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.
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.