Thought provoking book, matters of the heart for lay people, too
Take on this “On Christian Theology” if you choose to learn more of religious things, like matters of the heart and unities in God. The writer, Rowan Williams, says, “Theology needs to make connections, to search out and display unities…” This book by the Archbishop of Canterbury does that, even for this lay man who spent time pondering over ideas and directions in a manner that required study as well as reading.
There are large subjects addressed, like “The Judgement of the World,” where he addresses many like ideas: “The diffuse discontent that consumer pluralism can engender (although it largely contains and even utilizes it) yields itself readily to any program that dresses itself persuasively enough in moral rhetoric…” There’s a taste of the theologian’s writing.
You won’t find this on a popular reading list, but certainly the publisher Blackwell has found a steady seller with this compilation. The subtitle is “Challenges in contemporary Christianity,” and apt it is–of special interest to Christians in general and Episcopalians and Anglicans in particular. Afterall, the Archbishop is an Anglican. Here he remarks on the world and we as creatures in relation to God. Along the way he says what God is to us and creation. He calls this God’s freedom: “…God in creation means that God cannot make a reality that then needs to be actively governed, subdued, bent to the divine purpose away from its natural course. If God creates freely, God does not need the power of a sovereign: what is, is from God.” Sometimes the writing is clearer to me than others, which is my limitation. I understand, “what is, is from God.” Here’s an understandable statement, among many in an understandable book, from the chapter “On Being Creatures”: “Being creatures is learning humility, not as submission to an alien will, but as the acceptance of limit and death…” He says for that we need moral imagination. One gets the idea of the scope of his concerns and thinking, which are matters of the heart and living.
In the chapter, “Word and Spirit” (again larger subjects, but fascinating and engaging ones to the Christian reader, and others I think), the author says what is extraordinary, or ordinary about the Christian human being. For afterall, this man can speak of being a Christian and of the Christian human being: “We can recognize perhaps more clearly the dispressure of the figure of the crucified Messiah: we can accept more readily the breaking of certain kinds of sacral barrier, so that ‘Spirit’ ceases to be confined to the extraordinary but becomes a qualification of Christian human being.”
Some other chapters: “Triniity and Ontology,” “Between the Cherubim,” (“It will effectively be claiming tht what is vital to Christian discourse about the resurrection can be stated exclusively in terms of what happens to the minds and hearts of believers when proclamation is made that the victim of the crucifixion is the one through whom God continues to act and speak.”), “Nature and Sacrament,” “Sacraments of the New Society” (“…we are either bound together by being ‘seen’ by God as distant, as strangers, or bound together in a common assurance that we are received, affirmed, adopted.”
Today, in this season of Epiphany, in the winter of California where I live, I wanted to write a poem for this review (a kind of review in itself). Here it is:
Epiphany Brings News
by Peter Menkin
The Winter is young,
Trees bare against a grey sky.
Epiphany brings news
To me of the resurrection’s
Through this gift,
In the cross-resurrection.
This Rowan Williams
Tells us these things;
Wait on the Christ-open heart.
This theologian I am reading
Shed enmity towards failures,
Enmity between people,
Then comes friendship with God.
Not matters of the mind,
Of the head,
But of the heart.
I think of Easter,
“the living of the believing life.”
Our trust is in Easter.
Many people have said that Rowan Williams writes of the crisis in our world, even the back cover notes proclaim such: “Overall, Williams presents a theological perspective acutely aware of the cultural and political crises of our time…” I would be remiss to leave that statement out of this review. For me, though, I found this a book of spirit and interesting writing opening windows and doors during this winter season into a light on the Trinity and man’s relation to God in Christ. This isn’t a book for a quick read, and I enjoyed the studying of text, even where I knew I was becoming only familiar with terms and people. As I’ve begun to become familiar with Rowan William’s writings, I think I chose a good book as part of that familiarization process.
Peter Menkin — Epiphany
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA (north of San Francisco).