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A. Goodliff (stevenage, uk)

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Deep Church Rising: Rediscovering the Roots of Christian Orthodoxy
Deep Church Rising: Rediscovering the Roots of Christian Orthodoxy
by Andrew G. Walker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one that looks to great traditions of the church as part of its history ..., 17 July 2014
Deep Church Rising is the culmination of Andrew Walker's work. It follows on from his earlier work of Telling the Story (1996) and the edited volumes Different Gospels (1993 [1988]) and Remembering Our Future (2007). Walker with assistance from Robin Parry argues that the future of the church must be a 'deep' one, one that looks to great traditions of the church as part of its history and future. They are concerned that there is a Third Schism taking place, one which looks to set separate Christianity from its theological moorings, that casts doubts of the traditional doctrines of the Trinity, incarnation and resurrection. In their sights are the likes of Don Cupitt, John Robinson, John Hick, Maurice Wiles and Shelby Spong and the more widely read Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, representing in past the wider impact of modernity and postmodernity. Walker and Parry claim we have lost, or are in danger of losing, the gospel and the response is therefore a vital recovery which they call 'Deep Church'. A Deep Church response they say is in the practice of right belief, right worship, right living sourced in scripture and tradition and made possible through an intentional catechesis.

The book has three things to say. First it seeks to articulate the dangers the church is facing - the privatisation of belief, worship as entertainment, ethics without telos - all of which threaten Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxis. The faultline on which a possible third schism may occur is precisely a too 'thin' Christianity which has unwittingly wed itself to a consumer age. The target in the authors' sights are (I think) both a liberal Christianity, which wants to jettison key doctrines and an evangelical charismatic Christianity that is too dismissive of deep catholic traditions of the church. The second is to offer a defence of a catholic Christian rooted in creeds, sacrament, and catechesis. The future of the church is one that takes seriously the doctrine of the church as articulated in Nicaea, one that takes seriously the celebration of the eucharist, one that takes seriously the catechesis of Christian faith and practice. Walker and Parry argue that where these are marginalised, we have lost the plot, experiencing a gospel amnesia. Thirdly it is a clarion call for a church renewed by the past, a church that has the deep resources which shape its worship and mission to enable it both to survive and flourish.

The book can be read as an extension of Walker's early forays into 'deep church' or perhaps as a more systematic presentation of deep church. I think I enjoyed Remembering the Future more as a book, within it were some helpful and creative attempts to explore the implications of a deep church theology, but Deep Church Rising offers a more coherent description of its message. The title is an interesting one, is this a signal to a church that needs to rise from its past or is it a statement that the Deep Church movement (that feels too strong a word) has legs. At one point Paternoster had a book series called Deep Church, (commissioned by Parry), but as far as I know it only had three titles: The Gospel Driven Church; Evangelicals and Tradition; and Remembering Our Future. Walker was going to contribute a fourth, and Deep Church Rising is probably that book. The call for a more 'catholic' future for the church is one that has other advocates, for example see the work of James K A Smith and Baptists Steven Harmon and Curtis Freeman, amongst others.

The church should be grateful for Walker (see forthcoming collection of essays Wisdom in the Spirit in his honour) in several ways, this book is one of them and hopefully it will be widely read and find an 'Amen' in those who do.

Baptist Theology (Doing Theology)
Baptist Theology (Doing Theology)
by Stephen R. Holmes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of baptist theology, 29 May 2012
You wait for one Steve Holmes book, and then two come along. Earlier this year, Holmes published a historical study of the doctrine of the Trinity, this new book is a study of Baptist theology, in the T & T Clark Doing Theology series.

Holmes is well placed to write on Baptist theology, having studied at Spurgeon's College and been involved in a number of different Baptist conversations both internally in England and Wales and latterly in Scotland and also ecumenically with the Church of England. Holmes has also contributed to Baptist theology with particular essays on tradition, missiology, ordination, baptism, the Bible, Christology, the church meeting and ecclesiology.

In a fairly brief study of seven chapters, Holmes surveys the story of Baptist life and theology, Baptist contributions to Christian doctrine (what he calls here 'ecumenical theology'), and Baptist understandings of eccleisology, of liberty, and of mission. The first chapter tells the story of Baptist beginnings and this is one of the best introductions I've read in a while - in terms of length and readability - that is, it tells a fairly complex story with clarity and brevity. The second chapter tells the story of Baptists beginnings in North America, this is arguably even more complex, but as someone who always found it difficult to grasp all the different expressions of Baptist life in America, Holmes makes sense of the developments, drawing attention to key players and key theological choices. The third chapter picks up the story again in the UK and also now in Europe and the rest of the world. Here Holmes again gives a helpful description of how Baptist theology developed in the UK and Europe, although struggles with regard to the rest of the world (aside from Australia), which Holmes says is due in large part to the current lack of published work.

In chapter four Holmes makes the argument that there is not much that is distinctive about Baptist understandings of most Christian doctrine - Baptists agreed with thirty-five of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England. Baptist theologies of God, the work and person of Christ, of creation and eschatology and of revelation and theological method find themselves mirroring and sometimes contributing to basic content of a broad Protestant theology. Where Baptist theology is distinctive is the subject of the next two chapters on eccleisology and liberty. In the ecclesiology chapter the Baptist emphasis on believer's baptism, the local church, congregational government, interdependence and leadership are all explored here. In the final section on leadership Holmes makes a Baptist argument for the ministry of women on the basis of our practice of communal discernment in, and the authority of, the church meeting, to which we only ask that Baptists of another view take heed. The chapter of liberty introduces the reader to the important characters of Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, Isaac Backus and their arguments for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. This is followed by a discussion of the work of the influential North American Baptist, E. Y. Mullins at the turn of the 20th century who argued for what he called 'soul competency' (the competency of each individual to relate to God), which ultimately Holmes finds unhelpful (democracy becomes an idol) and misleading (for it is only Christ makes a human competent).

The final chapter sees Holmes focus on mission and holiness, which includes a section of the place of the child in Baptist thought. Holmes identifies the problems for Baptists not practicing infant baptism, and that as a result, the Baptist approach to children is evangelistic rather than catechetical. In an argument in a short forthcoming book on the child in Baptist thought, I have made the argument, that at the very least, the child who is attached to the church, who grows up in the church, is more akin to a member of the catechumenate, than an object of church's mission, wanting to emphasise that an ecclesial relationship is established in infant presentation. The section on holiness, which explores the Baptist language of 'walking together and watching over', is very good, and deserves to be read by every member of a Baptist church in what membership means.

In the introduction and conclusion Holmes argues that Baptist theology has two central foci: the individual believer and the local church. There is an 'intense individualism' in Baptist theology and practice, to which this reader finds more concerning than Holmes. I suspect that is because I remain closer theologically on this point to Gunton and Zizioulas, than Holmes now does. I am not qualified enough to judge this on the basis of the history of theology, but it does appear to me that to emphasise the individual in our highly individualistic culture is unhelpful and so the theology of the person found in Gunton and Zizioulas makes an important contribution today, but this may reflect that my Baptist-ness is tempered by a greater concern for catholicity. This is not to suggest that Holmes gives in to the culture of the day, because the second central foci, the local church, ensures that any individualism is balanced by the importance of the local church.

This is an excellent book. Holmes writes with a broad audience in mind and many parts of the book give an important account of Baptist thought, both for the Baptist Christian and for ecumenical friends, who find Baptists a somewhat strange bunch. I have said elsewhere that Baptist theology is currently flourishing - now we just need to get Baptist churches to take some time to be nourished and challenged by it! The book will surely feature on all Baptist college reading lists, to be read alongside Fiddes' Tracks and Traces and Wright's Free Church, Free State.

The Holy Trinity: Understanding God's Life
The Holy Trinity: Understanding God's Life
by Stephen R. Holmes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history of the doctrine of the Trinity, 5 Mar 2012
The Holy Trinity is the first in a new series from Paternoster looking at Christian Doctrines in Historical Perspective. In his introduction Steve Holmes, quoting Chaucer, suggests that this is a 'little book'. It is anything but. At 231 pages it is at least medium-sized book and its content - the history of doctrine of the Trinity - means its a book that covers a large amount of history and ideas. Holmes has recently said in a editorial for the International Journal for Systematic Theology (January 2012) that a lot of theology is about engaging with the history of ideas, that is, its about careful reading of the past and present, rather than doing novel and constructive theology. The Holy Trinity is an excellent example of careful reading.

The book begins with a discussion of the 'revival' of Trinity theology in the twentieth century that was initiated by Barth, Rahner and Zizioulas and developed by Pannenberg, Moltmann, Jenson, Boff and Volf (there are of course others that could be mentioned, e.g. Gunton, Cunningham, Fiddes). Then it travels back in history with chapters on the Trinity in the Bible, in the Early Fathers (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen), and then two chapters on the later Fourth-Century (Arius, Athanasius, Cappadocians, John of Damascus), the West and Augustine, the Medieval period (Anselm, Richard of St Victor, Aquinas), followed by a chapter on Anti-Trinitarianism in the period between the Reformation and the Eighteenth century, and then concludes with a final chapter on the doctrine in the last two hundred years (Hegel, Coleridge, Schleiermacher, Hodge, Dorner).

The book has two aims. First it seeks to provide a book-length (affordable) treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity in the historical tradition. It this way if operates as a textbook for theological students seeking to understand the doctrine's development (perhaps only Paul M. Collin's The Trinity: A Guide for the Perplexed does a similar kind of job). The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity and The Cambridge Companion to the Trinity have recently been published and perhaps Holmes' book should be read alongside these - the obvious strength of Holmes' book being it's price (!) and it is one theologian's reading of the tradition, rather than the multiple author approach of the other books.

Second it argues that rather than the doctrine of the Trinity being recovered in the twentieth century, the doctrine as stated and developed by those coming after Barth offers a departure from the Patristic tradition, that is, a revision. Holmes argues that trinitarian doctrine is largely agreed (there is no East/West Cappadocian/Augustine divide) right up to the eighteenth/nineteenth centuries, that is, theologians restate the earlier tradition. The twentieth century, partly in response to the nineteenth century, does not revive trintiarian doctrine from past (despite its claims), but is doing some different. Holmes does not argue that more recent trinitarian doctrine is wrong or that earlier ages were right. He leaves these questions unanswered.

The doctrine of the Trinity is not the easiest of doctrines (probably true for more than most!), because it can get quite technical in terms of language. Holmes is therefore to be congratulated on providing a help introduction and analysis of how the tradition makes it confession in God as Trinity. He is an able reader of these early and later theologians and presents a compelling case for his main argument. It will surely find its way onto many reading lists. In addition to the text itself, Holmes provides an excellent set of indexes (biblical texts cited, technical terms cited, and index of authors and subjects), which are always welcome to this reader. Having provided this historical study of trinitarian doctrine, we await perhaps a more critical work which explores the theological questions, which this present work does not seek to answer.

The Theology of John Zizioulas: Personhood and the Church
The Theology of John Zizioulas: Personhood and the Church
by Douglas Knight
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £41.21

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Personhood and Church, 11 Sep 2007
I first read John Zizioulas a few years back when I was a 1st year theology undergraduate. His two respective essays in Persons, Divine and Human and Trinitarian Theology Today were part of my introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity and especially the Cappadocian Fathers. I've enjoyed reading Zizioulas ever since. This collection of essays, edited by Douglas Knight, is a welcome addition to Zizoulas' theology. They are an attempt to offer a critical but appreciative assessment of his theology so far.

For the uninitiated, John Zizioulas is an Orthodox theologian and Metropolitan of Pergamon. He is best known for the book Being As Communion (first published in 1985) which was part of the trinitarian revolution in theology that has taken place in the last thirty years (accompanying the likes of Moltmann, Jenson, Torrance, Jungel, Gunton amongst others).

After a helpful introduction from Douglas Knight, that provides an accessible summary of the main themes and concerns of Zizioulas' theology, as well as some of the criticisms, we are offered twelve chapters that interact with nearly every aspect of Zizioulas' work. The highlights are Alan Brown's detailed defence of Zizioulas against those who have criticised his reading of the Cappadocian Fathers, Colin Gunton's discussion of whether there Zizioulas provides a strong enough doctrine of salvation, Douglas Farrow's exploration of Zizoulas' dialectic between necessity and freedom and whether this distorts his christology and ecclesiology and Demetrios Bathrellos' examination of Zizioulas' doctoral thesis Eucharist, Bishop, Church and the tensions in his theology between the local and universal church. I found Brown's essay especially helpful as he argues that the criticism of John Zizioulas arises out of "Postliberal Anglican" theologians (like Rowan Williams and John Milbank) who 'have spent considerable time arguing for an interpretation of particular Greek Fathers which is not at odds with their own interpretation of Augustine' (p.39). How they read Augustine affects their reading of the Cappadocian Fathers and leaves them in opposition to Zizioulas (and others like Gunton).

I was disappointed with Wolfhart Pannenberg's contribution. In a book called The Theology of John Zizioulas, he does not really engage with Zizioulas and only mentions him as once drawing his attention to an important line in Athanasius. It would have been interesting for Pannenberg to discussed the convergences and divergences between their two respective theologies. The blurb claims to 'represent an unrivalled introduction', but I think some knowledge of Zizioulas is helpful beforehand, despite the majority of essays offering summaries. Like Gunton said about Barth: 'you should try and read the man himself', so I suggest is the case with Zizioulas. This is not to suggest the book is not good, but that it will make it easier and more worthwhile having read Being As Communion and his more recent Communion and Otherness.

Zizioulas is an extremely important theologian, so have suggested he is a modern day church father and therefore this book makes a valuable contribution to the assessment of the impact and future of Zizioulas' theology. Despite severals dissertations and books, (which the book helpfully catalogues at the end), this is the first real book that solely discusses the theology of John Zizioulas. I'm looking forward to many more.

Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church
Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church
by John Zizioulas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £28.10

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Communion and Otherness, 11 Sep 2007
In 1985 John Zizioulas gave us Being As Communion, now twenty years later, Zizioulas offers us Communion and Otherness, which is in many ways a companion and sequel to his earlier work. The book is in part a difficult read and in others Zizioulas at his most accessible. Chapters 2 ('On being a person') and 4 ('The Trinity and personhood') are fantastic introductions to Zizioulas' reading of the Cappadocians and his ontological understanding of personhood. This is where to begin with Zizioulas and in my opinion a great place to start if trying to understand the doctrine of Trinity. (Both these papers were originally published in the Research Institute for Systematic Theology books Persons, Divine and Human and Trinitarian Theology Today).

The first chapter 'On Being Other' is a long and difficult read, which I guess is first because it discusses the book's title of communion and otherness - How are they reconciled? What are implications of a theology of otherness for the doctrine of God, creation, Christ, church and the human being?

I found the most interesting chapter was chapter 3, 'The Father as Cause' where Zizioulas attempts to defend and rebut criticisms that his assertion that the Father is the cause of Trinity is problematic. In particular he is responding to the objections raised by Alan Torrance in his monograph Persons in Communion (T & T Clark, 1996), where, although appreciative of some aspects of Zizioulas' theology, Torrance is unconvinced by Zizioulas' description. Zizioulas responds by first saying that 'Father' is a relational term and so it is 'impossible to make the Father ontologically ultimate without, at the same time, making communion primordial' (p.126), that is, we cannot speak about the Father without also speaking of the Son and the Spirit. Zizioulas thinks the problem with Torrance and others is we still tend to understand 'person' in a individualistic way rather than a relational way (p.127). Second, he says 'causal language ... refers to the how, not to the what of God' (p.128), that is, the Father does not give ousia ('being') to the Son or the Spirit, but the personal origin of the Son and the Spirit is from the Father. Third, Zizioulas says there is a taxis or ordering in the Trinity and so we find that 'Every movement in God, ad extra as well as ad intra, begins with the Father and ends with him' (p.138). It is perhaps helpful to understand Zizioulas here with a longer quote:

It is only when divine nature is somehow confused with the person of the Father, and personal causation with a process of imparting of divine nature by the Father to the other two persons, that the equality of the Trinitarian persons as fully divine is put at risk ... Divine nature does not exist prior to the divine persons, as a sort of possession of the Father who grants it to the other persons ... Divine nature exists only when and as the Trinity emerges, and it is for this reason that it is not 'possessed' by any person in advance (p.140).

This reader finds Zizioulas' argument a convincing case, although interestingly Colin Gunton joins the conversation in his chapter in The Theology of John Zizioulas (Ashgate, 2007) where he is in agreement with Zizioulas, but suggests that while recognising the Father as the cause, we also acknowledge that it is 'the Spirit is the one who, to use Basil's words, "completes the divine and blessed Trinity"' (Gunton, 2007, 103).

John Zizioulas is always a challenging, but rewarding read. His theology of personhood and the implications it has for the doctrine of the Trinity, the church, the human being are difficult to match and his theology will continue to be one that others find helpful. He has done us a great service in drawing Western theology back to the Cappadocian Fathers. Communion and Otherness will surely join Being as Communion as a much read and much quoted book.

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