Current Issue Article Abstracts
Fall 2022 Vol. 57.4
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Global attention to receptive ecumenism has grown in recent years, prompting ecumenical theologians to ask, “What do we need to learn from another Christian tradition to help us address some of the wounds and weaknesses in our own?” Hitherto, much of the published work on receptive ecumenism has focused on its place in the formal ecumenical movement with little attention directed toward the grassroots. This contribution is a case study that identifies possible ecclesial learning by using receptive ecumenism to explore women’s experiences of working in diverse churches in England. It focuses on a particular example emerging from the broader research, during which Baptist women identified how the distribution of power in their churches can inhibit women’s flourishing, particularly in ministerial roles. Following the way of receptive ecumenism, after outlining the research context, I examine gifts shared by Methodist participants who spoke of positive structures of power. These, I argue, critique current practices, not only in the Baptist tradition but across diverse Christian traditions in England, providing the potential for churches to transform the way that power is distributed, especially with respect to women’s flourishing in leadership roles.
In discussing the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox communions, the term “schism” is often used as a way of explaining their separation and breaking of communion. While there is no doubting this estrangement, how can we simultaneously affirm the unity of the Una Sancta while viewing churches as separate entities? In this essay, I engage the thought of three twentieth-century Orthodox theologians—Nicholas Afanasiev, Georges Florovsky, and Philip Sherrard—and explore their understanding of schism. Ultimately, I argue that ecclesial schism is ontologically impossible and suggest that an eschatological approach to the Una Sancta helps solve this paradox.
The historical narrative of American ecumenism’s origins in the early twentieth century has not been revisited for generations. When future scholars revisit it, they should study the period for the sake of supporting the future work of ecumenism. Part of this work is the expansion of ecumenical bodies to include churches not currently engaged. I propose that the early pamphlet series, The Fundamentals, offers a good place to start. The pamphlets predate modernist schisms and do not reflect the sectarian posture of later groups. Editors of the text appealed to a broad Christian identity among American Protestants to promote cooperation in society. The included essays espouse a common confession while allowing for divergences on numerous doctrinal issues. Though many contributing authors would later become Fundamentalist leaders, others are remembered for their work to unite churches. The text is a product of the same unitive impulses that gave rise to ecumenical structures. I revisit the historical narrative of American ecumenism to discern how The Fundamentals offers insight into the doctrinal discourse of the period among churches, and I argue that the exclusion of the text from ecumenical historiography thus far reveals a modernist bias in American ecumenism.
Martin Luther’s Personalist Spirituality: Faith, Sacraments, and the Song of Songs
Christopher M. O’Brien
Without attempting to associate Martin Luther historically with the many complexities and implications of the twentieth-century philosophical school of personalism, this essay aims to trace the development of “personalist” tendencies in Luther’s works, particularly with regard to his treatments of faith and the sacraments. “Personalist” refers to Luther’s emphasis on Christ’s intimate and personal relationship with each individual Christian. This essay traces the personalist elements of his spirituality chronologically by dividing his works into three sections: early (1509–17), middle (1517–21), and late (1522 onward). Between the sections on Luther’s middle and late work, a brief excursus is taken to explore Luther’s understanding of the Song of Songs to highlight the development of his spirituality. The essay concludes by summarizing the trajectory of Luther’s spirituality and reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the theology that comes out of it. Positively, Luther’s spirituality highlights the personal and relational aspects of the Christian life and guards against overly mechanistic or impersonal understandings of grace. Negatively, Luther’s framework fails to incorporate an ecclesiological component adequately. Further work remains to be done to integrate his personalist theology into a “personalist ecclesiology,” in which Christ the bridegroom unites himself mystically not only to the individual Christian soul, but to the entire church, his bride, especially through the sacramental encounter.
Depending upon the diametrically opposed views of interpreting the sacred text, religion, which is an increasingly vital and shaping force in both personal and public life, can promote either global peace or pervasive conflict. Therefore, peace among nations cannot be achieved without peace among religions. The Sword Verse in the Qur’ān (9:5) is assumed to have abrogated numerous verses that advocate peaceful coexistence and religious freedom. Accordingly, Muslim extremists take this verse as the foundation on which to interact with people of other faiths. Adopting the contextual approach, this essay explores how the verse is understood by analyzing its historical circumstance and linguistic settings and compares its correct meaning with other verses of religious freedom and dialogue. It concludes that the above verse, when appropriately read within its circumstantial boundaries, never condones coercive conversion or militancy. Turning a blind eye to the context as a guiding methodological tool is an error that at times has serious implications for intrahuman relations, such as the case in point.
After sixty years of independence, Nigeria still struggles to find a unifying identity. Hyper religiosity and rigid tribal consciousness radically continue to define the national psyche. Colonialism operates with the intent to erase the other who falls victim to its sway. Thus, a society that suffers from the trauma of colonialism is a society that is always struggling with the fears of erasure, and Nigeria is no exemption. As Christians and Muslims seek to legitimize themselves in the country, they end up erasing each other from national life as though they have a monopoly over the nation. To address these colonial pathologies defining the national psyche, an interfaith theology of recognition ought to be embraced. This is a theology that is intentionally inclusive and grounded in the prophetic with the intent to affirm the flourishing of all lives both within and outside of one’s own religious tradition.
Enabling Dialogue about the Land: A Resource Book for Jews and Christians ed. by Phillip A. Cunningham, Ruth Langer, and Jesper Svartvik (review)
The Trials of Rasmea Odeh: How a Palestinian Guerrilla Gained and Lost U.S. Citizenship by Steven Lubet (review)
Interreligious Heroes: Role Models and Spiritual Exemplars for Interfaith Practice ed. by Alon Goshen-Gottstein (review)
Christoffer H. Grundmann
Blacks and Jews in America: An Invitation to Dialogue by Terrance L. Johnson and Jacques Berlinerblau (review)
David M. Krueger