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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound and timely book, 13 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay 'On The Trinity' (Paperback)
In this fine book, Sarah Coakley argues that in seeking to engage with the mystery of the Trinity today we need also to take on board the `intrinsic entanglement of human sexuality and spirituality'. Here she offers a systematic theology, a theologie totale, that honours the practice of contemplation, offers a theology that is always in transit, explores the inter-relating between theology and psychology and attends to art, poetry and music. Her `total theology' seeks to overcome all false divides between what we believe and how we live, and between the worlds of thought and feeling.

In this enterprise, Coakley sees Romans 8 as the touchstone for an emerging understanding of the Trinity, including: `When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ...' (vv. 15-17). She then traces the story of contemplation and Christian ecstasy within the context of the life-changing equality between Father, Son and Holy Spirit and, where appropriate, their relevance to gender. For example, she shows the link between the Spirit-filled ecstasies of Montanism and the honouring of women in positions of power and authority. A further instance is found in John of the Cross, who alludes to Romans 8 and the `Holy Spirit's action on the "feminized" soul'.

In the later chapters, she offers an intriguing discussion on the tendency to demote the Spirit in the depiction of the Trinity by Christian artists and engages in detail with Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine, their views on the Trinity and their references to gender. For instance, Gregory sees `all three "persons"' as `ultimately unknowable' and argues that desire for God is put `above all else', including our other desires. Dionysius the Areopagite takes the interchange of desire further, attributing an `ecstatic yearning' not only to human beings' longing for God but in God's profound love for his creation.

This beautifully reasoned and timely book has much to say on the Spirit's work in and through contemplation and prayer, not least for today's debate on women in the priesthood and episcopacy.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Jun 2014 09:58:34 BDT
Sheman says:
Thank you for your most poetically put review. Having purchased this book earlier in the year because the title, quite literally, 'caught my eye', (only to find, joy! of joys!, & clinchingly so, that it was by one of my old Lancaster Uni lecturers!,) yet not having found the time to read it, your review is an added, & sensitive, encouragement for me to do so. I shall look forward to my intellectual, spiritual, emotional & gender & sexuality affirming 'repast' with even more added 'relish' now.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2014 17:05:58 BDT
Thank you Sheman. I hope you find Sarah Coakley's book as intriguing and inspiring as I did.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2015 01:48:46 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Apr 2015 01:50:10 BDT
Hi Roger

Thank you for your review. It thoroughly convinced me that this is one of the books on "modern" Christianity I really don't need to read.

In the first place because I have seen the kind of disastrous influence so-called charismatic Christians can have on a congregation that isn't aware of their ideas and agenda,
Secondly, because If there is no taking or giving in marriage in Heaven then I can think of no earthly reason why I would need a "feminized soul", or to ponder and fantasies about sexuality and the Holy Trinity whilst I am on Earth.
(And yes, I have been in a mutually happy and satisfactory marriage for over thirty years, thank you.)

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2015 11:54:38 BDT
Thank you, A. J. Bradbury. I am with you in being aware of some of the dangers in the world of so-called charismatic Christians but can assure you that Sarah Coakley's book does not fall into this trap. Her writing does not fantasise about sexuality and the Holy Trinity so much as bids for the reality of our desires and our need to allow the Spirit to control and channel them. In that context it's good to know of the prolonged stability and happiness of your marriage. I wish you all good things.
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