The Eschatological Economy: Time and the Hospitality of God

The purpose of this blog is to tell you about The Eschatological Economy. Reviews are beginning to appear.

In this ambitious book, Douglas H. Knight sets out to illustrate the way Christian theology can function not as one category of knowledge within a larger secular account of the world but as itself the site of open and rich thinking on anthropology, sociology, psychology, language, history, and politics. It is not the secular economy but Christian orientation toward eschatology that provides this openness to the new. Knight attempts to do profoundly theological work while renouncing the religious language by which theologians tacitly accept their marginalization.

This work offers much for theologians to celebrate, ponder, and engage. Knight’s attempt to out-narrate anthropology and psychology challenges other theologians to take their own training more seriously and rather than cursing the darkness of modern anthropologies, to turn on the theological lights. He makes bold attempts to overcome spirit/body dualisms, so that “our theological concepts always remain in touch with the biological, chemical, and physical” (p. 203). His section on Israel’s sacrifice as parody of the sacrifices of pagans was, for this reader, revelatory. His integration of Trinitarian theology with scripture studies (and the attendant argument about the nature of scriptural scholarship) deserves serious attention from scripture scholars and theologians alike.

Most significantly, Knight’s flair for refusing to allow theology to be trapped in its own jargon without ever sacrificing the fullness of theological content marks out new territory in the sad old debate over the coherence and relevance of theological language in public. He argues that theology can and must be public and engaged, not by becoming less scriptural or Trinitarian, but by embracing the story of God’s work with Israel and the movement of history towards its End. In academic accounts of the “human” as in politics, the job of Christian theology is not only to be faithful to itself nor only to be in service to human well-being, but to work for the well-being of all creation by being the people who know what God’s work in the world means. The world is not to be abandoned, but to be brought out of its narrow and self-deceived economy, its paralyzing dualism of nature and action, and into the mutual giving that God is making humanity to be.

But it is not all praise

Given that one of the book’s most interesting and well-developed themes is the modern inability to deal with the issue of unity and plurality, it is particularly disturbing that Knight’s attempt to claim the physical as a site of the work of the Spirit never mentions female bodies. He discusses the work of the Spirit in reproduction in Israel, develops Adam theology, expounds at length on the nature of sonship, and provides serious theological consideration of semen and circumcision while never mentioning Sarah, Hannah, or Mary. A reader can only wonder what sort of authorial decision led to such an omission. The oversight seems a bit too glaring to have been accidental.

Kelly Johnson Modern Theology 24.1 2008

To write a review of this sort is a major undertaking. I am very grateful for this one in particular. It is wonderful and extraordinary to see how readers discover widely differing things in one book. I have found it difficult to write reviews myself because I never know how far to criticise a book for what it does not contain. One obvious criticism of this book is that there is too much in it: in reply I would just get autobiographical and start telling you about the vanishing context of theology in the UK.

Female bodies? Obviously there is one female body I am very fond of, two bodies including daughter, and I am a member of a third – that of St Mary, Stoke Newington – but I presume that there is something else here that I don’t get.

Anyway, The Eschatological Economy. It is yours for $18.49 or £8.65.

The family and the State

It has become fashionable for politicians to extol the virtues of the family. Yet, in this economic analysis of family policy, Patricia Morgan shows how politicians have been at war with the family over at least the last 25 years. The family is an important vehicle for welfare provision and for income transfers to the most needy and dependent members of society. Yet the state, by providing extensive welfare provision, by financing child-care services and by taxing families on an ever-greater proportion of their income, provides strong incentives for families to break up rather than to hold together, and to form family relationships that are hidden from the authorities. Government policy has crowded out voluntary welfare within families and caused otherwise law-abiding people to commit fraud on a very extensive scale.

The author begins by showing the economic benefit of self-sustaining families. She then shows how government policy has increasingly taken over the role of the family in supporting children. It is clear from the evidence presented here that government policy has caused the breakdown of families: policy has not simply responded to autonomous changes in social behaviour. Patricia Morgan then examines changes to divorce laws and to tax and benefit systems that should help reverse the trend and once again make the family the building block of a welfare society.

The willingness of the state to take on the responsibilities of paying for the upbringing of children where parents choose not to take on those responsibilities themselves is at least partly responsible for undermining self-supporting family structures.

The tax and benefits systems have helped to determine family behaviour – the tax and benefits systems do not simply respond benignly to changes in social trends. Individuals within families are rational agents and have responded predictably to the tax and benefits systems in the UK, which are particularly hostile to families by international standards.

Because individuals and families are rational agents who have adjusted their behaviour to perverse government policies, it is clear that policy changes can bring about a reduction in welfare dependency and a strengthening of the family as the primary vehicle for the provision of welfare. The family does not have to be favoured but discrimination against it must end.

Patricia Morgan The War Between the State and the Family – Summary

Since the 1950s most tax increases have fallen upon married couples with children, effectively driving women out of the home and into the work force. In the 1950s income tax would not be levied until a man’s income had reached half the average income, the assumption being that this was a “family wageâ€?. Now income tax is levied at a third of average income. A man can receive only one tax allowance even if his wife is at home full time caring for their children, while a couple, both of whom work outside the home, will receive two tax allowances.

thanks to Greg Gardner, Jane de Villalobos, Jackie Parkes and the Hermeneutic of Continuity

Theology of the Body talks in London

Love & Responsibility – Theological Lecture Series 2008

Due to the success of Catholicism for the Curious and Theology of the Body, the School of Evangelisation will be hosting a third series of lectures this year, commencing on Wednesday 27th February at supper & welcome at 6.15pm with talk starting at 7pm.

A series of high profile talks to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. These talks will present a life changing message for a lifestyle of chastity that brings freedom, respect, peace and romance without regret. The talks will seek to unpack and explain the Church’s teaching on the truth and meaning of human sexuality in a way that is challenging, entertaining, encouraging and healing. The speakers will cover an abundance of compelling and uplifting reasons for embracing the virtues of chastity.

Wednesday 27th February – Fr Anthony Doe
Call to Holiness & Communion with the Lord

Wednesday 12th March – Fr Stephen Langridge
Aids, Condoms and the Catholic Church

Wednesday 2nd April – Fr Tim Finigan
Humanae Vitae – A Challenge to the Culture

Wednesday 9th April – Fr Anthony Doe
The Gift of Life & Christian Discipleship

Wednesday 16th April – Edmund Adamus
The Genesis of Humanae Vitae – Memory & Healing

Wednesday 23rd April – Fr Richard Aladics
Building the Civilisation of Love in a Media-Driven World

Wednesday 30th April – Bishop Alan Hopes
Searching for Teaching Authority

Wednesday 14th May – Tommy Hughes
Theology of the Body in a Glasgow Secondary School

Wednesday 21st May – James Parker
Truths about Homosexuality & Contraception

Wednesday 28th May – Dr Jacqueline Laing
The Reproductive Revolution

Wednesday 4th June – Nicole Parker
A Practical Response: Natural Family Planning

Wednesday 11th June – Anne Hill
The Gift of Life as a Woman and a Mother

Wednesday 18th June – William Newton
Humanae Vitae & Contraception: Two Irreconcilable Concepts of the Human Person

John Zizioulas Lectures in Christian Dogmatics

The Zizioulas Lectures in Christian Dogmatics are on their way. That marvellous publisher, T & T Clark, has promised to get the book out in October (2008).

Here is something from the Editor’s Introduction

Man was given the freedom of God to decide freely, and on behalf of all creation, for participation in the communion and life of God. Because all creation makes up his body, materiality gets to participate in man’s decision and so receive God’s uncreated life in freedom. So man is able to unite created materiality to the communion of God that overcomes all limits, and so secure creation’s continued life. Christ is the one who is able to establish and sustain relationship with all men, and brings each into relationship with all others, and unites within himself all creation to God. He is the truth of man and creation, sustained through all limits by the invincible communion of God.

Although Christ is the whole reality of human being, he does not force himself upon us. He appears amongst us as one person amongst others, and so as someone we can reject or accept as we like. We can withhold our acknowledgment of him or, in faith, we can recognise him for who he is. When we concede Christ his otherness, and acknowledge that he shares the freedom of God, this opens the possibility that we understand that all persons are different from us, not our creatures but creatures of God. As we concede the otherness and freedom of every human being we gain our own true freedom.

Here is the Contents page

Meanwhile the T & T Clark blog has a link to Liviu Barbu’s review of Zizioulas’s Communion and Otherness in the Heythrop Journal

You can find plenty more in The Theology of John Zizioulas. You can see the book at Google Book, but curiously mis-assigned to the title ‘Paul’s Necessary Sin’

Why not ask your college librarian to order a copy from Ashgate? You know one blogger who would be very grateful.

On the way to Easter – Lent 3

Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17.1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5.1-11
John 4.5-42

In our preparation for Easter we have been looking at the different aspects of the resurrection that are presented to us in the Scripture readings for the five Sundays of Lent. We are thinking through here what we are doing when we gather in Church and spelling out some of what is going on, on Easter Sunday morning. We want to show when we say ‘Christ is risen’ we are referring to a question, and to a promise, about our own identity.

We said that the Christian confession of God helps us to hear the question of God, ‘Where is your brother?’ The Christian faith is a real listening, to the world and to God, and it prevents us from making ourselves secure without one another.

So far we have said that the Church is the fellowship created by the love of God for us and God’s act of witness to the world. Next we have to say that the Church is the whole company of heaven, making itself felt here and now for us. This company are our servants, and together they make up the service of Christ to us. This company is also in disguise, so it is not obvious that this is what is happening.

What is the Prosperity Gospel?

Michael Spenser is concerned that the Chinese church is vulnerable to the ‘Prosperity Gospel’

The Prosperity Gospel….

A) is the presumption that God wants us to be rich.

B) is the assumption that the blessings of the Gospel are a guarantee of material and financial blessings now. (The mediation of Jesus makes all blessing possible, but it does not guarantee wealth or health, etc.)

C) is a denial and replacement of the true meaning of “give us this day our daily bread.â€?

D) is the replacement of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the New Testament with a method that causes God to bestow material and financial blessings on anyone who uses the method.

Why does the Prosperity Gospel appeal to American Christians?

a) American Christians are focused on money as a symbol of the “good life.â€?
b) American Christians tend to focus on God as a problem solver above any other role.
c) American Christians have a strong preference for legalism and transactionalism.

Cultural factors cause some groups of the historically poor and economically disenfranchised to be very open the the Prosperity message.

Michael Spenser Monitor China

The Christian community in the Holy Land

The absence of peace exacerbates the many long-standing problems as well as the poverty afflicting the region of the Holy Places. We must recognize that Christians who reside there are a priority for the attention of the entire Catholic Church, together with that of all other Churches and ecclesial communities. For even in their need, they embody the “living charism of Christianity’s origins.”

In this way, the Latin community openly supports the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Franciscans who are Custodians of the Holy Land, and all those belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches. The desire of the Holy See is that the charitable outreach by all Catholics will not simply be viewed as occasional, but as so continuous and profound that the future may be welcomed with hope. Nor is this program of charitable distribution based upon religious, cultural or political distinctions. Rather, it seeks especially to equip the younger generations to take their place in society in a manner which renders them competent and able to transmit the worth of their Catholic education and formation.

We cannot overlook, however, those numerous other challenges which are serious and urgent. For example, there is the ever present matter of immigration, bringing with it the risk that Christian communities can be deprived of their most important human resources. We must seek to safeguard Christianity’s historic legacy by striving to preserve those ‘living communities’ in which the Mystery of Christ, our Peace, is cherished and celebrated.

Leonardo Sandri Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches Collection for the Holy Land

Pre-emptors against appeasers

Europe’s Man of Destiny is Geert Wilders, the 35-year-old leader of Holland’s tiny Freedom Party. He has provoked the world Muslim community in order to draw the violent jihadists out of the tall grass, and he seems to be succeeding. Call what Wilders has done nasty but necessary, and blame Europe’s so-called mainstream leaders for abandoning their posts, and leaving the standard in the hands of a young man with the courage to grasp it. At the moment the Dutch government is quaking over the consequences of a 10-minute film that Wilders plans to release in April denouncing the Koran.

Strictly speaking, I do not quite agree with Wilders that the Koran should be banned along with Hitler’s Mein Kampf as an incitement to violence. Nonetheless, he is doing precisely the right thing. A house divided against itself cannot stand, as Abraham Lincoln
quoted the Gospels as he made ready to tear down the half that was misbehaving. No civilized state can abide a rival from within who contests the monopoly of violence of legitimate government. If governments refuse to act, the optimal course of action is pre-emptive: bring matters to a decision as fast as possible before the rot destroys the entire house.

Wilders has succeeded in getting the world’s attention. “Should it come to riots, bloodshed and violence after broadcasting the Koran movie by PVV leader Geert Wilders, then Wilders will be responsible,” the visiting Grand Mufti of Syria threatened the European Parliament in January.

Wilders lives under constant police protection. The courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, co-maker of the film that cost Theo van Gogh his life in 2004 and the author of a bestselling tract against Islam, remains in constant danger of assassination. Her predicament sets in relief the moral bankruptcy of Europe’s governments.

Spengler Blessed are the pre-emptors

Reasoned debate never had a chance

Peter Rippon (editor of the World at One, which broadcast an interview the Archbishop before his lecture) forgets to mention (or completely misses) the following facts:

1. The story was trailed at the top of the news programme with the headline: The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the adoption of Sharia Law in some parts of Britain is inevitable. (No he didn’t, or not in the way that your headline was inevitably going to make people think.)

2. The BBC was running an article before it broadcast the interview under the heading: Sharia law in UK is ‘unavoidable’, with the first paragraph: The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says the adoption of Islamic Sharia law in the UK is “unavoidableâ€?. (ditto)

3. The BBC website is a key source of news for ALL the media, and has 13 million unique visitors per week.

4. Reactions from bloggers to the headlines were coming in before the 9 minute interview had even finished .

So it turns out that the Beeb was reporting inaccurate statements about “ABC says Sharia is inevitableâ€? even before the interview was broadcast. Rowan (and a well-tempered debate) never had a chance.

Matt Wardman Archbishop Rowan Firestorm was started by the BBC