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Cjbevan "CJBevan" (Cardiff University, Wales, UK)

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Sweetly Broken
Sweetly Broken
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love this song, 27 Mar 2014
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Early in the song, there is a line which gets me every time; it is a beautifully concise summary of the Gospel, put poignantly to music, and it breaks my heart every time I hear it.

Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communites
Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communites
by Bruce W. Winter
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.12

4.0 out of 5 stars solid survey, 26 Mar 2014
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Another book dealing with scholarly examination of the role, status and function of women in antiquity, this compliments well those others I have. This deals with specifically Roman issues of law and custom concerning the ideals and realities of women in Roman society. It relies upon epigraphy, analysis of legal developments, and the comments of writers either praising virtues or condemning vices, or giving advice. It is striking how closely Paul's phraseology mirrors that of philosophical exhortations to women, and in particular to matronae, to wives and mothers. The book as a whole is thorough and repetitious, and so gives the impression of rigour. The author is not overtly partisan in his interpretation of Paul, but compares Paul's words freely, so one can get a good idea of the milieu which Paul was addressing, and thus his intention and purpose.

An especially memorable image is that of messengers who would report conduct to magistrates, so as to ascertain whether a cult or society was legal or not; cults with sex, as well as political societies were illegal, so the Christians had to demonstrate that they were neither. It is quite possible therefore that the strange phrase that women should keep their heads veiled because of the angels should be read as messengers, in other words, so that the women could be demonstrably be seen as not prostitutes, or immoral wives or widows, and thus participating in or forming an illegal cult. The references to disgrace with a shaven or cropped head are to punishments for lewdness and sexual impropriety . This emphasises the rhetorical nature of Paul's words, for this is a juggling of images and ideas with exhortations to worship and purity, as well as legal caution and the theology of Creation and Redemption.

The overwhelming impression is the sheer volume of exhortation to women to be housewives; to be not ashamed of it, and to be glad to serve the Lord in this way. Although there were powerful and influential women, the confrontation is against immorality and neglect of family life. It reinforces the counter-cultural aspects of Paul's writings; no one is let off the hook; men must not have sex with anyone but their wives; no prostitutes, no slave-girls, no mistresses, no casual sex after dinner-parties, and no boys at all.

Women must not let prior status or rank interfere with their managing of the family affairs, and not let hedonism or comfort distract them, let alone sexual impropriety or physical vanity, which led to abortion and contraception; they were to embrace child-bearing and breastfeeding; no drunkenness, no affairs with young men or slaves or married men and no casual sex; and they must dress in a respectable way, with no see-through clothes or ostentatious decoration.

Women at the time were enjoying many new social freedoms, as well as their traditional status as patrons and cultic functionaries, and there was then a state of flux as to their proper conduct and expectation (the New Women of the title). Augustan legislation confronting immorality and neglect of family life for both men and women had the net effect of actually raising the profile of women in politics, and the words of Paul about female authority would seem to directly confront this within the church sphere.

Life at that time seems remarkably similar to now, except that now we are generally more moral.

Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece
Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece
by Joan Breton Connelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: 25.22

5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting and well researched study, 26 Mar 2014
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The precise role of the female cultic functionaries of antiquity is elusive. There is nothing quite like it in contemporary society, and it is difficult to imagine. Many of those things were not systematically recorded or described, but were assumed or habitually repeated without comment, except obliquely, without explanation, assuming the readers or listeners would know the rest. It is frustrating for us, for we do not, and have little to work upon. Dr Connolly fills in the gaps as far as humanly possible by surveying epigraphic, textual, and artistic evidence to build up a compelling case for the recreation of those roles and functions within the polis of Hellenistic antiquity, and gives a much more full and coloured image with which to compliment our understanding of all aspects of Classical antiquity.

My only reservation is about her last section on the early church which is not so well referenced and where Dr Connolly frankly seems out of her depth. Here she presents wishful thinking rather than the rigorously evidenced conclusions elsewhere in the book.

Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition (Transformation of the Classical Heritage) (The Transformation of the Classical Heritage)
Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition (Transformation of the Classical Heritage) (The Transformation of the Classical Heritage)
by Claudia Rapp
Edition: Paperback
Price: 22.28

5.0 out of 5 stars small, but perfectly formed, 26 Mar 2014
Dr Rapp is to be highly commended for this excellent book. In my studies, I would occasionally come across a book so perfect in form and execution so as to make it pleasure to utilize. This is one of those rare books. It is not an area of speciality for me, so I feel unqualified to judge its overall calibre, but its measured and informed discourse encourage me greatly as to its reliability.

The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity
The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity
by Stephanie Lynn Budin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 20.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well done, unusual, possibly unique study., 26 Mar 2014
In the rather one sided debate about the ordination of women, among those who don't simply dismiss the Bible as irrelevant, or Paul as a misogynist, a common theme that arises is that of the role of women in antiquity, especially in religion. To that end I bought a book, Portrait of a Priestess, by Joan Breton Connelly . To that end I have also bought the Myth of Sacred Prostitution by Stephanie Lynn Budin. Dr. Connelly is professor of art history and classics at New York University, and Dr. Budin is an ancient historian specialising in ancient religion and iconography of Greece and the Near East. Neither of them are theologians, but both are specialists in their field, and both books are academic books, not populist, and present many detailed arguments. It is their witness that I seek in trying to understand the role of women in antiquity because I suspect fallacies in the standard hermeneutics of the New Testament in this regard. I have been rewarded in buying two good books, and hopefully gaining hard information and not rumour or innuendo.

Budin presents the hypothesis that sacred prostitution did not ever exist, and her book substantiates her claim. Connelly in her general survey of women in Greek and Hellenistic religion simply dismisses the idea of sacred prostitution, for which there is no firm evidence, citing a number of recent studies . Budin is rare in being an historian with almost equal facility in Greek, Latin and Semitic languages. Her apparent expertise in cuneiform as well as Juvenal and Herodotus make her well qualified to research this topic of equal interest to the Old and New Testaments, the more so since our understanding of these societies depends upon archaeology as well as the reading of classical sources.

Connelly's study is more wide ranging, and is more concerned with the overall role and status of women in Greek and Hellenistic religion. She presents them much more completely than other books I have known, and gives a much more rounded picture of the many gender specific roles within the temple cults and processions and mystery religions. These are most prominent of course in the cults of female deities, for whom the high priestesses, the highest functionaries and the greatest exemplars or icons in processions and rituals would always be women. Even in these female deities there were roles specific to men common to most temple cults; for example the actual butchers or slaughterers were always men. In female cults, the male roles were less important, or prominent. In male cults, the female roles were less important or prominent; for example those of weavers and bakers, and keepers of keys. It is striking how gender specific roles were, and deities were, and how the gender roles of deities and citizens overlapped and complimented each other. A city without goddesses or women was unthinkable. It is also noteworthy how although less prominent or high status in a given context, all those gender specific roles were considered necessary and proper, and effectively indispensable. She also presents women as patrons of temples and cities, dedicating statues and honours, erecting buildings, and receiving seats of honour in the theatres. Citizens of status, with power and influence.

Budin is more than a Classicist and goes into considerable detail from cuneiform texts, and Mesopotamian and Levantine language and literature to discover what various terms really mean . An interesting part is her analysis of the Semitic noun qdsh . In BDB it is listed as 'temple prostitute' , as it is in Gesenius ; New Jerome says shrine prostitute . In Holladay it is listed as 'secrated person, cult prostitute' . Now the former is simply a translation of the word, since the stem means 'to be holy' and the word is a feminine noun derivative. The link between it and sex is unsubstantiated, except by assumptions about near eastern goddesses and their worship, which in turn return to Herodotus. She goes into great detail into the vocabulary of female functionaries all around the Near East, and at no point is prostitution directly connected to cultus; more the opposite, for there are several instances of women as sexually taboo during temple service.

"None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God .

In the light of the study, these people are more likely to be cultic functionaries at various shrines, qds. For the Israelites, worship is offered by Levites and prophets, and the only valid shrine is the temple or the tabernacle. The only acceptable divination is by the Aaronite cohenim with the urim and thummim of the ephod , and by the prophets. For Israelites to consecrate their children would transgress the Levitical separation, and to worship elsewhere would contradict the idea of the Presence 'enthroned above the cherubim' over the Ark; there are no other shrines , consecrated areas or holy buildings, as such. This is in great contrast to the surrounding cultures. Other places and persons in this context are consistently reviled .

The wages and fees of the next sentence are in context of normal names for prostitutes; zonah and celeb (although this word is assumed rather than proven); both refers to them, not to the former qdswt and qdsym. To argue that the juxtaposition forces the usage is baseless; the verse prior to that was about runaway slaves, and the next after is about lending money, and there is no obvious joining of these two sentences. All these verses are about money, and the incorrect means to gain it. The cultic functionaries are unacceptable to God. Prayers, petitions, oracles, and worship are not for sale, and they are conducted strictly by those appointed by God, the Levites, Cohenim and prophets, in the place chosen by Him. There is then a strict propriety in worship.

Budin argues that the myth started with Herodotus , who for unknown but not unimaginable reasons included stories about oriental customs involving sex. The tendency for ancient authors to draw from one another is well known, and Herodotus normally makes some reference to the origin of his information, and normally makes little judgement about the exotic customs around the world, but in the case of Babylon he makes exceptions. Budin suggests that at least some of his stories are fabrications , and this in particular as a literary motif for the rape of Babylon itself by the Persians .

She translates Pindar and Strabo demonstrating that the common readings of their texts are dependent upon assumptions of cultic prostitution, and thus there were no temple harlots of Aphrodite in Corinth for instance, nor Ephesus, nor anywhere else in the Greek world. With reference to Strabo's assertion of 1000 temple prostitutes, the New Jerome commentary draws a similar line to Budin in rejecting the stories veracity, concluding that Corinth at the time was typical in its sexual improprieties . The ESV Study Bible however takes a traditional line with reference Strabo, but qualifies it with the question about whether it is the earlier or later temple, and concludes probably the earlier . This accords with both Budin's analysis of the traditional accusation of the other in the issue of sacred prostitution, as well as the lack of direct evidence for it. By contrast the NIV Study Bible accepts at face value the common reading of Strabo, first in reference to the city in general , and then in text notes .

R T France in his discussion about the ordination of women describes the scene in Ephesus; no clear evidence that cult prostitution was involved, though evidence of comparable cults elsewhere in Asia minor suggests that it may have been , and influenced by the freedom of the female dominated worship of Artemis . This is the insidious innuendo about which one needs to beware. There is, as has been substantiated, no evidence for sacred prostitution, so any hermeneutic alluding to it must be suspect. A common premise that I hear incorporates this assumption. It is commonly put that the reason for Paul's descriptions of ministry and authority with regards to women, and with regard to sex and homosexuality, and with marriage is influenced or dominated by this as a response to the environment, the context against which it is written. In the case of France, he wishes to make the point that Paul didn't want women in Ephesus to have authority over men within the church because of the temple of Diana, or Artemis. In that temple, women had power, and perhaps were sacred prostitutes, or else that prostitution was involved in the worship.

Connelly would concur that the women of the temple in Ephesus could be powerful and influential in the community, and that some detail about the rituals and processions could be reconstructed, but also that none of the evidence so far hints at sexual impropriety. France alludes to the empowered nature of the women, which contradicts a common understanding that Paul wanted the church to reflect the normal disempowered status of women. Connelly argues that women were empowered within the religious sphere, perhaps to a greater extent than any other, although statements about the repression of women have to set against evidences for power and status and influence on the part of at least some women elsewhere in life.

The other issue alluded to by France is that of sexual worship. This other aspect is that of what might be called corruption, that women in power might corrupt the minds of men by allusion to prostitution; that the other women in spiritual authority were prostitutes and thus women in authority in the church would be compared with, or take as exemplars, prostitutes. That either the church would be compared to a brothel, or else that church members would be tempted to fornication by association.

The two arguments above are so obviously fallacious as to render explanation embarrassing; they only make sense as innuendo; there is no defensible rationale.

A theology of redemption might well commend the installation of female authorities in the church so as to balance and redeem the spiritual authority of the women in paganism; to create a heavenly mirror to the pagan corruption of worship. If hypothetically the temple within its time and place was normal, then empowered women were normal. If that was normal, why then was Paul contradicting the norm by disempowering women in the church? If Paul was being deliberately ab-normal, why is it argued that Paul's restrictions on authority are about conforming to the norm? If Paul was being deliberately ab-normal, what then was his motive, being as how there was no sacred prostitution? The reasons he gives are to do with Creation and the Fall and the divine order from Genesis; to say that Paul's reasons are in fact disingenuous, mere sophistry, is a serious accusation against Paul's integrity, and would justify dismissing his views on many things; if however Paul was sincere in his objections, then to dismiss them arbitrarily as meaningless, seconding-guessing his real meaning behind his stated meaning, is to trivialise Paul's ministry, that he claims is particular as an apostle .

The Retreat of Reason: Political Correctness and the Corruption of Public Debate in Modern Britain (Second Edition)
The Retreat of Reason: Political Correctness and the Corruption of Public Debate in Modern Britain (Second Edition)
by Anthony Browne
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars rhetoric in the best sense, 26 Mar 2014
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This is short, concise and to the point. It does supply few examples and references, and doubtless contains some inaccuracies; it might even be described as a tract. It does however accurately describe an intellectual and philosophical stupor in the west that cries out for recognition and correction, and such a stupor can only be corrected by the rhetoric of the convinced and the articulate. Browne is to be thanked for adding his voice to the cause in the hope that something may be done, across all political parties, to restore reasoned debate to public life.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
by Theodore Dalrymple
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing; a lucid analysis and a fine turn of phrase, 26 Mar 2014
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My GCSE studying daughter was asked to read some non-fiction, and so rather than pander to the current mores, I offered her this; a beautifully written critique of our current western European mire. It is refreshing to find someone willing to face facts, examine cause and effect, open-mindedly and reflectively, and come to some kind of plausible conclusion. All too often, the woolly-minded, blinkered, Utopian dreams have in fact not uplifted our weak and oppressed, but excused them the trouble of doing so, and thus betrayed them with soft lies into the degradation of self-pity and self-absolution. It is no favour to anyone to deny or deceive them of their responsibilities. Reality bites hard, and the drug addled criminalia, and the wretchedly oppressed of our sink-estates demonstrate just how hard it does. Our authorities first role is to keep the peace, and thus is simply not done out of fear of political correctness, and Dalrymple exposes the Orwellian doublethink. It does mean though that the solution resides in overturning decades of fluffy idealism with some hard truths, which is easier said than done.

How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership
How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.18

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing; cop out; a fudge, 15 Mar 2014
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This was bought by me partly in a forlorn hope that someone would nail a conclusive argument so I could accept it happily, but otherwise so I could see how people in favour of this were thinking and talking. I wanted to know so that when discussing this rationally (which is very rare indeed) I could do so in an informed and responsive manner, and not at crossed purposes (which I have noticed is also common) with whosoever wanted to do so.

Leadership is a broad term, and nowhere does this book attempt to describe it. Appointment of church leaders was not in Scripture based upon spiritual gifts in the same a way as prophets and apostles, but the requirements stated in the epistles are those of character and maturity. The Amazon book description which bases its premise on gifts is indicative of the experiential theology which follows in the book. This is a book about feelings, which are irrefutable in that one cannot prove the inner feelings of anyone about anything, and suits our current post-modern, relativist, subjectivist zeitgeist. Of course, relativism and subjectivism are by their nature transient and mutable, so one might reasonably expect conclusions drawn so to also be transient and mutable; it would posit transience and mutability as somehow inevitable, and possibly indicative of truth, perhaps under the guise of authenticity. It is a book about a theology of experience, or as Barth might prefer, an anthropology of experience.

Experiential theology is of course nothing new; in the past mystics of varying shades (from Julian of Norwich to Milton to Emanuel Swedenborg to William Blake to Evelyn Underhill to Bahá'u'lláh to Khalil Gibran) and liberal theologians (Schleiermacher, von Harnack et al) have espoused experiential method but a quick survey of these names will reveal the dubious nature of much of their revelation. Julian of Norwich would be mortified to know how misused her Revelations of Divine Love have been; she was an orthodox Catholic solitary, and would be horrified to be considered anything else, yet the most fantastical ideas are attributed to her, partly on account of her style of writing. Yet she submitted humbly to the Church of the day, and to its teaching, and to the Scriptures, which many of these mystics did not do; this would have kept her in the straight and narrow of truth. The others felt free to cast off as they saw fit, hence Milton's wonderful poetry but dubious theology (the poetic madness there did not lead to divine illumination!), and thence to the almost occult leanings of Blake and Swedenborg. Our guard against all this error is Scripture, which is why Karl Barth returned so passionately and vehemently to Scripture in confronting firstly his own helplessness in dealing with the spiritual issues of real life, and then also the errors of the Lutheran church's agreement with first the Kaiser (von Harnack, Schleiermacher) and then the Nazis; and that is what is missing from this volume.

There is no cogent Scriptural argument to overturn our apparently grotesque misunderstandings of the past. Astonishingly, one the last entries in the book is by the Anglican bishop John Bernard Taylor who as a Cambridge graduate with a double first in classics and theology, as a professional churchman and thus theologian, as one describing himself as evangelical, after a life time of work and ministry and discipleship, confesses that he is unable to articulate a coherent argument for the righteousness in overturning and dismissing this witness of Scripture, and passes over to R T France, who in reality is equally unable so to do. If this was some abstruse technical discussion about the philosophy of time in Church Dogmatics, it would be pardonable; but it is not. It is an issue clearly spelt out in Scripture for all to see and know in order that the church should govern its affairs uprightly within the witness of Scripture. There is meaning to these texts which none of these exegetes can explain if they dismiss its obviousities. Which is why it all falls back to feelings, and then the more or less urgent need to bring Scripture into line with those feelings; obviously for some that need is more urgent than for others. Jesus did things the other way about; he returned the experience and ideas of those he was with back to Scripture.

The other somewhat diffident or critical reviews also reflect my reception of this book, and also allude to the real issues; the driving force behind all this is our cultural liberationism, and the common misconception of liberationism as equivalent with righteousness. Within the secular civil rights movement, that of course is quite acceptable and consistent, but it is not the same for the people of God. God is not answerable to the civil rights movement, or to liberationist agendas, and nor are we. He has spelled out truth and righteousness for us to receive on His terms.

The references to patriarchy in the book betray this undercurrent, never explicitly owned to. The whole concept of patriarchy is a pejorative term for a feminist construct; to polemicise and attack traditional forms which are not in agreement with a feminist agenda. It is sexist in itself in that it is defined by male and female, and vilifies the masculine, so in this aspect it is no answer to sexism; it is simply sexism by a different name and form.

I will not buy into a hermeneutic which dismisses Scripture, and is governed by a Godless agenda, negating the beauty and goodness of male and female, and God's Revelation of Himself in all these things.

The Incredibles (2-disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2004]
The Incredibles (2-disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Craig T. Nelson
Price: 5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars the best of the best, 17 Jan 2014
Pixar have lifted the game as regards children's cartoons. many of their films are worthy of multiple viewings, and have taken much potential pain out of watching film with children. This one, The Incredibles, I consider the best of all so far. The asides, the wry look at family life, at growing up, the visual puns and details, the themes, the humour as well as the basic ethics are all excellent. To add even more to a great film, a modern classic, there is in this disc pack the shorts Boundin' Lamb and Jak-Jak Attack, which would stand out as children's classics alone. the best film I have bought for my children.

Honest to God - 50th anniversary edition
Honest to God - 50th anniversary edition
by John Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars when people stop believing in god, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything, 10 Dec 2013
A more disingenuous title can hardly be imagined . So far, by page 46, God hardly seems to figure, him being so obsolete and all, and honesty only seems to mean that he admits to being bewildered by Christianity; yet he refuses to simply resign his job as bishop as an honest man would do. Anglicanism seems to consist for him as something without Christianity. Pictures of him, brow furrowed over his clerical collar, show that early-to-mid 20th century intellectual churchman; one of those who had not yet owned up to their theological bankruptcy. I started to read this book because of an article on the BBC website written by an apostate priest whose brother I once knew .

The most interesting aspect of the book (hence two stars not one) is Robinson's realisation of the gap between Christianity and European culture; the gap gleefully described by Stuart Murray as the end of Christendom . That gap is also described by Hans Rookmaaker in the context of art . Robinson correctly identifies the fallacy of the god of the gaps, but does not rise to the philosophical challenge of then understanding just who god is beyond the gaps. He can understand the god of superstition, but not the god of faith. He can see mythological function, but not mythological truth. In this he is an extraordinarily nave and pedestrian thinker. For Robinson, the lack of consensus within European culture means that Christianity itself, Christ himself, must be lacking; he mistakes cultural perceptions for epistemological absolutes. For this liberal theologian, the fact that many do not believe means that the belief must be wrong, that a new belief must be found that is palatable to the many. This is the tail wagging the dog. To admit that teaching and preaching had failed to communicate the Gospel to a new generation would be a statement of fact; to admit that the church was itself a cultural artefact from the past would be accurate; but neither seems palatable to Robinson. Somehow, he says, the Gospel must be separated from Christianity, or at least for what has passed for Christianity in the past. It is not he or the church that has failed, but God. The idea of Gospel seems deeply entrenched in his psyche, but he seems unaware of just how nonsensical it is to speak of a Gospel apart from God. He does not seem to be using the word generically, as describing a phenomenon of desire or religious experience, but that the Church and the Gospel have an objective existence separate from God and that their role in the New Age must be found as part of new human experience, as if humans had objectively changed. This is pure Darwinian liberalism, and pure anthropology from the point of view of Barth, and puerile theology which I am surprised anyone with any faith or nous took seriously. Ther's nowt so queer as folk. It is an interesting coincidence that when Robinson published this, over in America, the producer and convener of the Righteous Brothers had his own crisis of faith. He too could see the disconnect between Christianity and culture, and subsequently sought to make a church for baby boomers; he was John Wimber. The idiocy of Robinson was that he sought to recreate the gospel without God, but keeping the ordinal and liturgical forms intact; Wimber sought to recreate the church, but keeping the Gospel intact. Robinson's view of deity became of a kind of pantheism. To paraphrase Chesterton, when people stop believing in god, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

An interesting stumbling block for Robinson is his apparent inability to understand eternity. He keeps referring to the problem of god being localised or personified as 'up there' or 'out there', and thus of the impossibility of incarnation or any metaphor of god's relationship to earth. He does not describe how to communicate God's separateness from creation without such terms; indeed, he does not seem to want to do this, and his pantheism explains why. The scientific viewpoint which for him overwhelms his understanding does not obviate such language; the universe has limits but they are not described concisely in science. Light seems to move at the speed which limits all transmission, so the observable universe can be theoretically limited by that knowledge . No one has discerned an edge to it though, and no one can confidently describe its overall shape, so these things are mysterious. It is not complex though to make the assertion that if God made the universe and he is not part of it, that somehow he exists outside the universe but can look into it. We cannot see out of the universe, hence God's transcendence, but we can respond to his presence, hence God's immanence. We can observe God acting, and remember it, hence the Scriptures. This has nothing to do with clouds, or medieval world views, or the technologies of any time. The usages of up and down are definitively subjective, as are east and west, but that fact that east and west do not exist as places does not mean they are useless terms, any more than past or present. The great paradox of the knowledge of god is the interrelation of time and eternity; God has put eternity in the hearts of men .

The whole argument of Robinson presupposes that there is no reality to conversion, no spiritual regeneration, no renewal, no sanctification, no work of the Holy Spirit as per the accounts of the Apostles; that these things are simply myths in the base sense; fanciful or unreal stories illustrating desire or fear. A constant dichotomy is the religious as opposed to the ... Christian? This common reference displays dissatisfaction with practice, but does not allow for a genuinely new ideal. The word religion means that which we do, whether in church as such or not; to stigmatise the word creates a need for a new word, but such a word will have an equivalent meaning. The rejection of the word implies a rejection of something, and that something is what Robinson is attempting to define in this book, at the same time as he attempts to find what he does want. My own take is that he needs to be converted in order to discover the truth of the Gospel, and that his dissatisfaction is simply the dissatisfaction of play-acting Christianity without Christ; in other words as an unconverted churchman, in the words of Jesus, an hypocrite. But he dismisses such conversions as merely the lunatic fringe of the church; such folly to the Greeks and stumbling blocks to the Jews as trivialising what the Gospel really is. Once converted, such semantics would cease to be so important, except as rhetoric. His dismissal of conversion would inhibit his ever discovering the truth of it, were it not for the Lord's gracious humility, and willingness to circumvent our stubbornness, and bring us to saving knowledge of himself, redeeming us and healing us, and restoring us to himself. This is the Gospel. Maybe it did happen, by his devoted study of the Apostles teaching .

The conclusion of the book attempts to contradict many of the impressions gained during the reading of it, but in the end the optional buttresses, the lesser commitments as he calls them, are the particular myth of the Incarnation, the particular code of morals are equivalated with a particular pattern of religion. He warns that we must cling to Christ and not to them, and not insist on them being the way to Christ, and that for many they are barriers and not supports.

My response is to ask quite what Christ can be without the scandal of particularity? To be a man, he has to have been born at a time, in a place, as an individual. Without that, the whole Deuteronomistic theme of Scripture is nonsense; that God acts, and that God speaks and demands of us a response; that God has chosen to act in a certain way, in a certain place, in a certain time, and that is his free choice according to His Will; that all this is God's self disclosure; His revelation of Himself by his saving acts. The Christ left behind after the particulars are removed is nothing but a vague idea; a nebulosity; a nothingness. It remains as wishful thinking with no root in reality.

This conclusion still seems to me that he cannot separate the artefact of the church from the church's witness; the message of the Gospel from the culture of its transmission. For him then the invalidity of the artefact describes the invalidity of the message; I would assert that they are completely separate; the artefact may be a product of the message, and if so, and if properly understood in the context of its time, then its message can be still be good. Like any other foreign language, it can be mistranslated or misunderstood. It is interesting to write this at Pentecost, when remembering the reversal of Babel; it also underlines the point that the Gospel is nonsense to the perishing. The Gospel has become incomprehensible to him and to his people. Only by this same Holy Spirit can Salvation be intelligible and experienced. Then it becomes the wisdom of God, the sign of Life.
He speaks of liberal theologians as other than himself, but liberal method with its emphasis upon reason and experience is what he describes, and extraordinarily, he wants to define Christ in terms selected by those who do not know Christ; the idea of a message to proclaim, to be informing those ignorant of the truth, to be spreading Good News is ignored under the assumption that Christ is already known by all, and that we merely articulate what all otherwise know. Quite what we are articulating if the divine self-disclosure is ignored he does not pretend to know; all he knows is that he doesn't know; he is truly agnostic.

In the 2001 printing, Rowan Williams provides an after word. I feel vindicated in that he says almost exactly the same things as I, but nuanced rather differently; likewise a couple of the reviews in Amazon . One says how brilliant this is; verbose and diffident Williams learnedly vacillates, as is his wont. If I lacked confidence in my conclusion before, I do so no longer.

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