too thinly defines the economies of salvation in which the gracious love of Christ finds a responding desire; (b) this finds expression in the thinness of his account of mediations (c) such that his mediating christology remains tied to specific cultural assumptions about the subject and nature; (d) this binds christology to the logic of dualism, itself a product of a certain cultural heritage in modernity; (e) this logic and these assumptions, on the basis of which we develops his dialectical method, render him unable to reflect upon his own cultural production of christology.  The world is so lost, so secularized, so ignorant of God that both Christ and subsequently a theology of Christ operate above and beyond such a world, in contradistinction to it.” (14-15)

Of the Ward books I’ve read, this and his Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice were the ones that really captured my imagination.  It is important in its own right (or seems like it to me at least) but also in that it renders such criticisms as “RO doesn’t deal with Christ or the Bible or discipleship seriously enough” in need of more evidence.  And it also disrupts the all too common saying I hear, that Ward is some sort of exception to RO, “Ward I can take, Milbank I can’t.”  Nevertheless, Ward would not want to be holed up on a “side” in contemporary theology.

I can’t wait to reread this one…hopefully I’ll make more strides toward comprehending the details.