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ISSN: 1044-6494 




Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 1993 


ISSN: 1044-6494 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 




A Short Course in Brethren Hermeneutics 1 

Dale R. Stoffer 

Onward Christian Soldiers: The Church as a Militant Body 5 

David T. Tharp 

The "New Age" Movement in The Light of Traditional 
Christian Theology 30 

Bishop Chrysostomos 

After-Modern Wesleyan Spirituality: Toward a 

Neo-Wesleyan Critique of Criticism 38 

Thomas C. Oden 

Virtuous Liberals: An Essay on Virtue, the Liberal State 
and the Church as Alternative 55 

Allan R. Revere 

Care of the Person with HIV/AIDS: The Biblical Mandate 68 

Elizabeth Anne Schenk 

Recent Trends in the Study of Jeremiah 75 

Bill T. Arnold 

Three Modern Faces of Wisdom 96 

Ben Witherington, III 

Book Reviews 123 

David W. Baker, Editor Ben Witherington, III, Reviews 

Journal articles are indexed in Elenchus ofBiblica, New Testament Abstracts, 
Old Testament Abstracts, Religious and Theological Abstracts and Religion 
Index One; reviews are indexed in Index to Book Reviews in Religion. The 
latter two indices, published by ATLA, 820 Church Street, Evanston, Illinois 
60201, are also available online through BRS Information Technologies, 
DIALOG Information Services and Wilsonline. Views of contributors are their 
own and do not necessarily express those endorsed by Ashland Theological 


Published and copyright held by Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio, 

44805. Printed in the USA. 


Thanks be to God for his indescribable gifts which we remember 
at this time of year — for the bounty of his physical gifts remembered 
at Thanksgiving, and the even more bountiful grace of his Son, whom 
we remember a month later. We thank him for a good year at Ashland. 
Our numbers are growing, but even more importantly, the Holy Spirit 
is moving among us, with fervency in prayer and concern for our com- 
munity and the world. 

We also pray for you in your areas of ministry — the church, the 
school, the social agency, the community. May this diverse collection 
of articles and reviews encourage, stimulate and challenge you to think 
about the place of Christ in our world. Please pray for us, as we do 
for you, that we all may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our 
Lord, Jesus Christ. 

David W. Baker 
Thanksgiving, 1993 

A Short Course in Brethren Hermeneutics 

by Dale R. Stoffer* 

Over the last fifteen to twenty years, the Brethren elders have dealt 
with such issues as baptism, ordination of women, and ordination of 
divorced people. In these discussions we have become increasingly 
aware that how we resolve such issues is dependent, to a great extent, 
on how we approach Scripture, that is, our hermeneutical foundation. 
Hermeneutics, or the way we interpret Scripture, is of crucial impor- 
tance as we discuss these, or any other, Scriptural question. 

Part of the frustration we feel at times as we deal with these ques- 
tions is that we begin with slightly different presuppositions that 
predispose us to differing positions. In most cases, these differences 
have nothing to do with being liberal or conservative in our view of 
Scripture. In fact, elders in The Brethren Church today generally hold 
a high view of Scripture. This is as it should be, for respect for and 
obedience to Scripture are inherent in the Brethren heritage. Never- 
theless, two people with an equally high view of Scripture may indeed 
differ on the above issues. Rather than labeling people because they 
do not hold the same view as we do, we need to take the time to 
understand why they approach the issue as they do. If we do this, if 
we seek to understand people's hermeneutics, we develop a point of 
reference from which we can begin a profitable dialogue. 

A person's starting point in hermeneutics is crucial; it will color 
everything else. Brethren have started with Jesus Christ as God's fullest 
and final revelation to humanity. J. Allen Miller described God's revela- 
tion made in Jesus Christ and contained in the New Testament as 
perfect, complete, and final. We need to look for no other revelation. 
Because of this Christocentric approach, we see the New Testament 
as providing a more complete revelation than the Old Testament. 
Though they are equally inspired, and though there is a continuity of 
God's work between the Old and New Testaments, yet we give priority 
to the New Testament; we are a New Testament church. We take 
seriously the concept of progressive revelation in Scripture, i.e. that 
God has progressively disclosed His will from Genesis to Revelation. 
This approach differs from the Reformed view which tends to em- 

*Dr. Stoffer (MDiv, ATS; Ph.D., Fuller Setninary) is Assistant Professor 
of Historical Theology at A TS. 


phasize continuity between the Old and New Testaments. Thus they 
would see a parallel between circumcision and infant baptism; they 
would support, historically, a state church, the close tie between state 
and church. 

The Christocentric view of Scripture has also led the Brethren to 
give precedence to the Gospels, which record the words of Christ 
Himself. This again differs from the Reformed tradition which tends 
to interpret the Gospels by the epistles. The main practical difference 
here is how the Christian life is viewed. Brethren do follow the Re- 
formed view of conversion, which tends to be Pauline and Petrine. 
But their understanding of the Christian life is more filtered through 
the Gospels. The Christian life is seen as one of unconditional 
discipleship to Christ, of wholehearted obedience to our Lord, of self- 
denying service. The whole debate over "Lordship salvation" in con- 
servative and dispensational circles is inconceivable from a Brethren 
perspective. The basic confession of the early church, even in the 
Pauline churches, is Jesus Christ is Lord. 

There are five other features of our Brethren approach to Scripture 
that deserve consideration. The first is the concept of the inner and 
outer Words. The Brethren have followed the Anabaptists in emphasiz- 
ing both the outer Word, Scripture, and the inner Word, the Spirit, 
in the process of interpreting Scripture. The believer needs to follow 
God's outer, objective, written Word with wholehearted, humble obe- 
dience; but it is only through the inner witness of the Spirit that one 
can understand Scripture with a spiritual understanding. The inner and 
outer Words should always work together in a reciprocal relationship; 
after all, there should be agreement between both Words since it was 
the Holy Spirit who inspired all of Scripture. The outer Word and in- 
ner Word will therefore not be at odds; if someone claims the direc- 
tion of the Spirit yet does not follow Scripture in his or her words and 
deeds, the guiding Spirit clearly is not God's Spirit. 

Related to the proceding point is a second quality of Brethren 
thought; it is both conservative and progressive. The conservative side 
of our thought is that we must ever be obedient and faithful to God's 
unchanging Word (the outer Word of Scripture). The progressive side, 
which was emphasized by the Progressive Brethren, is that we must 
always be open to new ways of conveying God's unchanging Word 
to new and changing cultures. Progressives at the time of the 1882-83 
division felt that we must take advantage of such "innovations" as Sun- 
day Schools, evangelism, higher education, etc. if we were to speak 
to American culture effectively. This progressive side really represents 
the ongoing work of the inner Word, the Spirit of truth, who empowers 
and guides us in our engagement with our culture. Brethren have been 

willing, at least at times, to be open to new light that the Spirit sheds 
on Scripture. This new light may bring us more in line with Scripture, 
as when the early Brethren modified their communion practices bas- 
ed on what they discovered from Scripture. Or it may lead us to new 
ways to communicate the gospel in contemporary culture. 

A third characterstic of the Brethren hermeneutics has been a holistic 
approach to interpreting Scripture. The Brethren used to have a slogan, 
"The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible." They de- 
scribed themselves as a "whole Bible church." Brethren have tended 
to seek all that Scripture says on a topic an wrestle with all the rele- 
vant data in developing their doctrines and practices. We might call 
this a holistic hermeneutic. It is this quality that gave us our threefold 
communion; the early Brethren conflated the Synoptic and Johannine 
accounts of the Last Supper. It is this quality that also caused us to 
accept a number of rites that few if any other groups were observing: 
feetwashing, love feast, love kiss, anointing service, discipline. It also 
led us to take the view of assurance we do, i.e., conditional security, 
which gives recognition equally to what Scripture says about God's 
sovereignty and human respoonsibility. 

Fourth, Brethren give recognition to the role of both the individual 
and the corporate body in hermeneutics. Every individual who has the 
Spirit of truth living within is endowed with the necessary prerequisite 
to study and interpret Scripture. You don't need ordained clergy to 
do that for you. This is a sacred right and responsibility of every 
believer. It is this truth that undergirds the Progressive stress on the 
individual's freedom of conscience. The individual must not be coerced 
to do anything that he or she feels would be a violation of conscience. 

But the Brethren have also viewed the church as a hermeneutical 
community. Part of the Spirit's work is to bring God's people to unity 
of mind on pressing issues as we humbly search Scripture together, 
hear one another, forbear one another in love, pray together, and ge- 
nuinely seek consensus. Consensus can happen, but it takes work and 
demands speaking the truth in love. Our commitment to love each 
other in the body must lead us to the commitment not to leave or re- 
sent the body if a decision doesn't go my way. 

A final characteristic of Brethren hermeneutics is that the end of all 
study must be practical and existential. Our pietistic heritage has caused 
us to affirm that it is not enough to hold correct doctrine; we must 
also move on to correct living. We must have both orthodoxy and or- 
thopraxis. The goal of all Bible study must be the application of God's 
truth of my life. Brethren hermeneutics thus lead to a practical and 
existential approach to truth. Theology must never become an ivory 
tower activity. Among the Brethren theology has thus taken more of 

a Biblical, practical slant than a systematic, philosophical one. The bot- 
tom line for the Brethren is how obedient and faithful we are to the 
living Word of God. After all is said and done in the study of the Bible, 
this is all that counts. This point brings us full circle to where we began 
our hermeneutics -it is Christocentric. For the goal of Brethren 
hermeneutics is to have Christ formed in us; ours is an incarnational 
hermeneutic that desires to mature into the very stature of Christ 

Onward Christian Soldiers: 
THE Church as a Militant Body 

By David T. Tharp* 


As the human race approaches the twenty-first century, an increas- 
ing number of individuals are speculating as to what society will be 
like in the next millennium and what factors will be significant in in- 
fluencing its developments. J. Naisbitt and P. Aburdene note that 
humankind is at the threshold of the third millennium, and there are 
clear signs of a worldwide, multidenominational religious revival. The 
American baby boomers, noted for their having rejected organized 
religion in the 1970s, are now either returning to church or are becom- 
ing involved with the New Age movement.' 

New Age groups share no orthodox theology, but many adopt 
the East's belief in reincarnation. Unlike theJudeo-Christian God 
pictured far above humankind, there is a strong sense that 
humanity partakes of the divine. 

This drives fundamentalists mad. "This notion that man is 
somehow God is just blasphemous," most would say. Yet even 
the most orthodox catechism states that man is made in the im- 
age and likeness of God . . . 

Fundamentalists may dominate the cable channels, but New 
Agers have sewn up the market in channel mediums — individuals 
who say they permit their bodies and voices to be used as vehicles 
for teachers and messages from the great beyond — and 
sometimes grab a lot of the headlines. 

Charlene Pittman, in Tampa, channels for a spirit named 
Boyaed, a teacher born in India A.D. 324. 

Jack Pursel of San Francisco grosses more than S 1 million a year 
on seminars, counseling, and videocassettes as the channel for 
"Lazaris, the consummate friend." 

"Dr. Tharp (M.D., University of Rochester School of Medicine) is a 
1991 M.Div. graduate of ATS. 

J. Z. Knight, d women [sic], channels Ramtha, a thirty-five- 
thousand-year-old man. Some reportedly pay $1,500 to attend 
her seminars. 

To your average fundamentalist, this is the devil in action.' 

Rivals to the New Age movement are numerous. These may range 
from astrology to Tarot cards, or from religious cults, such as the Hare 
Krishna or Mormons, to outright Satanic worship. What effect do these 
trends have on the Christian church and on its view of itself and its 
role in society? Perhaps a more significant question is whether they 
have any effect at all. 

At times, it almost seems that the secular world grasps the essence 
of certain religious issues better than the church. In a newspaper 
editorial, C. Reese describes how Christians, much like General George 
Custer, are under attack but have been slow^ to counter due to their 
lack of understanding the gravity of the situation. He notes that 
historically Christians in Europe and America have been part of the 
power Establishment, and they have grown complacent. By the first 
two decades of this century, Christianity had become impotent and 
lifeless in terms of its power to affect society and individual behavior. 
Reese notes that society's priests have become psychology and social 
science, and Christianity is viewed as the enemy, as it represents a rival 
faith. ^ Even the mental health field is becoming aware of these issues. 
L. Cidylo describes how the prominence of cults has increased since 
the cult suicides of Georgetown, Guyana, under Reverend Jim Jones 
on November 18, 1978. She notes how cults have gained momentum 
in the last decade, but that even most psychiatrists are unaware of the 
potential destructiveness of cult involvement.^ In a world groping for 
answers to life and struggling with issues of evil on a daily basis, one 
naturally asks, "How has the church responded to meet these issues? " 

To understand the church, its functions, and its response to the 
world, A. V. Burkalow notes that symbolism is one of the primary 
means of expressing the beliefs and practices of the church, with this 
symbolism being especially evident in the hymns and music of the 
church. Images frequently have been drawn from nature ("rock of 
ages," "fount of every blessing") or from family relationships, such 
as the description of God as Father and Christ as the brother of 

However, when symbolism is taken too literally, misunderstandings 
can occur. For example, "the brotherhood of man under the 
fatherhood of God" seems to exclude women from the image, con- 
trary to its intent. The Bible also would not intend to indicate that 
God is strictly male as we understand male, in that God is a spirit and 

has no gender as we understand it. However, in an attempt to respond 
and accommodate those who see this Hterally, and thereby view it as 
discriminatory, whether it occurs in the Bible or in a hymnal, the 
church has attempted to create a genderless religion.^ 

A similar problem has risen around another traditional symbol as 
it relates to hymnology and, at a deeper level, how the church views 
itself and its mission. This relates to battle symbolism and the church 
as a militant body. Several years ago, the United Methodists were con- 
sidering the elimination of the hymn, "Onward, Christian Soldiers!" 
from their hymnal due to its militaristic language and images. It was 
felt that singing it would be seen as promoting war, when the goal of 
the church is peace. If one compares the hymnal of the Protestant 
Episcopal Church of 1940 with that of 1982, one finds that formerly 
there were forty-two hymns with battle symbolism compared with only 
twenty-three in the more recent edition. Because of tradition and the 
popular outcry in the United Methodist Church, the hymn was retain- 
ed; but it does not negate the fact that the church has found it increas- 
ingly uncomfortable viewing itself as a militant body of believers, in 
spite of Biblical and practical reasons for doing so. Burkalow reiterates 
the danger, previously warned about by Isaac Watts, that if our focus 
is only on praise and thanksgiving and little on the struggle of the Chris- 
tian life, we begin to leave the fighting to someone else. She concludes 

. . . if this symbolism is being neglected in hymns, is it perhaps 
neglected also in our sermons? Do not be afraid to speak and write 
about Satan and sin and to use militaristic symbolism to describe 
the personal and social warfare we must wage against them. 
Challenge us anew to carry on that spiritual warfare of ideas, for 
only when we have won the victory in this endeavor can we ex- 
pect to put an end to the threat of physical warfare and achieve 
the peace we so much desire. Let us not forget that in pursuit 
of that end we as Christians are called to be the church militant. 
We must be spiritual warmongers.^' 

J. M. Wall concludes that there is a place for militancy in the church, 
in that we need to contend against the common enemies of hatred, 
ignorance, sin, warfare, and prejudice; and " ... it may still be ap- 
propriate to put on the whole armor of God to defend ourselves . . . 
Onward, Christian soldiers — marching as to war, metaphorically 

It is the thesis of this paper that this battle symbolism must be ac- 

lively embraced if the church is to accomplish the task of "going and 
making disciples," as instructed by Christ. 

Spiritual Warfare and the Christian Life 

Before one can examine potential models of the church, one must 
first examine certain aspects of the Christian life, both individually and 
corporately. One central characteristic of the Christian faith is that it 
is made up of many apparent paradoxes. "For whoever wants to save 
his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 
9.24). "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your ser- 
vant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave" (Matt. 20.26). 
Perhaps the greatest paradox is how a sovereign, omniscient, and om- 
nipotent God would choose to use mankind as the vehicle for usher- 
ing in His kingdom. Luke states, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your 
Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12.32), while 
Matthew describes the kingdom being advanced through the efforts 
of the followers of God, as he states, "From the days of John the Bap- 
tist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, 
and forceful men lay hold of it" (Matt. 11.12). One can understand 
this apparent contradiction only by understanding a key element of 
the Christian life. 

The Christian Life 

God wants to give His kingdom to the believer and has made it 
available through the atoning death of Christ on the cross, but the ap- 
propriation of that kingdom in the living out of one's daily Christian 
life can only be done through commitment on the part of the believer. 
It is because Satan wants to keep the believer from receiving God's 
kingdom and all that it offers in the present life that spiritual warfare 
must be a part of the victorious Christian life. L. Lea warns that the 
greatest trick that Satan is playing on the American church is the lie 
that everything is all right. He states, "If we are to be the church trium- 
phant, we must become the church militant in this hour ."" 

The essence of the Christian life is that the ultimate victory over Satan 
and evil has already been won by Christ through His death and resur- 
rection, but the church must continue the daily battle in defending 
God's kingdom here on earth until Christ ultimately returns to claim 
it as his own. The essence of this struggle is encapsulated in the Book 
of Ephesians. A. T. Lincoln summarizes its themes, noting how the con- 
cluding exhortation calls the believer to appropriate her position of 


strength and victory in Christ while Hving out her life amid the ongo- 
ing opposition of evil cosmic forces/^ 

Too often the church corporately, and believers individually, have 
wanted to ignore this aspect of the Christian life. The issue of spirituali- 
ty, and hence spiritual warfare, begins at the personal level, and then 
expands outwardly to include one's family, church, the collective 
church within one's community, and then to the church at the national 
and even international level. The evangelical church asserts a belief 
in the Bible as being true and inerrant, and yet it often lives as though 
the battle being described exists only on some distant mission field 
and not in one's own town or city. J. Dawson emphasizes that the battle 
is ongoing in each city across our nation and is affecting believers, 
whether they are aware of it or not.'*' 

With even greater urgency, F. A. Schaeffer states 

Sadly we must say that very few Christians have understood the 
battle we are in. Very few have taken a strong and courageous 
stand against the world spirit of this age as it destroys our culture 
and the Christian ethos that once shaped our country. 

But the Scriptures make clear that we as Bible-believing Chris- 
tians are locked in a battle of cosmic proportions. It is a life and 
death struggle over the minds and souls of men for all eternity, 
but it is equally a life and death struggle over life on this earth." 

If this concept of spiritual warfare seems such a clear and necessary 
part of the Christian life, why isn't the church more openly involved 
with this area of the believer's life? 

World View 

One of the greatest influences on the Western view of the world 
over the past sixty years has been those philosophies and ideas arising 
out of the period of the Enlightenment, beginning in the mid- 
seventeenth century and most clearly seen in Germany in the eigh- 
teenth century. These philosophies opposed the concept of a super- 
natural religion and instead focused on the sufficiency of human reason 
to promote the happiness and well-being of people in this lifetime. 
The fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature resulted in 
the rejection of the concept of sin and evil in the world. By the late 
nineteenth century, "Higher critical methods" for examining Scrip- 
ture were gaining prominence and eventually undermined the authority 
of the Bible in the eyes of many in the church. F. Schaeffer argues that 
living in a world where God is seen as being ultimately silent even- 


tually leads to a universe that is seen as having no purpose or meaning 
and no real basis for determining order and morality. The final result 
is a world where the value of human life is lost, all is relative and ar- 
bitrary, and man is left to fill his growing emptiness "... hedonism or 
materialism or whatever other ism' may be blowing in the wind."'^ 
One of the greatest effects of this "Enlightened " thinking is its 
tendency to remove from the mindset of society any consideration of 
the supernatural as an integral factor in the lives of individuals. 
Therefore, within much of the church, there has been a tendency to 
minimize the effect or even the existence of Satan and the demonic. 
C. F. Dickason notes how this thinking has hindered the church's ef- 
fectiveness in reaching the world for Christ. He challenges the believer, 
as he states. 

It is high time that Christians shake off the shackles of scientism. 
We must face the reality of God's world as it really is to deal with 
the stark realities of Satanic oppression and demonization. How 
else will we help this world for which Christ died?'^ 

To believe Scripture requires that one recognize the supernatural, both 
good and evil, as an integral influence upon one's life. Therefore, it 
is crucial for the Christian to have an understanding of the opposition 
that he or she faces. 

Know the Opposition 

Within the New Testament, kosmos is used in two different senses, 
although frequently translated as "world " in each case. In one sense 
it is used to designate God's creation and the world of people, while 
a second refers to the spiritual agencies at work in the world. The lat- 
ter reference relates to the fall of humankind, rather than creation, 
and to the world of evil and negative spiritual powers working through 
individuals and the natural order, resulting in world conditions such 
as hate, greed, selfishness, and violence. It opposes God, Christ, the 
church, and the Holy Spirit, as well as the individual believer (John 
16.33). Frequently this oppostion works in insidious ways, against 
which the believer must be on constant guard (Eph. 6.12). These 
spiritual forces of evil will often work through structures and objects 
within God's good creation, so that these objects may become idols 
which humans then either serve or worship;'^ and Satan gloats over 
his success! 


It is also through the distortion of created structures of existence, 
originally intended for good by God, that Satan often operates. Within 
the Gospel accounts, one sees the disfigurement of human lives through 
the demonization of individuals as it affects their appearance, cogni- 
tion, or emotional state (Matt. 8.28; Mark 1.23ff.; Luke 8.27ff.). Satan 
can also distort human perceptions of reality and truth, such as Paul's 
warning against the dangers of astrology (Gal. 4.10), which represents 
a distortion of the purpose and meaning of the heavenly bodies as God 
originally intended. Satan has the ability to negatively affect the course 
of events (1 Thess. 2.18), the functioning of governments (Rev. 12.9, 
137, 14), and even certain activities within religious practice, such 
as when Jesus called the religious leaders of His day "children of the 
devil" (John 8.44), or when Paul warned against "false prophets" who 
masquerade as "angels of light" (2 Cor. 11.13-14; 1 Tim. 4.1). R. E. 
Webber asserts that to understand the function of the church, it is 
crucial to understand the two different usages of the word "world" 
in the Bible, as the church must relate in one way to God's created 
world but in a far different manner to the evil powers of the world 
ruled by Satan. '^ 

The Believer's Bible 

Many in the modern church seem reluctant to believe that this bat- 
tle with Satan and his followers exists and is real in modern Western 
society. Others simply refuse to be personally involved, either out of 
fear, lack of knowledge, or else a belief that this battle is intended on- 
ly for an elite group of "spiritual warriours" within the church. None 
of these positions can be supported as a valid answer to the problem. 

First, there is the question, "Is this battle really present in today's 
modern world?" Many have noted that there seems to be an increased 
fascination with witchcraft and the occult throughout the world. M. 
Harper notes that Ouija boards have become one of the most popular 
Christmas gifts, and that in 1969 a formal school of witchcraft was 
opened in Essex, England, to train witches. Divination for foretelling 
the future and for diagnosing diseases has been increasing, with over 
five thousand individuals working full time in the United States per- 
forming astrological forecasts for another ten million people (these 
would not even represent the most recent statistics). Law enforcement 
is making use of divinations and psychics to help solve criminal cases, 
such as that of the "Boston Strangler," and cults have significantly 
increased. Harper notes that many of these developments have 
occurred because the church has become increasingly uncertain of its 


message to the world. 

People are tired of pious platitudes; they want faith that works 
. . . There are Jehovah's Witnesses, with their carefully worked 
out prophecies, Christian Science, with its promise of health, and 
spiritualism with its "proof" of survival after death and its claim 
to contact dead loved ones."' 

Satan is alive and well in the world today, and it often seems as though 
his followers are more committed to advancing his kingdom and rule 
than is the church in advancing God's kingdom. 

Christians must realize that this struggle is not imaginary nor is it 
new; and it is not only a battle to be engaged in at the time of Christ's 
second coming. The battle for establishing God's kingdom has been 
present for centuries. Many believe that its intensity is increasing; and 
although not all scholars agree on the literal fulfillment of the events 
in the Book of Revelation, if the final battle does come together under 
a final false Prophet, the believer must understand that this represents 
the final chapter of a struggle that is going on right now.^^ 

This spiritual battle is intended for all believers. R. C. Stedman 
describes how, outside of Christ, all humans are under Satan's con- 
trol; but through Christ, believers 

. . . are set free in order to battle. This is the call which comes 
to all Christians. We are not set free merely to enjoy ourselves. 
We are set free to do battle, to engage in the fight, to overcome 
in our own lives, and to become the channels by which others 
are set free.'" 

F. Frangipane describes how the church has known Christ as a 
shepherd and savior, but it must also recognize Him as a warrior (Isa. 
42. 13) and identify with that image. The struggle will culminate when 
Christ returns to establish His kingdom, but the battle is being fought 
today. He asserts that 

. . . we are a pampered, undisciplined people who have not 
understood the day of warfare that looms before us. We must 
realize that in the last moments of this age, to prepare us for the 
raging of Satan as his time shortens (Rev. 12.12), the Lord Jesus 
will raise an army to whom He will be revealed in a manner un- 
familiar to most Christians.''^ 

Ignorance can be no excuse for a Christian's remaining uninvolved. 


Not only does Scripture support images of God as warrior with His 
people battling under his authority, but it is also clear that the early 
church viewed their own experience in terms of warfare, with military 
terminology sprinkled liberally throughout the New Testament.'" 

Another factor resulting in a lack of involvement in this spiritual bat- 
tle is fear. M. Bubeck notes that many Christians maintain the position 
that if one is not aware of Satanic attacks in her life, then it is best 
to avoid the active study of Satan in order to avoid provocation of 
Satan's harrassment. This avoidance is based primarily on fear.^' The 
tragedy of this position is that while believers need to respect Satan 
and his demonic kingdom as adversaries, we do not need to be afraid 
of them. James 4.7 indicates that Satan will flee if we resist him, 
although this truth is prefaced with the condition that we be submit- 
ted to God, as it is in being yielded to God that we gain the power 
to resist Satan. ^^ 

J. Dawson describes to fundamental steps in spiritual warfare. The 
first is to discern the nature of Satan's lie, which often will relate to 
the degree of power or control he has over a particular situation, and 
which frequently is the source of one's fear. The second step is to ex- 
ercise the authority of Jesus' power over the Satanic activity. One must 
remember that Satan was defeated at the cross (Col. 2.15; Matt. 
25.41),^^ and therefore the Christian may enter an encounter against 
Satan and his forces without fear. 

A final reason for the lack of involvement in spiritual warfare is a 
lack of knowledge. Although it is not possible to address all of the 
weapons of spiritual warfare in this paper, certain aspects will be ex- 
amined as they relate to the church and to an effective model by which 
these may be fulfilled. 

The Believer's Weapons 

The believer needs to understand that Satan tends to work secretly 
and does not like to be exposed. Discernment and balance are needed 
when approaching spiritual warfare. It is important that the believer 
not fall into the trap of a dualistic view of the universe, in which all 
events are seen as either evil and under the control of God. The poten- 
tial danger is that one may set aside the role of human responsibility, 
while focusing more on the desire for a supernatural "deliverance" 
from evil rather than on obedience to the known will of God. In look- 
ing to gain every victory through God's supernatural intervention, 
"some people have been led to expect release from the disciplines, 
hardships and temptations of the Christian way of life."^^ 


Equally important is the realization that spiritual warfare cannot be 
won with the conventional weapons or wisdom of the world. To a 
large extent, the battle originates in the mind, as the believer strives 
to bring every thought into obedience to Christ by the transforming 
of his or her mind (Rom. 12.2). This also seems true at the societal 
level. The usual methods for relieving society's problems are futile, 
as they do not address the basic issue of the world's being under Satan's 
domain. R. C. Stedman states, "All our efforts to correct the evils we 
see in life are simply rearrangements of the difficulties. We succeed 
only in stirring them around a bit until they take a different form."^'' 
Too often that has been the approach of the church, as it has attemp- 
ted to change the evil in the world through the promotion of legisla- 
tion, education, and the improvement of the environment, without 
addressing the underlying spiritual battles being waged within the lives 
of the people involved."'' 

A key passage regarding spiritual warfare is found in Ephesians 
6.10-18, which provides instruction for putting on the "full armor of 
God." The meaning of this passage is found in the concept of ap- 
propriating all that was accomplished by Christ through His death and 
resurrection. This includes the concept that Christ represents truth in 
all that He said and did (6.1 4a) and is therefore completely reliable, 
coupled with the truth that "there is now no condemnation for those 
who are in Christ Jesus " (Rom. 8.1), both of which are represented 
by the "belt of truth." The "breastplate of righteousness" (6.14b) 
represents Christ's righteousness that is accorded to the believer 
through faith and justifies the believer in the eyes of God. Having one's 
"feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace" 
(6.15) indicates a readiness to walk in obedience and in the Spirit of 
God, as was Christ, and not simply to choose a life of comfort and 
ease. The "shield of faith " (6.16) represents our faith in Christ and 
our willingness to submit to Him as Lord of our life, based upon that 
faith (cf. Gal. 2.20). The verb tense indicates a constant attitude of faith, 
which will also serve to protect against unbelief and doubts that may 
arise, as represented by the "flaming arrows of the evil one." The 
"helmet of salvation" (6.17a) again represents the work of salvation 
carried out by Christ through His death and resurrection, and the fact 
that its complete sufficiency will serve to guard one's mind against the 
doubts and fears by which Satan might attack the believer. Soteria 
("salvation") can also refer to physical well being and may also refer 
to physical protection from Satan. Finally, the only real offensive 
weapon afforded the believer is that of the "sword of the Spirit, which 
is the word of God " (6. 17b), representing Christ and the truth given 
in Scripture. ^^ 


Although other authors may interpret certain elements of this ar- 
mor differently, the key concept is that God has provided the believer 
with the necessary weapons and protection that he will need to engage 
in spiritual warfare. However, it is up to the believer to put on that 
armor in order to stand firmly against Satan (Eph. 6.13). 

Another key element that God has given the believer to help battle 
Satan and his forces is other believers. This relationship is symbolized 
with the church as a single body that is integrally dependent upon all 
of its parts functioning as a whole. "The body is a unit, though it is 
made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form 
one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit 
into one body ..." (1 Cor. 12.12-13). Therefore, the believer not only 
must be aware that he is involved in a spiritual battle, for which God 
has equipped him with spiritual weapons, but he must also realize that 
this battle is not intended to be carried out alone. Believers must realize 
their deep need for one another and that they are not in the battle 
alone. ^" 

In light of the previous discussion, and the fact that Satan will do 
everything possible to thwart the purpose of God in the lives of 
believers, one must then question how the church should function in 
order to best equip its members for this struggle. 

Models of the Church 

One purpose of a model is to provide a tangible representation of 
an object or system so that one can better understand how it func- 
tions. One goal of this paper is to examine several models of the church 
and then show that the model of the church as a militant organiza- 
tion, an image frequently neglected in recent years, represents one of 
the most functional and useful models of those available. 

The Role and Function of the Church 

Four of the most basic functions of the church include the follow- 
ing: to worship and glorify God here on earth (Eph. 1.4-6), to 
evangelize the world with the gospel (Matt. 28. 19-20), to develop each 
believer and assist him or her in becoming more like Christ (Eph. 
4.11-15), and to be glorified with Christ (Eph. 3.10, 21; Rev. 
21.9-27).^'^ Others would break these broader areas down into glori- 
fying God, edifying and equipping members for living the Chris- 


tian life in obedience to God's Word, purifying members through 
discipline, evangelizing the world through the telling of the gospel, 
and promoting good in the world while serving to resist evil.^*' 

At times these roles have been characterized as that of an ambassador 
for Christ (2 Cor. 5.20) in a foreign land. Often the church has failed 
when it attempts to forcibly take over the foreign land or else 
withdraws behind its "embassy walls ' in attempting to avoid all con- 
tact with its neighbors. R. L. Saucy notes that the church has often 
failed in its ministry to the world whenever it has attempted to rule 
through secular power or else withdraw into personal piety and 

One factor which has influenced the role and function of the church 
is its view of itself and the world. This view will influence one's con- 
ceptual model of the church, as certain models may be adequate for 
a world view which allows for no supernatural activity in the lives 
of its members, while others may require the supernatural if it is to 
remain consistent in its imagery. 

We may define evangelical social concern as the application 
of the Christian world view to the political, legislative, economic, 
and moral life of society and individuals ... It is an acknowledg- 
ment of the presence and permeation of evil in the structures of 
life, an attempt to reduce the influence of evil in society and an 
active promotion of justice and morality . . . 

The person who takes a mythological view of the New Testa- 
ment will inevitable interpret the present struggle between the 
church and world issue differently. The supernaturalist will regard 
the forces of evil as not only real, but having an ontological point 
of reference. Rather than interpreting the New Testament 
language as mythical and describing the existential experience on- 
ly, the supernaturalist will view the battle between good and evil 
forces in a historical way, arguing that time, space, and history 
is the battleground, and that what the New Testament describes 
is in fact occurring now in the present.^" 

The "supernaturalist" view is assumed throughout this paper. 

Another role of the church is that of an eschatological community 
which is rooted in the saving event of Christ through his death and 
resurrection (Heb. 9. 1 1-28), and yet it must prove itself and stand its 
ground while on earth (Heb. 10.32-36). As a part of this eschatological 
function, the church is often seen as a servant kingdom which has been 
given power over the forces of evil which Christ will destroy at His 
consummation. R. E. Webber notes that "... the church now sustains 


a twofold ministry to the world. It witnesses to the dethronement 
of evil powers and acts as a responsible agent bringing the creation 
under the lordship of Christ. "^^ 

Historical Models 

Early church fathers, including Irenaeus, TertuUian, and Origen were 
clearly aware of the reality of spiritual forces, both good and evil, as 
they work through the structures of existence in order to influence 
people. Exorcism was prominent within the early church liturgy. 

Hyppolytus, writing about the role of bishop in baptism, declares: 
"And laying his hand on them he shall exorcise every evil spirit 
to flee away from them." Later, the candidate for baptism says 
before going into the waters of baptism, "I renounce thee, Satan, 
and all thy service and all thy works," after which the candidate 
is anointed with the oil of exorcism by the words, "Let all evil 
spirits depart far from thee."^^ 

As the church became an accepted institution following the Decree 
of Toleration in A. D. 311 and the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, it became 
a wealthy institution, filled with nominal Christians who were more 
interested in being well-bred and socially acceptable than truly faithful. 
There developed confusion between the teachings of Christianity and 
those of pagan philosophers, and hope was displaced from that of 
God's kingdom to making the world a better and safer place for Chris- 
tianity. Worship often became less of a prophetic proclamation of the 
gospel and of the defeat of evil and more of a symbolic repetition of 
facts about the life of Christ. ^^ The church no longer viewed itself as 
a pilgrim in a foreign land, but as a power to shape society. God's pur- 
poses were now identified with the maintenance of human institutions, 
and the distinction between the church and world powers 

The roots of thought during the Medieval period go back to 
Augustine's vision as expressed in The City of God, with the church 
having become an institution not so much interested in the eschaton 
as in establishing Christ's immediate reign on earth. W. E. Webber 
describes how "... the church was less interested in the coming of 
the Kingdom and the overthrow of evil because the adverse powers 
of evil had been conquered and tamed by the church. The kingdom 
was a present reality, not a future hope."^" 


One might view the model of the early church as "the church and 
world in antithesis, " that of the early Constantinian church as "the 
church and world in paradox, " while that initiated under Augustine 
and later developed during the Medieval period as "the church transfor- 
ming the world." Webber proposes that each of these views were then 
represented among the reformers, with the "antithesis" model being 
represented by the Anabaptists, the "paradox" model by Martin Luther, 
and the "transforming" model by John Calvin.^" 

Out of this historical tradition comes the question of how one is to 
see the church today. Is there only one valid view, or does the church 
change its model of functioning in order to meet the needs of the times? 
Or perhaps more worrisome is whether it often changes in order to 
accommodate to the times? 

Potential Models of the Church 

From the writings of Protestant and Catholic theologians, A. Dulles 
has formulated five models of the church. In attempting to weigh their 
various merits, he concludes that a balanced ecclesiology requires the 
basic qualities of each of the models, as each one emphasizes certain 
characteristics which are less evident in the other models. ^^ 

Any large and continuing group requires symbols to hold it together. 
Dulles states that 

The Biblical images of the Church as the flock of Christ, the Bride, 
the temple, or whatever, operate in a similar manner. They sug- 
gest attitudes and course of action; they intensify confidence and 
devotion. To some extent they are self-fulfilling; they make the 
church become what they suggest the Church is . . . 
... A model is accepted if it accounts for a large number of 
biblical and traditional data and accords with what history and 
experience tell us about the Christian life.^" 

It should also be kept in mind that the following models refer to the 
church as a corporate body and not necessarily to the functioning of 
local congregations. J. Dawson notes that there needs to be a plurality 
of leadership and church styles relative to local functions, and that 
there can be no "absolute model" for what the local church should 
be in every situation.^' 

The five models proposed by Dulles include that of institution, ser- 
vant, herald, sacrament, and mystical communion. The church as "in- 
stitution" represents an expression of the stable organizational features 


needed to carry out its mission. This includes a hierarchical concep- 
tion of authority, along with the church having a sense of jurisdiction 
over its members with regard to rules and laws of conduct. This model 
is triumphalistic and tends to focus on the church as an army against 
Satan and evil, and its strong clerical emphasis may foster an attitude 
of passivity in the laity. Relative to the institutional model, the biblical 
narrative places a greater emphasis on the prophetic role of the church, 
so that "... one may conclude that Chrisitanity is not healthy unless 
there is room in it for prophetic protest against abuses of 
authority. "^^ 

The "servant" model of the church is based upon the concept that 
the church announces the kingdom not only in word by preaching, 
but also in acts of reconciliation, service, and healing. D. Bonhoeffer 

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make 
a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The 
clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congrega- 
tions, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must 
share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not 
dominating, but helping and serving. ^^ 

In the servant model, the church's primary mission is not to gain new 
recruits or build great edifices, but to be of help to all people and to 
keep alive the hopes of its members relative to the kingdom of God 
and its values. The strength of this model relates to the church's hav- 
ing become too secluded and out of touch with the society around 
it, resulting in a loss of numbers and influence. The servant model 
reflects an awareness of the needs of the church and the world and 
restores that contact, as it attempts to provide the church with a new 
sense of mission and relevance to the world around it. It has been noted 
that the servant model reflects an effort on the part of the church to 
overcome its pride and group egotism, along with its tendency toward 
callousness regarding human suffering. ^^ 

The church as "herald" makes the word primary and the sacrament 
secondary. "It see the Church as gathered and formed by the word 
of God. The mission of the Church is to proclaim that which is heard, 
believed, and been commissioned to proclaim."^'' In this model, the 
church's primary role is kerygmatic in passing along the gospel message 
of Christ. While it is responsible for being faithful in carrying out the 
proclamation, it is not responsible for the world's accepting it. The 
result is a strong evangelistic emphasis coupled with a good Biblical 
foundation in the prophetic tradition. There tends to be a clear sense of 


identity and mission within the "heralding" church, with a focus on 
God's sovereignty, which leads to obedience, humility, and a will- 
ingness to repent and reform. The primary weaknesses are that this 
model may limit the emphasis on Christ's incarnation as it focuses on 
the Word, and it may focus too much on the witness but with a relative 
neglect regarding actions oriented toward trying to establish a better 

The Church as "sacrament" focuses on the sacraments as signs of 
grace, with this grace becoming an existential reality in the lives of 
believers as they partake together. This cannot be mere ritual, however, 
as " ... the institutional or structural aspect is never sufficient to con- 
stitute the church. The offices and rituals of the Church must palpably 
appear as the actual expressions of the faith, hope, and love of living 
men. "' 

The fifth model reviewed by Dulles is that of the church as "mystical 
communion." In this model, intimacy in groups results in a sense of 
fusion of the individuals into a common whole with common goals 
and will. There is a vertical as well a horizontal intimacy, with Christ 
as the head and the church under him, each living in relationship with 
the other. In this model the goal of the church is to bring people back 
into union with God and each other, not only in the future but also 
in the present.^" 

There are a number of criteria for distinguishing a successful model. 
It should have a clear and explicit basis in Scripture and be based upon 
Christian tradition, and the more universal and constant the tradition 
the more convincing the model will be. The model should have the 
capacity to give the Church members a sense of corporate identity and 
mission; and it should foster virtues and values admired by Christians, 
such as faith, hope, an unselfish love of God and a sacrificial love for 
one's fellow man, honesty, humility, and a sense of repentance. It 
should correspond with the religious experience of men and women 
today, and it should offer a degree of "theological fruitfulness." The 
successful model should also enable church members to relate suc- 
cessfully to those outside of their own group. It is clear that it is dif- 
ficult to find a single model which will meet all of these criteria. Dulles 
notes that none of his five models can be accepted without qualifica- 
tion, as each suggests different priorities which frequently may con- 
flict with one another. He questions whether a search should continue 
for some "supermodel" which would combine the strengths of each, 
but without the limitations and contradictions.^'^ 

F.A. Schaeffer would add a further qualification for this proposed 
model, as he issues a call for a "revolutionary radical message in the 
midst of today's relativistic thinking." He contends that the mentality 


of accommodation on the part of evangelicalism today 

is indeed a disaster . . . [and has] constantly been in one direc- 
tion — that is, to accommodate with whatever is in vogue with 
the form of the world spirit which is dominant today. It is this 
same world spirit which is destroying both church and society. 
Balance must be considered constantly. ''" 

It is this author's contention that the model of the church that needs 
to be revived is that of the military model. For reasons that will be 
seen, perhaps a preferable term is that of a "militant body." 

The Model of the Church as a Militant Body 

To appreciate the metaphor of the church as a militant body, it is 
mandatory that one keep in mind that it represents an entity that is 
filled with paradox. It is clear that the individual believer, as well as 
the corporate church body, is engaged in a spiritual war; but it is equally 
clear that the weapons of our warfare are not the kind normally seen 
on the evening news. "For though we live in the world, we do not 
wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the 
weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to 
demolish strongholds" (2 Cor. 10.3-4). The church is involved in a 
conflict over power and territory, the establishment of God's kingdom 
over that of Satan, and in this sense it represents a military conflict 
no less than the bloodiest war ever fought. But it is these historical 
images of the military that make it difficult for many to accept the mili- 
tant model. It seems incomprehensible that a militant body would truly 
be striving for peace with the commission to "love one's neighbor as 
oneself. ' ' 

The difficulty one has in comprehending this metaphor is 
demonstrated by J. Stott, who states 

For the exercise of power is inherent in the concept of a 
kingdom. But power in God's kingdom is different from power 
in human kingdoms . . . The kingdom of God is his rule set up 
in the lives of his people by the Holy Spirit. It is spread by 
witnesses, not by soldiers, through a gospel of peace, not a 
declaration of war, and by the work of the Spirit, not by force" 
of arms, political intrigue or revolutionary violence.''' 

This represents a battle for power and territory, but the weapons are 
different from traditional warfare. That, however, does not negate the 


fact that it is still warfare, any more than one would try to deny the 
fact that ancient conflicts fought with crossbows and battle axes were 
military battles, simply because their weapons were different from 
those with which we are familiar today. War can be defined as "any 
active hostility or struggle"" without regard to the implements used, 
and the essence of "militant" is "fighting, [or being] ready to fight, 
especially for some cause. ""^^ Therefore, because the militant body of 
the church utilizes the weapons of love, words, and sacrificial acts does 
not negate the fact that it is still a militant body engaged in warfare. 

It is clear that the early church saw its life and mission as a military 
service under Christ as the Imperator. In the early church, infidelity 
to God was even termed desertion. As the model of the church as 
"sacrament" focused on the symbolism of the sacraments as a 
manifestation of God's grace, it had a broader meaning within the early 
church. The word "sacrament" comes form the term sacramentum, 
which was a technical term for the military oath one took upon enter- 
ing the Roman army. The early church adopted this term as a designa- 
tion for baptism, which was seen as analogous to a soldier's oath and 
was taken upon entry into the militant church. Origen began to call 
Christians "soldiers of Christ" {milites Christi) and saw the church 
as "the military camp of the Lord" {castra Domini). The church also 
served to change the meaning of the Latin word paganus in the fourth 
-fifth century, from which is derived the word, "pagan." Originally 
in the western Roman Empire it simple meant "the civilian" in con- 
trast with "the soldier." It is clear that the early church saw itself as 
soldiers, and anyone who was not a believer was a paganus, or 

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to the militant model is the abuse 
of power which has occurred by both the military and the church 
throughout the centuries. The New Testament church clearly broke 
the tradition of the holy wars of the Old Testament; and, although it 
used military terminology, it was decidedly pacifistic in practice. Prior 
to Constantine, Christians were never known to use violence to 
preserve the church or to advance its mission. ''^ The Scriptures are 
clear that there are three things that believers are to do with their 
human enemies: love them, bless them, and do something good for 
them. However, one is to destroy and resist spiritual enemies and 
strongholds. There is no place in the Bible where it tells a man or a 
woman to be merciful or patient with Satan or his demonic powers.'^ 
Unfortunately, the church has at times confused this directive and been 
more tolerant with the demonic and harsh with their fellow man. 

The militant model of the church is valid and helpful only when we 
remember that the conflict is not of this world (Eph. 6.12). As an 


example of the difference in "weaponry" utilized by the militant 
church, F. Frangipane describes the requirements for effective cor- 
porate warfare by the church body. These include worship and praise, 
Spirit-led intercessory group prayer, consistent times of prayer by the 
individual believers, and not being "presumptuous" in confronting 
Satan or his demons but relying on the power of Christ, as manifest 
through the use of His Word, Prayer, and calling upon His name."^^ 
Although these weapons are a far cry from bombs and bullets, within 
the realm of spiritual warfare they are far more effective and repre- 
sent key elements in the armamentarium of the militant church body. 

The militant church body may well serve the "heralding" and "ser- 
vant" functions within society as well, as the words and actions of 
the committed, militant believer are seen as a witness to the gospel 
and to the life in Christ. F. A. Schaeffer proposes that not taking the 
"battle" seriously may have resulted in the church's failure to promote 
the Christian ethos in today's society and culture. To win the battle 
requires a " ... life committed to Christ, founded on truth, lived in 
righteousness and grounded in the gospel.""^" 

The militant model of the church, viewed properly with regard to 
its mission and its means of warfare, would seem to be most helpful 
in providing direction for today's church. One also gains a better 
understanding of the servant role of the militant church if one keeps 
in mind that destruction is not the only goal of any military body. The 
Roman military helped to create the empire and "was also one of the 
most important cultural factors," as it safeguarded Roman peace and 
thereby made possible social and cultural developments. By the end 
of the second century B.C., it was largely a volunteer force of profes- 
sional soldiers, and, when not engaged in war, the legionnaires per- 
formed many civil service functions, such as construction and 
maintenance.^^ These same functions are still performed today by our 
military, through such groups as the Army Corps of Engineers. Unfor- 
tunately, these "servant" functions are often forgotten as one thinks 
of the military, but they represent key elements in the model of the 
church as a militant body. 

The model of the militant church also seems consistent with its 
eschatological role, perhaps with the modification that one should view 
the present church as operating more as a resistance movement within 
enemy held territory, but then later to be incorporated into the main 
military body as Christ returns to the earth to reclaim His kingdom. 
The militant church in its conquering role is to gain victory now in 
its spiritual battles, but in the eschaton it will reach its final fulfillment 
as it serves to rule and judge the world with Christ (1 Cor. 6.2). 

The church as a militant body also seems to fulfill the image of the 


church as a mystical communion, with intimacy expressed both ver- 
tically with God and horizontally with fellow believers. Anyone en- 
gaged in military conflict can attest to the fact that serving together 
in dangerous situations, where one's well being and even life may de- 
pend upon one's comrades and one's commanders, fosters a sense of 
intimacy and trust that is difficult to match in any other situation. A 
good military commander is expected to provide guidance, sacrificial 
leadership, inspiration, and to always use his or her authority and 
power to advance the overall goals of the unit and to assure the well 
being of those under their command. In return, the soldiers under the 
leader's command are to respond obediently to the commander's 
orders, to remain loyal, and to perform sacrificially and diligently in 
order to accomplish the defined goals. In the process of carrying out 
these functions, an inexplicable sense of intimacy and closeness 
develops among all concerned; and for the commander who has ac- 
tually laid down his life for his troops, the sense of love and devotion 
is even greater. Certainly this describes the communion, within the 
limitations of metaphor, of the church body and its relationship with 
Christ and with each other. 

Finally, the institutional functions of the militant model have inten- 
tionally been left until the end, primarily because these functions have 
traditionally been most often associated with this model and have fre- 
quently caused some of the greatest difficulties within the church. It 
seems that the greatest danger in the militant model, particularly when 
performing institutional functions, is that the hierarchy of power may 
become centered in a few individuals who then, because of their own 
sinful nature, may begin to use the church for their own personal gain. 
This might occur with regard to material wealth or at times personal 
power, each occurring "in the name of God. " However, this does not 
negate the value of the model, but rather it should serve to re-emphasize 
the need for spiritual discernment on the part of the church in 
evaluating its spiritual leaders. As Jesus so aptly warned, "Watch out 
for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inward- 
ly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them" 
(Matt. 7.15-16). A second danger is that part of the church may see 
itself as able to remain relatively uninvolved, as long as it is willing 
to pay its "mercenaries " to fight for them. H. Weber warns of this, 
as he states, "Instead of being the militia Christi on the march, the 
church thus became a bulwark for half-committed civilians with a staff 
of professional officers and some troops of mercenaries. "'^" This 
represents a perversion of what a true militant body, including the 
church, is to be. 


Practical Implications 

Being a soldier requires that one know and understand his or her 
enemy. Certainly the church would need to educate itself regarding 
the struggle it is in and the adversary with whom it is contending. The 
position of seeing this struggle as entirely symbolic and mythological 
must cease if the church is to have any significant impact. It is one 
thing to be an army who believes that it will never be involved in 
anything more than "war games" for training purposes, but it is quite 
another when one realizes that the struggle is real and represents life 
and death. The militant church, more than any other model, should 
realize that this attack upon the church is real. 

The task of the militant church is now to stand firm as God's col- 
ony in the world and from the base of this colony to go on that 
apostolic mission of peace . . . The mere presence of the church 
in the world is a strong attack on the still remaining power and 
authority of devilish forces. No wonder, therefore, that the 
church comes immediately under attack.^'' 

The greatest implication in viewing the church as a militant body 
is that it demands a renewed commitment on the part of every believer 
with regard to her Christian life. It requires sacrificial devotion to one's 
commander and to one's task, in this case the commander being Christ 
and the task being to advance His kingdom in the world against the 
resistance of Satan. Paul exhorts Timothy when he says, "Endure hard- 
ship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus No one serving as a 
soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his com- 
manding officer" (2 Tim. 2.3-4). Such must be the focus of the church. 
Perhaps the greatest effect of the militant model is that it should 
motivate the individual believer to a life of greater discipline and 
sacrifice, but also of joy. Within the churches, there would need to 
be a greater em'phasis on the spiritual disciplines to help develop that 
singleness of focus that is needed to be a good soldier; and, specifical- 
ly, there would need to be a reawakening of the need for prayer, 
through which the Christian soldier is able to draw his or her power. 


A number of arguments have been proposed as to why the model 
of the church as a militant body might best symbolize the role and func- 
tion of the church within the world. But it would seem, however, that 


the strongest argument for accepting this model of the church is 
because none of the other models are able to adequately address the 
degree of conflict in which we are engaged, as the church strives to 
carry out the "great commission" given by Christ. L. Lea describes the 
problem and the challenge, as he states 

A war is going on for our nation today. A war is being fought 
for our metropolitan areas, our great cities across this land. 
There's a war raging for our churches, for our families, and for 
each of us personally. 

It's a war in the spirit realm, and this is the challenge you face: 
The devil has sent messengers, strong principalities and powers, 
to stand against you and to keep you from being and doing all 
that God has called you to be and do. So what will you do about 

That remains the question after examining the issues: What will the 
church body do about it? It can continue on, building bigger and bet- 
ter churches in which its members can huddle together, struggling to 
get by while living in a difficult world and feeling thankful that some- 
day heaven will be better. Or the church can decide to fulfill Christ's 
commission to defend and serve his kingdom, in spite of the hazards 
and the opposition. Perhaps it might be helpful to have some marching 
songs to sing along the way . . . "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching 
as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ, the royal 
Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle, see His banner go! 
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus 
going on before." 


'Naisbitt, John, and Patricia Aburdene, Megatrends 2000: Ten New 
Directions for the 1990's (New York: William Morrow, 1990), 270. 

^Ibid., 281. 

^Reese, Charley, "Religion's Last Stand," The Elyria Chronicle 
Telegram, 1 July 1990. 

^Cidylo, Lori, "Destructive Cultism Gained Momentum Over Last 
Decade," The Psychiatric Times, April 1989, 1 and 33. 

■^Burkalow, Anastasia Van, "A Call for Battle Symbolism in Hymns," 
The Hymn 38 (April 1987), 14. 


%id., 16-17. 

^Wall, James, "Marching to War with the Hymn Critics. " The Chris- 
tian Century 103 Quly 2-9, 1986), 603. 

"Lea, Larry, 77?^ Weapons of Your Warfare: Equipping Yourself to 
Defeat the Enemy (Altamonte Springs: Creation House, 1989), 19-20. 

^Lincoln, Andrew T., Ephesians. Word Biblical Commentary. VoL 
42, gen. eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word 
Books, 1990), 460. 

'"Dawson, John, Taking Our Cities for God: How to Break Spiritual 
Strongholds (Altamonte Springs: Creation House, 1989), 27-28. 

''Schaeffer, Francis A., The Great Evangelial Disaster (Westchester, 
Illinois: Crossway, 1984), 23. 

"Ibid., 17-18. 

'^Dickason, C. Fred, Demon Possession and the Christian (Chicago: 
Moody, 1987), 34. 

'^Webber, Robert E., The Church in the World: Opposition, Tension, 
or Transformation? {Gr2ind Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 15-16. 

''Ibid., 17-18. 

"^Harper, Michael, Spiritural Warfare: Recognizing and Overcoming 
the Work of Evil Spirits (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1984), 31-34. 

'^ White, John, When the Spirit Comes with Power: Signs and 
Wonders Among God's People (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 

'"Stedman, Ray C, Spiritual Warfare (Waco: Word, 1975), 37-38. 

'^Frangipane, Francis, The Three Battlegrounds (Marion, Iowa: Ad- 
vancing Church Publications, 1989), '^d. 

^"Harper, vii. 

^'Bubeck, Mark I., The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Ac- 
tivity (Chicago: Moody, 1975), 79. 

"Harper, 41. 

^^Dawson, 73 and 132. 

^^Harper, 75. 

"Stedman, 27. 


^Ibid., 28. 

^^Lea, 95-96; Harper, 68-72; and Stedman, 68-114. 

^^Bubeck, 155. 

^^Evans, William, The Great Doctrines of the Bible, rev. ed. with ad- 
ditional entries by S. Maxwell Coder (Chicago: Moody, 1974), 187-188. 

^"Thiessen, Henry Clarence, Lectures in Systematic Theology, revis- 
ed by Vernon D. Doerksen (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1979), 

''Saucy, Robert L., The Church in God's Program (Chicago: Moody, 
1972), 94. 

'^Webber, 13-15. 

''Ibid., 21-23. 

'^Hyppolytus, The Apostolic Tradition, pars. 7-8; quoted in Robert 
W. Webber, The Church in the World: Opposition, Tension, or 
Transformation? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 58. 

'^Webber, 66. 

'%id., 61-67. 

'^Ibid., 77. 

'"Ibid., 81. 

'^Dulles, Avery, Jr., Models of the Church (Garden City, New York: 
Doubleday, 1974), 7. 

^°Ibid., 18 and 22. 

'"Dawson, 109. 

"'Dulles, 40. 

"'Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Letters and Papers from Prison, rev. ed. 
(New York: Macmillan, 1967), 203-204. 

"'Dulles, 92. 

"'Ibid., 71. 

"^'Ibid., 72-82. 

"^Ibid., 61-64. 

""Ibid., 44-54. 

"^Ibid., 183-184. 


^"Schaeffer, 149-150. 

"Stott,John, The Spirit, the Church, and the W^or/<^ (Downers Grove: 
InterVarsity, 1990), 42. 

''^Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, 1984 
ed., s.v. "War." 

''^Ibid., s.v. "Militant." 

^^Weber, Hans-Ruedi, The Militant Ministry: People and Pastors of 
the Early Church and 7brf«>' (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 5-7. 

"Ibid., 24. 

^^Xea, 174. 

^''Frangipane, 120. 

^"Schaeffer, 24-25. 

^^Ferguson, Everett, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand 
Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987), 38. 

^" Weber, 10. 

^'Ibid., 50. 

^^Lea, 157. 


the "new age" movement in the light of 
Traditional Christian Theology* 

By Bishop Chrysostomos ' 

In the last several years, an eclectic "religious" movement has swept 
the Americas and Western Europe, drawing especially the young and 
affluent by its promises of "inner peace" and its claims to represent 
the "trends of the twenty-first century." Under the "New Age" ban- 
ner, a number of different leaders and teachers have often lured away 
even traditional Christian believers by their philosophies of self- 
improvement and an array of humanistic, Utopian promises for a bet- 
ter world. Of late, with the demise of communism, these groups have 
gained momentum in Eastern Europe, where visions of prosperity and 
individual happiness immediately appeal to individuals beset by the 
uncertainties and fears that arise in societies in transition. And there, 
too, the "New Agers" have peddled their philosophical wares alongside 
the traditional Christian missionaries — both native Orthodox and 
Christians from the West — who have been seeking to return Eastern 
Europe to its pre-communist Christian roots. In the face of these ac- 
tivities, it behooves us to look at the "New Age" movement in a general 
way, to understand its theological and psychological assumptions, and 
to come to an understanding of the threat which it poses to traditional 
Christian teaching, both here at home and abroad. 

We must not be careless in speaking of the "New Age" movement 
as though it were a single thing and an easily identifiable social move- 
ment. There are many groups which identify themselves as "New Age" 
groups, when they are not. "Channeling," for example, is often called 
a "New Age" religious practice. In fact, its efforts to summon up 
spiritual guidance from the realm of the dead is simply a rebirth of 
the old psychic movements and their "mediums" and seances, which 

*The Most Rev. Dr. Chrysostomos is Exarch in America for the True 
(Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Greece. In 1979, he was visiting 
Lecturer in Eastern Christian thought at ATS. Currently Academic 
Director of the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies in Etna, 
California, he received his doctorate in psychology at Princeton 
University. This article is edited from a lecture given in 1989 to the 
East Bay Interfaith Forum at the University of California, Berkeley. 


first gained popularity in Europe and the Americas at the turn of the 
century. "Channelers" do not specifically seek, in their quasi-religious 
experiences, the Utopian vision of a single world religion based on 
humanistic precepts that, as we shall see, is a basic characteristic of 
the "New Age" religions. Rather, they play on the psychological 
weaknesses of the bereaved and of those who wish to escape the limita- 
tions of human knowledge and to usurp the timeless knowledge of 
God — who wish to know th future to find firmness in the present. 
Along with "Channeling," the other purely "psychic" arts (astrology, 
soothsaying, etc.) should not be confused with the "New Age" move- 
ment, despite their claims to that title. 

The "New Age" movement is also not "new." It has received 
tremendous attention in the press in Europe and the Americas in the 
last few years, since many of the taboos against attacking traditional 
religious beliefs and institutions in the popular media have begun to 
disappear in an increasingly secular world. Thus not only is the unor- 
thodox spirituality of the "New Age" religions given a positive treat- 
ment in the media, but their humanistic challenge to the religious 
establishment — and especially the other-worldly emphasis of more 
traditional Christianity — has served to reinforce the secularism which, 
as I have noted, underlies much of the contemporary spirit. In reality, 
the "New Age" movement is as old as Plato, who envisioned an ideal 
Utopia of philosopher-kings ruling over their moral and intellectual 
lessers with a wisdom spiced by many of the elements of modern 
humanism. It is as old as nineteenth-century Mormonism, which en- 
dows even the afterlife with the ideal qualities of a here-and-now, 
worldly Utopia. And it is as relatively old as the "Age of Aquarius," 
which beckoned the revolutionaries of the 1960s to a new society, 
free from the "hang-ups" and prejudices of the past. The "New Age" 
movement is an old idea to be found in almost every part of the world 
and in almost every civilized society. Contemporary journalism has 
made of an old spiritual enslavement the "new" cult of a new age of 
"free thinkers." And thus it has failed to put this movement in proper 

What precisely, then, is the "New Age" movement? First, as I have 
asserted, it is Utopian in nature. It focuses all of the aspirations of tradi- 
tional religions — human restoration, salvation, and the attainment 
of immortality — on man and on the physical world. If humans desire 
salvation or immortality, according to the "New Age" religions, they 
must seek after it within themselves and in the present world. God, 
who is supreme and without limitation, is made manifest in all things 
and shares His essence with man. Each individual has a "higher self" 
or a "spiritual identity" which participates in God's essence, as does 


the physical world itself. Mankind and the physical world are evolv- 
ing toward an age when the universe will be totally "spiritualized" 
(hence, the "New Age"). This Utopian age is realized without the 
necessity of atonement, since man, being God, is not sinful. Being 
without sin, repentance and atonement play no role in his eventual 
"spiritualization." The new age of the Utopian world is simply the 
culmination of an evolutionary process by which man, taking on im- 
mortality (at times through a process of reincarnation), becomes one 
with God and the physical world takes on a spiritual nature. 

Second, the "New Age" movement is eclectic and syncretic in nature. 
Since, in the view of "New Age" thinkers, all of the universe naturally 
participates in the essence of God and is evolving toward a new age 
of spiritualization, it follows that all religious philosophies have, at their 
core, a "higher identity" towards which they naturally evolve as they 
leave aside their distinctive doctrines and dogmas. Universal truth, in 
essence, resides in the eventual union of all dogmas. It is the product 
of incorporating all religious teachings into one system, retaining all 
that is common to that system, and discarding all that is foreign to it. 

Third, the "New Age" religions inevitably offer their followers a 
human guide in the spiritual life. A "guru" or "master" who represents 
the highest spiritual goals of mankind almost always surfaces in these 
religions, embodying in his person, behaviors, and beliefs all that the 
spiritual aspirant seeks. In this sense, the "New Age" religions zrcpar 
excellence humanistic, since the traits of divinity and spiritual perfec- 
tion are made manifest, not through a Divine Being who fills the 
believer with His Grace, but through a human being who takes on the 
fullness of the traits of divinity — who manifests the essence of divinity. 

It should strike us that the "New Age" religions are primitive. 
Philosophically, they skirt the very issues which have been at the heart 
of the development of Christian theology. "New Age" philosophy 
engenders the following important and difficult questions, which com- 
promise its internal consistency. If man manifests the essence of God, 
how does God, then, still maintain an essence? And if God has no 
essence separate from man, how can He be said to exist as a distinct 
entity? If, then, there is no God who exists independently in essence 
from man, by what power and with what intelligible guidance was the 
evolutionary process of the "spiritualization" of man and the world 
put into effect? How could a God who is evolving determine the goal, 
scope, and purpose of that evolution? How could an incomplete God 
— and the "New Age" God is incomplete, since man, who fully 
manifests God according to "New Age" thinking, is incomplete — rise 
above his own limitations? And if He cannot, how can He be God, if 
God is that which is supreme and unlimited? 


Indeed, a number of classical philosophical and theological dilemmas, 
much like those faced by the pre-Christian ancients and resolved in 
traditional Christian thinking, remain unresolved in the "New Age" 
religions. One can say, in essence, that they represent the very 
philosophical enigmas which, until the advent of Christianity, failed 
to reveal a universal, consistent, and logical statement about the truth, 
but nonetheless set forth their inadequate, human-oriented, Utopian 
views of man and the universe as a sure version of truth. It is in this 
expansive way that traditional Christian believers must see these 
religions: they are one with all of those philosophical and religious 
systems which, in rejecting the truth of Christianity, serve the end of 
establishing on earth a single belief system drawn from every religion 
and concentrated on God in human manifestation. 

Clearly, therefore, Christianity, in its true expression, is diametrically 
opposed to the tenets of "New Age" religions and rests on a compet- 
ing theological response to the philosophical dilemmas and inconsisten- 
cies which compromise these religions. In the first place, Scripture and 
the Church Fathers teach us that God, in His essence, is unknowable 
to and separate from man. Though man may participate in the energies 
of God, the divinization or salvation of man by intimate fellowship 
with God — (theopoiesis) in the language of the early Cireek Fathers 
— forever preserves the distinction between (iod the Creator and His 
creation. Thus man, in being transformed and saved by Ciod's (irace 
through intimate participation in the "Divine nature" (II Peter 1:4), 
remains yet man, while God, allowing man to participate in His Divini- 
ty, remains nonetheless God. More importantly, Christianity teaches 
that the human being, as he exists in time and space, is fallen and in 
need of restoration. Since God is above His creatures and truly 
unlimited and supreme. He alone can restore mankind. Remaining God 
and yet becoming man, He condescended to give human flesh the 
potential to participate in the salvific energies of His Divinity. Remain- 
ing God above and manifesting Himself as the Theanthropos (God-Man) 
Jesus Christ here below, the Christian God both directs and participates 
in human history. Hence, the reality of God, the fallen nature of man, 
the human potential for restoration, and human divinization are 
preserved in a logical and consistent cosmology in traditional Chris- 
tian teaching. 

Clarus Backes, in a short article written for the Denver Post (May 
3, 1987; "New Age Religion," pp. 10-14) and reprinted in the Social 
Resources Series (Vol. 3, article no. 28; n.p), puts forth some arguments 
that very much challenge the contrast between the "New Age" move- 
ment and Christianity as I have presented it here. He notes that the 
movement is not fundamentally at odds with Christianity and that it 


should not, specifically, be associated — as some have done — with 
the manifestation of Antichrist. He further argues that it is not a form 
of devil worship, since "New Age" religions do not believe in the ex- 
istence of the devil, and that it is not a form of secular humanism. I 
believe that by addressing Backes' assertions from the standpoint of 
traditional Christianity, we can not only come to a better understand- 
ing of the "New Age" movement as I believe I have correctly portrayed 
it, but to some understanding of the possible impact of the "New Age" 
movement on Christianity itself. 

Backes claims that "New Agers" have no qualms about Christianity 
and that they often "include readings from the New Testament in their 
services, and revere Christ as . . . the greatest wayshower and spiritual- 
ly illuminated one in history.' . . . They just don't believe that Christ 
differed in his basic nature from any other human beings. " We might 
first respond to Mr. Backes by pointing out that, while the New Testa- 
ment is read in many "New Age " groups, so is the Tibetan Book of 
the Dead, the Koran, and a multitude of other religious books, all as 
though they were of equal value. Certainly as Christians, we cannot 
attribute to non-Christian writings the value of Scripture. Nor do we 
combine readings from Scripture with non-Christian religious readings. 
More to the point, though, is the fact that Christians believe that Scrip- 
ture is an inspired account of the whole economy of salvation, reaching 
full expression, as that account does, in the Incarnation and Resurrec- 
tion of Christ — God made man — and in His establishment of the 
Church. Thus, one who attributes mere "spiritual illumination" to 
Christ, and thus downplays his Divinity, is simply un-Christian. 

With regard to Antichrist, Western scholars especially suffer from 
a certain philological myopia. In English and in most modern Western 
European languages, a very limited and narrow definition of the Greek 
word anti, or "instead of," holds forth. It is usually misunderstood 
to mean "against." Astonishingly enough, then, even some fairly ac- 
complished theologians make the rather naive error of associating An- 
tichrist with that which is "opposed " to Christ. Thus, Mr. Backes' no- 
tion that, if the "New Agers" are not "opposed" to Christ ("anti"- 
Christ), they must of necessity have no association with Antichrist. The 
Fathers of the Church and a more accurate philologic treatment of the 
word anti, however, lead us to quite another conclusion. The spirit 
of Antichrist is all that which usurps the dominion Christ, which stands 
in his "stead" ("««^/ "-Christ — "instead of" or "in the place of" 
Christ). For what other reason, indeed, do we fear the Antichrist as 
a deceiver, as one who claims the power and dominion of Christ? What 
is inimical to Christ is not only or primarily what opposes him, but 
that which falsely presents itself as the universal truth which Christ 


alone is. Thus, claims by the "New Agers" that they are God made 
manifest on earth, that they have no need for Christ, and that they 
are without sin — are not such claims truly those of Antichrist? 

Moreover, Antichrist as a person will, according to Scripture and 
Holy Tradition, come as a human leader, establishing his kingdom on 
earth. He will mislead even the elect by taking their hope and faith 
away from the spiritual realm, from the coming Kingdom of Christ, 
and focusing it on the earth and on the fallen world around us. In- 
deed, he will claim to be Christ. His goal will be to proclaim a single 
world religion and persecute all those whose beliefs are distinct and 
different — namely, the true Christians. The Utopian, eclectic "New 
Age" religions, with their frequent emphasis on a human spiritual 
model, certainly then, if they are not the future religion of Antichrist 
himself, at least serve to pave the way for that religion. 

"New Agers," because they do not believe in the devil, are not devil 
worshippers, Backes maintains. From the traditional Christian stand- 
point, if one worships anything but Christ, is he not worshipping the 
devil? Is our Christianity not drenched with the blood of Martyrs who 
refused to offer incense to the pagan gods of the Roman Empire, who 
would not confess the prophet of Islam, and who would not give their 
obedience, in more recent times, to the godless Utopianism of com- 
munism? Did these Martyrs shed their blood because they refused to 
worship innocent gods? No, they chose between the one manifesta- 
tion of the True God, Jesus Christ, and the devil, who is the source 
of all that claims to be equal to Christ or which usurps His Divinity. 
One need not worship the devil as such to be demonic. All that deviates 
from the Divine Will, which is fully contained in Christ, is demonic. 
And anything that we worship, aside from the Christian God, is the 
devil. One may not be fully aware of this devil-worship while engaged 
in it, but such worship is nonetheless just that: the worship of the an- 
tithesis of God, the devil. And if the devil is pride, then what greater 
devil is there than the one that the "New Agers" worship: man as the 
"essence of God!" 

Finally, Backes argues that "New Agers" are not humanistic and 
secular in spirit, since they believe in God. His argument is maintained 
only by tautology. Since the "New Age" religions believe that man 
is God and that the earth is evolving into the spiritual plane, one can, 
of course, argue that the "New Agers" are neither humanistic nor 
secular, since the human and mundane are divine in their eyes. 
However, can it not also be argued that such a formula, equating the 
divine and the mundane, reduces the spiritual to something worldly, 
rather than elevating the worldly to something spiritual? Thus, one 
may contend, for example, that Mormons are not humanists, since they. 


like many "New Agers, " believe in an afterlife. But what is that Mor- 
mon afterlife? It is a vision of this earth (marriage, private ownership, 
male domination, etc.) imposed on the spiritual realm, much like the 
"worldly" Paradise of Islam; it is an afterlife reduced to life as we know 
it here and now. The "New Age" religions share with all other 
humanistic religions, not a rejection of God, but the creation of God 
in man's image and the establishment of a "spiritual" realm on the 
foundations of a temporal world. This is a creation precisely of a 
humanistic and secular "spirituality." 

The Christian view of the fallen world and of the spiritual life, again, 
is undoubtedly wholly at odds with that of the "New Age" movement, 
when one examines the matter with care. Why, then, should we Chris- 
tians even concern ourselves with this movement? Let me answer this 
query by recalling the frightening and horrible massacre at Jonestown 
in Guyana some years ago. The Reverend Jim Jones shocked the world 
when he led many of his followers to their deaths in the Utopian camp 
which he had established in the jungles of South America. A Protes- 
tant pastor turned guru, promising his people a heavenly life here on 
earth under the guidance of his divine person, Jones represents, 
perhaps, the less savory side of the "New Age Movement." To the tradi- 
tional Christian, he should enbody the unthinkable. For along with 
the others who died at Jonestown were many believers reared and 
formed in conservative, traditional households. InJones-turned-"guru" 
we have an image of what Christianity can be under the influence of 
"New Age" ideology and what it can do to Christian leaders and 
followers alike. 

The "New Age" movement is of importance to us for another reason. 
Many of the young people who have left mainstream Christian 
denominations have done so because they claim to find no spiritual 
content in the watered-down, bland churches in which they were 
reared. The human desire to reach up to God, to be transformed by 
His Grace, and to come to a deeper understanding of man and the 
world — this desire is universal. When Christianity is compromised 
and reduced to a social religion, rather than a path to human transfor- 
mation through Christ's Grace, it fails to fill this universal desire. Thus, 
its adherents are attracted to the ostensibly deeper teachings of the 
"New Age" cults. This is not because Christianity lacks a profound 
mystical tradition or an exalted theological witness, but because many 
of our Churches have succumbed to a Sunday religion of platitudes 
and empty formalism. The members of these Churches, unfed by their 
pastors, removed from the Church's refreshing fields, and hungry for 
true food, wander into the woods and are devoured by wolves. The 
"New Age" movement, then, challenges us to find the deeper roots 


of our Christian heritage, to express that heritage with commitment 
and involvement, and to reify in our lives those Christian truths which 
actually render "New Age" thought superficial and our traditional faith 

Our traditional Christian faith, in conclusion, is incompatible with 
the precepts of the "New Age" movement. "New Agers" deny, in fact, 
the basic assumptions of Christian spirituality and its vision of the 
transformation and restoration of the human person. The "New Age" 
movement is a threat to traditional Christianity, must be faced with 
a resolute commitment to the whole of the Christian heritage, and must 
be resisted with ever-increasing fidelity to Christian belief that speaks 
both in words and in action. In that way, the threat of the "New 
Age" may be transformed into a positive challenge to live anew our 
Christian faith. 


After-Modern Wesleyan Spirituality: 
Toward a Neo- Wesleyan Critique of Criticism 

By Thomas C. Oden* 

In choosing the odd phrase "after-modern Wesleyan spirituality," 
I intend by spirituality to point to the disciplined approach to life in 
the Spirit as formed under the guidance of John and Charles Wesley. 
By after-modern, I mean the course of actual history following the 
death of modernity. By modernity I mean the period, the ideology, 
and the malaise of the time from 1789 to 1989, from the Bastille to 
the Berlin Wall. 

By Wesleyan I embrace all those who even today deliberately re- 
main under the intentioanl discipline of Wesley's connection of 
spiritual formation, freely subject to his teaching, admonition, and 
guidance. Does this eliminate the millions of Methodist laity and clergy 
who suffer almost total amnesia concerning Wesley except for a roman- 
ticized, triumphalist version of Aldersgate? Not altogether, since even 
they continue to sing the hymns of the Wesleyan revival, share in its 
liturgy, and reappropriate certain lively fragments of Wesleyan spiritual 

In postmodern Wesleyan consciousness we take for granted all 
available methods of modern inquiry. The postmodern return to 
classical Christianity is not a simplistic, nostalgic return to premodern 
methods as if modernity never happened. Rather it is a rigorous, 
painstaking rebuilding from the ashes of modernity using treasures old 
and new for moral and spiritual reconstruction. 

What makes this Wesleyan consciousness ''post'' is the fact that it 
is no longer intimidated by the absolute relativism of mod rot. Post 
modern Wesleyan spirituality has doubly paid its dues to modernity, 
and now is searching for forgotten wisdoms long ruled out by the nar- 
rowly fixated dogmas of modernity. 

There is in postmodern Wesleyan consciousness a growing critique 
of criticism, a pervasive discontent with underlying aspects of failed 
enlightenment methods, especially with their moral wreckage and 
cultural impoverishment. Included in this critique of criticism is a grow- 
ing recognition that many survivable ideas once assumed to be modern 
are actually premodern in origin, or grounded in ancient wisdoms. 

*Dr. Oden, Henry Anson Butte Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew 
University, presented this as the keynote attress of the Wesleyan Theological 
Society annual meeting held at A TS in November, 1992. Although somewhat 
edited, it still m,aintains its original oral character. 


The eighteenth century evangelical revivals were in a superficial 
sense quintessentially modern as a critique of Protestant scholasticism, 
yet coming in a deeper sense in the unique form of a reappropriation 
of classic Christian wisdom, the plain "old religion . . . true primitive 
Christianity" ["A Letter to a Roman Catholic," 15 in A. Outler, ed., 
John Wesley (New York: Oxford, 1964), 498]. 

Wherever modern criticism's premodern antecedents have been even 
faintly recognized or covertly utilized in the mod-fixated university, 
an attempt has been made systematically to avoid or ignore their 
premodern roots, in accord with the ideology and settled habits of 
modern chauvinism. The dynamics of repression and intentional 
behavior modification in Wesley's pastoral care have never been con- 
sidered a legitimate subject for Psych. 101 . Nor have the contributions 
to the theory and practice of the intensive group experience in 
Wesleyan societies ever been appraised as a fit topic in Soc. 101 . Part 
of the critique of modern criticism is simply pointing out the historic 
roots of methods falsely presumed to have been invented since 
Rousseau, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, and Freud. 

Some erroneously think of criticism as if it were stricty a modern 
phenomenon, with no premodern antecedents. This is the premise 
being challenged by the postmodern phenomenon, with no premodern 
antecedents. This is the premise being challenged by the postmodern 
neoclassical critique of criticism, which is not without its Wesleyan 
advocates, among whom are (to cite an incomplete list): Hauerwas, 
Deschner, Borgen, Willimon, Wainwright, Maddox, Gunter, Snyder, 
Campbell, Thorsen, Dayton, Wood, Wynkoop, Runyan, Shelton, 
Meeks, Bassett, Collins, Kenlaw, Rowe, Abraham, McCormick, and the 
students of Outler among them. This mdange has varied characters 
of different sorts and warts, but what they have in common is that 
all have survived the death of modernity ever more deeply committed 
to the renewal of time-tested Wesleyan spiritual discipline. 

The turning point we celebrate today is: Wesleyan piety has in fact 
outlived the dissolution of modernity. Even if the general condition 
of popular congregational health is uncertain, there is an emerging 
resolve in the scattered worldwide Wesleyan family to renew the 
familiar, classic evangelical spiritual disciplines: scripture reading, 
prayer, mutual care of souls, intensive primary group accountability, 
and seeking to walk in the way of holiness, regardless of how the en- 
vironing world interprets it. Having been disillusioned by the illusions 
of modernity, Wesleyans are now engaged in a low-keyed, quiet deter- 
mination unpretentiously to return to the spiritual disciplines that have 
shaped our distinctive connection. 


This emergent consciousness remains small in scale and modest in 
influence, and is still being chiefly advocated "by young, unknown, 
inconsiderable men" [Sermon #4, "Scriptural Christianity," iv. 11 in 
A. C. Outler, ed.. The Works of John Wesley 1 (Nashville: Abingdon, 
1984), 179] and women, as it was in Wesley's day. It should not be 
exaggerated as if it were already a world-historical spectacle. But it 
nonetheless is an event: the reappearance of earnest Wesleyan 
spirituality amid the post-modern world. 

What follows is another round of inquiry into post-modern classical 
Christian consciousness, a theme 1 have previously approached in After 
Modernity . . . What?: Agenda for Theology (Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1990) and Two Worlds: Notes on the Death of Modernity in 
America & Russia (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), yet applied 
now to the gradual reemergence of Wesleyan spirituality as a viable 
mode of recovery of classic consensual Christianity. 

With a different audience it would be possible and perhaps edifying 
to speak of the post-modern recovery of classical Christianity through 
the restoration of Anglican spirituality, or the eastern orthodox tradi- 
tion, or post-Soviet Russian Christianity. But in this Wesleyan context, 
it is fitting to focus primarily on the Wesleyan form of the postmodern 
rediscovery of classic Christianity. The Reformed and Lutheran tradi- 
tions have already had their day of renewal in the five decades of 
Reformed neo-orthodoxy of the period from 1920-70, but those days 
were never celebrated heartily by marginalized Wesleyans or the heirs 
of the holiness and sanctificationist traditions. 

The Limits and Pretenses of Modern Criticism 

Postmodern spirituality is now unwilling to be uncritically spoon- 
fed by faltering modern methods. Part of the delightful and intriguing 
game of postmodern neoclassic consciousness focuses upon puncturing 
the myth of modern superiority, the pretense of modern chauvinism 
that assumes the intrinsic inferiority of all premodern wisdoms. 

What follows are in summary form four potential harbingers of an 
emerging postmodern Wesleyan critique of modern criticism: 

CASE 1: A postmodern Wesleyan critique of sociology of 
knowledge is free to ask how knowledge elites doing the hypermodern 
criticism harbor persistent and often silent private and elitist interests 
that shape the outcomes of their supposedly impartial critique. 
Postmodern Wesleyan spirituality does not blush or hesitate in boldly 
using sociology of knowledge as a tool to investigate and disarm 


ideologically motivated advocates of particularly skewed social con- 
structions of reality, even as Wesley himself was a critic of self- 
deception with regard to egoistic interests. 

CASE 2: A postmodern, neoclassical Wesleyan critique of 
psychoanalytic criticism stands poised to ask how pathetically inef- 
fective psychoanalytic therapy is over against spontaneous remission 
rates, thereby applying an empiricist-behaviorist grid to the assessment 
of psychotherapies, with their cure rates not exceeding the spontaneous 
remission rate, even as Wesley himself asked rigorously about the 
behavioral consequences of speculative theories and tendentious 

CASE 3: The postmodern Wesleyan critique of hermeneutical 
criticism stands poised to speak of the plain sense of scripture, resisting 
speculative fashions of form critisicm that tyrannize and rape the test. 
Wesley himself was a keen observer and critic of speculative historical 
approaches that violate the text. The Wesleyan hermeneutic trusts the 
apostolic primitive rememberers more than contemporary ideologically 
motivated, advocacy revisionist remeberers. It does not shy away from- 
pointing out ways in which modern hermeneutical analysis remains 
unconsciously and covertly parasitic upon the heritage of rabbinic 
Midrash and classic Christian exegesis of holy writ. 

CASE 4: A postmodern, neoclassical Wesleyan critique of literary- 
critical, form-critical and historical-critical inquiry stands poised to 
ask how the economic interests, social location, and covert value 
assumptions of the hypermodern critics impinge upon their pretended 
objective historical analysis. It leverages the sociology of knowledge 
as a basis of the critique of deconstructionist criticism. The role of 
historical science must now be reassessed precisely amid the collapse 
of historical science. Postmodern, neoclassic historical research is as 
interested in the plain textual content analyses of Josephus, Lactan- 
tius, Eusebius, Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, Augustine, and 
Theodoret of Cyrus as in modern ideologically shaped (Marxist, 
psychoanalytic, feminist, or deconstructionist) mutations of revisionist 
historical criticism. 

Postmodern Wesleyan consciousness does not hesitate to enter the 
methodolgical fray, play devil's advocate, and stand ready when 
necessary to announce that "the emperor [in this case the uncritical 
university with its knowledge elite] has no clothes." Modern academia, 
which imagined itself handsomely furnished with elaborate intellec- 


tual attire, elegant theories, and intricate methods of research, is within 
the postmodern environment feeling ever more exposed, altogether 
unclad and unmasked. 

In all these ways the fashionable modes of criticism are being found 
vulnerable to a candid postmodern critique of modern forms of 
criticism. This opens the way for a deepened inquiry into the truth 
claims of classic Jewish and Christian texts, including those of the 
Wesleyan tradition of spiritual formation. The postmodern ethos in- 
troduces us to a postcritical situation, assuming proficiency in modern 
critical methods in the determination to rectify their limitations and 

Detractors may caricature the postmodern recovery of Wesleyan 
consciousness as if it were precritical. I say postcritical. In my own 
case, it is far too late to be precritical is one has already spent most 
of one's life chasing rabbits of a supposed criticism base on the premises 
of modern chauvinism (that newer is always better, older worse). That 
can no longer be precritical which follows after assimilating two cen- 
turies of modern naturalistic and idealistic criticism. If it is thought 
precritical merely to take seriously sources of wisdom that emerged 
before a modern period which is deceptively dubbed "the age of 
criticism, " then in that sense Jews, Muslims, and Christians join in the 
delight in being precritical — but note how self-incriminating that 
premise is to the integrity of modern criticism, if it supposes that one 
is able only to use sources of one's own historical period. 

Fluff Posties and Tough Posties: 
Whether Postmodern Means Ultramodern 

Meanwhile, astute observers are advised to strike post and insert 
ultrawhen the word postmodernity is used routinely by vant-garde 
academics. For them, "postmodern" consistently means simply hyper- 
modern, where the value assumptions of modernity are nostalgically 
recollected, and premodernity compulsively disregarded; meanwhile 
the emergent actual postmodernity that is being suffered through out- 
side the ivory tower is not yet grasped or imagined by those in it. 

Let us mark a firm line between fluff and tough posties. ¥ or fluff 
posties of the hothouse academic guild, postmodernity is merely an 
arguable hermeneutical theory to be debated, constructed, and 
deconstructed in universities, many of them spawned by Wesley's pro- 
lific American progeny. Fluff postmodernism in fact is ensconced in 
certain literary and religion departments of Wesleyan-born but now 
recreant universities like Duke, Wesleyan, Syracuse, and Northwestern. 


For tough posties of the emergent suffering post-modern world, 
postmodernity is an actual historical experience to be met, lived 
through, negotiated, and survived amid presently unfolding history. 
Among fluff guildies, when one says "postmodern," one thinks 
ultramodern. Among tough posties, when you say "postmodern," you 
mean plainly the real world that has survived the ugly death of modern 
ideologies. Postmodernity in this hard sense is a struggle to rebuild 
civilization and moral fiber and the way of holiness amid the slow, 
painful dissolution of modernity, whether in America or Russia, where 
the center is not holding. 

For fluff posties, postmodern is a linguistic oxymoron. For hard, 
realistic postmoderns, postmodernity is a palpable historical reality. 
An oxymoron is a sharp-dull saying which, by looking smart, says 
something dimwitted. Guildies are prone to the oxymoronic usage of 
the term "postmodernity." 

These two meanings are competing in earnest in a small corner of 
the actual world (academia, especially in those forms of university life 
spawned by the nineteenth century Wesleyan ethos) for the single term 
"postmodern" — whether it will be nuanced in a fluff or tough way. 

A growing number of Wesleyan intellectuals are prone to this 
tougher, harder, more ascetic usage, although the jury is still out. The 
actual world we must live in following the devastations of enlighten- 
ment morality is a real world of AIDS, dope, gangs, and a Madonna 
masturbating on video, not merely a debatable theory of interpreta- 
tion grounded in the ideas of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche. Rather it 
is the actual world that has survived the death of the havoc left by 
Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche. 

The Squabble Among Hagiographers 
Over the Deflnition of Postmodernity 

Guild posties are less interested in the actual struggle of human suf- 
ferers following the collapse of modernity than in securing a posh 
tenure slot where they are free to spin out endless deconstructions. 
The terrible apocalypse envisioned by orthodox postmodern Chris- 
tians is already becoming an actual history. Hard postmodernity must 
now live with the battered world created by the saints of the soft 
posties. The exponents of hard postmodern analysis are Neo- 
Athanasians whose task is modern halo inspection, contemporary 
counter-hagiography, and the hermeneutic of suspicion. 

It should be evident that I do not mean by "postmodernity" what 
Derrida and Foucault mean. The unhappy campers that apply the 


hermeneutic of suspicion to each premise or assumptions are not 
postmodern but ultramodern. In another sense they are reactionary, 
in that they are reverting once again to the radical skepticism of the 
enlightenment. Deconstructionism has about it the smell of death. I 
ask you: How many decades will the name of Derrida be remembered? 
Optimists might predict two or three. But after those decades, how 
long will Athanasius and Augusting and Luther and Wesley stand in 
human memory? Fluff posties are putting all their chips on a spent 
horse. Wesley ans have lived through fits of skepticism before. 

Literary critics like Harold Bloom, Richard Rorty, and Stanley Fish 
have lead us into a cult of subjective self-assertion and narcissistic sen- 
timent that reduces truth to private preference and celebrates a new 
hagiography. There are three leading canonized saints of the passing 
order: St. Sigmund, St. Frederich, and St. Karl. Rorty and Fish are hardly 
saints, but do pretend to be practical appliers of the gnosis of the saints. 
Wesleyans know that Fish's aroma of mod rot will not last long, but 
meanwhile human beings are suffering with the consequences of an 
actual postmodern world sired by ultramodernity. And Fish still swims 
and spawns in the streams of Duke under the spire of its lofty chapel. 

In a decisive twist of irony, the very university establishments once 
engendered by classic Christiantiy, including many Wesleyan-founded 
universities, now offer gilded chairs to tenured radicals who debunk 
Christian saints and promote the ultramodern canon, with a PC though 
police as enforcers. A central task of their ultramodernist hagiography 
is that of demeaning, denigrating, and impugning all previous saints 
of all prior social constructions of reality. Hence it is far more than 
a minor linguistic squabble that rages over the definition of post- 
modernity. It is an Athanasian task that on some campuses must be 
pursued contra mundo. 

Ordinary working people do not suffer much from the prolix buss- 
ings of soft postie theories of interpretation, but they do suffer daily 
and silently over the actual conditions of postmodern history that have 
followed the modern era. It is this history to which postmodern 
Wesleyans must point fearlessly without being intimidated by the ab- 
solute relativists. We are living through an actual period of postmodern 
grief and reconstruction. For in the real postmodern world, we live 
with the devastating consequences that have followed the ideologies 
of those whom the ultramodern guildies view as saints. While the 
languishing ideologies of Saints Karl, Freidrich and Sigmund are mori- 
bund, the children of the world they spawned struggle to survive in 
single parent hovels with latchkey kids shaped morally by M-TV. 

Some pop theology promoters and mod boosters are annoyed with 
me that I have remained stubbornly determined to use the term 


postmodern with my own distinctive, idiosyncratic spin, with a mean- 
ing far different from recent majority of pop deconstructionism who 
sit in the catbird seat in some university departments. I confess openly 
that I was writing about postmodernity precisely these terms in 1968 
[in The Structure of Awareness (Nashville: Abingdon, 1969)], long 
before the recent deluge of deconstructionism. So I wonder why I must 
now revise my idiosyncratic useage merely to fit the convenience of 
others who have been more fashionably corrupting the term 
"postmodern" as a euphemism for ultramodernity. 

Refraining the Question of Wesley and Modernity 

We are about to enter into a conference dialogue focused upon the 
relation of Wesley and modernity. There are many legitimate ways of 
framing the question, not just the peculiar way I am proposing. My 
question is not how Wesley influenced modernity, which itself would 
be an intriguing inquiry. Nor is it focused on sociological or historical 
descriptions of modern Wesleyan institutions which have shaped or 
been bent out of shape by decaying modern ideologies. These are now 
no longer contemporary issues, but at this late date have the status of 
historical queries since we already have on our hands a tough, 
postmodern environment. 

Another paper, not this one, could easily argue that Wesley himself 
was a prime co-conspirator in the rise of modernity, although not 
without serious qualification. Within the limits of this essay, I find it 
more pertinent to stress the decisive differences between Wesley and 
the enlightenment ideology that has pervaded the late modernity, and 
the challenge to and opportunity of Wesleyan spirituality to address 
and reshape the post-modern situation on the basis of the plain sense 
of scripture, personal evangelical testimony, sacramental sobriety, one- 
by-one conversion, weekly face-to-face interpersonal accountability, 
and sanctifying grace. 

My focus is upon whether the recent Wesleyan ethos, having col- 
luded ruinously with declining modernity, now has a special calling 
and mission to bring by grace a measure of sanctity and happiness in- 
to the small healing communities of the post modern ethos, and 
whether there is a special need for classical Wesleyan pastoral care and 
preaching amid the emergent postmodern crisis. This is the frame of 
reference that I prefer to pursue, though the other historical and 
descriptive questions would be worthy of serious investigation. 


Defining Modernity 

1 . The duration of the epoch of modernity is now clearly identifiable 
as a precise two hundred year period between 1789 and 1989, bet- 
ween the French Revolution and the collapse of Communism. The 
dating of historical periods is always disputable, but this one cries out 
with clarity, since it was announced with such a dramatic beginning 
point (the storming of the Bastille), and closed with such a precise mo- 
ment of collapse (the literal fall of a symbolic concrete wall in Berlin). 

2. Within the bounds of these two centuries, an ideological 
worldview has arisen and fallen, come and gone. This world view is 
filled with the humanistic ethics and scientific values and idealistic 
hopes of the enlightenment period which have until recently 
dominated modern times. This worldview has promoted — within the 
modern university, media, and church — the assumptions, values, and 
ideology of the French enlightenment, coupled with German idealism 
and British empiricism. These ideas have invaded and to some degree 
temporarily conquered university communities, including those 
founded by Wesleyan and sanctificationist educators (among them are 
Northwestern, Syracuse, University of Southern California, Boston 
University, American University, Dickinson, Oberlin, Wesleyan, Duke, 
S.M.U., Emory, and Drew). 

3. The buUseye difinition of modernity is as a disabling social 
malaise, a crash of the moral immune system. This is a sad fact of 
history in the last thirty years. This ideological worldview has been 
spiraling in relentless disarray during the last three decades, the acute 
phase of rapidly deteriorating modernity. 

Postmodern consciousness is formally defined simply as that form 
of consciousness that necessarily must follow the era of spent 
modernity {the period from 1789 to 1989 which characteristically em- 
braced an enlightenment worldview now in grave malaise). If one takes 
the premise that the modernity we have described is lurching toward 
death, and that history will continue, whatever it is that will continue 
will be postmodernity. If X is ending, then post-X is emerging. If what 
is ending is rightly named modernity, then what is to follow its death 
we call postmodernity. This is less an ideological program than a simple 
succession. "Post" is the Latin prefix meaning "after, following upon, 
later than." So "postmodernity" in my meaning is nothing more or 
less complicated that what follows modernity. 


Four Motifs of Decadent Modernity: 
Individualism, Hedonism, Natural and Modern Chauvinism 

Modernity is epitomized by the reductive naturalism of Freud which 
is no longer viable as a therapy, the historical utopianism of Marx which 
is now in collapse from Vilnius to Managua, the narcissistic asser- 
tiveness of Nietzsche which is now killing itself on Los Angeles streets, 
and the modern chauvinism typified by Strauss, Troeltsch, and 
Bultmann which exalts the ethos of late modernity itself to an un- 
disputed norm that presumes to judge all premodern texts and ideas. 

These four motifs flow together into an ethos that still sentimental- 
ly shapes the knowledge elites of the liberal Wesleyan ethos, especially 
its politicized bureaucracies and Wesley-nurtured universities, who re- 
main largely unprepared to grasp their own vulnerability and possibility 
within this decisive historical situation. Those Wesleyan-founded and 
once-funded universities who have most lusted to adapt comfortably 
to modernity remain behind the curve, following the wave, and not 
up to speed with the actual reversals of contemporary history. The 
liberal Wesleyan knowledge elites (including media, academics, bishops 
and bureaucrats) are tardy in grasping the moral sensibilities that have 
long since been grasped by those being more intentionally reformed 
by Wesleyan sanctificationist disciplines. 

Four key motifs of late stage modernity are in a process of disintegra- 
tion, each now hammering out the final syllables of its own epitaph: 

• Autonomous individualism focuses on the detached individual 
as a self-sufficient, sovereign self. Western societies are now having 
to learn to live with the consequences of the social destruction to which 
excessive individualism has led the me-first-now generation. The cur- 
tain is closing with the whimpering sighs of the me generation, whose 
progeny are being forced to become the us generation. 

• Narcissistic hedonism is in crisis today. It is best symbolized by 
the recent history of sexuality. The party is over for the sexual revolu- 
tion. The party-crasher and terminator is AIDS. We are now having 
to learn to live with the consequences of the sexual, interpersonal, and 
familial devastation to which money-grubbing, lust-enslaved, porn- 
infested abortive self-indulgence has led us. It is visible in living color 
whenever one turns on the network tube for what is called entertain- 
ment, which turns out to be fixated on sex and violence. Its interper- 
sonal fruits are loneliness, divorce, and the despairing substitution of 
sexual experimentation for intimacy. That one's narcissistic binge 
becomes another's lifelong misery is evident from the 375,000 


American babies born last year suffering from their mothers' drug 

• Reductive naturalism is that view that seeks to reduce all forms 
of knowing to laboratory experimentation, empirical observation and 
quantitative analysis. It is the reduction of sex to orgasm, persons to 
bodies, psychology to stimuli, economics to planning mechanisms, and 
politics to machinery. This ideology is today in crisis. 

• Absolute moral relativism views all moral values as arbitrarily 
contingent upon the changing social determinants of human cultures. 
It is dogmatically absolute in its moral relativism because it asserts 
relativism uncritically and unconditionally. The postmodern world is 
the world that has been forced to live with the disastrous social results 
of absolute moral relativism — the forgetfulness of final judgment 
beyond history, the reduction of all moral claims to a common 
denominator of mediocrity. The communities in Wesley's connection 
have suffered deeply from the pretense that all value judgments are 
equally legitimate and all ideas are born equal and are equally tolerable, 
since presumed to be exhaustively formed by social determinants, 
without any transcendent or eschatological or even moral reference. 
We are now having to learn to live with and beyond the anomie into 
which this modern dogmatism has plunged us. 

What is Left? 

We are now entering into a historical phase in which modernity is 
dying, and whatever is to follow modernity is already taking embryonic 
form. Few can any longer pretend that these deteriorating forces have 
vitality except among certain protected elites, in come universities, 
some church circles, and in defensive bureaucracies. 

The Marxist-Leninism of the Soviet period. The Freudian sexual 
liberation of pop American culture, the Nietzscheanism of European 
nihilism, and the modern chauvinism of once-confident Bultmannians 
are all now deteriorating social processes, each unmasked as having 
a limited vision of human history and possibility. All are under siege. 
They are fallng like dominoes. Each has colluded to support the other. 
These are the key late-modern conceptualities having enormous dif- 
ficulties dragging themselves into the postmodern world. All four are 
quintessentially modern, not postmodern. 

The transition into the world after modernity may last many decades. 
Now we see only a deepening crisis. But out of it by grace is coming 


a society less deeply enamored by the illusions of modernity. For those 
who have eyes to see, we are already through the funeral of the four 
key assumptions of modernity, although it may take time to realize 
just how unresponsive are the corpses. The funeral occurred in the 
summer of 1989. 


If these whimpers echo the dying modern agony, what is meant by 
postmodernity? History does not stand still. It is always confronting 
the Wesleyan connection with new constraints, options, and re- 
quirements. The challenge today is not the same as in 1738 or 1784 
or 1844 or 1968. 

The transition s from modernity to postmodernity may take many 
decades, but it has decisively begun already. Although Wesleyans tarry 
at the frazzled end of modernity, there is no cause for despair, 
apocalyptic anxiety, or immobilized frustration. We are being invited 
to remain open precisely to these new historical conditions, and see 
these very retrogressions as offering the promise of a vital new expres- 
sion of providential possibility. Biblically viewed, this dissolution is 
a providential judgment of sin and an opportunity for convicting grace. 

Those well-instructed in Wesley's connections of spiritual forma- 
tion are prepared to understand that amid any cultural death, gracious 
gifts of providential guidance are being offered to humanity, and un- 
sullied forms of the providential hedging of God in history are emerg- 
ing so as to curb human folly and sin. Wesleyans can continue to ap- 
preciate many technological and some social and economic 
achievements of modernity, even while they soberly recognize their 
ideological underpinnings now face radical crisis. 

Whether the Neoclassical Interpretation of Postmodernity 
Finally Amounts to Antimodernity 

Postmodern consciousness is not rightly understood merely as a reac- 
tionary rejection of all things modern, or a simple negative emotive 
reaction against contemporaneity. Mark well: There is no reason to 
be opposed to something that is dead. Anti-modernity makes the 
egregious error of overestimating the continuing resilience of modern 

If modernity still had intellectual and moral vitality, it might more 
plausibly be argued that the hard postmodern reaction is merely a 


frustrated attack upon modernity. The leading observation of 
postmodern consciousness is not that modernity is bad, but that it is 
dead. This is why postmodern Wesleyan spirituality is not rightly de- 
fined as anti-modern. 

My feeling is less anger than poignancy and pathos toward the death 
of modernity. The period of mourning is soon to be over. It lasted 
long enough, and we now have to be about living, surviving, and 

The Promise of the Postmodern Future: Where Are We Heading? 

Those made alive by Wesley's connection of spiritual formation are 
now living and breathing in a fecund, volatile, decisive, potentially 
pivotal period of evangelical opportunity. New possibilities and ap- 
titudes for spiritual formation which have had a history of being 
repeatedly disdained by modernity are at long last viable. We need not 
be driven to despair by the pressures these postmodern possibilities 
thrust upon us. 

Since no one can see into the future, it would be folly to pretend 
to make a program out of futurity. Those who depict the present situa- 
tion descriptively and then pretend to extrapolate these trends nor- 
matively and indefinitely do not understand, as did Wesley, the in- 
calculable reversibility of human freedom. Futurists who imagine that 
postmodernity is on a fixed or predictable trajectory have failed to 
grasp the simplest point about the indeterminacy of human freedom. 

Assuming this unpredictability, it is still possible to ponder the likely 
direction of postmodern spirituality in the decades ahead. It is more 
apt to involve a search for incremental shifts toward proximate justice 
than some supposed totally revolutionary redefinition of human order. 
It will more likely seek organic changes grounded in particular, rooted 
social traditions than massive social engineering or planning on the 
pretense that no adequate neighborhoods or families or communities 
of prayer ever previously existed. It is more likely to invest confidence 
in smaller, intimate, interpersonally accountable units than to look 
compulsively toward central planning or bureaucratic solutions to local 
and domestic problems. Inheritors of Wesleyan spirituality will more 
likely be calling small scale communities to take responsibility for their 
own futures than turning their futures over to designer-elites who tend 
always to plan their own interest first into any projected social design. 

Above all, aftermodern Wesleyan spirituality will be searching for 
the recovery of the family, for enduring marriages and good en- 
vironments for the growth and nurture of children. Postmodernity, 


whether east or west, will be searching for a way back to the eternal 
verities that grounded societies before the devastations of late moder- 
nity. The direction of postmodernity, in short, promises to be an 
organic approach to incremental change grounded in traditionally 
tested values formed less by abstract rational schemes than by con- 
crete historical experience. Postmodern consciousness will nurture the 
incremental increase of slow-growing human organisms and friend- 
ships and sexual fidelity while resisting the illusory rhetoric of social 
mapmaking, human engineering, or massive schemes of economic 
redistribution with which humanity has had such miserable historical 
experience over the last two centuries. 

That is what I think will at some point begin to happen in the 
postmodern world. But it will happen more out of necessity and revul- 
sion than as a result of some vast, new, rationalistic blueprint on some 
bureaucratic social planner's desk. The only thing reasonably certain 
about our future is that it will outlive all our shrewdest predictions. 

What remains good and lasting and redeemable about the residues 
of modernity? Each attempt to answer points to some ambiguous, 
vulnerable, corruptible, finite good, and only indirectly to the con- 
summate and unconditional good: democratic capitalism, technological 
achievement, rapid transport, computer technology, flushing toilets, 
neon cities that buzz and dance with frenetic market exchange, medical 
breakthroughs, fax machines, broadcast media, credit cards, 
biogenetics, the blues, the steel guitar, and virtual reality. This is all 
modernity, and who would be so foolish as to suppose that it is either 
unambiguously evil or obsolete? But whether it can save from sin, or 
render life meaningful, or heal guilt or relieve anxiety or liberate from 
idolatry — here we must not claim too much. With each modern 
technological achievement comes compounded temptations to treat 
that limited good as if absolute, and to use good means for evil ends. 

Wesleyan Spirituality After Modernity 

As far as east is from west, modernity is morose wherever we turn, 
infusing in our nostrils the invasive aroma of mod rot. Meanwhile 
postmodern consciousness is emerging across all economic and cultural 
barriers. Classic Wesleyan spirituality is rediscovering its identity amid 
this postmodern passage. 

There is no single definitive expression of postmodern Wesleyan 
spirituality. I am seeking to describe a rainbow of renewing forms of 
small-group spirituality rooted in Wesleyan memory. It is not a nar- 
row, monolithic, fixed entity, but a multi-colored splash of sanctifica- 


tionist experimentalism. 

How many fashions and styles of modernity have appeared and died 
since the birth of Wesley? The death of once-modern Aristotelian 
scholasticism was already a fact by his time. The via moderna of 
nominalism died with the emergence of Descartes. The via moderna 
of Cartesian rationalism died with the emergence of the empiricist tradi- 
tion. Later the via moderna of Newtonian physics died with the 
emergence of Einstein's physics and relativity theory and the advent 
of quantum mechanics. The premises of Victorian sexuality died with 
the emergence of psychoanalysis. 

The point: In the three centuries of Wesleyan spirituality this con- 
nection has accumulated considerable experience with various deaths 
of assorted forms of once-modern consciousness. Only the historically 
uninformed imagine this recent modernity to be the first or un- 
precedented or absolutely decisive one. 

Our once-proud enlightenment secular humanistic modernity too 
is dying of its own self-chosen diseases: STDs, teen suicide, the urban 
murder rate, addictions, abortions, and anomie. Meanwhile a new 
civilization is being born. Wesleyan-formed pilgrims who remember 
that sin pervades all human striving will not expect postmodernity to 
be without pride, sensuality, and perennial temptations to corruption. 
But we do have a right to expect that we can learn something from 
the social disasters of recent decades. 

The Wesleyan approach to human renewal invites the dispossessed, 
nomadic families of modern times not to be afraid to enter the 
postmodern world, anymore than Wesley feared entering the conten- 
tious villages of Hannoverian England and Ireland. Those who enslave 
themselves to passing idolatries should not be surprised when the gods 
are found to have clay feet. When these beloved arrangements and 
systems die, we understandably grieve and feel angry and frustrated. 
Meanwhile the grace-enabled can celebrate the imperceptible pro- 
vidences of history whereby each dying historical formation is giving 
birth to new forms and refreshing occasions for responsible human life. 

The Judge who meets us in the final Great Assize is quietly present 
already in the death of cultures as the destroyer and judge of social 
as well as personal sin. Through death, God makes way for ever new 
personal and cultural formations. Cultures come and go, but God lives 
from everlasting to everlasting. Human beings see the river of time from 
a particular vantage point on the bank, but God, as if from above in 
eternal simultaneity, sees the entire river in its whole extent, at every 
point synchronously. Those spiritually formed by Wesley do not waste 
time resenting the inexorable fact that each culture, like each person, 
dies. Whatever the limits of finitude, each resonsible individual is called 


to care deeply about the needy neighbor amid the emergence of 
whatever uncertain social futures. 

Sanctifying grace offers beleaguered cultural pilgrims the power and 
means of trusting fundamentally in the One who proffers us this ever- 
changing, forever-dying historical process. Even when our most 
precious idolatries are threatened, the ground an giver of history is 
friendly and eternally forgiving, and ever-renewing. 

The Postmodern Wesleyan Rediscovery of Classic Christianity 

What is happening today is a profound rediscovery of the texts and 
wisdom of the long-neglected patristic tradition. For Wesleyans this 
means especially the eastern church fathers of the earliest Christian 
centuries, in whom Wesley expressed such avid interest. 

What is happening amid this historical situation is a joyous return 
to the sacred texts of Christian scripture and the consensual exegetical 
guides of the formative period of its canonization and interpretation. 
Postmodern Wesleyans are those who, having entered in good faith 
into the disciplines of modernity, and having become disillusioned with 
the illusions of modernity, are again studying the word of God made 
known in history as attested by prophetic and apostolic witnesses 
whose testimonies have become perennial texts for this worldwide, 
multicultural, multigenerational remembering and celebrating 

The distinction between modern and postmodern is too flatly 
perceived if viewed merely as the general truism that one civilization 
is dying and another being born. Few would quarrel with that bland 
way of putting it, but it hardly advances the argument. Harder 
disagreements come in trying to describe precisely what is passing and 
what is coming to be, and how the body of Christ, particularly in its 
Wesleyan ethos, relates to both. 

What we khow is that a world is dying, perhaps not wholly dead 
yet, but dead in emergent vitality, and only awaiting a lingering dying 
process of that world dominated by the failed ideologies of 
autonomous individualism, narcissistic hedonism, reductive naturalism, 
and absolute moral relativism. Others may call that world something 
other than later-stage modernity, but I have no better way of naming it. 

In describing the trek from liberal Methodist modernity to a 
postmodern classic reappropriation of the patristic exegesis and 
Wesleyan evangelicalism, I am in part describing my own 
autobiographical journey. After spending more than half of my adult 
life as an avid advocate and defender of modernity (from Marx through 


Nietzsche through Freud to Bultmann, with stops along the way with 
Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers, Alexander Lowen, Martin Heidegger, and Eric 
Berne), what has changed for me is the steady slow growth toward 
consensual ancient classic Christianity with its proximate continuity, 
catholicity, and apostolicity. This has elicited for me a growing 
resistance to faddism, novelty, heresy, anarchism, antinomianism, 
pretensions of discontinuity, revolutionary bravado, and nonhistorical 
idealism. Wesley's significance is not that he is an inventor of a better 
Christianity, but an incomparable mentor of the old Christianity. 



AN Essay on Virtue, the Liberal State 
AND THE Church as Alternative 

by Allan R. Bevere* 


Can modern liberalism provide a sufficient account of an ethics of 
virtue? This is the question to be examined in this essay. The work 
of Alasdair Maclntyre and Richard Regan will be analyzed as both 
thinkers have two very different perspectives on the state of modern 
liberalism. After scrutinizing their work, I will present a critique of 
the liberal state, drawing substantively on the work of Stanley Hauer- 
was. In the course of the discussion I hope that my contention will 
become clear: the liberal state cannot offer an adequate account of an 
ethics of virtue.' 


In his book After Virtue, Alasdair Macintyre gives his profound im- 
pression of the state of moral discourse in modern liberal society. He 

[I]n the actual world which we inhabit the language of morality 
is in the . . . state of grave disorder . . . What we possess . . . 
are the fragments of a conceptual scheme, parts which now lack 
those contexts from which their significance derived. We possess 
indeed simulacra of morality, we continue to use many of the 
key expressions. But we have — very largely, if not entirely — 
lost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of 

It is Maclntyre's conviction that before the Enlightenment morality 
focused upon the virtues of the moral agent, as opposed to the modern 
understanding of morality that focuses on rules that are cogent for 

* Allan Bevere (MA, MDiv from ATS) is a PhD student in Theology 
at Durham University, England. He is the Associate Minister at Men- 
tor United Methodist Church in Mentor, Ohio. 


everyone. The ancients believed that human beings have a telos, that 
is, they possess a common direction of development toward the fulfill- 
ment of life's end or good. The notion of a telos means that moral 
statements can be true or false and thus the direction one takes in life 
can be right or wrong. Within the ancient tradition the language of 
virtue, therefore, provides the resources to settle moral contentions. 
These moral resources, however, do not exist in the Enlightenment 
understanding of morality. The Enlightenment made it impossible to 
resolve our fundamental moral disputes when its thinkers abandoned 
the concept of telos. Fact and value were divorced from one another. 
Maclntyre states. 

To call a particular action just or right is to say that it is what 
a good man would do in such a situation, hence this type of state- 
ment too is factual. Within this [Aristotelian] tradition moral and 
evaluative statements can be called true or false in precisely the 
way in which all other factual statements can be so called. But 
once the notion of essential human purposes or functions disap- 
pears from morality, it begins to appear implausible to treat moral 
judgments as factual statements.^ 

Without a telos it seemed that traditional moral mandates were arbitrary 
as well as violations of human autonomy. Enlightenment philosophers 
saw the predicament involved in the rejection of a telos and attemp- 
ted to find a new justification for moral injunctions. This justification 
was sought in some notion of universal human nature such as reason 
or freedom of choice. 

Attempts at fashioning alternative foundations in rationality, social 
utility or logic have created a "liberal " culture where the individual 
is in control.^ Modern Western civilization is, therefore, constituted 
of self-interested individuals associated only loosely by contractual rela- 
tions that are chosen freely and are part of a state whose basic pur- 
pose is to maintain order for private initiative. In other words such 
attempts to reground morality have failed. Modernity is left with 
nothing but fragments of a moral discourse whose unity and in- 
telligibility have been lost. Enlightenment society has no way to pi- 
nion moral agreement. 

In the rejection of a telos (at least, explicitly) and what constitutes 
the good in human life, there is no basis for moral standards or virtues 
to be held in common. This side of the Enlightenment we live in a 
wasteland of relativism that uses the language of emotivism. Macln- 
tyre observes, 


Emotivism is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more 
specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of 
preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are 
moral or evaluative in character. Particular judgments may of 
course unite moral and factual elements . . . But the moral ele- 
ment in such a judgment is always to be sharply distinguished 
from the factual. Factual judgments are true or false . . . [bjut 
moral judgments, being expressions of attitude or feeling, are 
neither true or false; and agreement in moral judgment is not to 
be secured by any rational method, for there is none.^ 

As Nietzsche understood so well, a morality with no agreed upon 
foundations is far from objective, but rather "expressions of subjec- 
tive will."^ We may continue to debate moral issues as if they are 
"objective," but the reality is that such debates are illusions. Morality 
in the Enlightenment becomes a matter of personal taste. Such moral 
discourse creates a world the ancients could not know. Philip Turner 

In such a world, moral chaos lies just beneath the surface. Socie- 
ty becomes a battle ground for the restless ego. A sharp distinc- 
tion is drawn between fact and value. Against a morally neutral 
backdrop of fact, a certain cast of characters begins to appear. 
The contemporary Everyman is an aesthete well trained in the 
arts of consumption and enjoyment. He or she is serviced by a 
battery of therapists who hold no view of the good life but who 
provide techniques for adequate adjustment. The social order is 
handed over to managers and experts who again hold no view 
of the good life, but who are to promote abstract notions of justice 
and rights which allow people to pursue private pleasures without 
doing undue harm to others . . . [I]n such a world, politics 
becomes subservient to the pursuit of private interests. Behind 
all the characters lurks the naked ego which seeks its own but 
is nonetheless homeless — with no sense of direction and no 
boundaries save those imposed by force from without." 

What is needed, according to Maclntyre, is a return to the notion 
of a telos. This would regulate the virtues, make the very search for 
life's meaning the purpose of life, and would turn us to particular tradi- 
tions for a narrative which will supply a sense of unity to life. 

But Maclntyre holds no misconceptions about the ease of ac- 
complishing such a task in our Enlightenment society. The only way 
to reverse our moral dilemma is to reject a large part of our modern 


ethos; for as Macintyre notes, "[W]e are already in a state so disastrous 
that there are no large remedies for it."" It seems that we live in the 
midst of a moral Babel. 


The perspective on modern Western society that Richard Regan 
presents is quite different from the panorama put forth by Macintyre. 
Regan believes that Westerners can exult in the triumph of the 
democratic liberal ideal. He writes, "The ideal of freedom for persons 
and societies is properly human, and Westerners rightly rejoice in its 
institutional realization.'"^ Though the price paid was indeed high, 
Westerners can enjoy free institutions. 

Yet Regan is concerned for he fears that Westerners have become 
indifferent to the moral moorings that serve as the foundation of public 
and private well-being. A free society is no guarantee that society or 
individuals in that society will act wisely. Since Westerners are inclined 
to make a separation between the exercise of freedom and the "goal 
of proper human development," that is, subjective will and objective 
reason, such indifference it seems is always a possibility.'" 

Regan sees evidence for this indifference to moral virtue on two 
levels. On one level Western liberal societies have created appetitive 
individuals with no desire to moderate their appetites. On the second 
level persons tend to be numb or even belligerent to the materially 
disadvantaged in society. To be succinct: "Western liberal societies 
have spawned possessive individuals."" 

But Regan believes there is a way out of this moral dilemma of "in- 
dividuals without communal moral goals and a collectivism without 
personal freedom for individuals."'^ Such a solution can be found in 
the origins of Western political thought. 

First, Regan argues that the tradition of reason should comprise the 
public philosophy undergirding the civic culture of Western 
democracies — the tradition of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. He writes, 

In Athens of the fifth century B.C., Socrates confronted a situa- 
tion very similar to and almost identical with the one Western 
society faces today. The Sophists of fifth century Athens, like 
many post-Enlightenment liberals of the twentieth century West, 
made achievement of each individual's aspirations the measure 
of all things without regard for the relation of those aspirations 
to the properly human development of the individual in com- 
munity with others. Socrates, followed by Plato and Aristotle in 


the fourth century B.C., opposed the subjectivism and privatism 
of the Sophists, and the three suggested principles relevant to- 
day to serve as the basis for a civic culture conducive to personal 
and communal virtue.'^ 

Socrates' point of departure was reason, which Regan believes is 
what makes human beings distinctive. The entreaty to reason instead 
of to any article of religious faith, emanates from the origins of Western 
civilization and should be satisfactory to citizens who are reflective 
and responsible. 

Regan also contends that the state should play only a limited role 
in coercing moral behavior. The principle of subsidiarity commits the 
state to a limited role in the evolvement of civic culture that contributes 
to moral virtue. In a rightly ordered society, legal coercion should be 
the last means of encouraging virtue. 

Legislation to enforce public morals should meet two conditions: 
First, legislation should be made only on activities that seriously harm 
citizens and community. Second, such legislation should enjoy broad 
support from people of various religious and ethical preferences. Con- 
cerning these principles Regan states, 

The two are interrelated: legislation prohibiting or regulating ac- 
tivities causing serious harm to citizens and the community are 
likely to enjoy broad support, and legislation enjoying broad sup- 
port is likely to involve activities which cause serious harm to 
citizens and the community. But that will not always be the case, 
since some citizens may think that certain activities cause serious 
harm while others may think that they do not. In my opinion, 
the pluralist character of Western democracies requires that the 
second condition be satisfied as much as the first. '^ 

Lawmakers and citizens must seriously consider these two principles 
when considering legal restrictions. 

Finally Regan argues that freedom of religion is part of the tradition 
of reason and religious commitment contributes to the formation of 
virtuous citizens. The tradition of reason must be open to the role 
religion plays in human society. Freedom of individuals is necessary 
if society is to be rightly ordered and this includes freedom of religion. 
It is religion that offers a potential bulwark for civic virtue. Yet Regan 
hastens to add that the right to practice one's religion is "subject to 
the requirements of a just order in society."''^ When these re- 
quirements are violated the state may justly restrict religious practices. 


But when the requirements of a just order are kept, religion plays an 
important role in forming virtuous citizens. 

What is crucial to note here is that, unlike Maclntyre, Regan believes 
that modern liberalism has the language to form virtuous people. For 
Regan the problem is not liberalism but its excesses. Maclntyre, on the 
other hand, thinks that a virtuous society is possible only after a rejec- 
tion of a large part of our modern ethos. Enlightenment liberalism, 
according to Maclntyre, is the problem that has created our moral 


It is true that there is nothing that prevents liberal societies from 
giving an account of an ethics of virtue. In fact no society can free 
itself from recommending that its citizens have certain virtues. Liberal 
societies tell us to be loyal to our nation, to be fair, tolerant, and 
sincere."' Thus the questions that must be asked at this point are not 
the ones that deal with the possibility of an ethics of virtue in a liberal 
society, but the ones that "have to do with which virtues we acquire, 
how they are acquired, and what they tell us about the kind of social 
order in which we exist. " Liberalism may be able to provide an ac- 
count of an ethics of virtue, but will that account be sufficient? 

It is appropriate, I think, to ask why it is that modern moral 
philosophy has neglected the virtues. While recognizing the existence 
of other minor reasons why this is the case, I believe it is primarily 
because of the Enlightenment project of developing a morality without 
a history for, "we lack the kind of community necessary to sustain 
development of people of virtue and character. "'" Indeed the notion 
of telos is a historical one. The Enlightenment's rejection of a telos was 
also a rejection of history as significant for the moral life. Thus modern 
liberalism's ahistorical approach to morality is one that hinders a cor- 
rect understanding of an ethics of virtue, because without a telos and 
a context how one differentiates the virtues is arbitrary. How can a 
people be sufficiently virtuous if they share no common good? 

In this situation the virtues that are important are procedural, which 
means for Stanley Hauerwas, that such an account 

is insufficient, if not self-deceptive. For the very notion that these 
"procedural" virtues can be divorced from some determinative 
conception of the good is itself a substantive claim. As a result, 
the nature of the moral life is distorted as virtues such as humili- 
ty, temperance, courage, and prudence are made secondary to 


these truly "public" virtues. Indeed, the situation is worse, since 
by definition the more "procedural" virtues undercut the social 
significance of virtues such as humility by suggesting that these 
virtues cannot be supported socially because any support would 
violate the individual's freedom. As a result, however, the liberal 
often fails to see that they are training people to be virtuous which 
in their own terms is coercive since they claim to be creating a 
social order that respects the "right of everyone to be virtuous 
in their own way. "''^ 

When such a distinction is drawn between public and private, an 
ethics of virtue becomes problematic in that people of virtue are not 
necessary for the political realm to function as it should. Liberalism 
proceeds on the belief that a polity can be formed apart from moral 
virtue, because the freedom of the individual is of supreme value. This 
is decidedly different from the classical perspective that a good polity 
should produce good people.^" 

Now Regan certainly thinks that modern liberal society can produce 
virtuous people, but he has no adequate public basis for making such 
a claim; for in the liberal vista, individuals are merely "bundles of in- 
terests" in rivalry against one another. Ironically, in order for this 
system of competition to work the people doing the competing should 
be virtuous. Yet liberal theory offers no context for \irtue."' H\en 
Regan's attempt to use the "tradition" (a historical!} dependent word) 
of reason to justify his argument is an ahistorical mo\ e to produce a 
people of virtue in any responsible and reasonable society Where does 
Regan get the idea, in the first place, that there is such a thing as a 
tradition of reason" and what would he suggest we do with all the 
unreasonable people in society (allowing his own definition of reason, 
of course). 

In conjunction with this, Regan's argument for the necessit> of a 
limited state in contributing to moral virtue is deeply ironic. It is 
Regan's contention that a limited state is crucial for allowing the in- 
dividual the freedom to live virtuously, yet the ver\ assumptions of 
liberalism make virtue unnecessary and, therefore, invite more con- 
trol by the state. Hauerwas observes, 

When we are not able to count on the other to be virtuous we 
must then rely on institutions, most often the state, to compen- 
sate for this. The more we rely on the state to sustain the rela- 
tions necessary for social life, the less it seems we need people 
of virtue — and so a vicious circle begins."^ 


In arguing for a limited state, Regan wants Western citizens to be 
people of virtue. But given liberal assumptions can he have a limited 
state? For if religious practices can be justly restricted by the state for 
certain reasons, does this not mean that the state will limit itself only 
when it can afford to do so? When people cannot be counted on to 
act virtuously (vice in this context is anything that threatens the just 
ordering of society), then the state is called in to compensate for lack 
of virtue. This can be seen in the fact that America has tended to move 
away from being a limited state by becoming extremely litigious, since 
our freedom allows us to live to the limits of the law.^^ The notion 
of a limited state in liberal society is not very helpful. 

It would be interesting to inquire into what makes a virtuous liberal. 
Regan is distressed by the material appetites of individuals in Western 
liberal societies. He quite clearly believes greed to be a vice, but given 
his assumptions should this be the case? If indeed people are nothing 
but "bundles of interests," and the individual is autonomous, then it 
appears that modern liberalism encourages greed as a virtue, as long 
as one's greed doesn't interfere with the greed of one's neighbor. ^^ 
Possessiveness is not an excess of liberalism, rather it is its logical out- 
come. Hauerwas writes, "Liberalism thus becomes a self-fulfilling pro- 
phecy; a social order that is designed to work on the presumption that 
people are self-interested tends to produce that kind of people. "^^ 

It is no wonder that there is so little consensus about what virtues 
are and which virtues are cardinal. Modern moral philosophy provides 
us with no way to determine which virtues are primary. It is often said 
that one of the great aspects of liberal society is its pluralism. Yet 
pluralism is a very deceptive term, for what is pluralism but a synonym 
for fragmentation? Having no vision of the common good of society 
we are left as individuals to pursue our own selfishness. If Michael 
Walzer is right when he states that "a liberal nation can have no col- 
lective purpose, "^^ then any account of the virtues from a liberal 
perspective must be insufficient; for an analysis of the virtues requires 
a conception of the common good. The very notion that America is 
a pluralist society may indeed mean that there is no sufficient American 
community on which to base an adequate ethics of virtue. 

It seems from this discussion that the very presuppositions of 
liberalism work against liberalism. When freedom of the individual is 
made the highest value in a society, it cannot help but create less than 
virtuous people who cannot be depended upon. Moreover, any account 
of an ethics of virtue from a liberal perspective cannot take into ac- 
count what Gilbert Meilaender affirms — that "some things we may 
need to say (ethically) about the relation of persons and their com- 
munities are dangerous as guides to political life."^** This does not 


mean that a liberal ethics of virtue cannot challenge the state in some 
way, but it certainly cannot threaten its existence; for a liberal ethics 
of virtue wants to affirm the liberal state. It is impossible for such an 
account, therefore, to give serious consideration to sophrosune (sound 
judgment). Maclntyre writes, 

[0]n the best account of the virtues we have, whatever it turns 
out to be, the virtues will be disruptive of and dysfunctional to 
the common life of some social order. And to have reached this 
conclusion is not unimportant. [In the view of modern liberalism] 
it does seem that the practice of the virtues in any order will 
always be fundamentally conservative, preservative of the func- 
tioning of that order. That [liberalism's] functionalist generaliza- 
tion is false opens up the possibility that being virtuous may re- 
quire one to be at odds with the established modes of the com- 
mon life in radical ways. The virtue of sophrosune, like other vir- 
tues, can be a virtue of revolutionaries. 

Regan's account of virtue has no place for sophrosune and this reveals 
what is most disturbing about his position: it is part and parcel of a 
flawed ecclesiology. 


For Regan the ultimate ethical task of the church is to make virtuous 
liberals. His account offers no possibility for the church to resist the 
liberal state. The task of the church, from Regan's viewpoint, is to 
underwrite the modern liberal ethos, rather than to stand as an alter- 
native to it. What Regan fails to take into account is that no matter 
what the state may say (and really believe), it will not voluntarily keep 
itself limited when an alternative to that state actually exists. It is 
precisely my contention that as an alternative to the state, the church 
represents a threat to the sovereignty of the liberal state or any state 
for that matter; for a Christian's unconditional allegiance to Jesus Christ 
must by necessity qualify all other allegiances. 

Regan has made Christianity palatable to the liberal nation because 
he has domesticated it. This is important because 'it makes a good deal 
of difference what kind of church and what kind of preaching it is that 
is allowed to be so free."^° Indeed, it appears to be the case that 
Regan has received what he's wanted, as the liberal mindset has, in not 
a few places, infected the church in America in tragic ways. It is reminis- 
cent of a story related to me of a church where a member said that 


the most wonderful thing about her church was that no one told 
anyone else how to live for God. 

Now some will protest that the vision of the church as political alter- 
native certainly isn't a settled issue. The liberal state may be fragmented, 
but the church cannot boast that it is more unified. So how can the 
church hope to offer an ethics of virtue that stands as an alternative 
to the liberal state? 

I certainly do not deny the lack of unity that has existed and still 
continues to exist in the church, but I do not see how this undermines 
my contention that the church is a political alternative. Such a view 
is certainly more in keeping with the New Testament than a perspec- 
tive that sees the church as one organization among many whose pur- 
pose is to form loyal liberals. I maintain that the difference between 
the church and the liberal state is that the church is formed by a story 
that's true. It is a story that has an ending, or a telos; for the only cor- 
rect perspective from which to view the Christian story is an 
eschatological one. The church provides the language capable of giv- 
ing a true and sufficient account of an ethics of virtue that the liberal 
state can in no way deliver. The modern Western state denies that there 
is an end to the liberal story and, therefore, rejects history as crucial 
for giving a true account of morality.^' But by her very nature the 
church provides "a paradigm of social relations otherwise thought 
impossible. "^^ For the church's task is not to form virtuous liberals, 
rather the church is a story formed people whose ethical task is to be 
itself. ^^ The liberal state has nothing on which to found its abstract 
morality. The moral foundation of the church is nothing less than the 
resurrection of Christ. 

This means that Christian virtue is an account for a specific people; 
for any account of virtue is context dependent. In trying to develop 
an ethics of virtue for everybody and anybody, the development of 
a liberal ethics of virtue is a project whose very undertaking under- 
mines its accomplishment. 

No matter what legitimate quarrels one might have with the details 
of Maclntyre's account, he has nonetheless accurately portrayed our 
current condition. But this should not cause Christians to despair. We 
believe that with Jesus Christ God's Kingdom comes, and in Jesus Christ 
God has purchased for himself a new nation of people — the church 
— as an alternative to any other nation. Christians, therefore, pursue 
a life of Christian virtue that bears witness to that Kingdom. We are 
indeed a hopeful people. 



'I realize that the phrase "ethics of virtue" is somewhat problematic, 
but it is still a phrase that merits use as it separates the classical 
understanding of the moral life from the modern moral perspective. 
It is not part of my agenda to discuss this difficulty as the subject re- 
quires more space than I can adequately give it in this paper, but I am 
aware of the problem. 

^Alasdair Maclntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre 
Dame Press, 1981), p. 2. 

%id., p. 59. 

^Behind this is the false assumption that the very concept of the in- 
dividual qua individual is intelligible. 

^Maclntyre, After Virtue, pp. 11-12. 

•^Ibid., p. 113. While I want to avoid the objective/subjective distinc- 
tion, Nietzsche's point is correct. 

^Philip Turner, review of After Virtue, by Alasdair Maclntyre in 
Anglican Theological Review, )2.nu2iry 1983, p. 115. 

^Maclntyre, After Virtue, p. 5. 

^Richard J. Regan, "Virtue, Religion, and Civic Culture." in Midwest 
Studies in Philosophy XIII, Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue eds., 
Peter French, Theodore Uehling, and Howard Wettstein (Notre Dame: 
University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), p. 342. 




'^Ibid., p. 343. 

•%id., p. 346. 

''Ibid., p. 349. 

'^How far sincerity can go in American society is, I think, an in- 
teresting question. After all, we are constantly told that we are a govern- 
ment of laws not of men, which doesn't appear to leave a whole lot 
of room for sincerity. Yet sincerity highlights the moral importance 
in liberal society of the individual. 


'Stanley M. Hauerwas, Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church, 
World and Living in Between (Durham: The Labyrinth Press. 1988), 
p. 192. 

'"Idem. A Community of Character. Toward a Constructive 
Chrisitan Social Ethic (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 
1981), p. 117.) 

'''Idem. Christian Existence Today, p. 192. 

'"George Will is right to observe, "Men and women are biological 
facts. Ladies and gentlemen — citizens — are social artifacts, works 
of political art. They carry the culture that is sustained by wise laws, 
and traditions of civility. At the end of the day we are right to judge 
a society by the character of the people it produces. That is why 
statecraft is inevitable soulcraft." The Pursuit of Happiness and Other 
Sobering Thoughts (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), p. 3- 

This does not mean that the state should make good people but rather 
it needs to direct its people toward the good (Hauerwas, A Communi- 
ty of Character, p. 248). I can think of no better example of how the 
American state has failed to direct its people than in legalized abor- 
tion. Indeed at the end of the day we as Christians in America must 
judge negatively our society (or any society) because it has legalized 
the killing of children. 

^'Indeed, for Kantian philosophers accounts of virtue have taken se- 
cond place (if that) to accounts of obligation. If dealt with at all, the 
virtues are treated so abstractly as to be unhelpful. See James Johnson, 
"On Keeping Faith: The Use of History for Religious Ethics." Hastings 
Center Report 9 (August 1979), pp. 21-22. 

^^1 am not convinced that Regan really uses the notion of "tradition." 
Tradition is passed down from generation to generation. Reason is 
something that Regan believes all reasonable people possess. Thus 
reason need not be passed down and therefore cannot be referred to 
as a tradition. 

^^Hauerwas, Christian Existence Today, p. 191. 

^^Idem. A Community of Character, p. 75. 

^'Some would probably prefer to substitute "prosperity" for "greed." 
Such terminology merely clouds the issue. 

^^'Ibid. p. 29. 

^^Michael Walzer, Radical Principles: Reflections of an 
Unreconstructed Democrat (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 69. 


^"Gilbert Meilaender, The Limits of Love: Some Theological Explora- 
tions (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987), 
p. 132. 

^^Alasdair Maclntyre, "Sophrosune." Midwest Studies in Philosophy 
XIIl, p. 11. 

^"Stanley Hauerwas, Against the Nations: War and Survival in a 
Liberal Society (M\nnt2iipo\is. Winston Press, 1985), p. 127. 

^'It must not be thought that liberalism is not a tradition. One of the 
corrupt aspects of the Enlightenment liberal tradition is that it is a tradi- 
tion that denies this is so, and promises to free us from all the tradi- 
tions that infringe upon our autonomy. 

'^Hauerwas, A Community of Character, p. 12. 

^^Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom Notre Dame: Universi- 
ty of Notre Dame Press, 1983), p. 99. 


Care of the Person with HIV/AIDS: 
THE Biblical Mandate 

by Elizabeth Ann Schenk' 

Today's church is faced with a modern day leprosy. It is called AIDS, 
or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Once felt to be a problem 
only for inner city churches, reality now is that almost every church 
in the nation is being challenged to define their position about per- 
sons infected with HIV/AIDS. Peggy Skill, in the January /February issue 
of Alive Now says it in this way: "The Body of Christ has AIDS." 
Another article published in The Christian Century is entitled "We 
Are the Church Alive, the Church with AIDS" (Cherry and Mitulski 
1988, 8). 

The magnitude of the problem is large and growing. Some recent 
statistics are alarming, but help show the imperative of this topic. In 
1992, it was estimated that there were two million people who suf- 
fered from AIDS. Projections include the fact that by the year 2000, 
25 million people will have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome 
{Alive Now 1993, 7). To bring the problem more to our own country, 
it is currently estimated that one in every 250 people in the United 
States is HIV positive. More than 140,000 people in the United States 
have died of AIDS since 1981. The devastation that occurs affects not 
just the persons with AIDS, but extends to their families. Experts have 
projected that by the year 2000, approximately 10 million children 
will be orphaned as a result of AIDS {Alive Now 1993, 7). 

Perhaps the first task required of churches today concerning this 
scourge is the need to assist individual Christians to develop their in- 
dividual response to AIDS, based on sound Biblical principles and not 
on hysteria, misconceptions, or lack of knowledge. The nature of these 
Biblical mandates needs to be defined. It is the intent of this paper to 
do just that. 

The first, and most important Biblical mandate for Christians is to 
love and accept the person with AIDS. This requires a theological 
perspective that is based in the model presented by Jesus Christ 
throughout the New Testament. He offered himself to all kinds of 
undesirable persons. It is what he also asks of us. Jesus was not afraid 
to touch lepers or to talk with Samaritans. This is exemplified by the 

* Betsy Schenk is an MDiv student at ATS. This is her prize-winning 
essay for the Jeffrey Branche Scholarship. 


story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, found in John 
4. This story is a model for the kind of nonjudgmental and compas- 
sionate acceptance called for in ministry to persons with AIDS. 

With this sense of love and acceptance it is important to have an 
attitude of nonjudgment. This is shown in Matt. 7.1 when Jesus said, 
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged, and with the measure you 
use, it will be measured to you" (Matt 7.1, NIV). Paul also wrote of 
this in his letter to the Romans. He stated "You therefore, have no 
excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point 
you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who 
pass judgment do the same things" (Rom. 2.1, NIV). 

At times this love and acceptance may result in strong feelings. 
Perhaps we may be moved to anger. Some have suggested that in the 
Biblical account of Jesus healing the man with leprosy, he was not so 
moved by compassion, as by anger (Smith 1988, 88). Smith also states 
"To be able to minister effectively to this new group of lepers, we must 
feel 'moved to anger.' We need to feel the social and psychological 
isolation of the persons with AIDS, the way in which they are seperated 
from community supports" (Smith 1988, 88). 

The second mandate that Scripture defines is that of reconciliation 
and healing. Scripture tells us that in 2 Corinthians that God has "com- 
mitted to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5.19, NIV). Broyles 
says it in this way: "In the midst of the heart-breaking reality of 
HIV/AIDS, Christian love can reach out to provide a healing that 
medical technology can never offer " (Broyles 1993, 19). It is the type 
of healing that occurs when medical technology can no longer offer 
anything except palliative care. It is the type of healing that occurs 
when death becomes real. It is a healing that is offered based on the 
love and acceptance discussed under the first Biblical mandate. 

Included in this healing is assisting the person with AIDS to see the 
reality of Romans, where it states "Not only that suffering produces 
perseverance:. perseverance, character: and character, hope. And hope 
does not disappoint us, because God poured out his love into out hearts 
by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Rom. 5.3-4, NIV). It is often 
difficult to see the truth in this passage, but we as Christians can offer 
ourselves as individuals who present with a presence of caring and be- 
ing with the person. Often times, the most effective thing we can do 
is totally be with the person, sharing in the experience of suffering. 

As individuals we need to be part of a healing community. Henri 
Nouwen, in his book, The Wounded Healer, discusses the 
characteristics of such a Christian community. He describes the com- 
munity's ability to become a healing community not because wounds 
are cured or suffering is alleviated, but because the suffering becomes 


openings or occasions for a new vision (Nouwen 1990, 94). This is 
a new vision of hope. Hopefully, these communities of healing can 
take place in the context of many churches. In some places, however, 
rejection of persons with AIDS has led to the founding of churches 
specifically designed to minister to this group of people. An example 
of this is the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community 
Churches (UFMCC) that was founded in Los Angeles in 1968 by Troy 
Perry, a former Pentecostal minister (Cherry and Mitulski 1988, 86). 

As Christians we are asked to share the Gospel message with non- 
believers. This command is found in the book of Matthew where it 
is stated, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" 
(Matt. 28.19, NIV). Part of this discipleship is the assurance of salva- 
tion and forgiveness, along with a sense of hope for the future. The 
theme of hope is a key one in the Bible. From the time of the fall of 
Adam and Eve, God promised to send someone to crush the head of 
Satan (Genesis 315). This he did in the sending of his son, Jesus Christ. 
Those who know Christ as their personal savior have a stabilizing an- 
chor in life. For the person with HIV/AIDS, who knows that death is 
near, their hope rests in the resurrection of Christ. 

Interacting with individuals in need of healing requires the individual 
Christian to risk sharing his/her own inward journey of both faith and 
pain to risk the hurt of shared suffering, and to minister out of the 
depth of personal experience. The experience of totally being with 
a person, even for a short time, is hard work. Christ, however, asks 
no less from us. As we help each other to bear sufferings and to en- 
dure, we are fulfilling Christ's example of living and loving. Through 
this, we enhance the ability of the HIV positive person to see hope 
as the end result of pain and suffering. 

The third Biblical mandate, in the view of the author, is that of em- 
powerment. In offering support and assistance to the person with AIDS, 
it is important not to be overly paternalistic or maternalistic. These 
attitudes can be conveyed not only in what is said, but in the approach 
that is used. Care should be offered to a person with HIV/AIDS in such 
a manner as to create an environment where the individual being 
helped feels encouraged to do more for himself or herself, knowing 
that support is present. The person needs to be helped to find per- 
sonal solutions, rather than having problems solved by someone else. 
An effective model for what is being discussed here is found in the 
Gospel of Luke, where Jesus directs responsibility for the future of the 
paralyzed man in chapter 5. 17-26 back on the man himself. This was 
an example of healing linked with belief and personal action. Chris- 
tian care should attempt to facilitate both. It should be enabling, en- 


couraging, and choosing. Finally, Christian care should create a feel- 
ing of partnership (Smith 1988, 57). 

From a practical standpoint, empowerment includes assisting the per- 
son with HIV/AIDS in daily needs. Jesus admonished his disciples to 
feed the hungry, cloth the naked, care for the sick, and house the 
stranger in Matthew 25. This can be done in a practical way by assisting 
with housing and basic needs. Being a friend can serve many purposes. 
Offering assistance with care when the disabling aspects of the disease 
occur may be a very effective practical ministry. 

Education of persons about the disease and the necessity of living 
Biblically is another practical but very important part of empowerment. 
Too often the church has left this education to secular aspects of socie- 
ty, without emphasis on Christian values. Spohn has identified the 
determination of the educational strategy appropriate for the AIDS 
crisis as one of the three areas of special challenge that faces the church 
(Spohn 1988, 106). 

Finally, aiding the person with AIDS to die with dignity may be the 
most valuable sort of empowerment that the individual Christian can 
accomplish. This last example of empowerment includes assisting the 
dying person to reduce any remaining conflicts and tensions and to 
attempt to resolve adequately interpersonal relationships. This may 
include working with estranged families or significant others (Perelli 
1991, 25). It has been said by Mother Theresa that the greatest aim 
in human life is to die in peace with God. In the process of dying. Chris- 
tians can bring the consoling reassurance of God's presence and ac- 
ceptance, in essence, divine love mediated through human contact. 

The last Biblical mandate is the importance of offering assistance to 
those persons with AIDS who desire to change life habits that are not 
Biblical. These specifically relate to homosexuality (Springett 1988) 
and to drug abuse. Smith states it in this way: "While pastoral care 
should not focus on how or why a person had acquired the disease, 
the person with AIDS may need to identify and discuss these issues. 
Nonjudgmental dialogue . . . can help a person to process effectively 
these feelings and concerns" (Smith 1988, 4). Although dealing with 
the issues of sexual ethics in terms of AIDS is often difficult, we can- 
not bury our heads in the sand. Countryman says it this way "... We 
must find ways to join with gay and lesbian people at large to deal 
with the issues of sexual ethics" (Countryman 1987, 133). 

Individual Christians can and should offer assistance to persons who 
desire to change their lives. This may include listening to persons as 
they process their feelings, helping them receive professional counsel- 
ing, or sponsoring them in a twelve step program. To do this requires 
some measure of comfort with being exposed to settings and lifestyles 


that are often unfamiliar and perhaps even offensive. At times courage 
may be needed (Shelp and Sunderland 1987, 94-6). 

Although not a Biblical mandate in the same way as others discussed 
earlier in this paper, it is important for the Christian to keep in mind 
that often God's healing in situations such as ministry to the persons 
with AIDS, touches the healer as well the afflicted. One is ministered 
to by the very person to whom one extends a helping hand. Pastoral 
care, by a minister of God, either ordained or lay, is not just a respon- 
sibility, but a privilege of God's kingdom. 

Researchers, however, have also documented the heavy burden 
placed upon care-givers who care for persons living with AIDS 
(Sunderland and Shelp 1990, 59). It is often very difficult to deal with 
the devastating aspects of AIDS, especially in the latter part of the 
disease. If neurological complications have occurred, the person may 
not be coherent, or may have difficulty in dealing with pain or discom- 
fort. In addition, the physical problems associated with the disease are 
often unpleasant and can cause stress in even the most seasoned health 
professionals. This was made evident to this author several years ago, 
when the hospital where she was employed admitted two patients with 
HIV/AIDS. Care of both of these persons required patience, understan- 
ding, and much support. The caregiver must keep a balance between 
care of the person with AIDS and self-care, something that ministers 
have not always been very good at doing. 

The individual Christian and the church are being challenged by the 
HIV/AIDS epidemic. One author has answered the question of what 
God is doing in this crisis by stating that "God is bringing us into the 
time of trial, the peirasmos . God is revealing God's work in us. God 
is drawing us into the mystery" (Countryman 1987, 134). The modern 
church is facing the leprosy common in the times of the early church. 
This disease is ravaging strangers, our neighbors, the hemophiliac, the 
little child who lives down the street, and even perhaps a family 

It is a time of decision for all Christians, a time to live out of Jesus' 
sacrifice and out of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; to live not out of our 
own sense of self-righteousness, but out of a sense of grace. God's grace 
and forgiveness are offered to all unconditionally. Individual Chris- 
tians must emulate the model of Jesus Christ, who touched the 
uncleanest of the unclean. He used the story of the Good Samaritan 
(Luke 10.25-37) to show what is expected of each of us. 

In conclusion, this paper has explored key Biblical mandates con- 
cerning the AIDS epidemic. Scriptural references concerning behaviors 
expected from Christians in dealing with this crisis were mentioned, 


as well as suggestions for practical applications in ministering to people 
with AIDS. Every individual Christian will face this challenge in the 
years to come. How we articulate our faith in the reality of this 
devastating disease will touch those with HIV/AIDS, as well as their 
families. We can choose to be healers, or we can turn our backs and 
walk away, as did the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good 
Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37). This author believes that there is no real 
choice, if we are to respond as Christ responded, and as we are directed 
by Scripture. 

The Body of Christ has AIDS 

and we who are members 

are called to heal it. 

Unto the least of these. 

Feed the hungry: 
hungry for food, 
hungry for hope, 
hungry for love, 




Clothe the naked: 

the naked body, 

the naked heart, 

the naked soul. 

Heal the sick with love and care and hope. 
The Body of Christ 

has AIDS 
and we are called to 

heal it. 
We are not called to 

turn our backs. 

We are not called to 

cross to the other side. 

We are not called to 

blame the sick 

for their disease. 

We are called to heal. 

Unto the least of these. 

Unto the sickest of these. 

Is it not we who will be dying 

If we do not? (Skill 1993, 21) 


Works Cited 

Amos, William E., Jr. 1988. When AIDS Comes to the Church. 
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 

Broyles, Anne. 1993. Untitled. Alive Now. Jan. /Feb. 1993. 19. 

Cherry, Kittredge and Mitulski, James. 1988. "We Are the Church Alive, 
the Church with AIDS." The Christian Century. 105:1 (January 
5-13). 85-88. 

Christensen, Michael J. 1991. The Samaritan's Imperative: Compas- 
sionate Ministry to People Living with AIDS. Nashville: Abingdon 

Countryman, L. William. 1987. The Aids Crisis: Theoligical and Ethical 
Reflections. Anglican Theological Review. 69:4. 125-134. 

HIV/AIDS Statistics. 1993- Alive Now. Jan./Feb. 1993. 7. 

Nouwen, Henri J. M. 1979. The Wounded Healer. New York: 

Perelli, Robert J. 1991. Ministry to Persons with AIDS: A Family 
Systems Approach . Minneapolis: Augsburg Press. 

Shelp, Earl E. and Sunderland Ronald. 198. AIDS and the Church. 
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 

Skill, Peggy Jo. 1993. "The Body of Christ Has AIDS." Alive Now. 
Jan./Feb. 1992. 21. 

Smith, Sheppard and Smith, Anita Moreland. 1990. Christians in the 
Age of AIDS: How We Can Be Good Samaritans Responding to 
the AIDS Crisis. Wheaton: Victor Books. 

Smith, Walter J. 1988. AIDS: Living and Dying with Hope. New York: 
Paulist Press. 

Spohn William C. 188. "The Moral Dimensions of AIDS. ' Theological 
Studies. 4:1 (March). 89-109. 

Springett, Ronald M. 1988. Homosexuality in History and the Scrip- 
tures: Some Historical and Biblical Perspectives on Homosex- 
uality. Washington D.C.: Biblical Research Institute. 

Sunderland, Ronald H. and Shelp, Earl E. 190. Handle with Care: A 
Handbook for Care Teams Serving People with AIDS. Nashville: 
Abingdon Press. 


Recent Trends in the Study of Jeremiah 

by Bill T. Arnold^ 

Until recently, one would be hard pressed to list more than a hand- 
ful of commentaries currently available on the book of Jeremiah. This 
important Old Testament prophet has been short-changed by the 
neglect of scholarly activity during the twentieth century; that is, un- 
til now! 

At the end of the 1970s, there was an obvious dearth of up-to-date 
commentaries on Jeremiah.' But in the past twelve years, this 
desideratum has been met - and with a vengeance. First came a trickle, 
which grew into a steady stream, and then a virtual downpour of com- 
mentaries on Jeremiah. It began with John A. Thompson's contribu- 
tion in the NICOT series in 1980 and has continued unabated until the 
present.^ And this avalanche of scholarly activity is not limited to 
commentaries. A host of important monographs on individual topics 
has also been published during this period. 

This article will survey the new commentaries available since 1980 
including Thompson's. The discussion will center around three ma- 
jor, critical commentaries which appeared together in 1986. Commen- 
taries by Robert P. Carroll,^ William L. Holladay,^ and William 
McKane,' were all published that year making it something of a land- 
mark in Jeremianic studies. Additionally, I will include remarks here 
on the new works by Walter Brueggemann,^' Ronald E. Clements, 
Peter C. Craigie et al.^ Elmer A. Martens,'^ and Douglas Rawlinson 
Jones.'" I will also make brief comments on a few of the most impor- 
tant monographs. 

This article attempts to evaluate the new commentaries by survey- 
ing how each one treats five of the most important exegetical issues 
in Jeremiah studies. In the process, the presentation will also survey 
the recent trends among scholars working on Jeremiah." Three of 
these issues are rather standard for works on biblical books: author- 
ship and date, historical background, and theological emphases. But 
in addition to these, any serious study of Jeremiah has two additional 
problems to address: the book's unique relationship to Deuteronomy 
and the puzzling text critical discrepancies between the standard 
Hebrew text and the ancient Greek translation of Jeremiah. 

*Dr. Arnold (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is Associate Professor of Old Testa- 
ment and Semitic Languages at A TS. 


I. Authorship and Composition 

Scholarly opinions on the authorship and composition of Jeremiah 
are widely divergent for two reasons. First, the book contains more 
biographical information on Jeremiah than we possess for any other 
person in the Old Testament. Many doubt the historical accuracy of 
these biographical data, and the debate on authorship is usually divid- 
ed along these lines. The fact remains that this biographical material 
creates a unique situation in prophetic literature. Second, the book has 
no clearly discernible order of arrangement, which makes Jeremiah 
susceptible to many theories of composition. Exactly how did these 
materials come to be collected and why in this arrangement? 

Recently the debate has been polarized between two extremes, as 
illustrated by the new commentaries discussed here. There are those 
who are historical maximalists regarding the biographical information 
in the book and thus usually overemphasize Jeremiah the man. On the 
other hand, other scholars are more concerned with the newer literary 
approaches to the Bible, and these tend to emphasize Jeremiah the book 
at the expense of pursuing any historical investigation of the man.'^ 
The truth must lie somewhere in the middle. 

A theory which is now over 90 years old continues to dominate the 
discussion on the authorship of Jeremiah. First suggested by Bernhard 
Duhm in 1901 and refined by Sigmund Mowinckel in 1914, this ap- 
proach divides the material of Jeremiah into four original literary 
sources. Source A was a collection of poetic oracles from Jeremiah, 
found throughout chapters 1-25. Source B consisted of prose sermons 
about the activities of the prophet by an anonymous author, now found 
in chapters 26-45. The third source, Source C, was comprised of pro- 
se speeches written in a later deuteronomic style; that is, these ser- 
mons express the theology and worldview of Jews living in the exilic 
and post-exilic eras. This source is now located throughout chapters 
1-45. Source D contained oracles of future salvation which were col- 
lected into chapters 30-31 in the present arrangement (this source has 
been omitted in contemporary discussions). In this theory, chapters 
46-52 were later additions.'^ 

The new works being considered here present several variations on 
this theory, while a few reject the hypothesis altogether. HoUaday flatly 
rejects the Duhm-Mowinckel idea of sources on the basis of distinc- 
tive Jeremianic vocabulary across the various "sources" and the iden- 
tification of what he calls the "authentic voice" of Jeremiah in all the 
alleged sources (11.15). Of course these are notoriously subjective 
criteria for analyzing biblical texts. 


Holladay accepts the historical reUabiHty of Jeremiah 36, where the 
prophet dictated a scroll to Baruch. After Jehoiakim cut up and burn- 
ed the scroll, Jeremiah proceeded to dictate a second one to Baruch, 
which contained essentially the same material as the first scroll plus 
additional materials. Holladay assumes this second scroll was main- 
tained as an "open-ended" document, to which were added additional 
prophecies of Jeremiah and historical or biographical materials of 
Baruch. From this time until their trip to Egypt, Holladay assumes there 
were simultaneously, oral and written traditions of Jeremianic sayings. 
He traces the development of the Jeremiah materials through two more 
scrolls, plus the oracles against the nations. Holladay supposes that 
Jeremiah composed or dictated the bulk of the prophecies which are 
credited to him, including even most of the materials usually assigned 
to source B and thought to be from Baruch. He assumes a large editorial 
role for Baruch in this process, concluding that very little of the book 
was original to later editors (11.15-24). 

Brueggemann is influenced by the newer literary and rhetorical ap- 
proaches. He has expressed frustration at the current state of historical- 
critical method which he believes has gone as far as it can with 
Jeremiah.'^ He feels too much time is used on the historical and 
redactional issues, while omitting questions of theology and literature. 
He states that the rhetoric which is determinative for Jeremiah is a 
dramatic triangling involving Yahweh, Babylon and Judah. Initially, 
the triangle was Yahweh and Babylon against Judah. Only too late, 
Yahweh was triangled with Jerusalem against Babylon. Not surpris- 
ingly, Brueggemann is sympathetic to Brevard Childs' canonical ap- 
proach (1.9). 

If Holladay (and John Bright before him, see endnote 1) may be called 
a historical maximalist, then Robert Carroll is a minimalist. He and 
other British scholars'^ have assumed the opposite position to Holla- 
day; that is, little can be known of the historical Jeremiah, and the 
oracles accredited to him must be accepted as anonymous. Carroll takes 
the position that reform movements (such as Josiah's reforms) are pat- 
terns imposed on the past by deuteronomistic editors of the exilic and 
post-exilic periods. The concept of reform, in this view, was an 
idealized interpretation of history from the later period transposed over 
the deuteronomistic edition of Judah's history (Carroll, 49-50). 

In Carroll's view, these same deuteronomistic redactors, who wrote 
history from the ideological perspective of Deuteronomy, also pro- 
vided the redactional framework for the book of Jeremiah (such as 
1.1-3; 7.1; 11.1, etc.). The rest of the book, both prose and poetry, 
is anonymous! Thus for Carroll, Jeremiah disappears, along with the 
scholarly quest for the historical Jeremiah (see below). Any discussion 


of Jeremiah's attitude to Josiah's reforms or his Hterary relationship 
to Deuteronomy becomes irrelevant (Carroll, 48-49). Baruch's role 
becomes impossible to determine, and at one point it begins to sound 
as though Carroll doubts whether he actually played any role at all (61). 

With regard to Mowinckel's sources A, B, and C, all are anonymous 
in Carroll's view. Even the poetry of chapters 1-25, the alleged A 
source, which is widely held to be authentic to Jeremiah, becomes 
anonymous once the deuteronomistic introductions are removed. Car- 
roll avers that there is nothing in the poetry itself to identify the speaker 
and that it is "a dogma of Jeremiah studies that the prophet is the poet 
of the tradition" (47). Carroll's investigation leads him to conclude, 
"we have no reason (emphasis his) to believe the poems of 1-25 to 
be other than anonymous utterances from a variety of sources" (47). 
Ultimately, Carroll employs a sociological approach in assuming the 
book of Jeremiah is compiled from traditions deriving from various 
circles active after the fall of Jerusalem and during the Persian period 
(69-71). These groups are involved in a power struggle during the time 
of Ezra and Nehemiah! At this point, one might ask whether Carroll 
has not suddenly reversed himself and now become something of a 
historical maximalist. He is now skating his fanciful pirouettes on 
precariously thin ice. 

J. A. Thompson accepts the basic Duhm-Mowinckel source divisions, 
but with modifications. He assumes, with the majority of scholars that 
source A (chapters 1-25) contains authentic poetic sermons of Jeremiah. 
Source B is the historical material from a "biographer" who was con- 
temporary with the events and may have been an eyewitness. Baruch, 
Thompson concludes, is the best candidate for such a biographer. But 
source C, unlike the consensus view, is probably also authentic to 
Jeremiah. Thompson argues that there is no reason to confine the pro- 
phet Jeremiah to what we normally regard as poetry (Thompson, 46). 
He concludes that we have good reason to assume "the so-called pro- 
se sermons were already well developed in Jeremiah's lifetime " (47). 
He also, however, leaves open the possibility of some editorial pro- 
cesses in these sermons, deuteronomistic or otherwise. 

In this as in other areas, Thompson appears to be much indebted 
to the earlier commentary of John Bright (see note 1). He is persuaded, 
for example, by Bright's theory that the Jeremiah traditions were 
transmitted both orally and in writing over a long period of time. These 
traditions would have existed simultaneously and would have in- 
teracted with each other - the oral tradition more flexible, easily sup- 
plementing materials over time; the written tradition more static, ser- 
ving as a control of the oral (32). 


Craigie is not inhospitable to Mowinckel's source approach, but does 
not find the classification particularly satisfying. He is also influenced 
by the previous work of John Bright, and particularly by the views 
of H. Weippert.'^' She has gone beyond Bright's doubts regarding the 
label "deuteronomistic" for the prose of the discourse narratives, and 
has argued instead that the language of the speeches is sixth-century 
prose which is typical of Jeremiah's time.'^ Craigie agrees that there 
is no difficulty in supposing the prophet used both poetry and prose 
in his addresses. He seems open to deuteronomic influences in 
Jeremiah, but not necessarily a deuteronomic redactor (Craigie, 

On the issue of the relationship between poetry and prose, Jones 
demurs. He argues that the book was composed for the most part from 
"poetic concentrates, " and that Jeremiah was limited to the poetic form 
as the cultural form of the day. In this, he was not unlike his prciphetic 
ancestors, from Amos onward Qones, 18-19). Jones believes that the 
prose of the book (both the B and C type materials) is deuteronomistic 
in style, but that this is only a half-truth. He insists that the prose reflects 
a specific Jeremianic tradition, preserved by a Jeremiah school of 
preachers and redactors. These were not the deuteronomists of the 
post-exilic synagogue or in the Babylonian exile, but were distant 
disciples of Jeremiah, educated in the deuteronomic schools (Jones, 

Clements appears to be within the mainstream of scholarly consen- 
sus on the composition of Jeremiah. He emphasizes the "developmental 
interpretation" of the prose discourse-like sermons which appear 
alongside the poetry of chapters 1-25. Though these are not directly 
the work of the historical Jeremiah, they are based on words, themes 
and situations authentic to the prophet. Baruch played an important 
role in the composition of the book, according to Clements, but only 
as a "link in the chain of preservation." He gives a larger role to the 
exilic deuteronomistic editors of these materials (Clements, 7-12). 

McKane builds an elaborate case for a process by which the materials 
of the book were collected and compiled over a long period of time 
(McKane, 1-lxxxiii). His thesis begins with small pieces of pre-existing 
texts (usually a verse or two) which triggered, or generated exegesis 
or commentary by later contributors in the Jeremianic tradition. In 
cases where poetry generated prose comment, McKane accepts the 
poetry as authentic to Jeremiah. He is not so confident in cases where 
prose has triggered prose commentary. McKane 's hypothesis puts him 
at variance with the Duhm-Mowinckel source theory (McKane, 
Ixxxiii-lxxxviii). '*^ 


This theory that small pieces of pre-existing texts triggered exegesis 
and expansions of the text is what McKane terms "a rolling corpus,'' 
which occurred over a long period of time, and was presumably still 
rolling in the post-exilic period (McKane, Ixxxiii). But this approach 
abandons all hope of finding a discernable pattern or design in the pre- 
sent canonical shape of the book, and assumes the elaborate process 
deals with written manuscripts. McKane underestimates the oral history 
of sermons and oracles in the prophetic tradition (for critique, see 
Jones, 27-28). 

Recently, the editorial processes at work in the book have been 
analyzed thoroughly from the perspective of the socio-historical in- 
fluences at work during the exilic period. Christopher Seitz has traced 
the contents of chapters 37-45 (his "Scribal Chronicle") to a member 
of the post-597 community in Judah, who was sympathetic to the ap- 
pointment and tenure of Gedaliah.''^ Seitz believes the author of the 
chronicle was from one of the scribal families active in Jerusalem dur- 
ing the period and was an eyewitness to the events described in these 

Moreover, since Gedaliah was the grandson of Shaphan, the scribe 
in Josiah's court, Seitz further postulates that the author of chapters 
37-43(45) was also a member of this scribal family, who was later ex- 
iled into Babylonia. This section of Jeremiah made its way to Babylon 
during the third deportation, where it received extensive editorial 
reworking from an exilic redactor under the influence of the Ezekiel 
traditions (i.e., chapters 43-44). With chapters 36 and 45 functioning 
as frame units for the original Scribal Chronicle, the document was 
combined with other Jeremiah traditions, and the present book was 
given its final shape (Seitz, 282-291). 

Seitz has attempted in this work to "alter the sequence of investiga- 
tion" (Seitz, 2). By focusing on the socio-historical background first, 
and the literary forms second, his work seeks to overcome the subjec- 
tive quality of the earlier theories. His volume is impressive, both for 
its thoroughness and its incisive new ideas, and will undoubtedly im- 
pact the way we analyze the growth of the Jeremiah traditions. 
Regardless of whether his views of the Scribal Chronicle will win the 
favor of the scholarly community, his work has opened new vistas for 

II. Historical Background 

Jeremiah was active from 628/627 BC until the fall of Jerusalem and 
the beginning of the exile in June or July of 586 BC (1.2-3). However, 


at least a few of his sermons were delivered during the years immediate- 
ly after the fall of Jerusalem (chapters 40-45).^" This half century was 
a turning point in ancient Near Eastern history, because it witnessed 
the fall of Assyria and the rise of Babylonia as the major world power. 
During the transition of international powers, Judah exerted her 
political independence, however briefly, and King Josiah enacted his 
major religious reforms. This is one of the best attested periods of 
Israel's history. 

Since the book contains so much biographical and personal material, 
many scholars have participated in the so-called "quest for the 
historical Jeremiah."^' Most scholars begin by accepting the material 
in the A source as authentic Jeremiah sermons. Others go even further 
and argue for the reliability of B as Baruch's collection, and of the C 
source as also genuinely Jeremianic. Once this is accepted, it is obvious 
that we have more information about Jeremiah than any other person 
in the Old Testament. Besides his call (chapter 1) and the many 
biographical narratives of the Baruch scroll, chapters 11-20 contain 
also his seven confessions, or complaints. These private laments reveal 
the prophet's "inner self," his common human frailties, which occa- 
sionally erupted into bitter complaints to God. 

The quest for the historical Jeremiah is not altogether unlike the nine- 
teenth century quest for the historical Jesus. Many of the issues are 
the same: how much can we know about the ipsissima verba ("the 
very words") of Jeremiah, and how much has later generations 
mythologized the hero? A few of the commentators discussed are 
polarized between two extreme views: those of Carroll and Holladay. 

Carroll assumes a position which may be called agnostic, by which 
I mean he does not believe we can know the relationship between the 
book and the historical Jeremiah. In fact, Jeremiah himself "disappears " 
from both the poetry and the prose of the book once the later 
deuteronomistic redactional framework is removed (Carroll, 48). So, 
for Carroll, the literary figure of the prophet has nothing to do with 
historical reality. The prophetic figure is "not a real person but a con- 
glomerate of many things, reflecting the fortunes of various Jewish 
communities during and after the Babylonian period" (Carroll, 62-64). 
This disappearing prophet is a slight of hand proposition: now you 
see him; now you don't! 

By contrast, Holladay contends that the book has sufficiently reliable 
historical information to provide a basic, broad outline of the facts 
of Jeremiah's life (and so Thompson, 94-106 and Martens, 18-19). 
Though a complete biography is of course impossible, Holladay 
believes a plausible reconstruction of the life and times of Jeremiah 
is possible (1. 1-10; 11.24-35). 


In his reconstruction, HoIIaday has argued forcefully for a rather uni- 
que interpretation of Jeremiah 1 . 2 : "... to whom the word of the Lord 
came in the days of Kingjosiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth 
year of his reign." While the majority of scholars assume this date 
(627/626 BC) refers to the beginning of Jeremiah's active ministry, 
HoUaday garners seven arguments in favor of this date as the birth of 
Jeremiah (11.25-26). Holladay admits that some of his seven points are 
arguments from silence (and I would suggest that even the positive 
evidence is debatable). But he contends that the seven points listed 
together challenge the standard approach to the verse, though separate- 
ly, no one of them is strong. 

Though this view is not new, it has not been widely accepted, and 
it remains to be seen whether future students of Jeremiah will be 
swayed by Holladay's impressive effort. I am still unconvinced, and 
I prefer to assume 627/626 BC is the point at which Jeremiah began 
preaching the word of Yahweh. Seven weak points of evidence do not 
make a strong case. Craigie has argued that Holladay's innovation is 
unlikely on the basis of literary, contextual reasons. The verses in ques- 
tion (1.2-3) serve as part of the introduction, and Craigie believed the 
passage as a whole implies the point at which Jeremiah became con- 
scious of God's call. Craigie prefers to see 627 as the year of Jeremiah's 
awareness of the divine vocation (Craigie, 3 and see further the rebut- 
tal of J. A. Thompson, 53-56). 

In his investigation of the historical background of Jeremiah, Holla- 
day offers a second innovation: the role of the septennial reading of 
Deuteronomy (1.1-2 and 11.27-35). According to Deuteronomy 31. 9-13, 
the book was to be read every seven years in the hearing of a national 
assembly. Holladay assumes this injunction was taken seriously and 
that these septennial readings offer "a chronological structure" for the 
career of Jeremiah (1.1). I shall have more to say about this in section 
III below. 

As I will point out in the section on theology below, the strength 
of Brueggemann's commentary (as with his other writings) is his 
theological sensitivity. He makes no attempt to trace the historical 
background of Jeremiah in great detail. Instead, he prefers to discuss 
the constructed persona of the prophet, which is no doubt rooted in 
historical reality, but which is presented in the book as an intentional 
literary production (Brueggemann, 11-12). 

After a brief survey of the salient events of the late seventh and ear- 
ly sixth centuries, Brueggemann characteristically turns the discussion 
to theological concerns (1.1-2). The period is dominated by the for- 
tunes of the great Near Eastern empires which form the context for 
Jeremiah (Assyria and Babylonia) and the destruction of Jerusalem. 


Brueggemann states that these events could easily be interpreted in 
terms of Realpolitik , that is in terms of mere human power structures 
and political machinations. But Brueggemann wants to assume a dif- 
ferent perspective on these events, a theological point of view that 
Jeremiah himself assumed (1.2). 

Clements accepts the traditional date for the beginning of Jeremiah's 
ministry (627-626 BC), which means he had been prophesying for five 
years before Josiah's reforms took place. Since Jeremiah's written 
ministry appears to have begun in 605 (according to chapter 36), many 
have doubted that Jeremiah was actively preaching much before this 
time. Clements argues instead that the changed international political 
situation in 605-604 resulted in the sudden concern for preserving 
Jeremiah's prophecies. Nabopolassar's victory at Carchemish meant 
that Egypt's influence was waning and Judah came within the orbit 
of Babylonian imperial control. Clements concludes; "the beginning 
of Jeremiah's work as a prophet therefore was not conterminous with 
the concern to preserve a record of his prophecies on a scroll" 
(Clements, 5). This is certainly a plausible explanation for what has 
been thought of as Jeremiah's silence during his early years. 

Craigie is quite critical of those who draw too much of a parallel 
between the quest for the historical Jeremiah and the New Testament 
problem of the quest for the historical Jesus. This is true primarily 
because, among other things, the analogy breaks down quickly when 
one considers the Gospel presentation of the person of Jesus as the 
object of faith. For Craigie, this crucial difference between Jesus and 
Jeremiah means the analogy is misleading and irrelevant. In fact, Craigie 
turns the argument around. He goes on to assert that the most per- 
suasive argument in favor of the historicity of the book's recollections 
is that there is no evidence the prophet later became the object of beliefs 
or veneration of any kind (Craigie, xxxviii). 

III. Jeremiah and Deuteronomy 

Many scholars have noted the similarities between Jeremiah and 
Deuteronomy in style, vocabulary and ideology. But why is this so? 
What are the connections between these two books? Jeremiah clearly 
has some relationship with Deuteronomy, both literarily and historical- 
ly. The literary dependency (or at least connectedness) is clear and un- 
mistakable, but what of the historical relationship between Jeremiah 
and Josiah's reforms? 

Since most of OT scholarship assumes the reforms were based on 
a newly written Deuteronomy (or at least UrDeuteronomy, i.e., 


chapters 5-26), the issue really has to do with the relationship of 
Jeremiah tojosiah's reforms (described in 2 Kings 22-23). Scholars are 
divided among four positions, three of which assume the earlier date 
for Jeremiah's call to prophetic ministry (627/26 BC)." First, Jeremiah 
was an active supporter, and possibly even regarded the reforms as 
a result of his earlier preaching. Second, the lack of references to Josiah 
in the book demonstrates either Jeremiah's sympathy for the ideals of 
the reform, or his conviction that the inevitability of impending doom 
rendered futile any efforts at reform. 

Third, Jeremiah was an active supporter at the beginning, but later, 
changed his position after determining that it was characterized by ram- 
pant nationalism and improper attention to the externals of religion 
(cult, sacrifice, and temple). A final stance is taken by scholars who 
have posited a 609 BC date for the call of the prophet (rather than 
the consensus 627/26). They suggest that Jeremiah's silence about the 
reform is due to his being only a child when the program was enacted. 

Concerning the literary connections between Deuteronomy and 
Jeremiah, Clements goes so far as to assert that the very circles of scribes 
who "were responsible for composing the law-book of Deuteronomy, 
[and] the history of Joshua-Second Kings, " would probably include 
the editors of the prophecies of Jeremiah (Clements, 11). Jones, on the 
other hand, argues that although Jeremiah's prose is deuteronomic in 
form, this is the style of its age, used in learned circles during the 
seventh and sixth centuries. Thus the book's prose was written by a 
Jeremianic school that preserved genuine Jeremiah traditions, but wrote 
in a deuteronomistic style (Jones, 19-22). 

Holladay's position is something of a compromise. In a lengthy and 
detailed discussion, he concludes that Jeremiah drew on Proto- 
Deuteronomy, which he believes consisted of Deuteronomy 5-26, but 
that exilic redactors of Deuteronomy occasionally drew on the words 
of Jeremiah (1:53-63). Furthermore, the influence of the Book of 
Deuteronomy was profound during this period because of the injunc- 
tion of Deuteronomy 319-13 for a septennial, public reading of the 
book (see above). If indeed the book was read every seven years, Holla- 
day argues, then several of the parallels between Jeremiah and 
Deuteronomy may be explained as prophetic addresses which were 
intentionally building on a public reading of Deuteronomy. Thus Holla- 
day has attempted to locate certain Jeremianic texts with precise dates 
when Deuteronomy would have been fresh in Israel's collective con- 
sciousness (1.1-2). 

For example, HoUaday proposes the reading of Deuteronomy in 587 
BC as the context for Jeremiah's proclamation of the new covenant 
(31.31-34). If this is correct, one of the most profound and hopeful 


prophecies on the future of the covenant community was preached 
while Jerusalem lay in ashes, torn apart merely six weeks previously 
(11.34-35). Hopefully, the future will reveal to us whether this approach 
is legitimate and whether it is possible to be so specific with these texts. 
But I confess this is one of the most interesting aspects of Holladay's 
impressive work (see Jones, 25 for criticisms.) 

For Carroll, of course, the question is moot, since whatever con- 
nections may be found between Jeremiah and Josiah's reforms were 
undoubtedly imposed by the later deuteronomistic editors of the Jere- 
mianic traditions. For him, the question is in fact, irrelevant. 

Thompson follows a detailed study by John Bright of the 
characteristic expressions of the prose of Jeremiah in comparison with 
that of Deuteronomy (Thompson 44-46). Although there are indeed 
many points of resemblance and similarity, Bright (and Thompson) con- 
cluded that there are also many points of difference. Any talk of literary 
dependence is unsubstantiated. Instead, Deuteronomy, the 
deuteronomistic histories, and the Jeremiah prose may be regarded as 
sharing the rhetorical prose style of the late seventh and early sixth 
centuries in Judah (Thompson, 46). Thompson also feels that we should 
not put too much emphasis on the differences between the poetic and 
prose portions of Jeremiah, a warning which is now widely held as 
axiomatic in Old Testament studies. ^^ While minimizing Jeremiah's 
relationship with Deuteronomy, Thompson maximizes the connections 
with Hosea, both regarding vocabulary and ideology (81-85). This 
seems legitimate given the geographical and possibly even familial pro- 
ximity to Hosea, as Thompson argues (81). 

IV. Textual Problems in Jeremiah 

The ancient translation known as the Greek Septuagint (hereafter 
LXX) is widely different from Jeremiah's Hebrew text (I refer here to 
the Masoretic Text, hereafter MT). The two differ more widely in 
Jeremiah than any other Old Testament book. Besides normal textual 
differences in individual passages, the LXX and MT are more significant- 
ly divergent from each other in two notable areas. First, the LXX is 
at least one-sixth shorter than MT.^^ Second, LXX contains profound 
deviations from the order of arrangement in MT, and therefore in our 
English Bible translations, which are, for the most part, based on the 
MT.^^ For example, the oracles against the nations form the last ma- 
jor unit in MT (chapters 46-5 1), but make up roughly the center of the 
book in LXX, where they also have a very different sequence than is 
found in MT. 


Thus Jeremiah poses a unique and serious problem in Old Testament 
textual criticism. It used to be assumed that LXX was an abridgement 
of MT, and therefore secondary and further removed from the original 
text of Jeremiah. For some, this was natural to assume since LXX is, 
after all, a translation rather than the original language of the book. 
But since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it has become clear 
that our old assumptions regarding LXX were simplistic. 

One of the most important manuscripts found at Qumran was a small 
fragment of Jeremiah found in cave 4 (4QJer''). This text fragment 
from approximately the second century BC closely resembles LXX over 
against MT. Qumran yielded other fragments of Jeremiah as well, but 
they all followed the tradition of MT. This interesting turn of events 
has suggested to scholars that LXX actually represents a genuinely dif- 
ferent Hebrew tradition, rather than simply an inferior translation tradi- 
tion. The differences can no longer be dismissed as translational and 
abridgemental in nature in a way which regards LXX as a misreading 
or misunderstanding of the Hebrew Vorlage (or original text), as was 
once done routinely. ''' Indeed, the Dead Sea Scrolls have transform- 
ed Old Testament textual criticism in general in this regard: LXX must 
now be admitted as retaining a genuinely different Hebrew tradition 
in many cases where it was once dismissed as merely an interesting 
translation, albeit an early one. 

The presence of a short Hebrew text of Jeremiah (that is, one which 
supports the shorter LXX) has lead to much scholarly activity and seems 
to be giving rise to a new consensus on the textual tradition of Jeremiah. 
It is now widely assumed that the LXX translator(s) did not produce 
an abridgement of MT, but rather worked from a shorter Hebrew text 
in Egypt, where the translation originated. This alternate Hebrew 
textual tradition survived in isolation from the standard Hebrew text 
which stemmed from Babylon. Many scholars today prefer to speak 
of "additions" in MT rather than of "omissions" in LXX.'" This 
assumes LXX is a purer and more original text. 

The commentaries under consideration here are nearly unanimous 
on this issue. Most of these commentaries conclude that MT makes ex- 
pansions over the text of LXX, which is purer. In an exhaustive sec- 
tion on the ancient versions, McKane garners evidence for his thesis 
that MT arose from expansions of a shorter Hebrew text represented 
by LXX (McKane, xviii). Furthermore, his investigation of the growth 
processes of Jeremianic tradition reveal not a systematic scheme of 
editing, but exegetical additions of small scope. "This exegetical ex- 
pansion or commentary is triggered by a verse or a few verses of pre- 
existing text, and it is this procedure which is indicated by the term 
'rolling corpus' " (McKane, Ixxxi and see discussion above under 


"authorship and composition"). Carroll, relying on the work of J. Ci. 
Janzen/" believes the Hebrew original of LXX Jeremiah was prerecen- 
sional in nature and stood "at the end of a relatively inactive transmis- 
sion history." The transmission history of MT, by contrast, was spread 
over a much longer period of time and gave rise to many glosses and 
expansions (Carroll, 52). Holladay and Thompson stress that these ex- 
pansions and conflations are found in the prose sections, not the poetic 
ones (Holladay, II. 3; Thompson, 120). 

Holladay concludes that one of the text traditions must have been 
preserved in isolation from the other in order for it to have survived 
as a distinct tradition. He states that the shorter text must have been 
preserved in Egypt and subsequently reappeared in the Qumran com- 
munity (II. 6-7). Holladay also offers a unique explanation for the pro- 
blem of the different placement and arrangement of the oracles against 
the nations in LXX. He maintains that the location of the oracles near 
the center of the book in LXX is original, but their sequence as pre- 
served in MT is original (II. 5 and 313-314). Thus the material in 
Jeremiah 46-51 (in our English Bibles following MT) was originally near 
the center, but their sequence was changed in LXX. While their original 
sequence was preserved in MT, they were placed at the end of the book. 
Thompson suggests these oracles circulated for a time as an indepen- 
dent unit before they were woven into the whole in different ways. 
Clements summarily dismisses this approach as too simplistic, and sym- 
pathizes with McKane's "rolling corpus" idea instead (Thompson, 686; 
Clements, 246). 

Craigie enters this debate like a voice crying in the wilderness. In 
his impressive and persuasive section on this problem, Craigie points 
out that the Greek text itself is uneven and appears to have been 
prepared by two different translators."'^ Furthermore, the Hebrew 
fragment which supports LXX was discovered in the same Qumran cave 
with other samples of Hebrew fragments supporting MT, which in- 
dicates a continuing "state of fluidity with respect to the text of the 
Book of Jeremiah" (Craigie, xlii). If the consensus of scholarship is cor- 
rect, it leaves certain practical problems. If the LXX is to be preferred, 
then the commentator must work "at arm's length" from the original 
and best text, because in this approach, the better textual tradition has 
survived only in translation (with the exception of the small fragment 
from Qumran). 

Ultimately, Craigie is reticent to accept the consensus view, built 
mostly on the works of J. G. Janzen, Emanuel Tov and others, because 
it is inevitably dealing with hypotheses. Craigie avers that the data are 
simply insufficient to "reconstruct a coherent history of the recensions 
of the Hebrew text of Jeremiah" (Craigie, xliii). Rather than take sides 


in a debate about the stages of a redactional history in which the data 
are indecisive, Craigie simply suggests there may have been several 
(more than two!) "Jeremiahs" from an early date, representing different 
forms of the book produced in different regions (xliv). Since Craigie 
is unconvinced by the consensual arguments in the first place, and since 
the Hebrew text underlying the LXX has not survived, Craigie states 
that he is driven by practical concerns to comment primarily on the 
MT (Craigie, xli-xlv).'" 

Jones attempts to have it both ways. He accepts Tov's arguments 
that the two traditions are related, the LXX being an earlier form of 
the same text. But he emphasizes that LXX itself is a heavily edited 
text, marked also by a heavy redactional hand. For Jones, this means 
the LXX cannot be considered the original or superior text. "It is simp- 
ly," he concludes, "an earlier stage in the evolution of the text" (Jones, 

If, in fact, it turns out to be true that LXX preserves a more ancient 
tradition for Jeremiah, then scholars will have to start over again. All 
of these recent volumes on Jeremiah are basically commenting on the 
MT, with occasional reference to the LXX. If it can be proved that the 
Hebrew Vorlage behind the Greek is purer, then we shall have to recon- 
sider the approach of most of these works. But this is, of course, prob- 
lematic since, as Craigie has pointed out, we will have to do our work 
"at arm's length" from the original text itself. The facts are these. The 
Hebrew Vorlage of the LXX has not survived, and the Greek transla- 
tion of the LXX presents its own difficulties. Caution is the better part 
of valor when one considers abandoning the MT for LXX. 

V. Theological Contributions 

It is ironic how often the larger, more extensive commentaries in- 
clude little by way of theological interpretation, leaving the theologiz- 
ing entirely up to the reader. This is no less true for the new works 
on Jeremiah. If one is looking primarily for theological application, 
one will be disappointed by Carroll, McKane, and to some extent by 
Holladay. But the reader should understand that the editors of most 
commentary series assiduously avoid imposing any particular 
theological perspective on the series. 

McKane even spends two pages explaining why he does not engage 
in theological interpretation: "an examination of the truth claims made 
by Hebrew prophets in terms of inspiration' and 'revelation' is not 
a major preoccupation of this commentary " (McKane, xcviii). By con- 
trast, Martens devotes eight pages to the message of the book ("a 


theological digest") and application, in a commentary which is popular 
level from an evangelical perspective (Martens, 21-28). 

In some cases, theological contributions are discussed subtly, as with 
HoUaday, who usually concludes his treatment of each pericope with 
helpful and sometimes penetrating theological insights. Just so, his clos- 
ing comment on the superscription of 1.1-3 is that it is "a paradigm 
of the biblical understanding of revelation: that in the fullness of time 
the word becomes flesh" (1.17). 

HoUaday has continued to emphasize, of course, his earlier contribu- 
tion on the distinctive theological vocabulary of Jeremiah. That is, his 
use of the verb shuv, "(re)turn" in what HoUaday calls "covenantal 
contexts," in which Israel (or some other nation) or God expresses 
a change of loyalty to the other party (11.15). This was an important 
observation in 1958 when HoUaday first published his views on 
Jeremiah's use of the term, and the current commentary continues to 
build on the ideas presented there. ^' 

Unlike most of the other large commentaries, Thompson includes 
an extensive section devoted to the theological message of Jeremiah 
to his own generation, and to the exiles and future generations (Thomp- 
son, 107-117). Perhaps the most penetrating part of this section is 
Thompson's discussion of sin and repentance in Jeremiah and the pro- 
phet's wide use of vocabulary to describe the misdeeds of Judah 
(110-112). Jeremiah's messianic hopes were limited to an earthly, 
Davidic king who would reign as an ideal monarch, a view which 
lacked the imaginative pictures of later Jewish writers (113). 

On Jeremiah's emphasis on the sovereignty of Yahweh, especially 
in the oracles against the nations, Jones contrasts the confidence the 
book evinces in Yahweh over against circumstances of the period, a 
situation of extreme weakness, vulnerability and hopelessness. In light 
of this faith in the Lord of creation, Jones concludes, "this must be 
accounted one of the most amazing perceptions in the long saga of 
religion and thought" (Jones 48-49). 

Of all the Commentaries discussed here, that of Walter Brueggemann 
is the most consistently focused on explicating the theological 
significance of Jeremiah. In general, the theological framework of 
Jeremiah may be organized around Brueggemann 's three-part outline 
(I. 2-7). First, the Sinai covenant is the "governing paradigm" for the 
Jeremiah tradition (1.3). We have already alluded to this by pointing 
out the obvious connections between Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, the 
classic expression of the Mosaic covenant. 

All of these commentators are agreed in general on the significant 
role of the covenantal concept in Jeremiah. For HoUaday, the cove- 
nant is the central motif which binds together Jeremiah's understand- 


ing of himself, his God, and his message to Israel (11.70-71). Martens 
has done the best job of drawing out the significance of the covenant 
formula, which occurs more in Jeremiah than in any other biblical 
book: "I will be your God and you shall be my people" (Martens, 23-24 
and 294-295). The objective of the covenant, says Martens, is "intimacy 
with God" (Martens 23). 

The second plank in Jeremiah's theological platform is the pathos 
of Yahweh. The pathos of God is set in tension with the curses of the 
Sinai covenant. Drawing on the classic work of Abraham J. Heschel, 
Brueggemann refers to the "inexplicable yearning" which reflects 
God's gracious resolve and his powerful will to act in a free and spon- 
taneous way to redeem His people (Brueggemann, 1.4-5). It is God's 
pathos which drives him to punish and to preserve. He wills Israel's 
continued existence because he cannot bear to see her die. "The jux- 
taposition of covenant claim and pathos makes clear that God is, in 
the life of Judah, more complex, free, and less controllable than a 
simple scheme of retribution would suggest." (1.5). 

Brueggemann also points out that this emphasis on God's pathos sets 
Jeremiah apart from deuteronomistic thought. The tension created by 
God's commitment to Israel and her rejection of him forms "the cen- 
tral interest, theological significance, and literary power of the book 
of Jeremiah." In this sense, Jeremiah is an important theological depar- 
ture from the primary thrusts of deuteronomistic thought (Brueg- 
gemann, 5 and especially note 8). Clements calls this "message of hope" 
the central literary theme in Jeremiah, which pervades the entire book 
and "gives the book its essential character" (Clements, 3 and 9). 

The third and final element in Brueggemann's discussion of 
Jeremiah's theological tradition is what he calls the "royal-temple 
ideology" of Jerusalem (Brueggemann, 1.5-7). The Jerusalem establish- 
ment believed God had committed himself through a series of ir- 
revocable promises to the temple and the monarchy. Thus the city and 
temple were inviolable and Judah's future was secure, no matter how 
she sinned and no matter how threatening the international scene ap- 
peared. This misguided and unfounded confidence created in Judah 
a false sense of immunity from judgement and subtly became the of- 
ficial religion of Jerusalem. Obviously Jeremiah's message put him at 
odds with the establishment, as the book itself clearly attests. 

Thompson also discusses Judah's royal-temple ideology, in terms of 
her survival after 586 B.C. The belief in the inviolability of temple and 
monarchy was a truly false basis for hope. Yet after the fall of Jerusalem, 
this ideology combined with the concepts of God's sovereignty and 
pathos resulting in the conviction that Yahweh was unimpeachably 
just and that he would not completely abandon his people without 


a future. There resulted a rebuilding community which responded again 
to Yahweh's new acts of grace and understood afresh his ancient cove- 
nant relationship (Thompson, 114-116). 

Several commentators have expounded on the theological 
significance of the fall of Jerusalem in 587/586 BC. Brueggemann calls 
this event the "dominant and shaping event of the entire Old Testa- 
ment" (Brueggemann, 1). Clements notes that the loss of the temple 
and the Davidic monarchy in one violent stroke "demanded a total 
reappraisal and rethinking of Israel's self-understanding as the People 
of God" (Clements, 6). So the shadow of the events of 587 covers the 
entire book, "in much the same way as the shadow of the crucifixion 
rests over the whole of Mark's Gospel" (Clements, 9). 

We close this section with a comment on the importance of "land" 
in Jeremiah. Scholars have long noted the theological importance of 
the land for ancient Israel, some even asserting that Israel's understan- 
ding of God is expressed in terms of "the land."^' Abraham became 
landless in response to the call of God, but pursued God's promise, 
which included a new land in the future (Genesis 12.1-4). Between 
the promise and the fulfillment were many digressions: Abraham was 
driven from the land into Egypt by famine; Jacob fled back to Haran 
to escape Esau; and Jacob and the whole family moved to Egypt for 
a sojourn lasting over 400 years, and culminating in a life of bondage. 
The Exodus was a movement of a landless people toward a new life 
in a land of their own. 

Israel's history was a story of land Qeremiah 2.1-7). The land had 
become the place where Israel lived in the presence of the covenant 
keeping God. "Land was part of that triangle - God, people, and land 
- that spoke of completeness" (Martens, 24). It had become a symbol 
for the good life, the life with God - shorthand for the abundant life. 
In Jeremiah, more than in any other prophet, the dangers of losing 
the land become paramount. Deuteronomy had warned that broken 
covenant meant loss of the land (Deuteronomy 7.1-6; 8.7-20). 
Jeremiah's prophecies of exile meant reversal of past victories. The 
people would once again become landless (16. 13). Likewise, sermons 
of hope, particularly in the Book of Consolation (chapters 30-33), 
equate salvation with a return to the land (ex. 30.3). 


Commentaries are often difficult to compare because they are usually 
published as part of a series with different purposes in view. The works 
by McKane, Carroll, Holladay and to some degree that of Craigie and 


Thompson are high level, scholarly presentations that engage the 
Hebrew text. Of these, McKane is the most difficult to read without 
knowledge of Hebrew (one also needs thorough familiarity with the 
text of Jeremiah and grounding in the secondary literature to benefit 
from McKane). 

Holladay's two volumes mark the culmination of a lifetime's work 
on Jeremiah, and his work is masterful in several respects. Peter Craigie 
was tragically killed in an automobile accident before completing his 
work on Jeremiah, and this volume was completed by Page Kelley and 
Joel Drinkard. Some amount of disjointedness is inevitable, therefore, 
but Craigie's work on the introduction and first seven chapters is 
masterful as always. 

Clements is solid, British scholarship and not terribly difficult to read. 
He displays textual sensitivity and occasional insights for ministry 
(following the series objectives). Brueggemann has produced a gem 
of a commentary which is easy to read and filled with his usual 
theological insight. As one of the most prolific authors of Old Testa- 
ment studies today, his work is nevertheless rich in content. One is 
often amazed by Brueggemann's grasp of the secondary literature, 
though the restrictions of the commentary series have not allowed him 
to interact with the Hebrew text itself in a way possible for the larger, 
more critical commentaries. 

In short, this has been a truly remarkable period of activity and in- 
tense interest in Jeremiah. During the 1980s and early 90s, we have 
witnessed a landmark injeremianic studies. Of the evangelical com- 
mentaries I have discussed here, I recommend most highly the work 
of Craigie and Thompson, though the volume by Martens has its own 
merits. Among the other commentaries, I definitely recommend Holla- 
day over against Carroll and McKane, though the reader should 
remember his unorthodox approach to the date of Jeremiah's call in 
chapter 1 . Clements and Jones are also good reading and will enhance 
any serious study of this important, but oft neglected prophet. 

Admittedly the literary structure of Jeremiah, and therefore its 
prevalent message, is difficult to discern. But as part of God's unique, 
divine revelation to ancient Judah (and to us), it gradually and slowly 
exposes us to God's intricate plans and purposes. "Like a Picasso pain- 
ting, it yields its contents slowly - but with what force! " (Martens, 
20). Ultimately, Jeremiah the individual becomes an example of what 
God is seeking from the people (like Isaiah 6). Jeremiah's obedience 
and faithfulness to Yahweh, in spite of his own suffering and lack of 
understanding, exemplified the fidelity God was trying to elicit from 
the nation corporately. 



I have had the privilege of teaching two recent seminars at Ashland 
Theological Seminary on the prophet Jeremiah. This article is dedicated 
to my students in these seminars who have inspired me by their thirst 
for more of God's word, and whose observations have helped with 
this project on Jeremiah: David J. Bennett, John Bogdan, Carolyn 
DuBose, Timothy F. Geisse, C. Thomas Hogsten, Werner J. Lange, Mar- 
cia Lewan, Cheryl D. Phillips, Faith Proietti, Charles Reeves, and David 
B. Williams. 

' The list was short, though of good quality: J. P. Hyatt {Jeremiah. 
Prophet of Courage and Hope [New York: Abingdon, 1958]); John 
Bright (Jeremiah, AB 21 [Garden City: Doubleday, 1965]); and R. K. 
Harrison (Jeremiah and Lamentations, An Introduction and Commen- 
tary, TOTC 19 [Downers Grove: IVP, 1973]). 

^ The Book of Jeremiah, New International Commentary on the 
Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980). 

^ Jeremiah, Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster, 

'* A Commentary on the Book of Jeremiah, 2 vols., Hermeneia 
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986 and 1989). 

^ A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Jeremiah, vol. 1, In- 
ternational Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1986). 

*' A Commentary on Jeremiah, 2 vols, International Theological 
Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988 and 1991). 

^ Jeremiah, Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox, 1988). 

" Peter C. Graigie, Page H. Kelley and Joel F. Drinkard, Jr., 
Jeremiah 1-25, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 26 (Dallas: Word, 

^ Jeremiah, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale: 
Herald, 1986). 

'" Jeremiah, New Century Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992). 

' ' Other similar surveys have been done, but prior to the advent of 
all this scholarly activity: Peter R. Ackroyd, "The Book of Jeremiah 
- Some Recent Studies,'' Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 
28 (1984) 47-59, and James L. Crenshaw, "A Living Tradition, The 
Book of Jeremiah in Current Research," Interpretation 37 (1983) 


'' J. Gordon McConville, "Jeremiah: Prophet and Book, " Tyndale 
Bulletin 42.1(1991)80-95. 

'^ For a convenient survey of the Duhm-Mowinckel hypothesis and 
subsequent refinements, see Leo G. Perdue, "Jeremiah in Modern 
Research: Approaches and Issues," in A Prophet to the Nations: Essays 
in Jeremiah Studies, eds. L. G. Perdue and B.W. Kovacs (Winona Lake: 
Eisenbrauns, 1984), pp. 14-22. 

'^ In a lecture to the "Composition of the Book of Jeremiah Con- 
sultation" at the Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco, 
November, 1992. 

'^ Certainly McKane, but also Peter R. Ackroyd ("Recent Studies," 
see note 1 1 above), and Ernest W. Nicholson, Preaching to the Exiles: 
A Study of the Prose Tradition in the Book of Jeremiah (Oxford: 
Blackwell, 1970). 

'^' Helga Weippert, Die Prosareden desjeremiabuches, Beihefte zur 
Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 132 (Berlin: de 
Gruyter, 1973). 

'" For critique of Weippert's views, see McKane, xli-xlvii, and p. 


'" He does not speculate on source B, which will be dealt with in 
volume 2 of his commentary covering chapters 26-52. 

''^ Theology in Conflict: Reactions to the Exile in the Book of 
Jeremiah, Beiheft zur Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 
176 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1989). 

^" Thompson emphasizes that 1.3 is intended as a general frame of 
reference for Jeremiah's ministry, not a precise historical datum 
(Thompson, 142). 

^' For summary, see Perdue, "Modern Research," 22-28. This also 
makes Jeremiah susceptible to a spate of biographical treatments. See 
most recently R. E. O. White, The Indomitable Prophet: A 
Biographical Commentary on Jeremiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 

" For this categorization into four positions, see Perdue, "Modern 
Research," 5-6. 

^^ For the continuing debate about the role of poetry in Old Testa- 
ment Hebrew, see most recently David L. Petersen and Kent Harold 
Richards, Interpreting Hebrew Poetry {MinnczpoXis: Fortress, 1992), 


^"^ Estimates differ, but many quote a ninety year old study that 
estimates about twenty-seven hundred words of MT are lacking in LXX, 
while LXX has about one hundred words lacking in MT (Holladay, 1:3). 
Another convenient way of stating the difference: LXX has over 300 
words not found in MT, but MT has over 3,000 words not found in 
LXX (Jones, 49). 

^^ For recent treatment of these problems by a leading authority, see 
Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: For- 
tress Press; Assen [etc]: Van Gorcum, 1992), pp. 319-27. 

^^ For technical introduction to this problem, see Louis Stulman, 
The Other Text of Jeremiah: A Reconstruction of the Hebrew Text 
Underlying the Greek Version of the Prose Sections of Jeremiah with 
English Translation (Lanhan/New York/London: University Press of 
America, 1985). 

^^ Jack R. Lundbom, "Jeremiah, Book of," Anchor Bible Dictionary 
III, 707. Tov proposes different stages in the redaction process, so that 
the textual tradition of LXX reflects a first major redaction, whereas 
the tradition of MT reflects a second and expanded redaction (see note 
above, Tov, p. 321). 

^^ "Double Readings in the Text of Jeremiah," Harvard Theological 
Review 60(1967)433-47. 

^^ Citing the work of Emanuel Tov, The Septuagint Translation of 
Jeremiah and Baruch, Harvard Semitic Monographs 8 (Missoula: 
Scholars, 1976). 

^^ And see Gordon McConville ("Prophet and Book," 93), who con- 
tends that the position of the oracles against the nations in MT pro- 
vides a just reversal of the fortunes for Judah and Babylon and are "well 
fitted to their function there, providing a suitable climax to the book." 

^' William L. Holladay, The Root Shubh in the Old Testament, With 
Particular Reference to Its Usages in Covenantal Contexts (Leiden: 
Brill, 1958). Holladay also followed the work of Thomas W. Overholt 
on the term sheqer, "falsehood" in Jeremiah (Holladay, 11.15). 

^^ Walter Brueggemann, The Land: Place as Gift, Promise and 
Challenge in Biblical Faith (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977). 

Three Modern Faces of Wisdom 

by Ben Witherington, III 

In a lengthy book I have traced the development of the Biblical 
Wisdom tradition. There Wisdom was seen to take many faces and 
forms.' I looked at the development of Biblical Wisdom in both form 
and content during the crucial period of 960 B.C. to A.D. 100. This 
development involved a movement from personification in Proverbs 
8 and elsewhere in early Jewish literature to a localization of Wisdom 
as primarily found in Torah, and finally in the early Christological 
hymns (especially John 1), to the idea of Wisdom becoming incarnate 
or essentially embodied in a particular person, the Son of God. 

Also examined was how OT wisdom seems primarily to be expressed 
in such forms as aphorisms, dialogues, or extended instructions from 
a parent to a child, or a teacher to a pupil. Yet, there were some few 
examples of parables in the OT corpus and other forms of narrative 
wisdom speech such as that found in the prologue and epilogue to the 
book of Job. In the ministry of Jesus the parable apparently becomes 
the primary wisdom vehicle for expressing his thoughts, with a signifi- 
cant quantity of aphorisms also to be found in the arguably authentic 
teaching of Jesus. It was also noted how in the Christological hymns 
some of the forms and content used in the Wisdom hymns in the sa- 
piential literature were taken over and used to speak of the career of 
the Christ. All of these developments in form and content reflect a liv- 
ing, growing body of literature which was both oral and written in 

Striking is the fact that by and large this whole corpus is a form of 
material that intends to force the hearer into reflective thinking by the 
use of figurative language — whether by simple comparison, simile, 
metaphor, extended analogy, parable, or even personification. Biblical 
Wisdom literature then primarily engages in the art of moral persua- 
sion, using an indirect method and a pictographic form of speech to 
lead the hearer or reader to a particular conclusion. Beyond simple 
reflective thinking the sages were urging their audiences to certain sorts 
of attitudes and actions towards God, fellow human beings, everyday 
life in general, and the whole of creation. 

*Dr. Witherington (Ph.D., Durham) is Professor of Biblical and 
Wesleyan Studies at A TS. 


In the light of what I have learned in tracking the pilgrimage of 
Biblical Wisdom, I intend in this essay to take one further step and 
examine some of Wisdom's modern faces and forms. The approach 
will be to critique these works in light of what has been learned from 
the Biblical Wisdom material. I will be confining myself to three re- 
cent attempts to consciously appropriate Biblical Wisdom material in 
the service of various modern concerns such as inter-faith dialogue, 
the constructing of a modern Wisdom Christology, and finally the use 
of Wisdom material to construct a feminist Sophia theology. Close 
scrutiny will be given to the following works each in turn: 1) John 
Eaton's The Contemplative Face of Old Testament Wisdom (Phila. 
Trinity Press Int., 1989); 2) Leo D. Lefebure's Toward a Contemporary 
Wisdom Christology, A Study of Karl Rahner and Norman Pittenger. 
(Lanham Md.: Univ. Press of America, 1988); and 3) Susan Cady's, 
Marian Ronan's, and Hal Taussig's Wisdom's Feast: Sophia in Study 
and Celebration (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989)." 

I. Well-Traveled Wisdom 

John Eaton's book The Contemplative Face of Old Testament 
Wisdom is certainly one which in various ways the Biblical sages would 
have been proud to own. He argues convincingly that there are 
numerous themes and motifs common to Wisdom literature orginating 
in widely differing settings and contexts. In one sense this is hardly 
surprising since it is characteristic of Wisdom literature that it focuses 
on the recurring ordinary and even extraordinary experiences humans 
have when interacting either with nature or other human beings.^ 
Eaton's book is also written with an eloquence and clarity of style that 
reflects a person who has taken to heart the urging of the sages to learn 
the art of speaking (and writing) well. This perspicuous form is 
somewhat beguiling for in the end, as will become apparent, the author 
wishes for the reader to draw conclusions about Wisdom to which few 
if any early Jewish or Christian sages would have assented. 

The trajectory of Eaton's work is not the same as my study Jesus 
the Sage and the Pilgrimage of Wisdom, for his aim is not to illuminate 
Wisdom in general by means of the elucidation of the Biblical tradi- 
tion, but rather by a "sample of the world's wisdom treasures ... to 
illumine our appreciation of the old Hebrew Sages. "^ This in itself is 
a worthy goal, but as becomes apparent the presupposition behind this 
approach is not merely that Biblical Sages drew on international 
wisdom material, which is certainly true, nor even that there are 
notable and striking parallels between both the form and the content 


of Biblical and extra-Biblical wisdom material which is also in- 
disputable, nor even that there is some wisdom and truth in all of the 
great world religions which most would agree on, but that ultimately 
there are no definitive revelations of Wisdom or the God of Wisdom. 
Eaton believes there are numerous worthy human approximations 
of true Wisdom which transcends them all, and that various of these 
non-definitive revelations are inspired by God. This becomes especially 
clear in the book's last page where one hears: 

As Christians enter afresh into this heritage of witness to Wisdom, 
they can go beyond the shallowness and glibness with which the 
Incarnation is often presented today. Here is an invitation to the 
immense depths in the message that the Word became flesh; an 
invitation also to proclaim it afresh in terms of the profoundest 
intuitions of all the world's artists and lover's of truth . . . 
Wisdom will not let the religions close out the air and spaces, 
the great lights and darks and deeps, the myriad creatures which 
like us are in the hand of God. So Wisdom calls to the great 
religions, make disciples one by one, takes them each on a per- 
sonal pilgrimage, not to end in isolation, but in the communion 
of infinite love."^ 

In short Eaton attempts to use Wisdom literature, which does in- 
deed have a more universal or international character than other por- 
tions of Biblical literature, to get beyond the scandal of particularity 
especially as it is found in the world's three great monotheistic faiths 
(Judaism. Christianity, and Islam). This effort, while in some respects 
laudable in view of the way "particularity" has been used as a justifica- 
tion for the mistreatment of people of other faiths, is in the end 

The three great monotheistic religions are historical religions, 
religions deeply rooted in what they believe are God's particular and 
unique acts in human history through a Moses, or a Jesus, or a 
Mohammed. They are not primarily philosophies of life or methods 
for achieving inner peace. In all three of these great monotheistic 
religions Wisdom literature is used in the context of and ultimately 
in the service of the particularistic agendas of these respective faiths. 
Thus in early Judaism, Wisdom is said to begin and and end with the 
fear of Yahweh, not just any conception of God, and in due course 
it is urged that Torah, a revelation for a particular people, is the very 
embodiment and definitive revelation of Wisdom. In early Christiani- 
ty Wisdom is so particularised that it is virtually identified with one 
person — Jesus Christ. Likewise in Islam, wisdom literature is seen as 


something which supports and expounds the unique and particular 
revelation in the Koran, and which aids and enhances the highly par- 
ticularistic confession "There is one God Allah, and Mohammed is his 
prophet. " 

It is not enough to note Wisdom parallels between religions. One 
must also ask how that similar sounding material is used and in what 
sort of contexts. In the three great monotheistic religions wisdom is 
not finally seen as an alternative to particularism but as a tool for ex- 
pressing and expounding it. Nor is particularism merely tacked on to 
a more international corpus of literature. Eaton as much as admits this 
when he says 

It was often supposed that the tradition changed from a secular 
to a religious outlook, from advice for self-advancement to a piety 
of fearing God, from a wisdom that is only human skill to a divine 
Wisdom that seeks and blesses us. or from brief detached pro- 
verbs to longer poetic discourses. But many of the supposedly 
later characteristics match features of teaching far earlier than 
Hebrew wisdom, especially in Egypt. It is better, then, to think 
of the tradition in Proverbs as the unfolding of a philosophy and 
world-view which did not change in essentials.^' 

This means two things: 1) The international wisdom literature early 
Jews, and later early Christians and even Moslems borrowed especial- 
ly from Egypt and made their own was not purely secular to begin 
with. Indeed the categorization of ancient wisdom as either secular 
or sacred is an anachronism, an imposing of later western categories 
(not unlike the Enlightment distinction between the natural and the 
supernatural) on near eastern sages who basically would not have agree 
with such distinctions. Von Rad was basically right to argue that "the 
experiences of the world were for her [Israel] always divine experiences 
as well, and the experiences of God were for her experiences of the 
world. "^ 2) The use made of international wisdom by the early sages 
of the three monotheistic religions by and large seems to be a matter 
of "plundering the Egyptians," i.e. the taking and reshaping of such 
international Wisdom to serve one's own particular faith and its agen- 
das. It was not really a sort of early inter-faith dialogue, or an indirect 
way of suggesting that all religions are ultimately one. The Biblical sages 
who produced Wisdom literature would surely have repudiated any 
attempts to use their literature in a manner which lessens or dismisses 
the scandal of particularity, for that is just the opposite of the way they 
have used international wisdom ideas and forms. 


Things become even more difficult when one attempts to compare 
or draw close parallels between near-eastern monotheistic wisdom with 
far eastern wisdom which often works in the service of some form 
of pantheism or even ancestor worship. Here the contexts are even 
more radically different from one another than is the case with wisdom 
in the three monotheistic faiths, and to take the far eastern wisdom 
out of its context skews both its intent and its trajectory. For instance, 
the Taoist agenda hardly comports with the Biblical Wisdom teaching 
when it urges: "Banish wisdom, discard knowledge, and the people 
will benefit a hundred-fold. "" 

A wise sage of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton, in the course 
of a discussion about comparisons made between Buddhism and Chris- 
tianity, once said the following: 

There is a phrase of facile liberality uttered again and again at 
ethical societies and parliaments of religion: "the religions of the 
earth differ in rites and forms, but they are the same in what they 
teach." It is false; it is the opposite of the fact. The religions of 
the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly 
differ in what they teach ... It is exactly in their souls that they 
are divided . . . They agree in machinery; almost every great 
religion on earth works with the same external methods, with 
priests, scriptures, altars, sworn brotherhoods, special feasts. 
They agree in the mode of teaching; what they differ about is 
the thing to be taught.'^ 

Obviously, this broad generalization will need some qualification, 
especially in regard to wisdom literature, as Eaton has ably shown. My 
point is however, that the argument of Chesterton is essentially cor- 
rect. The way the major world religions differ is more profound and 
essential to their being than the ways in which they are similar, and 
simply concentrating on certain wisdom parallels both alleged and real 
to the neglect of the differences only obscures the larger issues. At the 
end of the day orthodox Jewish, Christian, Moslem, or Buddhism sages 
will have to agree to disagree on various fundamental issues that are 
at the very heart of their respective faiths. 

If art is a mirror of the human soul, it is a striking fact that these 
various religions have produced very different sorts of great art. Con- 
sider again what Chesterton has to say in the following rather long 

Even when I thought . . . that Buddhism and Christianity were 
alike, there was one thing about them that always perplexed me; 


I mean the startling difference in their type of religious art. I do 
not mean in its technical style of representation, but in the things 
that it was manifestly meant to represent. No two ideals could 
be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and 
a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple . . . the Buddhist saint always 
has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has his eyes 
wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, 
but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The medieval saint's 
body is wasted to his crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. 
There cannot be any real community of spirit betweeen forces 
that produce such symbols so different as that . . . The Buddhist 
is looking with peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is star- 
ing with frantic intentness outwards ... It is just here that Bud- 
dhism is on the side of modern pantheism and immanence. And 
it is just here that Christianity is on the side of humanity and liber- 
ty and love ... I want to love my neighbor not because he is 
I, but precisely because he is not. I want to adore the world, not 
as one likes a looking-glass, because it is one's self, but as one 
loves a woman, because she is entirely different. If souls are 
separate love is possible. If souls are united love is obviously im- 
possible. A [person] may be said to love himself, but he can hardly 
be said to fall in love with himself, or if he does it must be a 
monotonous courtship . . . Love desires personality therefore 
love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad 
that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they 
are living pieces. It is her instinct to say "little children love one 
another" rather than to tell one large person to love himself. This 
is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; that 
for the Buddhist ... is the fall of [humanity], for the Christian 
is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea . . . 
The oriental diety is like a giant who should have lost his leg or 
hand and be always seeking to find it; but the Christian power 
is like some giant who in a strange generosity should cut off his 
right hand, so that it might of its own accord shake hands with 

Chesterton has touched on several critical points here that have 
direct bearing on the discussion of wisdom literature and Eaton's treat- 
ment of it. It is the characteristic of the three great monotheistic 
religions, that they do not try to resolve the problem of the one and 
the many by some sort of pantheism. All three agree that while God 
may be and is in sometimes and some ways immanent in human history 
and human lives, that God is essentially transcendent and distinct from 


both creation and creature, not least because God existed before there 
were any creation and creatures. No one who has read the Biblical 
Wisdom corpus carefully can deny that this sort of theology which 
asserts the essential distinction between creator and creation exists in 
this literature. Indeed it is one of the major motifs of Biblical Wisdom 
literature. Under such circumstances then, contemplation in the three 
great monotheistic religions which relies in part on this Wisdom 
theology, must be essentially a journey outward, not a journey inward. 

Another reason why there is so much stress placed in Biblical 
Wisdom on what may be called creation theology is that it was believ- 
ed that God had implanted a moral structure and order into both human 
affairs and indeed into the affairs of the natural world as well." It is 
by close examination of these external aspects of creation and creature- 
ly behaviour that one may learn something by analogy about the 
greatest distinct external reality beyond humankind — God. In this 
world view the One remains transcendent One, but the many may have 
fellowship and communion with that One, without either being ab- 
sorbed into the One, or on the other hand without the One simply 
being thought of as inherently immanent in all things and beings. It 
is this healthy tension between the One and the Many that characterizes 
these monotheistic faiths. 

In this context mysticism amounts to communion with the One, in- 
deed an experiential communion that goes beyond human description 
or understanding, while not going against that understanding. What 
mysticism does not amount to in the monotheistic religions is either 
a gained awareness that there is a little bit of God in all things, or that 
God and I are in the end one being. Thus, in the end one must reject 
what seems to be the larger underlying thesis of Eaton as incompati- 
ble with the Biblical world view that was shared by both early Jewish 
and Christian sages, and later by Moslem sages. The scandal of par- 
ticularity can not be overcome through comparisons with other world 
religions' wisdom literature. It does not follow from this however that 
there is not much of great merit to be learned from Eaton's work, and 
I must now turn to a discussion of various aspects that are most helpful 
as I seek to discern possible modern faces of Biblical Wisdom. 

It is one of the great merits of Eaton's work that he offers balanced 
judgments about various thorny issues that constantly arise in the 
discussion of Wisdom literature. The evidence of this is clear in his 
refusal to see Biblical Wisdom in simplistic secular versus sacred 
categories. Rather as he says "The fear of the Lord " ... is a pervading 
value in Israelite wisdom.'"^ 

The fact that Wisdom was often generated in the court or royal 
circles does not suggest its basically secular character for as Eaton says 


The connection with the government does not mean that the 
teachings would be a kind of early Civil Service manual. The an- 
cient point of view was that government in society depended on 
the divine order that animated all creation. What rulers were 
desired to learn, first and foremost, was the way of right and true 
harmony with this cosmic order . . . '^ 

Eaton also offers a very careful handling of the personified Wisdom 
material in Proverbs and later early Jewish sources. He is, in my judg- 
ment quite right not to see this material as early evidence for goddess 
worship, or the suppression of the same in early Israel, but rather "This 
Wisdom, then is the Creator's thought, plan and skill which gives form 
and order in the universe.'"^ It is then a personification of an at- 
tribute or even an activity of God. The personification is feminine no 
doubt in part because of the form of the word hokmah, but also perhaps 
in part because male sages in a patriarchal culture would often per- 
sonify something beautiful and winsome by drawing on the images, 
ideas, and ideals they associated with the human female. Proverbs 3 1 , 
which may well be about Woman Wisdom, is perhaps a paramount 
example of this sort of approach. Personification is a means of mak- 
ing something which is in itself rather abstract more concrete and ap- 
proachable or personal. It is very doubtful that the sages were trying 
to argue for "a feminine dimension" to God by using such language. 
The goal was to say something about God's Wisdom and its character, 
not about God per se. In short the Woman Wisdom personification 
was not an attempt at theologizing, but rather of personalizing an other- 
wise abstract activity or attribute of God. 

Eaton also rightly, in my judgment, points out another plausible 
reason for the personification of Wisdom. The sages wanted their 
disciples to have a personal, indeed intimate, relationship with 
Wisdom. They wished for their followers to be ravished by and in awe 
of the grand design and order that God had and implanted in 

Eaton is also right to stress that in Biblical Wisdom the call to con- 
templation or meditation on Wisdom was not seen as antithetical to 
the call to action. Indeed the word often translated "meditate" in a 
Wisdom or Torah psalm like Ps. 119, sih, indicates a vocal activity, 
a recitation, not merely a silent reflection upon something and in Ps. 
1 the word haga, also translated meditating has as its basic meaning 
the making of a murmuring sound."' In the Biblical world of the sages 
even contemplation involved a doing. Furthermore, the call to con- 
templation was not seen as an end in itself, but often as the right and 
wise preparation for action. This means that in the Biblical tradition 


the aim or function of contemplation is often somewhat different than 
is the case in far eastern wisdom, where withdrawal from the world 
into inner self and inner peace is often a major function of 

The Biblical sages believed that the ultimate source of peace and 
Wisdom lay outside the individual and could be gotten at by reflec- 
tion on the created and creaturely world and finally on the Divine Be- 
ing beyond one's own being. While it may be true in some far eastern 
wisdom that "Beyond discursive reasoning, one contemplates till the 
gap disappears; one dies to self, becoming one with what is con- 
templated, and so with universal reality,'"^ this is at most only par- 
tially true of what the Biblical sages saw as happening in contempla- 
tion. Communion one could have with God, a real spiritual bond, but 
the creator-creature distinction could never be finally dissolved in any 
system of thought in which the deep awe and reverence for the Divine 
Other was an essential trait. 

It is also notable that in Biblical Wisdom, apart perhaps from some 
portions of Ecclesiastes, history is not trivialized by urging mere 
resignation to whatever happens.'" To the contrary, the sages offer 
up different courses of actions which can lead to different outcomes 
— vindication or punishment, long life or a short miserable existence, 
much trouble or peace of mind. Though there were obvious excep- 
tions to such generalizations, as Job makes painfully clear, nonetheless 
under certain normal conditions there was truth in what the Biblical 
sages urged. They were not for the most part fatalists in the way they 
viewed human life. To the contrary they thought different courses of 
action normally led to different consequences precisely because there 
was a moral structure to reality. 

Finally, Eaton is right in not hastily dismissing the possibility that 
at least some of the Biblical sages were groping toward a positive view 
of the afterlife, beyond the usual "Sheol is the land of the dead" sort 
of thinking. Indeed as he points out one might well expect such a 
development precisely because in Egyptian wisdom material there is 
evidence of such a view of the afterlife. If Israel borrowed from the 
treasures of Egyptian wisdom, and it did, it should not be surprising 
to find the first signs of a groping toward a similar view of the afterlife 
as well.'^ 

One may be grateful for Eaton's fine and well-written effort to force 
us to think again about Biblical wisdom in the context of international 
wisdom literature. Even if one may disagree with some of the conclu- 
sions to which Eaton sees this project as leading, nonetheless he is rais- 
ing many of the right sort of questions, offering balanced judgments, 
and in the end forcing the reader once again to wrestle with the larger 


issues of the dialectic between context and content in the study of 
Biblical Wisdom Literature. 

II. Logos Logic 

On first blush it might seem that an investigation of the theologies 
of K. Rahner and N. Pittenger would not prove very fertile ground 
for a discussion of the modern faces of Wisdom, or to put it another 
way the influence of Biblical wisdom material on modern theologiz- 
ing. Apart from some adaptation of the concept of Logos Christology 
as it is found in Jn. 1 and in the teachings of some of its subsequent 
exponents like Justin Martyr, there is very little conscious reflection 
on the sages or wisdom traditions in the works of these two scholars. 
Yet L. Lefebure has unearthed some interesting data to show how the 
influence of a Wisdom sort of approach to life has affected these 
thinkers and it will bear further scrutiny. 

After a cursory presentation of some major aspects of the Wisdom 
literature, drawing selectively on some of the scholarly discussion, 
Lefebure launches into a full scale study of first Rahner then Pittenger 
in two Chapters which make up the real heart and bulk of this book. 
His motivation for examining the Wisdom material is that he believes 
it has great relevance for current discussions on a host of theological 
issues, particularly the matter of Christology. He remarks "It is my con- 
tention that the understanding of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of Lady 
Wisdom can offer a basis for expressing his significance for Christians 
today. "^° 

His motivation for choosing these two influential Catholic 
theologians for his study is apparently because Lefebure finds them 
intriguing and they are two notable figures in his own faith tradition. 
In point of fact a host of other theologians even just among Catholic 
theologians might have been chosen who more directly and extensively 
draw on the Biblical Wisdom corpus of literature (e.g. E. Schillibeeckx, 
H. Kung, R. Schnackenburg). Nonetheless, Lefebure does unearth some 
interesting data from the writings of Rahner and Pittenger. 

There are certain fundamental assumptions that undergird Lefebure's 
work, for some of which he seems especially indebted to Rahner. For 
instance, there is repeated evidence of Lefebure's commitment to 
religious pluralism, relativism, and universalism. This leads Lefebure 
to interpret a crucial text like Proverbs 8.22 to mean that God acquired 
Wisdom, following B. Vawter,^' rather than that God possessed or 
created Wisdom, ^^ to avoid subordinating Hokmah totally to 
Yahweh. Lefebure goes to some lengths to avoid the particularistic 


emphases of various Biblical Wisdom texts. 

This agenda also leads Lefebure to understand Jn. 1 to mean that 
Jesus is the incarnation of Woman Wisdom, a general ordering princi- 
ple revealed previously in all of creation and ultimately in all religions. 
Jesus on Lefebure's view is not the Logos per se but only perhaps the 
clearest or highest manifestation of the Logos/Woman Wisdom. Con- 
sider for example the following argument of Lefebure: 

Jesus as the epiphany of the Logos can transform human lives 
precisely by being the effective presence of the creative, 
revelatory, and salvific power of the cosmos. If the Logos who 
is incarnate in Jesus is also present throughout all of history of- 
fering life and light to humans, then we do not have a "moralism" 
based simply on human efforts . . . On the basis of a Logos 
Christology, both Rahner and Pittenger will challenge Bultmann's 
restriction of the area of grace to the historical proclamation of 
the Gospel; both will insist that the availability of salvation out- 
side of an encounter with Jesus or the Christian Church in no 
way implies a Pelagian reliance on the sufficiency of human ef- 
forts alone. "^ 

The last sentence of this quote is especially telling. Lefebure is at 
least in part attracted to Pittenger and Rahner because of their 
arguments against historical particularity in regard to the matter of 
salvation. It is striking how Lefebure wants to talk about the Logos 
who is incarnate in Jesus, rather than as Jesus. Further, one may also 
note here and throughout Lefebure's analysis of Rahner and Pittenger 
the deliberate blurring of the distinction between a doctrine of crea- 
tion and redemption, such that it is assumed that the natural theology 
one can deduce from examining creation or general human ex- 
periences, both religious and otherwise, can in itself be saving. 

Missing from this whole discussion is the repeated NT emphasis on 
active faith in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation for the world, and 
the impetus for the missionary orientation of early Christianity. 
Likewise missing is the Pauline assumption encapsulated in Rom. 1 that 
not only have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but that 
Gentiles outside of Christ, though they have had revealed to them the 
reality and power of God in creation, have exchanged the truth about 
God for various forms of idolatry and false religion. ^^ 

Instead Lefebure, following the lead especially of Pittenger, but also 
of Rahner, wishes to speak of "anonymous Christians," by which is 
meant people who are saved in other faith traditions with no conscious 
faith in or affirmation of Jesus as Saviour." Again this argument is 


ultimately grounded in the assumption that Jesus is but a, even if the 
most perfect, revelation of the Logos of God. 

In many ways it is ironic that Lefebure, or for that matter Rahner, 
should choose Johannine Christology as the starting point for a wisdom 
theology of universalism, for it is precisely in this Gospel where one 
hears most strongly and clearly "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; 
no one comes to the Father except by me." (Jn. 14.6). Not only is 
Lefebure's exposition of John 1 not consonant with Johannine theology 
elsewhere in this Gospel, it is also not the most plausible reading of 
Jn. 1, either as a pre-Johannine hymn fragment, or as it is used in the 
Fourth Gospel. 

Injn. 1, the sort of universalism Lefebure is interested in champion- 
ing is clearly not the thrust of that particular passage. It is Jesus as the 
Logos, not the Logos in Jesus that is seen as the universal saviour in 
Jn. 1, and this sets the tone for what follows in this Gospel. The point 
of the passage is to say that the Logos, who took on a human nature, 
and thus became Jesus, was and is God. This Logos pre-existed as God 
though the Logos was not the exhaustive representation of the deity. 

The Logos is seen in this early Christian hymn as a pre-existent divine 
being, not merely a personification of the attributes of God and/or 
God's creation. The point of the passage is to argue for a certain sort 
of particularism, not ^ primus inter partes state of affairs. ^^' 

Furthermore, it would be skewing the whole drift of the Biblical tra- 
jectory of Wisdom to argue from the Wisdom corpus for a sort of 
universalism. If anything, the Biblical Wisdom material became more 
particularistic as time went on, as is shown not only in the works of 
Ben Sira or the Wisdom of Solomon but especially in the NT attempt 
to make Jesus "the Wisdom of God" climaxing withjn. 1. Yet even 
in the earliest layers of aphoristic Wisdom in Proverbs there is already 
seen the evidence of a stress on a particular God, Yahweh, and that 
that God's resources and instructions are in essence the alpha and 
omega of Wisdom. 

My point is that this sort of Wisdom approach not only does not 
do justice to NT passages dealing with Wisdom, but it is also very doubt- 
ful that it does justice to the OT and Intertestamental Wisdom corpus 
either. There is a significant misreading of the Biblical data when 
Lefebure, quoting J. D. Levenson, wishes to maintain that 

In all likelihood the Wisdom teachers considered the gods of the 
gentiles, or at least of the sagacious and ethical gentiles as not 
different in kind from YHWH, the God of Israel. Perhaps they 
thought the different gods were really only different names for 
the one all-pervasive reality, which can be intuited in general 
human experienced^ 


In light of the evidence carefully reviewed in my book Jesus the Sage, 
this judgment can only be seen as modern wishful thinking, 
anachronistically projected back on the early Jewish sages. These sages 
were in fact, to a very significant degree, upholders of the particularistic 
Israelite religion of their day, and they used international wisdom 
material in the service of that agenda. Even in Ecclesiastes and Job, 
despite heavy criticism of false assumptions about life that certain sorts 
of Wisdom teaching had generated, one does not leave the context 
of an essentially Yahwistic faith. 

Yet another underlying assumption of Lefebure's work is that the 
sages neglected, minimized, or even in some cases rejected the claims 
of special revelation in an Israelite context, in favor of the scrutiny 
of human and natural experience as the proper guides for behaviour 
and faith. Lefebure also seems to argue that the sages believed that 
special revelation came to Israel mainly if not only in the form of 
Woman Wisdom, perhaps in creation, but also in the sage's 

To draw such a conclusion neglects a crucial factor — even within 
the earliest collections of Biblical Wisdom material there is evidence 
that the sages did not see themselves as offering an alternative world 
view to that of the legal, prophetic, and historical traditions of Israel. 
Their concern was to speak about ordinary recurring human ex- 
periences, as an additional source of guidance to the other sacred tradi- 
tions. This seems to come to light in a saying like Prov. 29. 18 where 
we read "Where there is no prophecy /vision the people cast off 
restraint, but happy are those who keep the torah. " D. Kidner has 
argued that the law, the prophets, and the Wisdom traditions overlap 
here. Certainly there is no sense here, or elsewhere in Proverbs that 
they are seen as competitors.^" If the the Law is not in focus in this 
saying (Torah may well mean simply "instruction" here) the saying 
may well be suggesting that Wisdom instruction is offered when there 
is no current revelation/prophecy/vision to guide the people at the 

To suggest that the Wisdom tradition provides resources for those 
who wish to reject the claims of special revelation, and put in its place 
reasoned reflection on current experience is surely to try and ap- 
propriate this literature in a way that the Biblical sages would have 
rejected. They were not simply trying to teach that people must 
"recognize the complexity and ambiguity of human experience and 
to discern for themselves what stance is more helpful at any given 
time."^'^ They were also imparting a body of instructions, many of 
which they saw as clear and immutable directives regardless of one's 
circumstances. In particular teachings about reverencing Yahweh, and 


listening to such authority figures as parents, kings, and sages appear 
in Proverbs over and over again. There is a delicate balance in this 
literature between an encouragement of individual discernment and 
an affirmation of the necessity of hearing and heeding various sorts 
of wisdom traditions and wise people. Furthemore, as has been pointed 
out repeatedly, from at least the time of Ben Sira on, there is a strong 
stress on revelatory Wisdom, Wisdom that comes to the sage by means 
of divine inspiration. It may even be that the Woman Wisdom figure 
in Proverbs reflects the first tenative steps in this direction already. " 

At many points Lefebure's analysis of Rahner and Pittenger is tell- 
ing. He is especially on target when he critiques both of these Catholic 
theologians for their failure to articulate the political dimension of 
Biblical teaching, and in particular their failure to appropriate the 
material found even in the Wisdom corpus that demands justice and 
equity from rulers, judges, and individual believers as well. Though 
the sages were no revolutionaries, they were nonetheless critical, 
sometimes severely so, of various unjust aspects of the status quo in 
Israel. That their criticisms are part of an in house discussion, may well 
have made it more telling for it is likely that a good portion of the 
OT Wisdom material arose from royal circles, perhaps even from the 
King's counselors as the sayings found in Prov. 25.2ff. would lead one 
to suspect. 

Lefebure has done a fine job of highlighting the political implica- 
tions of the Wisdom literature.^' He is right to urge that "while the 
sages did not envision the transformation of the political and economic 
structures of their society, their repeated demands for justice contained 
principles for the criticism of political structures of society. "^^ 

Lefebure also is most helpful in pointing out the internal weaknesses 
and inconsistencies of Rahner's arguments for the definitive and nor- 
mative character of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as a religion 
meant for all people on the one hand, and his arguments that God in- 
tends for salvation to reach people in their own various religious con- 
texts and traditions. ^^ This seems to be a case of having one's cake 
and eating it too. 

A further major contribution of Lefebure's study is both his telling 
analysis of the influence of A.N. Whitehead on theologians like N. Pit- 
tenger, but also his illuminating discussion of how process theology 
provides a certain substratum or basis for modern feminist theology, 
including Sophia theology as well. He maintains that "what unites 
Whitehead and feminist thought is 'the emphasis in both on experience 
as a process of becoming in which entities are engaged in 
self-creation.' "*"* 

The way this appropriation is played out is made clear in the works 


of feminist scholars like M. Thie, M. Suchocki, S. G. Davaney, and P. 
Washburn to mention but a few. What is seen as especially crucial about 
process theology is its rejection of the idea that there are certain eter- 
nally given unchanging and authoritative teachings, traditions, or truths 
by which believers must always be bound. Rather some feminists and 
process thinkers share in common a "dedication to process rather than 
stasis, to egalitarian structures of social order rather than monarchial 
ones, an openness to the future a critique of concepts of absolute power 
and authority, a new view of interrelationships."^'' 

Lefebure argues that the way that Wisdom material is used in this 
sort of feminist context is that 

The wisdom tradition's use of experience as a critical principle 
of evaluation offers a precedent for contemporary critical feminist 
reflection upon the Bible. Fiorenza argues that the criterion for 
feminist Biblical interpretation "is not a revealed principle or a 
special canon of texts that can claim divine authority. Rather it 
is the experience of women struggling for liberation and 
wholeness. "^^' 

Yet Lefebure is quite right to point out that this hardly does full 
justice to the Wisdom tradition. While "Fiorenza's use of experience 
as a critical counterbalance to the received tradition finds precedent 
in the sages, . . . the sages themselves would probably not acknowledge 
a sharp dichotomy between reflection on experience and claims of 
revelation . . . Moreover the later wisdom tradition did acknowledge 
a genuine divine revelation in the events of the history of Israel. "^^ 
It is doubtful that even the earliest Jewish sages doubted or disputed 
such a view. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that sages especially in the 
royal court would have been likely to reject or dispute the sacred 
historical traditions which provided the very basis for the Israelite 

Students of Biblical Wisdom material will find a good deal of very 
stimulating discussion on Wisdom, and its uses in the modern era, 
especially in the final Chapter of Lefebure's study. Especially his discus- 
sion of the Feminist appropriation of both Pittenger (and Whitehead, 
and Cobb) and the Wisdom literature is enlightening and it prepares 
for the analysis of a fullscale treatment of Sophia/Hokmah by three 
feminist scholars, to which I intend to turn in the final section of this 
Chapter. As a parting comment on Lefebure's study however, one may 
well question whether the modern attempt to appropriate the Biblical 
Wisdom tradition in the service of modern agendas of religious 
pluralism, relativism, and universalism in fact does justice to those tradi- 


tions. Indeed it often seems to be a matter of defacing and distorting 
rather than faithfully re-presenting the true face of the Biblical Wisdom 
traditions. In the end, even the Logos ideas as they are enunciated in 
Jn. 1 do not seem to support the logic of these sorts of arguments. 

III. Hagia Sophia? 

Certainly the most controversial of the three books being examined 
in this final Chapter of our study is Wisdom's Feast, which is a 1989 
revision and expansion of the 1986 book by the same writers entitled 
Sophia: The Future of Feminist Spirituality.'''' Like its predecessor 
this book, though written primarily for the educated lay person, in- 
tends not only to draw on the fruits of the scholarly debate about cer- 
tain portions of the Biblical Wisdom corpus but to take the next step 
of appropriating some Wisdom material for the Church in the service 
of promoting a certain kind of feminist spirituality, in particular Sophia 
spirituality. Not surprisingly then, over half the book is devoted to 
presenting sermons, Bible studies, liturgies, poems, and songs that use 
and promote that sort of appropriation of Wisdom. The primary con- 
cern here will be to engage the book at the level of whether or not 
the use being made of Biblical Wisdom material in Wisdom 's Feast is 
consonant with its original meanings, purposes, and trajectories. In 
short, is this book based on a sound exegetical and theological 
understanding of the Biblical data or does it amount to a misappropria- 
tion of this data? 

The authors of Wisdom 's Feast make clear that they are particularly 
indebted to scholars who may fairly be said to represent a vocal radical 
minority in the scholarly community's discussion of Wisdom literature. 
In particular this work relies heavily on various works of Burton Mack, 
including Logos und Sophia: Untersuchungen zur Weisheitstheologie 
in hellenistischejudentum, and his later study Wisdom and the Hebrew 
Epic.^^ It also draws from J. C. Engelsman's The Feminine Dimension 
of the Divine^^ as well as various of E. Schussler Fiorenza's important 
works, especially In Memory of Her.^^ Often there seems to be an un- 
critical reliance on various of these sources without a meaningful in- 
teraction with scholars dealing with the same data that come to strik- 
ingly different conclusions. 

The authors of Wisdom 's Feast make quite clear that there are cer- 
tain key texts that are relied on to produce a sophiaology — in par- 
ticular, Proverbs 1.20-33; 3.18; 4.5-9; 8.1-36; 9.1-6; Wisdom of 
Solomon 6.12-17; 7.7-14; 7.22-30; 8.1-18; 9.9-11; 10.1-21; 11.1-26; 
Eccles. 1.9-14; 4.12-18;6.18-31; 14.20-27; 15-1-10; 24.1-29; 51. 13-22; 


Baruch 3. 29-38; 4.1-4. From the NT the key texts are the Christological 
hymns found in Col. 1.15-17, and especially the prologue in Jn. 1; 1 
Cor. 1.24-30; 2.6-8; and James 3. 13-17. In addition to the use of these 
texts the authors also insert the name Sophia in place of Jesus in various 
Gospel texts (e.g. Jn. 13.1-20; Lk. 51-11). 

It will be seen from the list of texts mentioned above, that a good 
deal of sophiaoiogy is either based on texts that are for Protestants 
and Jews extra-canonical and for Catholics deutero-canonical, or is 
based on texts which do not directly mention a persona or personifica- 
tion called Wisdom///o^m«^/Sophia. For example, in James 3. 13-18, 
there does not seem to be any attempt to portray Wisdom as a per- 
sonal figure or personification, much less a goddess. 

In addition to the canonical and extra-canonical resources listed 
above there is also a reliance on the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, in par- 
ticular Logion 77 which reads in part "Cleave a piece of wood, and 
I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there. '"*^ This text 
seems to be crucial for the authors for throughout they wish to insist 
that Sophia is a divine presence that suffuses all things. In short they 
either assume or urge throughout this work a pantheistic, or panen- 
theistic view of deity. This concept is frequently conveyed by means 
of a key term like "connectedness" or by the phrase "the web (or 
fibers) of life." There is no attempt at critical reflection on whether 
the Gnostic material, or a panentheistic view of God, might or might 
not be consonant with a Biblical view of God and Wisdom.^" 

One of the most fundamental assumptions and assertions in this work 
is that "Sophia is a real biblical person ... a female goddess-like figure 
appearing clearly in the scriptures of the Hebrew tradition and less 
directly in the Christian Gospels and Epistles. '^^ Though at times the 
authors seem to affirm they are speaking about the development of 
a literary figure Wisdom, or another way of naming the Biblical God 
elsewhere known as Yahweh or the Father, more often the claim 
quoted above is made, leaving the impression they believe they are 
talking about a real and second deity. The issue becomes further con- 
fused when the NT data is used and Jesus is either seen as Sophia (call- 
ed Jesus-Sophia), or in some case the name Jesus is arbitrarily replaced 
by the name Sophia in various texts. Too often the Biblical data's 
historical context and content does not receive the careful attention 
and respect it deserves, but rather the Biblical sources are used as a 
quarry from which certain gems can be garnered to bolster the larger 
agenda of promoting panentheistic sophiaoiogy. 

Though I have dealt with the issue in some detail in Jesus the Sage, 
it is well if I ask again the question — Is the portrait of Lady Wisdom 
as painted in texts like Prov. 8 intended to represent a "real person" 


or is it rather a personification of an attribute of God or perhaps God's 
creation, or both? In the first place one must note that various texts 
in Proverbs use different Hebrew forms for the word Wisdom. For in- 
stance, in Proverbs 1 .20 the feminine plural noun hokmot is used and 
this is followed by feminine singular verb forms. This may be because 
here there is what has been called an "abstract plural " (like the word 
kindness). ^^ As OT scholar Kathleen Farmer says "Since the Hebrew 
plural is often used to indicate an abstract concept, we might conclude 
from her name that this figure represents all wisdom wrapped into one 
symbolic character."^" Using the sort of logic found in Wisdom's 
Feast however one would think that the reader would be obliged to 
think of several deities (due to the plural noun here), and because of 
the gender of the word, female ones. 

In Proverbs 8. 1 there is the noun hokmah, feminine singular in form 
followed by feminine singular verb forms. Yet it seems that the author 
of Proverbs is talking about the same thing in both Proverbs 1 and 8, 
despite the variety of forms. This should caution us against making 
too much out of either the form or gender of nouns in a language in 
which all such substantives have variable genderized forms. 

In fact, there is no likelihood at all that the Biblical writers were 
talking about a goddess, for various other key words in Proverbs are 
used as synonyms for hokmah, and no one is arguing for a deity called 
"Torah" (Instruction) or "Binah" (Understanding). Nor presumably 
would one wish to insist that Dame Folly was a "real person " much 
less a goddess simply because the technique of personification is used. 
In Prov. 1.20-33, 8 and 9, Wisdom and Folly are spoken of as com- 
parable though opposite figures that one should alternately follow or 
flee from. This is why it is that it is both right and reasonable to con- 
clude as K. Farmer does that "In these units both wisdom and folly 
are personified; they are pictured as if they were women engaging in 
human forms of activity. "^^ In short what one says about one of these 
figures one m,ust also say of the other for they are both spoken of us- 
ing the same sort of grammar of discourse. 

It is also critical to point out that while it seems likely to be true 
that the author of Proverbs 8 may be drawing on some of the Egyp- 
tian material that describes Ma' at in similar terms, it is not sufficient 
to note such parallels and then assume that because Ma 'at is treated 
as a real deity in the Egyptian sources that the author of Proverbs 8 
must be making the same ontological assumptions about Wisdom. The 
crucial question is how the author uses such borrowed data, and on 
that score the evidence is not at all favorable to the conclusion that 
the author reflected or intended to foster or even was trying to sup- 
press the worship of a real deity called Hokmah. 


It is frankly surprising considering the main agenda of the book, 
when we find it admitted near the conclusion of Wisdom 's Feast that 
"in Jewish-Hellenism, Sophia was incorporated into the tradition in 
a way that preserved Jewish monotheism and resisted divine dimor- 
phism — the myth of the divine couple . . . "^" This is as much as to 
concede that the Biblical data does not encourage goddess worship, 
not even under the name of Hokmab.^^ 

One of the favorite texts often quoted in Wisdom 's Feast to sup- 
port the books agenda is 1 Cor. 1.30. This text however is talking about 
what Christ was made by God for believers by means of his death and 
resurrection.'^- The intent is to say something about what Christ 
became for believers, not to offer reflections on the gender of God 
and certainly not to encourage goddess Sophia worship. The Paul who 
wrote 1 Cor. 1.30 is also the Paul who wrote 1 Cor. 8.6, affirming 
a Christian adaptation of traditional Jewish monotheism. 

In 1 Cor 2.7 there is not even a personification of wisdom. Rather 
there wisdom is said to be something which God decreed before the 
ages. In the immediately preceeding verse Paul has indicated that this 
Sophia from God is something that may be contrasted with human 
Sophia. As 2.10 makes clear it is something one receives by means of 
revelation through the Holy Spirit. Even more strikingly in 2.10 Paul 
says that what the Spirit is revealing is ta bathe tou theou, which is 
then called in 2.1 1 ta tou anthropou, which the JB rightly translates 
"the qualities of anyone." The context makes clear that an attribute 
or quality is being discussed. It is not a "divine figure, a mythological 
person of feminine gender" being discussed here or elsewhere in Paul's 
letters. ^^ 

That Jesus is exalted as the embodiment of God's wisdom in various 
places in the NT, in particular in the Christological hymns, few scholars 
would care to dispute. As I have traced the trajectory of Wisdom in 
the Bible, it appears that the focus became more and more particular, 
until the focus is on one particular human being — Jesus. The Wisdom 
language is used to add lustre to or to exalt him. It is attempting to 
say that all of God's Wisdom ultimately points to and is truly embodied 
in Jesus. The author's of Wisdom's Feast as well as other advocates 
of sophiaology seek to reverse this trajectory by arguing as follows: 
"Since the early portraits of Jesus, including those in the New Testa- 
ment, made such extensive use of Sophia's characteristics, it is both 
justified and in the spirit of that process to put Sophia into the now 
much more familiar Jesus stories as well."^^ This assumes that Jesus 
points to, or is a mere manifestation of Sophia, not the reverse. 

This is surely to miss the point of the pre-existence language not 
only in Jn. 1 , but also for instance in Col. 1 and Phil. 2 as well. In those 


hymns it is the Son of God who pre-exists and is God's Wisdom, and 
he continues to embody that wisdom once he takes on a human nature 
and becomes Jesus. What once was seen as a personified attribute in 
the OT is now seen as a real divine person — the Son of God, who 
takes on a human nature, and reveals divine Wisdom in person on 

At some point the advocates of sophiaology will also have to come 
to grips with the fact that if one inserts Sophia into various Gospel 
texts, one is in fact making the rather Gnostic or docetic move of de- 
nying the essential humanity and historical character of Jesus. This is 
certainly to violate the intent and spirit of the Gospel texts, as well 
as their historical givenness. 

There are various tensions or even contradictions to be found in 
Wisdom 's Feast if one looks hard enough. On the one hand one is told 
"to encounter Sophia is to encounter the divine as female "" but on 
the other hand one hears "We do not really mean that God is male 
when we use masculine pronouns and imagery, and we do not really 
mean that God is female when we use feminine pronouns and im- 
agery."^'' This latter quote is certainly nearer the mark than the 
former and it properly raises the issue of God language, to which I 
now turn briefly before concluding. 

The authors of Wisdom's Feast may be commended for being one, 
among now a chorus of many who properly force one to rethink the 
issue of God language. If the Church wishes to continue to see the Bible 
as providing a normative guide for the way that it is to speak about 
God, it must continue to do much more serious reflecting on many 

Firstly, the Church must consider meaningfully the issue of whether 
it is true that all language about God is analogical and/or metaphorical. 
It is clear enough for instance when a Biblical writer says that Yahweh 
is like a warrior fighting for Israel that an analogy is being drawn. This 
means that there will be a, or some point(s) of contact between the 
two things being compared but in other respects they are quite dif- 
ferent. Analogies or similes are not straight forward identity statements. 
One must also bear in mind that Wisdom speech is almost always 
metaphorical and analogical in character. 

Often such analogies, similes, or metaphors are intending to speak 
about either an activity or an attribute of God without making on- 
tological much less gender claims. C. Westermann's helpful study The 
Parables of Jesus in Light of the OT shows just how often such com- 
parisons are made in the Bible, and how in a vast majority of cases 
it is an event or activity in one sphere that is being compared to an 
event or activity in another. Whether activity or attribute is in focus, 


the use of feminine or masculine imagery of God in the Bible to speak 
of these things does not in the final analysis either raise or settle the 
issue of what sort of gender language ought to be predicated of God 
as a being. Even in the case of an important text like Is. 49.15, it is 
clear from the context that God is not being called a woman, but rather 
God's attachment to and pity for God's people is said to be analagous 
to the attachment and compassion of a mother for her breast-feeding 
baby. Such language tells us a lot about how God relates to humankind, 
but it gives very little guidance on the question of whether God ought 
to be named or addressed using male or female language. ^*^ 

It is one thing to say God has certain attributes or performs certain 
activities, it is quite another to say God is such attributes or activities. 
In short what is predicated of the part is not necessarily predicated 
of the whole. This means that the predication of feminine or masculine 
attributes or activities to God does not in itself provide any warrant 
for calling God as a being by certain sorts of female or male names. 

In the God language debate a great deal more attention needs to be 
paid to the issues of the names, not merely the attributes of God. While 
it may be contended that even names are metaphorical to some ex- 
tent, it is not, clear that this is completely the case. For instance, it is 
one thing to say that in some respects God is like a father, it is another 
thing to call God Father, and make that an identity statement. 

In the Semitic tradition so often names are not mere labels but rather 
connote something about one's very nature or character. Thus, it 
would be very surprising indeed if this were not so in many cases in 
the Bible when God is named. What Yahweh, for instance connotes, 
if it is indeed a short form of ehyeh asher ehyeh, however is probably 
not something about God's gender, but probably that God reveals 
God's character in part through divine future deeds. The fact that God 
in the Bible is not given a female name (El Shaddai probably not being 
an exception to this rule) may be very significant. It may say something 
about how the Biblical writers really viewed the very being of God. 

On the other hand, it can and has been argued that the use of male 
language of God simply reflects the great condescension of the one 
true God revealing the divine character in a thoroughly patriarchal set- 
ting. The real problem with that sort of argument is that all or almost 
all of the surrounding cultures in the ancient near east were strongly 
patriarchal in character Sind yet many of them called deities by female 
names. Israelite religion, and for that matter Christianity, stands out 
from many of its contemporary religious competitors in this regard 
in that they do not give God female names, while nonetheless using 
female imagery to speak of the actions or attributes of God (cf. e.g. 
Jn. 3. 3, 5-7; Dt. 32.18). I doubt that this is because early Judaism and 


early Christianity were simply the most androcentric religions of this 
period of antiquity. Some other explanation needs to be provided to 
adequately explain this datum. One needs to ask what was it about 
the experience of the Biblical God shared by both women and men 
in the Biblical era that led to this remarkable phenomenon? This ques- 
tion deserves far more attention than it is usually given, perhaps 
because the assertion "all language about God is metaphorical or 
analogical" is taken without proof as an indisputable truth. 

For the Christian person who takes the NT as providing at least a 
pattern if not a mandate for the way God should be addressed, 
doubtless the calling of God Father will continue, not least because 
it appears likely that this is indeed the way not only Jesus addressed 
God (as abba) but also the way he taught his disciples to address 
God.'^ Yet it must be remembered that the term Father is a relational 
term. That is, a person is a father only in relationship to his children. 
One must then ask the question, does relational language say only 
something about how God acts towards us, or does it also say 
something about how God is? When speaking of God as an eternal be- 
ing existing before the creation of the world and before the existence 
of human beings, would it be appropriate for us to call the deity Father, 
when God at that point had no human children? It would seem not, 
and if this is the case then our use of the term Father says something 
about God's role or what God became once there were humans, not 
what God is in God's divine being. '^" 

Marianne Meye Thompson has recently put the matter very well: 
"By speaking of God as Father, we do not mean that God marries, pro- 
creates, or is ontologically male. In fact no responsible theologian 
would argue (or ever has argued) that God is in essence and being male. 
God is without gender, for gender belongs to physical bodies."^'' 

This brings us back to the original quote above from Wisdom 's Feast 
about God being neither male nor female. It seems appropriate to 
distinguish between the roles God assumes in relationship to us, and 
God's gender. The Bible does not seem to insist that God has a gender, 
much less a male gender. In short the Bible is not lobbying for a male, 
female, or androgenous deity. R. R. Ruether is also right to warn "We 
should guard against concepts of divine androgyny that simply ratify 
on the divine level the patriarchal split of the masculine and feminine. 
In such a concept, the feminine side of God, as a secondary or 
mediating principle would act in the same subordinate and limited roles 
in which females are allowed to act in the patriarchal order. "^'^ This 
criticism certainly must be applied to Sophiaology since Wisdom is 
clearly seen as subordinant to and dependent on Yahweh in so many 
ways in the OT.^' 


It would appear then that Jesus' use of the abba language intended 
to convey to us that God relates to us like a loving Father would, and 
that that relationship is a very intimate and positive one. It may of 
course be objected that for people who have been abused by their 
human fathers it becomes very difficult to relate to God using the 
language of father. Indeed it has also been argued that since a patriar- 
chal culture is inherently repressive and abusive of women that one 
ought to eschew using male language of God for this reason as well. 
These sorts of cries of hurt and abused individuals must be taken very 
seriously and treated with great care and sensitivity. 

The question I would want to raise is about the appropriateness of 
doing our theology, or creating our God language primarily in reac- 
tion against certain abuses or misuses of the predominant language 
used of God. For example, if the shoe was on the other foot, and a 
person had been abused by his or her mother, would one also want 
to argue that one should avoid calling God mother or "she" for this 
reason? This strikes me as an argument that fails to take note of the 
time honored dictum Abusus non tollit usum. The abuse of something 
does not rule out its proper use. Thus while it is no doubt true that 
sometimes male God language has been used in abusive ways, ways 
that suggested that women are somehow less in the image of God than 
men, the real question is whether this is always necessarily the case. 
One will also want to ask should the example of a bad and abusive 
father dictate to us how a person should or should not talk about God? 
The answer to this must surely be no, since there are both positive 
and negative images possible of fathers and mothers. There are both 
good and bad fathers and mothers and when such language is 
predicated of God it is understood to mean that God relates to us as 
the best of all possible parents. 

Yet lest one try to circumvent the problems that gender language 
causes when applied to God by dropping all gender language of God, 
it must also be urged that the use of gender language of God is impor- 
tant, not least because God as the Bible presents the deity is not mere- 
ly a force, or a process, but a personal being. To call God merely a 
parent, rather than say a father, is in the end to de-personalize God. 
Gender language is perhaps the most personal way one has to describe 
a being, including God. A human being does not have some sort of 
neutral core of his or her identity called personhood that is entirely 
separate from his or her sexual make-up. Gender says something essen- 
tial about who a person really is, as does one's gender specific roles. 
It is probable that the Biblical writers thought that by using such 
language they also were saying something essential about God's 
character, without wishing to assert God is either a female or a male 


being. Working carefully and prayerfully through these sorts of issues 
is crucial for the future of the Church as it ministers to both women 
and men. One can only hope that in the ongoing discussion of God- 
language, Wisdom will inform all the decisions made. It is also my hope 
that all of the Biblical images and names for God will be used in the 
Church, and in this way at least a less monolithically androcentric pic- 
ture of God will be conveyed. 

In this essay we examined three different faces that Wisdom seems 
to be taking in our era. We have attempted to critique them in regard 
to whether they faithfully represent or mis-represent the views and 
trajectory of the Biblical Wisdom corpus. No doubt the sages would 
all have been pleased that the struggle to find a wise approach to life 
still continues in the midst of a chaotic world, even if they may have 
disagreed with many of the ways the Biblical wisdom material is now 
being appropriated. 


^ Jesus the Sage and the Pilgrimage of Wisdom (Minneapolis: For- 
tress 1994). 

^ I am well aware that the latter of these three works is not a 
scholarly but rather a popular work, but is shows how a certain way 
of thinking about Wisdom matters can develop. 

^ Cf. the discussion in the first chapter oi Jesus the Sage. 

^ Eaton Contemplative Face, 2 1 . 

^ Eaton Contemplative, p. 142. 

^ Eaton Contemplative,, p. 4. 

^ G. Von Rad Wisdom in Israel (Nashville: Abingdon, 1988 rpr.), 
p. 62. 

^ Tao Te Ching 19. Cf. Eaton Contemplative, p. 66. The follow- 
ing saying he quotes about the necessity of reaching a state of inactivi- 
ty, by unlearning all one has learned, also hardly sounds like something 
a Biblical sage might urge. 

^ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Garden City: Image Books, 1959), 
pp. 128-9. 

'° Chesterton Orthodoxy, pp. 130-32. 

" cf. Vod Rad Wisdom in Israel, passim. 


'^ Eaton Contemplative, p. 89. 

'^ Eaton Contemplative, p. 4. 

'^ Eaton Contemplative, p. 86. 

'"* Cf. Eaton Contemplative, p. 87. 

'^' So Eaton Contemplative, pp. 101-03. 

'^ Eaton Contemplative, p. 40. 

'" Contrast the quote by Eaton Contemplative, p. 61 from the 
Chinese sages — "Resign yourself to the sequence of things ..." 

''^ Eaton Contemplative, p. 1 16. 

^" Lefebure toward, p. xiv. 

"' Cf. chap, one oi Jesus the Sage for a detailed discussion of this 

^" Cf. Lefebure Toward, pp. 12-13. This has far reaching implica- 
tions for the way this author treats the Wisdom tradition. 

^^ Lefebure Toward, pp. 50-51. 

^^ Cf. pp. above. * 

^"^ Cf. Lefebure Toward, pp. 246ff. 

^^' Cf. above pp. 

^^ This quote comes from Levenson's The Universal Horizon of 
Jewish Particularism (N.Y.: The American Jewish Committee, 1985), 
p. 6. Cf. Lefebure's discussion Toward, p. 242. 

^" Cf. D. Kidner The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, & Ecclesiastes 
(Downer's Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp. 175-76. 

'" Cf. pp 102-103 above. 

^' Cf. Lefebure Toward, pp. 200ff. 

^^ Lefebure Toward, p. 209. 

'''' Lefebure Toward, p. 248. 

^^ Lefebure Toward, pp. 238-9. 

" P. Washburn "The Dynamics of Female Experience: Process 
Models and Human Values," in Feminism and Process Thought (N.Y.: 
E. Mellen Press, 1981), p. 87. 

^^ Lefebure Toward, p. 225-6. 


^^ Lefebure Toward, p. 226. 

^** Cf. Chap. 8 oi Jesus the Sage. 

^^ For an interesting discussion of the effect this book is having on 
the Protestant Church, in particular United Methodists (two of the 
authors, Cady and Taussig are Methodist ministers) cf. L. Haferd "Some 
pray to Sophia: United Methodists divided on worship of female" The 
Akron Beacon Journal, Sat. Sept. 1, 1990, pp. Bl and B4. 

^" The former work was published by Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht 
in 1973; the latter by the University of Chicago Press in 1985. 

^' Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979- 

''^ Subtitled A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian 
Origins, N.Y. Crossroads, 1984. 

^* Used on pp. 136-7 of Wisdom's Feast. 

^^ The authors cite, but do not meaningfully interact with the 
helpful work by D. Good Reconstructing the Tradition of Sophia in 
Gnostic Literature (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987). Crucial here is the 
appropriation of texts life Wis. Sol. 7.22ff. with the assumption the 
author is talking about deity per se, rather than an aspect or attribute 
of deity or of God's creation. 

^^ Wisdom's Feast, p. 10. 

^^ Cf. the discussion of Proverbs 8 in Jesus the Sage, Chapter 1 . 

^^ Cf. K. Farmer Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Who Knows What is 
Good? {Gv2ind Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), p. 51. 

^* Farmer Proverbs, p. 28. 

^^ Farmer Proverbs, p. 20. 

^° Wisdom's Feast, p. 166. 

'' It should be noted that the back cover of the book quotes a 
review from The Christian Century magazine which says of the earlier 
book now incorporated into Wisdom 's Feast that it is "a provocative, 
exciting, exploratory attempt to introduce the goddess into the lives 
of contemporary women." This assessment seems to me to be largely 
correct. This agenda becomes especially clear near to the end of the 
book where the writers discuss tactics as to how to slip sophialogy 
in the Church's worship quietly, suggesting that they know that if it 
is openly presented it will be seen as contradictory to the essence of 
Christian faith (cf. pp. 192ff). 


^^ Cf. pp. above. 

'''' Wisdom's Feast, p. 162. 

^^ Wisdom's Feast, p. 147. 

" Wisdom's Feast, p. 188. 

**'' Wisdom's Feast, p. 163. 

^^ I would demur from Westermann's conclusion that this is always 
the case — compare his The Parables of Jesus in the Light of the OT 
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), pp. 150-151. Sometimes surely attributes 
of God such as God's hesed are referred to as well as events or actions. 

""^ Is. 42.14 is even more clearly an example of a simile where the 
point of comparison is the activity of groaning not the fact that the 
analogy is drawn with a woman groaning because of labor pains. 

'''^ On Jesus' probable use of abba cf. my The Christology of Jesus 
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990). 

''*' One may wish to debate the issue of the eternality of the Son of 
God, but that is not directly relevant here, for 1 am discussing what 
is appropriate language for us as ordinary mortals to use of God and 
our relationship to the deity. On any showing, the NT insists the Son 
of God had a very unique relationship to God, which in many respects 
goes beyond what a normal human relationship to God can be. 

''' "Speaking of God: a Question of God Language" Catalyst 17.3 
(1991), pp. 1, 7, 8, here p. 1 and 7. 

^'^ R. R. Ruether Sexism and God Talk, p. 61. 

^'^ Cf. the exegesis of Prov. 8 pp. 113-14 above. Even in that text 
Wisdom is not likely seen as an independent co-creating being. 



David N. Freedman, editor-in-chief 
The Anchor Bible Dictionary 

New York: Doubleday 

6 vols. 7294 pp. 1992; $360.00 

This massive project gives us more than seven million words in 6200 
entries by 952 contributors. While most are from North America, 
Europe (96), U.K. (62), Israel (81) and elsewhere are represented among 
the writers. It claims to be "the most extensive Bible Dictionary ever 
created" as an inter-faith exploration of the Bible. The reader is 
somewhat swamped with information and any adequate review needs 
years of use. 

Such ventures reflect, and serve, the views of the current genera- 
tion as has recently The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. The lat- 
ter, and good theological reference works, are not entirely displaced 
as here there is no intention to cover all biblical words, lexical terms 
and themes. A few such are given in depth (Righteousness, 101 cols.; 
love, 343 cols.). Nor is The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (TyndzXt, 1980) 
rendered invalid for here only some city-plans, black and white draw- 
ings and a very few photographs illustrate archaeological discoveries. 

The philosophy behind this dictionary is that in current scholarship 
no consensus exists in matters of epistemological and historical con- 
cern. Emphasis throughout is on theories and research methodology. 
Articles on theories as applied to biblical criticism (Form, Literary, 
Redactional, Rhetorical and Structural) serve as a useful introduction 
to such subjects. As with "Biblical Archaeology" they inevitable in- 
troduce an element of potential obsolescence and change. Contrasting 
viewpoints are usualy presented factually but this can depend on the 
author (cf. Thompson on Israelite Historiography and Millard on 
Abraham). Cohservative suggestions are sometimes ignored (e.g. Darius 
the Mede as an alternative name for Cyrus the Persian, now increas- 
ingly accepted; W. H. Shea, AUSS 29 (1991), 235-257). Indeed this may 
well be the last major Bible dictionary to be produced, its successor 
requires an electronic format which would allow for additions and 
upgraded bibliographies (here uneven and only to 1988/9). 

The overall scope is generous, covering all major biblical concerns, 
persons and places as well as their cultural world up to the 4th cen- 
tury A.D. Thus this dictionary is particularly strong on archaeology, 
the inter-testamental and early Christian eras. For the latter we are given 
more than 125 excellent articles on pseudipigraphical. apocryphal and 


early texts and versions alone. Several major articles are virtually books 
in themselves: Archaeology and Architecture, Canon Criticism, Jesus 
Christ, Christology, Geography of the Bible, Iconography, Languages, 
History of Interpretation as well as Egyptian, Mesopotamian and 
Israelite History, Ethics and Flora. Some noteworthy inclusions are 
Computer and Biblical Studies, Statistical Research and the Bible, An- 
thropology and O. T., Conflate Readings in the O. T., Sociology, 
Feministic Hermeneutics, and Scripture Authority. Ancient Versions 
and Translation are here though the NIV is somewhat castigated as "a 
kind of hybrid as far as the theory of translations is concerned" and 
as tending towards traditional terminology in passages of special in- 
terest to conservatives. This was indeed its intention. 

Amid all the wealth of material offered this reviewer wonders how 
a non-specialist reader can readily know how or where to look up such 
entries as Reader Response Theory, Budde Theory, Am Ha'arrez, Mi- 
qsat Ma'ase Hatorah, Aretalogy, Wasm (camel brand) or Paranesis and 
Protreptic. In the archaeological field one questions whether many 
would think to turn first to some ancient site with an obscure Arabic 
name, to non-biblical sites far afield (Asmar, Tell, Kish, Lagash) or 
technically named subjects (Household Codes [Haustefeln]) without any 
comprehensive or subject-grouped index. Though an Index volume 
is rumored, the compilers have lost a great opportunity to make these 
volumes user-friendly. Without this and more adequate cross- 
references most users will by-pass useful material. Consistency and 
more standard insertion of bibliographies would help. As a result only 
OT coverage is given for Blood, Eating and Drinking, Holiness, House, 
Will of God and only NT for Apologetics, Call Stories, Oral Tradition, 
Humanity and Worship. No specific articles are to be found on Crea- 
tion, Eathquakes, Fall, Jew(s) or indeed Arab(s) and for Glass we are 
only led to the sea of that substance. 

With all such comments that a reviewer might make this does not 
detract from the fact that this is a major reference work which must 
be available in any respectable library and within the reach of every 
serious Bible student. 

D. J. Wiseman, O.B.E. 

Professor Emeritus of Assyriology 

University of London 


John C. Holbert 
Preaching Old Testament 

Nashville: Abingdon, 1991 

1 approached this book with a good deal of anticipation and finished 
it with disappointment. My anticipation stemmed from the fact that 
I teach Old Testament (which the author, except for the title, constantly 
refers to as the Hebrew Bible, language which will be confusing for 
most readers), I preach from the Old Testament a great deal, I have 
taught courses on preaching from the Old Testament, and there is a 
dearth of material on Old Testament preaching. My disappointment 
arose from the fact that the book is mistitled. It is not about preaching 
Old Testament. It is an elementary introduction to narrative preaching 
with two Old Testament sermons offered as examples. 

After a brief introduction in which the author quotes several con- 
temporary authors who speak favorably about narrative preaching, but 
give little guidance on how to do it, he moves to a chapter entitled 
"A Theological Reflection on Narrative." Here he establishes the im- 
portance of narrative to the Hebrew experience, and concludes by en- 
dorsing the arguments of Stephen Crites that human experience is nar- 
rative in character. 

In the second chapter, Holbert describes what he sees as the need 
for narrative homiletics, the various narrative styles possible, and the 
possibilities and perils of the approach. 

The third chapter is entitled "Reading the Bible's Narrative" and 
is in some ways the most disappointing of all. After glossing over the 
very serious conflict between reading the Bible as the majority of 
historical-critical scholars do and the way in which a literary analyst 
would, he moves to a very brief discussion of the elements of narative: 
plot; character and characterization; point of view. Character and 
characterization receive the most attention. It should be said that 
several examples from the Old Testament are given, although no single 
narrative is analyzed intensively. 

The fourth and fifth chapters are two of the author's narrative 
sermons. These are broken up with explanations of the effect the 
preacher is trying to achieve in each section, and followed by a fairly 
lenghthy explanation of what in the text caused Holbert to structure 
his narrative as he did. 

The book is plagued throughout by fuzzy thinking. It faults J. Bright 
for saying that the preacher must seek authorial intent, but assumes 
that some very subtle indicators in the narrative can lead us to the nar- 
rator's purpose. It faults W. Wink for saying that historical criticism 


is bankrupt, yet reads the narratives as though the multiple historical 
and literary contexts which historical criticism has assigned most nar- 
ratives did not exist. It refers to the Bible as the Word of God, but 
never really grapples with the impact which the nature of the Bible, 
and especially the Old Testament, (revelation? witness? folktale?) has 
on the nature of preaching. 

An irony emerged in the two example chapters. The author had 
spoken earlier about the power of narrative to convey a point. But 
I was not able to understand what the preacher was trying to get across 
until I read the explanation following the sermon. In other words, 
discourse was necessary to understand narrative. 

This might be a book to give someone who wants to understand why 
narrative preaching should be considered. It is not a book to give to 
someone who wants to understand how to preach from Old Testa- 
ment narratives. 

John N. Oswalt 

Asbury Theological Seminary 

Wilmore, Kentucky 

Ben-Tor, Amnon ed. 

The Archaeology of Ancient Israel 

Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1992 

The stream of books on this subject swells annually and many prove 
to have little lasting value; moreover, the current pace of excavation 
and discovery is likely to make any book out-of-date in some respects 
very quickly. Here is one that stands out for its clarity, its scope and 
its sobriety. There is no sensationalism, nor are disputed issues 
obscured, but that is not to say the writers do not express their own 
considered opinions. 

Amnon Ben-Tor, currently head of the Department of Archaeology 
at the Hebrew University, invited six other prominent Israeli ar- 
chaeologists to join him in producing this volume, developed from 
an Open University course. He himself contributes an Introduction, 
defining Israel, briefly surveying excavations since 1950, then discuss- 
ing the question, "What is Biblical Archaeology?" (His answer rejects 
both efforts to prove the Bible true and recent attempts to deny the 


existence of Biblical Archaeology. The archaeology of the land of Israel 
and Biblical Archaeology "are naturally related and mutually 
enriching.") Ofer Bar- Yosef contributes the chapter on The Neolithic 
Period (pp. 10-39), the area where the most far-reaching changes in 
perception have occurred over the past forty years. His masterly survey 
includes different approaches to the origins of farming and settlement 
as well as describing the material remains unearthed. The Chalcolithic 
Period saw the start of metal-working when the copper-smiths rapidly 
reached very high levels of skill, as Rivkah Gonen describes (pp. 40-80). 
Towns with names later well-known began in that time, although it 
is hard to identify the people who established them. Without written 
sources, the same problem attends the following Early Bronze Age 
when fortified towns with temples and palaces developed and clear 
links with Egypt appear. The Editor contributes the account of this 
period, the subject of his own research (pp. 81-125). He devotes the 
last pages to the end of the period, early Bronze IV, so overlapping 
a little with Chapter 5, "The Intermediate Bronze Age" pp. 126-58). 
Ram Gophna gives a helpful analysis of this much debated interval in 
urban life. Villages were planted in peripheral areas such as the Negev 
while city-life stopped; tombs cut in the rock held one or a few bodies 
in contrast to the multiple burials of earlier and later periods; most 
noteworthy is the introduction of bronze, exemplified in hundreds of 
daggers, spears, axes and pins. Elements of Syrian origin are seen as 
the carriers of this culture, probably speaking a Semitic language. 
Aharon Kempinski deals with the flowering of city life in the Middle 
Bronze Age (pp. 159-210). He works through the mass of material, both 
architectural and artifactual, then attributes the innovations to Syrian 
influences, again, at the same time drawing attention to documentary 
sources which illuminate the history and life of the era both historically 
(pharaonic inscriptions) and socially (the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe). 
It is to be regretted that this period is not noted as the setting for the 
Patriarchal Narratives of Genesis. Many more Egyptian texts tell of 
events in Canaan in the Late Bronze Age and Rivkah Gonen relates them 
adequately in her account of The Late Bronze Age (pp. 2 11-57). Here 
also there is a mass of material remains to supply a vivid picture of 
life in the land just before the emergence of Israel. That is to be set 
in The Iron Age I, described by Amihai Mazar, skilled excavator of sites 
of the period (pp. 258-301). It was the time of the Philistine advent, 
too, and of great changes through the Eastern Mediterranean world. 
There are differences between archaeologists, carefully explained, over 
the sequences and associations of events and strata. For the Israelite 
Conquest, Mazar accepts the biblical narratives are later traditions as 
there is a lack of evidence for occupation at sites such as Arad in twelfth 


century B.C. For him "undoubtedly the biblical story of the battle of 
Jericho is legendary" and the taking of Ai is "only...aetiological story" 
(p. 283). He outlines the evidence for extensive settlement in the hill 
country, taken as Esraelite, with its limited and poorer pottery, and 
draws attention to the supposed "high places" and bronze cult figures 
of the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C., giving his own verdict that 
the site on Mount Ebal was a fortified structure, not a shrine (p. 294). 
Here the major problem of how to distinguish any remains as Israelite 
rather than Canaanite is recognized (p. 286), yet Mazar can confident- 
ly state "At Ta'anach...the archaeological picture indicates Israelite set- 
tlement" (p. 285). The reviewer does not believe that it is possible to 
distinguish Israelite from Canaanite occupations materially at that time. 
The Iron Age II-III occupies pp. 302-373, a valuable overview of the 
culture of the Monarchy in Israel and Judah by Gabriel Barkay. Here 
biblical references are frequent and readers will find illumination of 
the biblical texts (not indexed) through studying this chapter. There 
are up-to-date comments on disputed matters such as the gateways of 
Gezer, Hazor and Megiddo, all here reckoned to be Solomonic, and 
the pillared buildings, all identified as stables (however, the plans are 
captioned "storehouses"). The volume ends at the fall of Jerusalem. 

The text is illumined by 47 fine colour photographs, a large number 
of line drawings, notably of pottery types, and distribution maps for 
each period. There is a bibliography for each chapter and an index. 

This is a highly competent production, all the better for being a com- 
posite work, which could serve as a basic reference tool for anyone 
teaching or needing a thorough introduction to the archaeology of an- 
cient Israel. The only qualification to be made is that the limits of an- 
cient Israel isolate the material at certain periods form developments 
in adjacent countries; the reader is made aware of them but in some 
cases they deserve more weight - perhaps that is to ask for another 

Alan Millard 

The University of Liverpool 


Joseph Blenkinsopp 

The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books 
of the Bible 

The Anchor Reference Library 
New York: Doubleday 
1992, X + 273 pp., $28.00 

Joseph Blenkinsopp, John A. O'Brien Professor of Biblical Studies 
at the University of Notre Dame, has produced an excellent introduc- 
tion to the interpretation of the Pentateuch among liberal students of 
Scripture. It is a worthy addition to this series, which complements 
the Anchor Bible commentaries and the Anchor Bible Dictionary. 

The book is divided into seven chapters. The first lucidly presents 
the last two centuries of study of the Pentateuch. It presents the im- 
portant contributions of such names as Wellhausen, Gunkel, Noth and 
von Rad. He also highlights the more recent trends, in which the 
classical Documentary Hypothesis is justly criticised on a number of 
grounds. He notes that there is no longer any consensus concerning 
continuous narrative sources through the Pentateuch, J is in particular 
under increasing fire, late dating of documents is not on as firm a foun- 
dation as is generally presented, and that there needs to be serious study 
concerning the relationship between law and narrative. Blenkinsopp 
also introduces alternative approaches which see the Pentateuch as im- 
portant as a literary and canonical unity rather than just an ar- 
chaeological site for proposed sources. 

Chapter two is entitled "The Basic Features of the Pentateuch: Struc- 
ture and Chronology." He highlights the importance of the Pentateuch 
as narrative, with a generous representation of legal material interm- 
ingled. The Pentateuch is shown to be united in some ways with the 
former prophets while also standing on its own. The relationship bet- 
ween the Pentateuch and history has been receiving attention lately, 
and it is discussed here, especially comparing biblical historiographical 
texts with those of the Greeks and later Mesopotamians. Earlier 
historical texts from Mesopotamia as well as Anatolia and Egypt need 
also be considered in this context, not receiving enough attention by 
Blenkinsopp. He also touches on the five-fold division of the work, 
and the time-frame involved within it, with time references being 
original and not just secondary additions. 

The remaining chapters introduce important interpretational issues 
for successive portions of the Pentateuch: human origins (Gen 1-1 1:26), 
ancestors (11:27-50), Egypt to Canaan (Exodus-Numbers), Sinai, cove- 


nant and law (the various legal traditions as scattered throughout Ex- 
odus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), and a concluding set of 
reflections, expecially as regards the deuteronomistic history and the 
purported P. 

The book concludes with an abbreviation list, an 18-page 
bibliography and subject and author indexes. The bibliography is eclec- 
tic, showing not only mainstream scholarship, but also more conser- 
vative writers such as Millard and Wenham, as well as those who are 
clear out in the interpretational hinterlands (e.g. H. Bloom's The Book 

of A 

While the volume does not reflect the understanding of the com- 
position of the Pentateuch held by most readers of this review (or of 
this writer), it is a very readable introduction into the current state 
of play, and flux, in which Pentateuchal studies finds itself. While 
church libraries will not find it as a priority, seminaries and students 
of the Old Testament will find it well worth reading. It would also 
be an excellent text for an introductory course in the Pentateuch, to 
be used as a counterpoint to other points of view. 

David W. Baker 

Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. 

The Expositor's Bible Commentary ^ vol. 2 

Grand Rapids: Zondervan 
1990, xvi + 1008 p., $37.99 

This volume joins a distinguished Evangelical series based on the New 
International translation of the Bible. The first volume of the series 
covers introductory issues concerning the Bible as a whole and both 
Testaments in particular. This volume, therefore, is the first contain- 
ing commentary proper. 

John Sailhamer from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School writes on 
Genesis. He assumes a unitary authorship for the book, with alternative 
views such as the Documentary Hypothesis receiving no mention at 
all. His introduction usefully discusses the importance of studying both 
structure and selectivity of a work as providing clues to the composer's 
agenda in writing. 


While the introduction and commentary cover 284 pages, more 
space than one finds in many single-volume commentaries on a book, 
it is still too little space to more than touch the surface of a text as 
important and as controversial as Genesis. On wonders at the necessi- 
ty of including the entire NIV text into the commentary, thus consum- 
ing valuable space. The reader, while finding much of interest in both 
the "notes" section, which deals with more technical matters of text, 
grammar, etc., and in the commentary proper, will find it necessary 
again and again to go elsewhere for fuller coverage of the points raised, 
or even not mentioned at all. Quite often reference is made to fuller 
discussion, which is quite useful and indeed necessary in a commen- 
tary such as this, which does not set out to be exhaustive. 

Sailhamer does provide interesting insights on the text. One example, 
among many, is his understanding of Genesis 6:1-4 as a summary of 
the preceding chapters, indicating a period of peaceful existence, rather 
than an introduction to the following, flood narrative, which would 
necessitate it being understood as indicating a time of evil depravity. 
This is a departure from the almost universally held position. 

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., also from Trinity, writes 210 pages on Exodus, 
R. Laird Harris, emeritus professor from Covenant Theological 
Seminary in St. Louis does 153 pages on Leviticus, and Ronald B. Allen 
of Western Baptist Seminary, 351 on Numbers. Harris provides the 
most complete introduction, spending 1 1 pages discussing authorship 
and composition, as well as providing a useful synopsis of the theology 
of Leviticus. Allen also discusses theology, as well as spending con- 
siderable time on the vexing issue of the large numbers in Numbers. 
He suggests that they are a deliberate exaggeration, a sign of faith in 
Yahweh as filfilling his promise of numerous descendants in his pro- 
mises to Abram in Genesis 12. 

While most readers will find things with which they disagree in this 
volume, as they will with any work with which they grapple in depth, 
it will also prQvide a considerable amount of help in hearing these foun- 
dational works. This series deserves a place in church libraries, as well 
as that of their pastors, and all students of scripture will find it for 
the most part intelligible and informative. 

David W. Baker 


William H. Steibing, Jr. 

Out of the Desert? Archaeology and the Exodus/Conquest 


Buffalo: Prometheus Books 
1989, 265 pp., $21.95 

No event in the OT has raised more historical questions or sparked 
more debate among scholars than the historical context and nature of 
the Israelite exodus from Egypt. Most students of the Bible know of 
the different approaches for dating the exodus event. There is the so- 
called "biblical" or early date, ca. 1447 BC which is based on 1 Kings 
6: 1, and the "archaeological" or late date ca. 1270 BC which was cham- 
pioned during the 1950s and 1960s by W.F. Albright and G.E. Wright 
and based largely on destructions of Canaanite cities around 1250-1250 
BC that were thought to result from Joshua's conquests. In recent years 
the latter view has attracted more supporters 

William Steibing, Jr., Professor of History at the University of New 
Orleans, addresses these two older views and finds them both lack- 
ing. His criticism of these two positions are helpful in pointing out 
some inherent weaknesses, and in this, his book is helpful. At the same 
time he call the peaceful-migration hypotheses "unsatisfactory." 
However, Steibing falls in line with other historical minimalists, like 
John Van Seters, Thomas Thompson, and William Dever who see the 
OT as containing only "historical kernels" (198), and not a as reliable 
source for reconstructing Israel's origin. While not rejecting an Israelite 
presence in Egypt, he believes that the nature of the biblical records 
are such that "it is now virtually impossible to get behind the later 
conceptions of the covenant and of early Israelite history to determine 
what really happened ' (199). 

Thus he turns to archaeological evidence, both epigraphic and 
anepigraphic to try to shed light on Israel's origin. While his use of 
the latest archaeological reports is exemplary, he clearly favors the ar- 
chaeological record over the biblical report if the two conflict (35-36). 
He never questions if the archaeological data have been properly in- 
terpreted. This reviewer has shown elsewhere' that even recent ex- 
cavators of the same site (e.g. Gezer) disagree by as much as a century 
on the dating of a particular destruction layer. Therefore, it seems 
premature to dismiss a correlation between the biblical text and an 
archaeological stratum when the dating for both remains uncertain. 

Steibing rightly questions the "conquest" theory, be it early or late, 
because the archaeological record does not seem to square with the 
biblical reports of "destroying many cities and annihilating their 
populations " as he says (35). The first question that must be asked about 


Joshua's "conquest" is how many cities does the book of Joshua ac- 
tually claim to have been set on fire and destroyed? The answer is only 
three: Jericho (Josh. 6:24), Ai Qosh. 8:28), and Hazor Qosh. 1 1 & 13). 
The Blitzkreig-like warfare of Joshua 10:28-43 never speaks of demoli- 
tion of the cities, rather, it describes their capture, the siege, or the 
assault on a city, the killing of the king of city X and its population. 
But the destruction of these cities is not claimed. A strategy of limited 
destruction makes sense. Why needlessly destroy cities which could 
house Israel in the future? This point is consistent with God's state- 
ment before Joshua's death: "I gave you land on which you had not 
laboured, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein " 
Qosh. 24:13). Steibing, like many Syro-Palestinians, is reacting against 
a "conquest" theory, rather than what the book of Joshua claims. It 
seems that the focus of the archaeological debate should shift to the 
above-mentioned sites, not all the cities of Canaan.' 

Regarding the problem of annihilation of the population of Canaan, 
the language associated with Joshua 10, Lawson Younger has shown 
is hyperbolic in nature and consistent with military parlance of the 
second Millenium BC elsewhere in the Near East.^ Therefore, one 
should interpret Joshua as a piece of military literature of that period. 

Since Steibing is a historian, one might expect him to use historical 
sources and matters related to chronology to be the state of the art. 
But this is not the case. For instance, he follows the ultra-high 
chronology for Egypt's 18th Dynasty, dating the beginning of it to 1570 
BC. Since 1987, studies published in the Acts of the International Col- 
loquium on Absolute Chronology (ed. Paul Astrom) have virtually 
eliminated the possibility of this very early date, with 1 550 being cham- 
pioned by Kitchen and 1539 by Krauss. 

Steibing raises good questions about using the biblical chronology 
for historical reconstruction, especially the figures 430 years (Exod. 
12:47) and 480 (1 Kings 6: 1) (47-49). However, he seems unaware that 
there are textual variants between the Septuagint and the Masoretic 
text. Which manuscript tradition you follow will impact historical 
reconstruction. The Septuagint reduces the 480 figure to 440, and the 
length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt, 430 years is only 215. This later 
variant is also found in the Samaritan Pentateuch. Furthermore, Steib- 
ing uncritically accepts the late dating of biblical texts and their 
fragmented composition, where OT scholarship has been from 1870 
to 1970, rather that considering the new literary approaches of the 
past decade which sees the biblical episodes in a more coherent 

The author not only shows that he is probably working out of his 
field when dealing with the Hebrew Bible, but also his use of Egyptian 


texts. He relies upon translations that are from J. H. Brciisted' s Ancient 
Records of Egypt (1906) and John Wilson's translations in Ancient Near 
Eastern Texts (1906) and John Wilson's translations in Ancient Near 
Eastern Texts (which dates to 1955).^ He might have at least used up- 
to-date translations which are easily accessible, like Miriam Lichtheim's 
Ancient Egyptian Literature II (1976) or Barbara Cummings, Egyp- 
tian Historical REcords of the Later Eighteenth Dynasty 3 Vols. 
(1982-84). Never does he cite where critical editions of texts may be 
found, like Sethe's Urkunden der 18. Dynasties or Kitchen's Ramesside 

The strength of Steibing's work lies in his ability to critique some 
of the more bizzarre exodus and conquest theories such as placing these 
events in the Early Bronze Age or tying them to cosmic cataclysms (see 
chapter 4). He also does a credible job describing historical setting in 
the Levant during the Late Bronze and Iron I periods. 

Steibing's study is not just an analysis of existing theories. He prof- 
fers his own hypothesis to explain Israel's origin (chapter 6). In short, 
he believes that drought and famine conditions in the eastern Mediter- 
ranean, which can be associated with the demise of the Mycenaean 
civilizations, the Hittites in Anatolia, and the Sea Peoples' movement 
into Syria, Palestine and Egypt. These troubles resulted in a number 
of large and small migrations. Israel's origin, he avers, must be 
understood within these contexts. But he concludes, in chapter 7, that 
somehow clans that became Israel settled in the hill country of Ca- 
naan, and for mutual protection organized as tribes. 

I commend his desire to understand the origin of Israel within the 
broader context of Near Eastern history and climatic conditions that 
prompted migrations. Steibing notes that there were no serious 
economic problems or major foreign invasions until the 20th Dynas- 
ty, ca. 1200-1 100 BC (174-180). Thus we must ask, how would these 
circumstances have forced Israel to leave Egypt when the Merneptah 
stela places Israel in Canaan prior to these events and circumstances? 
And why would the Hebrews leave the relatively lush delta for the har- 
sher conditions in the Levant which would have been more adversely 
effected by drought than Egypt? In the end, Steibing's reconstruction 
is not very compelling. 


' "Some Thoughts on William G. Dever's "Hyksos," Egyptian 
Destructions, and the End of the Palestinian Middle Bronze Age'," Le- 
vant 22 (1990) 85-86. 


^ Jericho has been a problem, archaeologically, but that door of in- 
quiry has been reopened recently by Bryant Wood in "Did the Israelites 
Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence Biblical 
Archaeology Review XVI, no. 2 (1990) 44-59. See the criticism of Wood 
by P. Bienkowski, in "Jericho was Destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, 
Not the Late Bronze Age," Biblical Archaeology Review XVI no. 5 
(1990) 45ff, and Wood's response "Dating Jericho's Destruction: 
Bienkowski is Wrong on All Counts, " Biblical Archaeology Review 
XVI no. 5 (1990) 45ff. The site of Et-Tell has been identified as biblical 
Ai by James Calloway, but this by no means certain. As for the third 
city, Hazor, Yigeal Yadin, who excavated there in the 1950s and 60s 
believed that the 13th century destruction of the city could be at- 
tributed to Joshua. Clearly, more work at these sites is necessary before 
drawing firm conclusions. 

^Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and 
Biblical History Writing QSOT) Supp . 98; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990). 

''The 1969 edition of ANET did not include updated translations by 

James K. Hoffmeier 
Professor of Archaeology 

and Old Testament 
Wheaton College 
Wheaton, IL 

John Joseph Owens 

Analytical Key to the Old Testament: Vol. 2: Judges-Chronicles , 

Vol. 3: Ezra-Song of Solomon 

Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 

1992/1991, xi + 937 pp./xi + 660 pp., $39.99/$39.99 

Students of Hebrew and the Old Testament continue to be in the 
debt of John Owens, emeritus professor at Southern Baptist Theological 
Seminary. His work, which will be complete in the fourth volume of 
the series, which is due out in 1993, is prodigious and painstaking. 


The format of the series has already been noted in a review of the first 
volume of the series already published {ATJ XXII [1990], 82-83). 
Following the Protestant canonical order, each word in each verse is 
grammatically analyzed, providing for each entry, where relevant, the 
Hebrew form as it appears in the Bible, a grammatical analysis, the ver- 
bal root, page number from the standard Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon, 
any explanation if found in the standard Gesenius-Kautsch-Crowley 
grammar, and an English translation. 

By the nature not only of this work but also of biblical studies in 
general, this book is to some extent outdated before it even appears. 
While probably not reaching completion until the next millennium, 
the new Hebrew lexicon from Sheffield University will undoubtedly 
replace BDB, and the recent Hebrew syntax by Waltke and O'Connor 
would provide further invaluable reference material. A work such as 
this will provide great service to those who consult it, but it is an ex- 
cellent candidate for publication in addition, or instead, in a computer- 
readable format, not only to aid speed of access, but also to provide 
more ready updating when new resources become available. 

Again, out thanks not only to Owens and those who assisted him, 
but also to the publisher, whose task would have been immense in a 
work such as this, and whose costs will probably take some time before 
they are met. 

David W. Baker 

J. Cheryl Exum 

Tragedy and Biblical Narrative: Arrows of the Almighty 

Cambridge: Cambridge University 
1992; pp. 206 

Considerable attention has been given recently to biblical texts that 
articulate themes of suffering, guilt, and bewilderment. Although the 
tragic aspects of such texts are apparent, defining how they are tragic 
has proven difficult. Our vocabulary for tragedy, derived from the an- 
cient Greeks, promises to elucidate the tragic dimension of bibilical 
narratives but risks impertinence; Saul resembles, for example, a tragic 


figure like Oedipus, but his story (and the narrative that relates it) en- 
codes significantly different cultural, aesthetic, and religious 

In this exceptional book, J. Cheryl Exum explores the Bible's tragic 
dimension through a series of rich and provocative readings. The first 
chapter identifies and explicates the various aspects of tragedy. Exum 
notes that tragedy ''represents a vision of fundamental disorder and 
cosmic unintelligibility" (6) that is resolved aesthetically but not 
thematically. It offers a vision of reality that takes a hard look at the 
terror and uncertainty of human existence: the inability to know the 
limits of meaning and order, the tension between human freedom and 
the demands of the cosmic order, and the troubling connections bet- 
ween guilt, blame, suffering, and innocence. Tragic heroes are caught 
up in situations not entirely of their own making and only lately come 
to realize both their responsibility and their entrapment. The pro- 
tagonist's struggle against fate also raises unsettling questions of hostile 
transcendence — the complicity of the divine in human suffering. 

With characteristic insight and careful attention to the text, Exum 
draws upon narratives from Judges and 1-2 Samuel to illustrate the 
Bible's tragic vision. She begins with Saul, whom she regards, along 
with Job, as one of the Bible's "preeminently tragic figures." Through 
a deft contrast with Samson, Exum brings out the dimensions of 
struggle and hostile transcendence in his story. Samson's story, she 
argues, is a comedy. Samson himself is little more than a caricature; 
he continually repeats the same foolish actions but is never censured 
for them. Yhwh delivers him from various troubles, using him in spite 
of himself to execute his purposes. In contrast, Saul is a complex figure 
who can do nothing right, even when he intends to do so, and is con- 
stantly chided for his shortcomings. His faults (unlike Samson's) re- 
quire punishment, and he experiences continually the agony of rejec- 
tion from the God whose aid he seeks. 

In the case of Jepthah, divine absence, not hostility, is prominent. 
Jepthah is trapped by events which he has initiated but could not have 
predicted. God responds to Jepthah's dilemma with silence and inac- 
tion, leaving him to experience his guilt and suffering in isolation. 

The last two chapters trace the working out of nemesis in the houses 
of Saul and David. In each case, Exum demonstrates how the king has 
set in motion a process that, once started, he can neither control nor 
stop. The fates of the members of Saul's house contribute to and com- 
plete the tragedy of Saul. Issues in the transference of the kingdom 
to David are played out by Jonathan and Michal, although in unconven- 
tional ways. The kingship comes to David not through marriage to the 
king's daughter but by the mediating friendship of the king's son. Con- 


versely, Michal comes to represent the rivalry between the houses; unlike 
Jonathan she asserts a measure of autonomy but is vanquished by David. 
Even after David is acclaimed king, nemesis continues to work through 
the ignominious deaths of Abner and Ishbosheth. The final episode in 
Saul's story, Rizpah's vigil, finally brings a sense of closure; by preven- 
ting an act of sacrilege, Rizpah restores dignity to the house of Saul. 

Exum asserts that David's story is tragic (though not a tragedy) because 
of the divine judgment the king must bear. David's children not only 
share in his punishment but become instruments of punishment, reenac- 
ting their father's sins. In this narrative Exum detects the elements of 
reversal, hostile transcendence, and disaster that characterize tragedy. Yet, 
she argues, David is not a truly tragic figure, because he is not dignified 
by his suffering. He does not protest or struggle but consistently bends 
to his fate (which is frequently softened by mitigating circumstances). 

One senses in Exum's interpretation of the narratives a tendency, com- 
mon in contemporary readings, to ennoble Saul and diminish David. 
Saul's heroic struggle against his fate evokes admiration; he possesses a 
"largeness of spirit" that David, who simply accepts and adapts, does 
not have. While this perspective on tragedy may appeal to the modern 
reader imbued with existentialism, it probably does not represent the 
values encodes in the text. As recent scholarship in Greek tragedy has 
noted, the aspects of classical tragedy that have most impressed modern 
critics (such as the notion of the individual's "heroic struggle") were pro- 
bably irrelevant to ancient peoples. Exum's readings, in like fashion, in- 
evitable tell us as much about how the Western tragic vision informs con- 
temporary readings as they do the conventions and notions of tragedy 
that underlie the biblical text. One may take the admiration of Saul's 
"refusal to deny himself as a case in point. The Hebraic sense of the 
tragic may be attuned less to heroic struggle than to issues of survival 
and divine favor. Thus, David's ability to bend (in the Eastern sense, like 
a reed), to bear his suffering, and yet to survive may actually have dignified 
him more in ancient eyes than Saul's refusal to do so. 

Exum's focus on the tragic dimension of selected biblical texts brings 
their ambiguity into sharper focus and enables the reader to apprehend 
aspects of the stories (and of Hebrew narrative in general) that have gone 
unnoticed — a considerable feat, considering the plethora of readings 
on Saul, David, andjepthah. No one seriously interested in the Bible's 
tragic vision can afford to pass it by. 

L. Daniel Hawk 

Centenary College of Louisiana 

Shreveport, LA 


David J. A. Clines 
Job 1-20 

Word Biblical Commentary 17 

Waco: Word 

1989, cxv + 501 pp., $25. 99 

David Clines, Professor of Old Testament at Sheffield University in 
England, must be one of the busiest people in the biblical studies 
scholarship today. Not only is he the editor of a major OT journal and 
founder/director of one of the most prolific academic publishing houses 
in the world, he is also the editor of the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew 
and the author of a number of authoritative and stimulating books. 
The volume under review ranks among the latter. 

By now, the series to which this volume belongs is well-known, with 
its constituent elements of bibliography, author's translation, textual 
and philological notes, form/structure/setting, comment and explana- 
tion, all preceded by an introduction. All of these sections are well- 
covered by Clines. In his mammoth introduction, which itself is almost 
book-length, he presents not only an "orientation to this book" (i.e., 
an introduction to how the commentary itself is structured), but also 
an orientation to Job itself. There he looks at Job in its present unity, 
the argument and problem faced in Job, and different readings which 
have been given to the book. He includes the standpoint of feminists, 
vegetarians, materialists and Christians. Clines then briefly explores 
Job from an historical perspective, looking at its ancient Near Eastern 
background and the constituent elements of the final document. 

By far the largest feature of the introduction, and one which makes 
the commentary indispensable to any serious student of Job, is an 
"orientation to books about Job" which is a self-conscious attempt 
"to be a reasonably extensive bibliography," not only of scholarly 
literature but of others who have also studied and commented on this 
great piece of literature. There are included fifty pages of works which 
should be abld to provide at least something for everyone interested 
in any of the aspects of Job and his study, including the use of Job in 
art, music, film and dance. All this is in addition to the regular 
bibliography listed at the beginning of the exegesis of each particular 
passage. For bibliophiles, and those interested in pursuing different 
areas of debate, this is a commentary for you. You must also remember 
that this is only the first of two volumes, so there are more riches still 
in store in what will most probably be the most complete commen- 
tary on Job in this century. 

Clines' forte is the literary analysis of texts, but he does not neglect 
the areas of history, philology and theology. For example, in discus- 


sing the first verse of Job, he discusses the various proposed locations 
of Uz (most probably in the area of Edom) and of the meanging of ' 'Job" 
itself. He sees the uncertainty as regards not only place but also time 
as being significant, indicating that the most basic level of significance 
of the text is more universal than geographically or historically specific. 

The Book of Job simply does not say whether or not Job is an 
Israelite; by leaving open the question of race, the book effectively 
makes his experience transcend the distinction between Israelite and 
non-Israelite, Jew and non-Jew. We do not know that the storyteller 
had such conscious intention, but such is the effect he created. Even 
though a historical figure, Job can thus still function as a theological 
Everyman, asking questions which face people of every generation. 

All serious students of Job will need access to this volume, and its 
forthcoming companion. It does contain a wealth of technical infor- 
mation, some of which, such as some untranslated Hebrew, might not 
be accessible to some readers of this review, but most of the work is 
readily available to the interested person who wishes to diligently ex- 
plore this most fascinating biblical book. I recommend the volume for 
pastors, larger church libraries, and for the educated lay person. 

David W. Baker 

Thomas Edward McComiskey, ed. 
The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository 
Commentary, I 

Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 
1992, X + 509 pp., $34.99 

This is the first of a series which Baker Book House is publishing 
on the Minor Prophets. It includes discussions of three of these, Hosea 
by the editor, professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity 
School (237 pp.), Joel by Raymond Dillard, professor of Old Testa- 
ment language and literature at Westminster Seminary (174 pp.), and 
Amos by Jeffrey Niehaus, associate professor of Old Testament at 
Gordon-Conwell (179 pp)- 

Each book begins with an introduction on such matters as the iden- 
tity of the author, his historical context and the time of composition, 


and a bibliography of works which might prove useful for further 
study, the most recent from 1987. Each contributor seems to have a 
fair amount of leeway in this section since there are considerable dif- 
ferences. The bibliography on Hosea, at less than two pages, is shorter 
than the others Qoel, 7.5; Amos, 5.5 pages), and Niehaus includes a 
useful extended discussion of Amos's style and structure (elucidating 
the forms of covenant and covenant lawsuit as found in the ancient 
Near East as well as the Old Testament), in addition to brief comments 
on the theology and anthropology of the book. 

The commentary consists of three elements. Each author provides 
his own translation on the left-hand column of the translation page 
with the parallel New Revised Standard Version translation on the right- 
hand column. The former translation is generally much more literal 
than the NRSV. The latter is a good choice for a translation due to its 
conscious use of inclusive language. Due to the generally brief passages 
which receive comment, the translation pages are usually marked by 
expanses of white paper, a questionable use of space. 

There follow sections on exegesis and exposition placed together 
on divided pages, with the former on top and the latter on the bot- 
tom. The exegesis deals with the Hebrew text, which is translated in 
brackets following the Hebrew word under discussion. Comments on 
grammar, etymology, text, semantic word studies, etc. occupy this sec- 
tion. Questions of interpretation, application, theology, etc. occupy 
the exposition portion. 

An example of the distinction between these two sections is the por- 
tion on Hosea 3:1-2, specifically the use of Hebrew od "again" in verse 
one. The exegesis section discusses the grammatical evidence for tak- 
ing the word as an adverb defining either the first ("speak again," 
followed by NRSV) or the second ("love again," so McComiskey) 
clause. The author uses Hebrew syntax as well as comparative evidence 
from elsewhere in the Bible to argue his case. In the exposition, he 
pursues the implications of the decision which is made regarding 
translation. He argues that the prophet is to go reestablish his relation- 
ship with Gomer, his wife of the first chapter. This also best fits the 
context of an analogy between Israel and God that forms the basis for 
the message of this book. Rather than Yahweh choosing a new people 
for himself since Israel, his first love, abandoned him, Yahweh, in his 
grace and forgiveness, wants to give his first love a second chance. 

While being specifically an OT commentary, the authors are cogni- 
zant of NT echoes and recapitulation, as is shown by the page of NT 
citations in the scripture index. Though limited by space, they are also 
willing to comment on problems of contemporary application, such 
as the priesthood of all believers, male and female, as found in Joel 


3:1-2: "the privilege of proclaiming God's truth to a waiting world 
is not the province of the special office alone." One would like to hear 
Dillard expound this in a bit more detail for the practical, everyday 
ministry of the church, but that does go beyond the parameters set 
for such a commentary. 

This series, if the subsequent volumes follow the standards set by 
this one, will find a welcome home in church and pastor's library. Their 
limited scope will become evident to the serious reader, who will then 
be helpfully directd through the bibliographies to further reading of 
relevance and interest. If they but get the student well started on the 
way toward reading and understanding these useful, though too often 
neglected, elements of God's word, I am sure that the authors will be 

David W. Baker 

Harry Mowvley 

The Books of Amos & Hosea 

Epworth Commentaries 

London: Epworth Press 
1991, pp. xix + 168, 7.50. 

Besides a specific introduction for each of the books of Amos and 
Hosea, Mowvley includes a general introduction to his work. This 
general introduction elucidates three aspects of prophecy: prediction, 
instruction, and condemnation (pp. xv-xvii). Firstly, Amos and Hosea 
seldom foretold events lying in the distant future. Rather both pro- 
phets were much more concerned with their present time and immi- 
nent future. Secondly, although Amos and Hosea were delivering 
messages from Yahweh, they discerned those instructional messages 
on the basis of their own observations and experiences. The prophets 
lived close enough to God to understand the responses demanded of 
the people. Thirdly, Amos and Hosea condemned injustice perpetrated 
by either an individual or the community. They threatened the power- 
ful who failed to fulfill their obligations, yet did not encourage the 
oppressed to fight for their rights. 

It is worth noting, as an aside here, how Mowvley wisely cautions 


against universalizing the prophets' messages (pp. 125, 133). They ad- 
dressed concrete situations of that day. In order to apply their par- 
ticular statements now, we must find underlying principles which have 
enduring significance for us. 

Also in his general introduction (pp. xvi-xvii), the author propounds 
his view of the composition of the writings ascribed to Amos and 
Hosea. Others in Israel wrote down what the prophets' said and later 
collected the words into books of sayings. Furthermore, after the fall 
of Samaria, these words were carried south to be reused in Judah — 
sometimes with slight modification for different circumstances. The 
compilers of the books incorporated such new interpretations. 
Mowvley makes a good point about the fact that additions to the books 
occasionally fail to conform to the styles of the prophetic speakers: 
editors had no desire to delude readers into thinking the additions were 
the prophets' own words (p. 23). 

Finally, Mowvley puts forth as his task to carefully consider what 
the prophetic oracles meant when and where intitially uttered (p. xvii). 
He thus avoids the pitfalls encountered by literary critics who disregard 
authorial intention. He fully takes into account, too, the early shape 
of the texts, which differed from the final canonical form (see, for ex- 
ample, pp. 16, 95). 

The commentary under discussion consists mainly of essay-like 
remarks on sections and paragraphs in the books of Amos and Hosea 
instead of on sentences and words. Scattered throughout are excur- 
suses on several key concepts: "The Word of the Lord," "Honest," 
"Life," "The Day of the Lord," "Knowledge of God," and "The Cove- 
nant at Schechem." The volume's table of contents displays an outline 
of the two books. 

Since Mowvley keys his comments to the wording of the Revised 
English Bible, it would have been helpful if he had included in the com- 
mentary a printing of the whole of Amos and Hosea from that ver- 
sion. He really bases his conmients, however, on the Hebrew (Masoretic 
Text) and Gr^ek (Septuagint) — not on the English (whether REB or 
otherwise). Pages 88-90 on Amos 9:9-10 and pages 130-32 on Hosea 
6:llb-7:7 illustrate this exceptionally well. Unfortunately, he does 
falter once in the realm of textual criticism when he favors retaining 
the reading of the Masoretic Text because it is "perfectly grammatical" 
(p. 86). So do scribal errors generally conform to the rules of grammar. 

The writer of this commentary does not shy away from tackling dif- 
ficult problems (p. 20). He sets out various alternatives in every case 
(compare pp. 135-36). And when he cannot decide in favor of only 
one, he will offer remarks on the basis of what can be known (com- 
pare p. 36). He provides an excellent treatment of Amos's prophetic 


status (pp. 80-81) but does not handle the plumb-line vision satisfac- 
torily (pp. 11 -IS). Methodologically, he omits now and then to supply 
arguments for his assertions: as in "REB's translation therefore places 
an interpretation on this line which is scarcely warranted" (p. 33) or 
"It makes much better sense, though, to treat them as active, which 
REB has done" (p. 124). 

An approach combining both scholarly and pastoral attitudes 
permeates all portions of this volume. Anyone who teaches or preaches 
on Amos or Hosea will benefit from the commentary. 

Edwin C. Hostetter 
Johns Hopkins University 
Baltimore, MD 21218 

Priscilla Pope-Levison and John R. Levison 
Jesus in Global Contexts 

Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press 
1992, 232 pp., $17.99 

This book is a panoply of Christologies from Asia, Africa, Latin 
America, and North America. The authors describe a major shift in 
Christological conversation from the First World to the Third World 
(p. 12). They bring to light theological conversation about Jesus based 
upon contextual interpretation and reflection. 

The authors articulate that Western theology itself is captive to its 
First World context. Therefore, they propose the theological task of 
ongoing conversation between First and Third World theologians (p. 
17). Theology must take seriously cultural and global contexts for 
reflection, articulation and conversation. 

The book is an excellent presentation of Third World contextual con- 
versations about Jesus from such places as Nicaragua, Kenya, South 
Africa, and Asia. After traveling to these parts of the globe, the authors 
state, "Through listening and interpreting, we have begun to see the 
world through others' eyes" (p. 21). The work includes North 
American Black and Feminist viewpoints as well. 

The volume has an excellent organizational structure. Each chapter 
presents contextual issues, sources, and portrait of Jesus from the 


various global contexts and converstations. The last chapter offers 
analysis, comparison, and critique. The work also includes topics, 
notes, and bibliography for further study in this area. 

The book is highly recommended for persons interested in and sen- 
sitive to global contextualization of theology and contemporary in- 
terpretation of Jesus. 

JoAnn Ford Watson 

L. T. Johnson 

The Gospel of Luke 

Sacra Pagina 

CoUegeville, MN: Liturgical Press 

1991, 480 pp., $12.95 

Luke Timothy Johnson is professor of New Testament and Chris- 
tian Origins at Indiana University. His interest in Luke-Acts goes back 
at least to his Yale doctoral dissertation of 1976 which was published 
subsequently in the SBL Dissertation Series. The Sacra Pagina series 
in which his commentary appears is a Catholic commentary series "in- 
tended for biblical professionals, graduate students, theologians, clergy, 
and religious educators" (p. ix). 

Johnson's announced approach in the commentary is to forego at- 
tention to issues of origin (source questions, transmission questions, 
the historical Jesus) in favor of a central focus on literary analysis. 
Johnson is concerned to "provide a sense of Luke's compositional 
techniques — how he accomplishes his effects and creates his themes" 
(p. xii). By seeking to give a sense of narrative development Johnson 
has "tried to overcome the inherent atomism of the commentary for- 
mat" (p. xii). Important to him is "attention to literary analogies from 
the ancient world" and "the background or development of biblical 
themes" (p. xii). Johnson also offers as a distinctive of his work the 
commitment "systematically to exploit the implications of the designa- 
tion 'Luke- Acts' " (p. 1). 

Twenty-six pages are devoted to Introduction. Johnson accepts the 
traditional ascription of the Gospel to Luke the sometime companion 
of Paul. Luke is centrally a story-teller, but his writing is self-consciously 
in the genre of Hellenistic history. Though writing for Christians (Gen- 


tile Christians), he has an apologetic purpose, or more precisely a con- 
cern with theodicy: is God's faithfulness to be relied upon, given that 
Gentiles and not the historical People of God are now in possession 
of the long promised blessings? In line with Johnson's declared focus, 
the introduction deals with "Literary Dimensions of Luke-Acts" and 
what he calls "Literary-Religious Themes" (though in each case the 
scale of coverage is modest). Johnson finds a "Prophetic Structure" 
which provides the overarching literary framework for Luke-Acts. The 
Apostles and Jesus are prophetic figures (Jesus like Moses), and Luke- 
Acts makes use in connection with their ministry of a Mosaic pattern 
which can be identified in Acts 7: Moses is sent to his people and re- 
jected; he is then given power and sent a second time as a savior figure, 
only to be rejected once more. 

The commentary proper offers, section by section, a translation 
(gender inclusive and aiming for clarity and readability), verse by verse 
notes, an "Interpretation" and brief bibliography "for reference and 
further study." The Notes are set in smaller type and occupy general- 
ly two to three times the space devoted to the Interpretation. A table 
of contents reveals Johnson's views on the major structuring decisions 
(most notable, Johnson runs a single large unit from 3:1 - 8:56 under 
the title "The Prophets John and Jesus;" 9:1-50, "Preparing a Leader- 
ship for the People" constitutes the following unit; and the Journey 
unit, "The Prophet Journeys to Jerusalem," is taken through to 19:27). 
For a commentary focused on literary analysis there is surprisingly little 
supporting discussion for this structuring in the commentary itself. 

The temptation for a commentator reviewing the work of another 
commentator is to fault the other for not conceiving of his or her task 
in the manner that one has conceived of one's own. But this is hardly 
proper. Fat better to ask: "How effective has the author been in achiev- 
ing the goals which have been stated?" 

In terms of the goals of the commentary series, I wonder whether 
the commentary doesn't run the danger of falling between two stools. 
The Notes provide quite a level of technical detail and make for quite 
heavy reading. They are at times somewhat cryptic, or a least unclear 
about what the interpretive significance of the information provided 
might be On the other hand the Interpretation, more along the lines 
of a more popular level commentary, offers in a fairly non-technical 
way an overall interpretaion of the materials, in which for the most 
part there is no serious engagement with alternative interpretaions on 
offer (this is occasionally provided for in the Notes, but not with any 

Johnson effectively highlights the prophetic as an important aspect 
of the Gospel of Luke from a number of angles, and it is this prophetic 


dimension which is called upon to bear the weight of providing the 
major sense of narrative development and large sturcturing of the 
Gospel. While he has convinced me that the prophetic is yet more im- 
portant than I had already known it to be, I remain unconvinced that 
it can be given the degree of centrality that it has in the hands of 
Johnson: prophet is not Luke's central Christological category; not even 
a prophet like Moses. 

For a commentary ostensibly oriented to literary analysis, the work 
has surprisingly little literary analysis. It is quite good on Old Testa- 
ment background and offered me fresh insights in terms of literary 
analogies from the ancient world, but I do not find in the work 
anything like the literary sensitivity of, say, Robert C. Tannehil {The 
Narrative Unity of Luke- Acts: A Literary Interpretation. Volume 1: 
The Gospel according to Luke. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1986). 
Thematic development is important to Johnson, and that is a literary 
matter. But the literary quality of Luke operates as much or more on 
the level of the dynamic created in the smaller units themselves 
(Johnson's "story-teller" [p. 3]), and to this Johnson pays surprisingly 
little attention. 

Does the commentary succeed in its attempt "systematically to ex- 
ploit the implications of the designation 'Luke-Acts' "? Johnson is quite 
sensitive to thematic connections between Luke and Acts, but no more 
so than the typical modern interpreter. It appears to be his use of the 
Moses pattern from Acts 7, and the way in which he relates that to 
the pivotal role of Jerusalem between the two volumes, which is called 
upon to bear the main weight of Johnson's conviction that he breaks 
new ground in this area. 

Johnson is not fully consistent in his intention to set aside questions 
of history (sources, historical Jesus). Presumably at times he considers 
such attention to be required for "the intelligent reading of the text" 
(p. 1). While Johnson cannot be faulted for giving a specific orienta- 
tion to his commentary, the reading of his work has left me feeling 
that better justice to precisely the literary aspects of Luke is done when 
there is considerable more attention to Luke's use of sources and to 
the reconstruction of the historical setting. 

Though not noted above, Johnson has also committed himself to 
a similar limiting of his attention to theological questions. If he means 
the issues of systematic theology, then I can only commend his work 
for being notably free of control from dogmatic presuppositions. But 
if he means by that a desire to favor attention to literary matters over 
attention to the theological content in the Gospel of Luke, then I must 
be more critical. Whether Johnson intends it or not, there is a lightness 
of touch in connection with the theological thought that comes to ex- 


pression in the Gospel. The theological content of the Gospel is often 
expressed in only rather a general manner, and important matters are 
left without precision, or decision between competing alternatives. The 
section heading in the Introduction "Literary Religious Themes" itself 
points in a better direction: for Luke literary technique is precisely the 
way in which he brings theological conviction to expression and ap- 
plies it into the situation which it is his intention to address. 

Johnson has provided us with a substantial new commentary on the 
Gospel of Luke. Many will make use of it to profit. It shows the marks 
of a major investment in study of the New Testament and of its world. 
Given, however, Johnson's considerable achievements as a New Testa- 
ment scholar. I consider this could have been a rather better work if 
he had not felt obliged to produce a work of this scale in six months 
(p. xii). 

John Nolland 

Trinity College 

Bristol, England 

C. J. Roetzel 

The Letters of Paul, Conversations in Context 

Louisville: John Knox Press 
3rd ed. 1991, 217 pp., n.p. 

This book consists of an Introduction and seven chapters, which treat 
a wide range of aspects of Paul's literary work. 

In the Introduction (pp. 13-17) the author raises a number of "pro- 
blems," which he intends to "solve" later. The problems are often 
pure misunderstandings of Paul's words, i.e., pseudo-problems, and 
their function is to set off the discussion rather than to "solve" them. 
It may be wondered whether pseudo-problems are a legitimate point 
of departure. 

Ch. 1, "Paul and His World" (pp. 19-58) takes up for brief discus- 
sion Paul's background factors, both Jewish and Hellenistic: e.g., the 
place and influence of the LXX on Judaism, Jewish exegesis. Apocalyp- 
ticism, various Greek religious and philosophical movements, like dif- 
ferent mystery cults. Stoicism and Neo-Pythagorianism and Gnosticism. 

Ch. 2, "The Anatomy of the Letters" (pp. 59-71), is concerned with 


the formal elements that make up the letters, i.e., salutation, thanksgiv- 
ing, main body of the letter, paraenesis, and conclusion. 

Ch. 3, "Tradition Behind the Letters" (pp. 72-82), is an attempt to 
discover what possible knowledge of the Jesus tradition Paul might 
have had. The author finds that Paul was acquainted both with words 
of Jesus as well as other traditions of his acts. 

Ch. 4, "The Letters as Conversations" (pp. 83-117), is an attempt 
to present the highlights of each letter, to reconstruct the problems 
that prompted the writing of the letter as well as to present Pauls 
answer. The author also presumes to reconstruct the problems that 
prompted the writing of the letter as well as to present Paul's answer. 
The author also presumes to reconstruct the Corinthians' lost letter 
to Paul. 

"Paul and His Myths," ch. 5 (pp. 118-130), is devoted to Paul's 
world-view as well as some of his germane ideas, like the role of the 
invisible powers and the Adam typology. 

By "The First Interpreters of Paul," which constitutes ch. 6 (pp. 
131-155), the author refers to Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians 
and the Pastorals. The contents of each epistle are delineated and 
reasons are given for their non-pauline origin. 

The book closes with ch. 7, "Currents and Crosscurrents" (pp. 
156-178), notes, bibliography and index following. This last chapter 
is devoted to the germinal influence which Paul's letters have exerted 
on human thought through the centuries. 

The book is written in a easy, clear, popular style. The presentation 
is admirably lucid. Indeed, its character as a popular introduction to 
Paul's thinking at once highlights certain merits of the book, while on 
the other hand it betrays certain inadequacies. The book is obviously 
not intended for the specialist, nor as an original contribution to the 
discussion of Paul. 

With the rich variety of subject matter which the author takes up 
for discussion, the reader would have expected the statements and 
arguments to be better supported by concrete evidence. For example, 
his long, revised chapter on "Paul and his World," which perhaps more 
than any other chapter would have invited the appearance of source 
material, is disappointingly devoid of such documentation. The infor- 
mation on Greek and Hellenistic history, religions and culture appear 
to have been obtained second-hand. Often one tradition is presented 
to the exclusion of all others. The picture is thus sometimes distorted 
(as in the case of the Eleusianian and Dionysiac Mysteries). That Tar- 
sus "rivaled Alexandria and Athens" (p. 19) is an overstatement. Athens 
was number one; Alexandria number two; Antioch followed. 
Thereafter came such cities as Ephesus, Rome, and Tarsus. It was not 


Persephone (p. 33) but her mother, Demeter, who was the real god- 
dess of fertility. The author fails to tell us in which ancient texts he 
has found the terms "born-again" and "second birth" (p. 35) in con- 
nection with Dionysus' cult. The comparison of Diogenes reputed 
words to Alexander "stand out of my light!" with Paul's boldness "in 
God to speak to you the gospel . . . " (1 Th 2:2) (p. 40) is quite inept. 
The comment that "The Greek word for 'athlete' (asketes) came to 
mean 'ascetic' " (p. 32) is misleading, for when the word was applied 
to a monk's habit of life, it was being used in its etymological sense 
of "exercise," i.e. exercise in spiritual matters by keeping the body 
under restraint (like an athlete) (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27). 

The analysis of Paul's letters in ch. 2 is a fairly good presentation 
of the formal and structural elements of the letters. However, for the 
important topic of the Jesus tradition behind Paul's letters, he has failed 
to use B. Fjarstedt's relevant study. Synoptic Tradition in 1 Corin- 
thians, (Uppsala 1974), and the material here is rather thin. 

The analysis of the main points of Paul's letters (ch 4) raises many 
interesting points, though it cannot be said to represent the whole or 
even the greater part of Paul's thought, but this is no doubt a limita- 
tion imposed by space. 

There are other problems, as well. The discussions of the biblical 
material are also often one-sidedly presented (e.g., the NT picture of 
the Pharisees). Sometimes the chosen position is further strengthened 
by a phrase like "a competent (German) scholar," and the like. 

In short, this is a book that has attempted in a simple and straightfor- 
ward manner to present Paul and his literarry works, to place him 
against his Near Eastern background, in the thought world of the Greeks 
and Jews, in the cultures and social circumstances of his time and let 
him speak his own mind. The author shows awareness of a wide range 
of subjects and has succeeded in his synthetic presentation, though 
the shortcomings mentioned above are real and important. 

Chrys C. Caragounis 
Lund, Sweden 


Paul Ellingsworth 

The Epistle to the Hebrews 

Epworth Commentaries 
London: Epworth, 1991 

Ray Stedman 

IVP New Testament Commentaries 
Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1992 

Any commentary should be evaluated in light of its authorial intent 
and these two new works on the Epistle to the Hebrews are no excep- 
tion. Both might be described as "intermediate commentaries." They 
do not attempt to compete with full length exegetical works such as 
the recent two volume offering in the Word Commentary by William 
Lane. On the other hand they are not merely sermonic in their approach 
like the recent one by Kent Hughes (Crossway Books). 

Both Ellingsworth and Stedman seek to direct their material to the 
preacher and teacher without excluding other readers. It is understan- 
dable then that one will not find extensive data defending a particular 
interpretation nor an exhaustive list of possible interpretations of prob- 
lem passages with which Hebrews abounds. 

One example of this is 9:1 1-14 where at least two difficulties face 
the interpreter. The first is the meaning of the phrase "the greater and 
more perfect tabernacle" and the other is the significance of the state- 
ment that Christ offered himself "through the eternal s(S)pirit." The 
greater and more perfect tabernacle is interpreted by Ellingsworth as 
part of the heavenly tabernacle which Christ went through to enter 
the presence of God. This necessitates translating the same Greek word 
dia which occurs several times in these verses in two different ways, 
but it is a viable alternative, even though he offers little by way of sup- 
port for his conclusion. 

Less probable is the view of Stedman that it is a reference to the 
believer. Stedman feels the three parts of the tabernacle correspond 
to the three parts of the believer — body, soul and spirit. This view 
is difficult to substantiate from the context, is foreign to the author's 
thinking and is an inappropriate way to view a biblical model of 
humanity as existing in three distinct parts. 

The other problem in 9:11-14 is the meaning of "eternal Spirit." 
Ellingsworth sees this as almost certainly a reference to the Holy Spirit. 
Stedman appears to agree but gives no hint that there might be even 
another interpretation, that of a reference to Christ's human spirit. 


Neither writer gives support for their views but again this is not their 

Similar comments could be made regarding the difficult words in 
6:4-6 which state that if the readers of the Epistle fall away, it is im- 
possible to renew them again to repentance. Stedman interprets this 
as referring to people who were exposed and enlightened to spiritual 
truth but were never actually regenerated. He has some helpful com- 
ments regarding how this might apply today with mass evangelistic 
rallies where people may be exposed to truth but do not move through 
to saving faith. 

EUingsworth on the other hand gives a summary of three major views 
but does not decisively commit himself to any of them. He does sug- 
gest that if the author of Hebrews had the insights of Paul and John, 
he might not have been so negative in his assessment of his readers! 
Once more the writers treat the passage in summary fashion which 
is what these commentaries are about. 

Both works make a good attempt to bridge the gap between the First 
and Twentieth Century readers. EUingsworth has helpful summaries 
at the beginning of each section. In 1:5-14 he speaks of the difficulty 
of the modern reader seeing the exposition regarding angels as having 
any application to us today and makes some suggestions as to how this 
might be done. Stedman likewise has good applicaitons as he moves 
through each section. 

Both works will be helpful to the pastor or teacher who is com- 
municating this truth to a church audience. Ellingsworth's commen- 
tary could be a useable textbook for a College or even a Seminary 
course on Hebrews that is being taught on the basis of the English text. 
Both preachers and teachers should supplement either of these works 
with a more in depth treatment such as that of Lane in the Word Com- 
mentary series or the more detailed treatment of EUingsworth himself 
in the NIGNT Commentaries. 

Roy R. Matheson 

Ontario Theological Seminary 


D. Moody Smith 

First, Second, and Third John 

Louisville: John Knox Press 
1991; 160 pp. $18.00 

D. Moody Smith, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testa- 
ment at the Divinity School of Duke University, has written a volume 
on the Johannine Epistles which appears in the series Interpretation: 
A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. This series, which 
seeks to provide a set of full-length commentaries written specifically 
for those who interpret the Bible through teaching and preaching in 
the church, selects as writers biblical scholars who possess an outstand- 
ing publication record and are known for their experience as preachers 
and/or teachers. The selection of Smith as the author of this particular 
volume is an excellent one, inasmuch as he has long distinguished 
himself as an outstanding Johannine scholar. 

Rarely have I read a commentary that is as successful as this one is 
in fulfilling the purpose as envisioned by the editors for the series. Not 
only does Smith succeed in producing a nontechnical commentary that 
is based upon solid scholarship, but he demonstrates an uncanny ability 
to lay bare, in crystallized form, much of the epistles' theological con- 
tent and contemporary relevance. 

The format of the commentary is one reason why Smith's effort is 
so successful. Beginning with an introduction. Smith not only examines 
the standard topics such as authorship, audience, purpose, and struc- 
ture, but he also explores the nature of the Johannine epistles and traces 
their use by the early church. It is also in the introduction that the 
reader learns of Smith's own approach to the epistles. Smith rightly 
concludes that, owing to the many similarities between the Fourth 
Gospel and the Johannine Epistles, these epistles must be interpreted 
in the light of the Gospel of John. This approach provides the reader 
with a fresh point of departure in reading the epistles, while at the 
same time offering a point of entry into the thought world of the Johan- 
nine community. In addition to reading the epistles in their Johannine 
context. Smith believes that they should be viewed within their broader 
New Testament context, a refreshing approach given the tendency 
within scholarship to treat the Johannine literature as somewhat 

The commentary proper consists of three parts. First, one finds a 
brief, but very informed section-by-section treatment of the text of 
the epistles. Next, Smith seeks to distill the distinctive theological 
message of each portion so examined. Finally, he offers suggestions 


on the various ways in which preachers and teachers can use these 
texts with due respect for the tone and content of the epistles, on the 
one hand, and relevant contemporary application, on the other. Those 
who make use of the Common Lectionary will be particularly pleased 
to find that Smith regularly places his comments within this framework. 
Another particularly helpful feature of Smith's commentary is the in- 
clusion of five sections devoted to theological reflection on the specific 
topics of: the Language of 1 John, the Johannine Letters as Pastoral 
Epistles, Spiritual Authority in the Johannine Community, the Op- 
ponents of John, and Authority and Church Office in the Johannine 
Letters. The commentary closes with a small bibliography that con- 
sists of a) literature that might be consulted on the Johannine epistles 
for further study and b) other literature cited in the commentary. 

In terms of Smith's specific observations and conclusions, perhaps 
the following deserve special mention. He assigns the epistles to an 
Ephesian milieu and believes that all three epistles were written by the 
same author. While Smith thinks that the identity of the author remains 
obscure, he seems certain that the writer was not an apostle nor was 
he the author of the Fourth Gospel. At the same time. Smith does raise 
the possibility, although acknowledging the hypothetical and pro- 
blematic nature of the suggestion, that the writer was John the Elder, 
who may have been the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel. 

Smith points out that while the prologue of 1 John (1:1-4) presup- 
poses the prologue of the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1-18), the former 
manifests "a particular interest only in certain areas of" the latter (p. 
38). What is of vital concern in 1 John is the Gospel's claim that the 
word became flesh and dwelt among us. Thus, the various implica- 
tions of the word becoming flesh, spelled out more fully in 1 John 
1:1-4, testify to one particular aspect of the intra-Johannine debate of 
which 1 and 2 John give evidence. 

Also worthy of mention is Smith's approach to the Johannine text 
concerning how the community is to determine whether a spirit is of 
God or not. The scenario which he proposes in order to explain this 
enigmatic text includes the activity of Christian prophets who, claim- 
ing the authority of the Spirit, espouse a false Christology. By their 
false confession these prophets are in effect making an improper 
Christological confession, which is summarized in theological shor- 
thand by the words, "Jesus has not come in the flesh." Since the Spirit 
inspires only valid confessions of Jesus, its absence among the false 
prophets is easy to recognize. 

Although the nature of the Interpretation volumes precludes little 
citation of secondary literature, Smith is to be commended for frequent 
appeal to the comments of John Wesley on these epistles. Not only 


do these references to Wesley's insights serve to illumine the text, but 
also remind contemporary interpreters of the New Testament that there 
is much to be gleaned from the works of this oft-forgotten biblical 

While individual readers will, no doubt, find specific points about 
which to disagree with the author, Smith has produced an extraor- 
dinary little commentary from which preachers and teachers should 
profit for years to come. It is a pelasure to recommend such a fine 
volume to the readers of ATJ. One can only hope for a fuller treat- 
ment of these epistles in the future by this fine Johannine scholar. 

John Christopher Thomas 

Marianne Meye Thompson 
1-3 John 

Downers Grove: Inter Varsity 
1992, 220 pp., $14.99 

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series has recently been 
launched by InterVarsity Press. The rationale given for yet another 
commentary series is that no other project has as of yet achieved what 
the editors of this new commentary have envisioned. The goal of the 
editors is to produce a series "to the church from the church, that seeks 
to move from the text to its contemporary relevance and application" 
(p. 9). The series seeks to be user friendly by utilization of a "format 
that expounds the text in uninterrupted form on the upper portion 
of each page while dealing with other issues underneath in verse-keyed 
notes" (p. 10). Drawing upon scholars and pastors "who share both 
a passion for faithful exegesis and a deep concern for the church" this 
project seeks to fill a void that currently exists. 

The author chosen to contribute the volume on 1-3 John is Marianne 
Meye Thompson, Associate Professor of New Testament Interpreta- 
tion at Fuller Theological Seminary. Her qualifications for this assign- 
ment include Ph.D. training at Duke University under the direction 
of D. Moody Smith, which culminated in the production of a scholarly 
monograph on the Gospel according to John, The Humanity of Jesus 
in the Fourth Gospel. 


The work begins with a somewhat standard introduction which in- 
cludes discussions of The Occasion and Purpose of the Epistles (with 
attention to 1-2 John as well as the distinctive 3 John), authorship, Date 
and Order of the Epistles, and the Themes of the Epistles. In this sec- 
tion Thompson suggests that while apostolic authorship of the epistles 
should not be discounted, she refuses to base her comments upon that 
a priori assumption. She argues, with most scholars, for a date 
somewhere in the nineties and believes that the Fourth Gospel pre- 
ceded the epistles. Thompson goes on the speculate that 2 John and 
perhaps 3 John serve as cover letters for 1 John. Among the major 
themes which Thompson identifies in the epistles are the character 
of God, the centrality of Jesus Christ, Christian descipleship, love, 
unity, and fellowship, the preservation of sound teaching, the impor- 
tance of discernment, and assurance and confidence. 

The introduction concludes with a section devoted to "Learning to 
Read and Apply the Epistles of John." Here, Thompson stresses the 
importance of remembering the epistles' context of schism, the im- 
portance of literary context when interpreting a specific passage, the 
peculiar nature of Johannine dualism, and special problems in 
translating the epistles. Two particular translation problems are 
highlighted: 1) the author's tendency to use the pronoun "he" or 
"him" for God or Jesus, a difficulty she remedies by the insertion of 
the appropriate noun within brackets after an ambiguous pronoun, and 
2) the special challenges presented by the author's use of masculine 
nouns and pronouns when referring to Christians generally. This 
problem Thompson handles by using inclusive terms where 

The commentary itself is arranged according to an outline of the 
epistles' contents, with the letters divided into manageable sections. 
Thompson introduces each major portion of text by offering a brief 
description of some contemporary issue, attitude, or event relevant 
to the discussion that follows. For the most part, this attempt to draw 
the reader into the text works very well, considering how contrived 
and artificial many similar attempts appear. In fact, Thompson seems 
to get better at this particular aspect as the commentary unfolds. Of 
course, this perceived improvement may have more to do with the 
fact that some sections of the text more readily lend themselves to such 
contextualization and/or that the reader grows to appreciate such an 
approach as he/she continues to read. Inexplicably though, Thomp- 
son does not follow through with this way of introduction in 3 John. 

Thompson's skill as an expositor is evident throughout the commen- 
tary. Two examples show the author at her best. First, when com- 
menting on 1 John 2:18-19 (which describes the appearance of Anti- 


christs) Thompson explains the phrase "this is the last hour" by noting 
that 1) in the Fourth Gospel "hour" can refer to a decisive event, and 
here despite the warnings about the last hour the readers are instructed 
to remain steadfast and faithful and 2) in Johannine eschatology, judg- 
ment and blessings are viewed as already taking place in the present. 
By offering such comment Thompson is able to emphasize the momen- 
tous nature of the secession of certain individuals from the community 
and at the same time drawn attention to this event's eschatological 
significance within a distinctively Johannine framework. Second, in 
offering comment upon 1 John 3:11-17 (which introduces Cain into 
the discussion) Thompson insightfully notes the relationship between 
the rift in the Johannine family and that of the first family. Although 
the comment is simple enough, it opens up a number of profitable ways 
by which to approach this particular text and the author's reason for 
including it. In addition to these two examples, Thompson's helpful 
discussion on the church's role in discernment should be mentioned. 
Less helpful or convincing is Thompson's discussion of sin and the 
believer (IJohn 3:4-10 and 5:16-20), where her theological orienta- 
tion appears to interfere with her analysis of the text. It should, of 
course, be noted that these texts are notoriously difficult for any 

The volume concludes with a bibliography of works, primarily in 
English (there are two entries in German), on the Johannine literature 
and related topics. Although it appears that the list is to function as 
a suggestion for additional reading, it is odd to find no annotations 
to orient the popular reader to this diverse collection of works. It is 
also unfortunate that the volume includes no index of any kind. 

Despite any minor misgivings, Professor Thompson and IVP are to 
be congratulated for the production of such a fine volume in this new 
series. This commentary should serve the church very well and could 
perhaps function as a model for the way in which a commentary should 
invite the popular reader into a serious study of the biblical text. 

Perhaps a final word might be offered about the series itself. Despite 
its numerous attempts to produce a distinctive commentary for the 
church, it would appear that there is still a place for a commentary 
which is not only descriptive in terms of content and how application 
might be made, but also is dialogical in that it intentionally elicits a 
direct response from the reader to that which is discovered in the 
biblical text. 

John Christopher Thomas 


John W. Pryor 

John: Evangelist of the Covenant People 

Downers Grove: InterVarsity 
1992, 244 pp., $19. 99 

This monograph on the Fourth Gospel, by the Registrar of the 
Australian College of Theology, is in reality two books in one. The 
first half is devoted to a reading of the entire gospel with primary at- 
tention given to John's narrative art and special themes deemed by 
Pryor to be of central concern to John: Christology and covenant 

Given the diversity of scholarly approaches to the Johannine 
literature currently being employed, it is helpful that at the outset, 
Pryor makes clear his own assumptions in approaching the Fourth 
Gospel. While acknowledging that "the gospel traditions as developed 
by John do reflect something of the life of the Johannine communi- 
ty, " Pryor has "little sympathy" with many of the current attempts 
"to read from the evidence' of the gospel a history of the communi- 
ty " (p. 2). With regard to issues of authorship, Pryor believes that (1) 
the role of the Beloved Disciple (an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus) 
is central, (2) the BD's reflection upon the Jesus tradition forms the 
basis of the Fourth Gospel, (3) one of the BD's faithful students may 
have served as a secretary in the writing of the gospel while the BD 
was still alive and (4) after the death of the BD this pupil added chapter 
2 1 and references to the BD (a title the BD would never have given 

Throughout his narrative overview, Pryor's knowledge of the Johan- 
nine literature (and the relevant secondary literature) is evident. Clearly, 
this scholar is very much at home in John and has paid careful atten- 
tion to its major emphases, as well as its intricate detail. Such erudi- 
tion results in innumerable observations which strike the reader as be- 
ing exactly what the writer of the Fourth Gospel intended. It also leads 
Pryor to come to conclusions that sometimes are minority positions 
among Johannine scholars. Yet, even here one is often struck by the 
logic and soundness of his thought. 

The overarching theme(s) of Pryor's reading of the Fourth Gospel 
is that for John, Jesus is the fulfilment of Jewish hopes, supercedes 
Jewish forms and institutions, and is the embodiment of the true Israel. 
For its part, Judaism willfully rejects Jesus, forfeiting its covenantal 
claims. The true covenant people are those Jews and Gentiles who 
believe in and are gathered around Jesus. Often such conclusions tend 
to rise rather naturally from reading the text, but on occasion one gets 


the impression that Pryor either has forced evidence, which may be open 
to more than one interpretation, into a mold that supports his primary 
thesis or at least has been too quick to find such evidence. Only one brief 
example may here be offered. In his comments on John 1:16-18 (p. 9), 
Pryor contrasts the law given through Moses with grace and truth which 
came through Jesus Christ. According to Pryor, Israel received the Law 
through the mediation of Moses. It was not the fullness of God's revela- 
tion but simply the Law. To insure that the subordinate nature of the 
Law is not missed, Pryor states that the Law was given after the golden 
calf apostasy (a qualification which John does not feel compelled to 

While such an interpretation is possible, it ignores several hints in the 
text that the gifts through Moses and Jesus are to be viewed in a com- 
plementary, if somewhat progressive, fashion. After all, nothing in the 
prologue to this point has suggested a negative meaning for the Law. 
There is not even a conjunciton of contrast between Moses and Jesus 
in V. 17, certainly not aWa, which one might expect if contrast is in- 
tended, but not even xal or be. These facts at least suggest that the 
mention of the gifts through Moses and Jesus in v. 17 is offered as 
clarification of the statement in v. 16, that out of the Logos' fullness 
"we have all received, (xat x^pii' d.vTL xo-Pctos) even one grace after 
another." On this interpretaion, the gifts described in v. 17 are likely 
to be seen as examples of that described in v. 16. 

Following the running narrative are four excursuses on the structure 
of John's Gospel, John and the Synoptic Accounts, the Farewell Discourses 
and Critical Concerns, and John and the Trial of Jesus. 

The second major section of the work is devoted to a systematic presen- 
tation of the major Johannine themes of Christology and the covenant 
community. Here topics such as Jesus and Old Testament Motifs, Messiah, 
Son of Man, Lord in John's Gospel, and the Covenant People are discuss- 
ed. In a very helpful epilogue entitled "An Anit-Semitic Gospel" Pryor 
rounds out this monograph by drawing a distinction between the 
theological message of the Book, that Judaism has forfeited its place in 
redemptive history, and the way in which the language of the Fourth 
Gospel has been used by later readers in an anti-Semitic fashion. 

Pryor has written a very fine book that is a delight to read. Despite 
the criticism offered above, this work is to be highly recommended to 
all students of Johannine literature for its fresh approach to the Fourth 
Gospel and the helpful reflection it should generate. The readers of ATJ 
will find much of value here. 

John Christopher Thomas 

Associate Professor of New Testament 

Church of God School of Theology 


Philip R. Davies and Richard T. White, edd. 

A Tribute to Geza Vermes: Essays on Jewish and Christian 

Literature and History 

JSOT Supplement 100 

Sheffield: JSOT 

1990, 406 pp., $75.00 

Geza Vermes is the Hungarian-born Professor of Jewish Studies at 
the University of Oxford. He is probably best known for his writings 
on the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with his oft-translated/e5M5 the Jew and 
his editorial and writing involvement in the revised edition of The 
History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (1 75 BC-AD 135). 

This honorary volume contains offerings by five scholars associated 
with American institutions, two German, one Israeli, and thirteen 
British. The contributions fall into four sections, each reflecting some 
of the varied interests of the honored scholar. The sole contribution 
under the heading "Semitica" is from E. Ullendorff on Heile Selassie 
as the self-styled "Lion of Judah." The longer "Dead Sea Scrolls" sec- 
tion discusses aspects of Hebrew grammar (the adverbs m 'd and sham), 
oral Jewish law (especially focusing on CD and IQS), the title "The 
Teacher of Righteousness" (not viewed as a messianic title by its users 
at Qumran), and the puzzling "house of Peleg" (followers of Onias 
who settled in Leontopolis in Egypt). 

The book's longest section concerns matters targumic and rabbinic, 
including rabbinic midrash and hermeneutics in the Graeco-Roman 
world, a comparison of a pair of midrashic studies of the Akkedah (the 
binding of Isaac from Gen. 22), and the view of Scripture evidence 
in the rabbinic writings (high as regards the physical text itself, but 
more fluid or subjective as regards individual interpretation). 

Under "Judaism and Christianity in History" there are studies of the 
use of kosher olive oil, the relationship between Christianity and 
Judaism in the first Christian century, the Hasmoneans' use of 
Hellenism, and the policies of the Emperor Hadrian in Judaea as it im- 
pinged on the revolt of Bar Kokhba. Finally, in the section probably 
most interesting to the readers of this Journal, that on New Testament, 
are studies of the Semitic background of "hypocrisy" as used in the 
Gospels, studies on two aspects of the Pater Noster (or the Lord's 
prayer), the Testaments of the XH Patriarchs and its relationship to 
2 Peter, and Jesus's trials in the Gospels as reflective of Jewish and 
Roman legal practice. 

The breadth of scholarship shown in this volume is impressive, and 
the esteem in which its dedicated is held is evidenced by the caliber 


of those who contributed representing both Christians and Jews, both 
of whose traditions have benefited from the scholarship and pubUca- 
tions of Professor Vermes. We join in saluting him and his work. 

David W. Baker 

Shemaryahu Talmon, ed. 

Jewish Civilization in the Hellenistic-Roman Period 

Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement 10 
Sheffield: JSOT Press 
1991, 269 pp., $50.00 

This volume contains the papers presented at two workshops held 
under the auspices of the Continuing Workshop on Teaching Jewish 
Civilization in Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning with 
Emphasis on Comparative Religion. The first, held in 1986, was on 
Jewish civilization during the Hellenistic-Roman period. The follow- 
ing summer's workshop discussed the academic teaching of the Dead 
Sea Scrolls. In all, there are published here six papers on the first topic 
and nine on the second. 

A review of this type cannot provide an adequate forum to discuss 
each offering, so a list of the contents will need to suffice. 

Part I 

History, Society, Literature 

S. Talmon, "The Internal Diversification of Judaism in the Early Second 
Temple Period" 

U. Rappaport, "The Material Culture of the Jews in the Hellenistic- 
Roman Period" 

T. A. Idinopulos, "Religious and National Factors in Israel's War with 

G. J. Blidstein, "The Import of Early Rabbinic Writings for an 
Understanding of Judaism in the Hellenistic-Roman Period " 

D. Dimant, "Literary Typologies and Biblical Interpretation in the 
Hellenistic-Roman Period " 


M. Gilbert, "The Book of Ben Sira: Implications for Jewish and Chris- 
tian Traditions" 

Part II 

Qumran Between Judaism and Christianity 

J. Strugneil, "The Qumran Scrolls: A Report on Work in Progress" 
E. Tov, "Hebrew Biblical Manuscripts from thejudaean Desert: Their 

Contribution to Textual Criticism" 
L. H. Schiffman, "Qumran and Rabbinic Halakhah" 
J. M. Baumgarten, "Recent Qumran Discoveries and Halakhah in the 

Hellenistic-Roman Period" 
J. Milgrom, "Deviations from Scripture in the Purity Laws of the 

Temple Scroll" 
J. H. Charlesworth, "Qumran in Relation to the Apocrypha, Rabbinic 

Judaism, and Nascent Christianity" 
G. W. E. Nickelsburg, "The Qumran Fragments of I Enoch and Other 

Apocryphal Works" 
H. Stegemann, "The 'Teacher of Righteousness' and Jesus : Two Types 

of Religious Leadership in Judaism at the Turn of the Era" 
S. Talmon, "Between the Bible and the Mishnah: Qumran from Within" 

There follow indexes of references and authors. 

The articles by Tov and Talmon appeared elsewhere, but the re- 
mainder appear here for the first time. The caliber of the contributors, 
who are leading scholars from Israel, the US and Germany, as well as 
the breadth and depth of the material covered, make this volume one 
of interest to the student and teacher of both New and Old Testament, 
as well as Judaism, early Christianity and history. 

As is expected from this publisher, probably the largest academic 
publisher in biblical studies today, the editing and production is ex- 
cellent. It is a pity that one of the early goals of JSOT, to produce quality 
material inexpensively is not always brought to fruition. While the 
volume will not be a best seller due to its subject matter, a cost of almost 
twenty cents a page will restrict it to libraries of institutions and 
specialists, which is unfortunate, since it would be of interest to a wider 

David W. Baker 


Richard Fenn 

The Death of Herod: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion 

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
1992, 200 pp, $44.95 (cloth), $15. 95 (paper) 

The increasing wilHngness of New Testament scholars to make use 
of sociological insights has been gratifying to Richard Fenn, who is 
Maxwell M. Upson, Professor of Chrisitanity and Society at Princeton 
Theological Seminary; but he remains concerned that some scholars 
have imported these insights rather hastily and naively and have not 
demonstrated very much sophistication with respect to theoretical and 
methodological issues in the sociology of religion. Fenn is worried that 
theological understanding will be trivialized unless theologians plumb 
the social world with the same intensity that they bring to the Scrip- 
tures. The Death of Herod: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion, then, 
is his sociological primer for students of the New Testament. 

The particular aspect of the social world with thich Fenn is con- 
cerned in this book is the problem of "societal reproduction," that 
is, the manner in which societies reproduce themselves and the pro- 
blems societies face in accomplishing this difficult yet inevitable task. 
It is to this end that Fenn focuses upon the death of King Herod in 
Palestine at the beginning of common era. Fenn's central contention 
is that the murderous struggle for succession to Herod essentially 
prevented Israel from reproducing itself and this quickly led to the 
destruction of the society. The rise of "the Jesus movement," Fenn 
contends furthermore, must be understood in this context. 

Fenn's theoretical argument centers on the importance of language 
in societal reproduction, and specifically on the importance of telling 
the truth. In periods of transition - as, for example, at the death of 
a king - a great deal of faith must be extended to those in positions 
of authority. If these persons cannot be trusted to tell the truth, social 
order is jeopardized. Religion usually functions to guarantee the 
truthfulness of speech and to connect words with deeds in various 
ways; but occasionally - as was apparently the case in early first-century 
Palestine - even religious and ritual safeguards fail to preserve the 
credibility of those in authority. Disaster was thus inevitable. 

Fenn is also concerned to raise the methodological issues in trying 
to assess the truthfulness of a social order after the fact, and he discusses 
what he calls the "prophetic" (neo-Weberian) and "priestly" (neo- 
Durkheimian) approaches to this problem. He contends that both ap- 
proaches could benefit from the insights of social anthropology and 

Fenn's description of the disintegration of early first-century Palesti- 


nian society is plausible with interesting - though hardly earth- 
shattering - implications for our understanding of the life of Jesus. His 
basic theoretical point, furthermore - that truthfulness is important to 
continuing social order - is obviously an important one, and not 
without implications for our own situation. Yet this reviewer felt that 
degree of abstraction Fenn employed to make this simple point was 
largely unnecessary and, what is perhaps worse, completely emptied 
it of moral force. Truthful speech, it seems, can be undermined in many 
ways and not simply by falsehood. Indeed, the truthfulness of speech 
can be undermined by what Fenn himself has called elsewhere 
"seminar talk," that is, by speech in which there is so much distance 
between the speaker and what is spoken that it ceases to be - to use 
Fenn's term - "eventful." Unfortunately, the sociology of religion has 
had a tendency to be somewhat uneventful in recent decades, and The 
Death of Herod is not likely to reverse this trend. 

Craig M. Gay 
Regent College 
Vancouver, BC 

Daniel L. Migliore 

Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian 


Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 

1991, xiv + 312 pp., $29.95/$18.95 (ppr) 

Daniel Migliore states that his purpose in writing Faith Seeking 
Understanding "is to offer an introduction to Christian theology that 
is both critically respectful of the classical theological tradition and 
critically open to the new voices and emphases of recent theology" 
(x). Migliore has accomplished this task in a fashion that is more than 

Migliore's Reformed tradition as well as the influence of liberation 
theologies can readily be seen in his work. One should not suppose, 
however, that this is all one will find in Faith Seeking Understanding. 
Migliore engages theologians from a wide variety of traditions, both 


Protestant and Roman Catholic, contemporary and traditional. Migliore 
also scrutinizes his own Reformed tradition at key points, as in his treat- 
ment of the doctrine of election (74-79). 

Migliore's orthodoxy and his openness to contemporary theological 
movements (primarily theologies of liberation) make for an engaging 
presentation. For example, in Migliore's treatment of the doctrine of 
the Trinity, he rightly states that "when attention to the doctrine of 
the Trinity declines, distortions of the Christian understanding of God 
appear" (64). When the doctrine of the trinity declines, "the church 
is in danger of losing its identity" (66). In his "restatement" of the 
doctrine (66) Migliore, undoubtedly open to feminist concerns, speaks 
of the trinitarian nature of God as intrinsically social. "The Trinity is 
essentially a koinonia of persons in love" (68). This life of God is self- 
giving. God extends this life to his creation wanting to draw us into 
and share this life with us. This understanding of God is the founda- 
tion for Migliore's understanding of the church. 

Faith Seeking Understanding is a solid introduction to Christian 
theology. The text is well-organized, concise and clear. Its size is a 
significant plus for the classroom, especially in the midst of the many 
good, but "too-big-to-use" multi-volume works. 

Matthew H. Bevere 

Millard J. Erickson 

The Word Became Flesh 

Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991 
627 pp. 

This book is a chunk of material on contemporary christology. 
Erickson has written it because the person of Christ has "always been 
at the very center of the Christian faith, but is especially problematic 
in our time because of several developments in the intellectual world" 
(p. 7). 

Erickson puts forth his christological convictions right at the begin- 
ning. "I am firmly committed to the doctrine of the unique incarna- 
tion of God in the person of Jesus Christ, but am convinced that it must 
be stated in a contemporary fashion, with full awareness of the intellec- 


tual climate of our time" (p. 7). 

The 24 chapters of this book arc grouped into three parts. In the 
first part, (chs. 1-3) "The Formulation of Incarnational Christology,' 
Erickson commences with a discussion of the source of christology 
— the Bible. He then proceeds to explicate the christological debates 
up to an after the Council of Chalcedon. Part 1 is a good general 

"Problems of Incarnational Christology" is the topic of part 2 (chs. 
4-14). Here Erickson engages several modern christological reformula- 
tions, including existential christology, liberation christology, black 
christology, feminist christology, and mythological christology. His 
analysis is clear and straightforward, and he has obviously read the 
primary sources. On the whole his critique of the different christologies 
is fair as he not only points out the weaknesses of each, but the 
strengths of each as well. 

In part 3 (chs. 15-24) Erickson attempts his own construction of a 
contemporary incarnational christology. He begins logically with the 
question of the reliability of the Bible as historical evidence for what 
we can know about Jesus. His answer (to be expected and rightly so) 
is that the Bible does give us an accurate protrayal of Jesus. Erickson 
presents a particularly good discussion on the supposed antithesis be- 
tween theology and history (pp. 386-388). From this Erickson puts 
forth an argument in support of a christology true to the New Testa- 
ment and the formulation of Nicea and Chalcedon. 

Erickson's treatment is sound and helpful. I am very impressed with 
his command of the incredible amount of material he surveys. There 
are those who won't agree with him, but no one can claim that he 
has failed to immerse himself in the literature. 

I am one who does agree with Erickson's convictions concerning 
the truth of classical christology. At a few places I did find myself un- 
comfortable with what I thought were attempts to argue his case in 
the framework of modern philosophical assumptions. Erickson seems 
to accept the objective/subjective and the fact/value distinctions so 
critical in modern philosophy (as well as his references to theism). In- 
stead of allowing such distinction to stand, one simply ought to declare 
them to be false and then argue from this perspective. Erikson does 
this when he rejects the theology /history distinction and his argument 
is stronger because of it. 

Similarly, I have the same uncomfortable feeling in his attempt to 
develop a metaphysic. Why should one want to do a metaphysic? Most 
metaphysical studies are irrelevant, and the ones that have value can 
clearly be classified as something other than metaphysical. 

I highlight these criticisms in particular because so much modern 


philosophy is obtusely abstract and quite frankly a waste of time. In- 
sofar as Erickson takes up this agenda, his study, it seems to me, is 
also open to the charge of irrelevance (again, only insofar as he takes 
up this agenda); and this is unfortunate because I think Erickson 's book 
is so important and so timely that it needs to be read. Erickson 
demonstrates that it is possible for one to hold firmly to classical 
christological claims, and dialogue successfully with the modern 
christologies that contain truth but also have put the incarnation to 
the mercy of the judgments of modern theologians who lack the vi- 
sion to see that classical christology is always contemporary, and speaks 
through the centuries to ancient and modern alike. 

Even though the size of the book might scare some away. The Word 
Became Flesh would make a fine textbook. The enrichment gained in 
its reading will far outweigh its size. 

Allan R. Bevere 

QuentinJ. Schultze 
Redeeming Television 

Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press 
1992, 200 pages. Paper, $8.99 

Dancing in the Dark 

QuentinJ. Schultze, Project Coordinator 

Roy M. Anker, Project Editor 

Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 
1991, 350 pages, Paper, $14.95 

I want to begin this review by saying that Quentin Schultze is a friend 
of mine, and a person whom I have grown to appreciate as a scholar, 
teacher, and thinker over the past decade. I have on more than one 
occasion invited Quentin to speak to my own students, and have always 
appreciated his insights and his humaneness. I also consider Quentin 
Schultze to be the leading evangelical authority on the American mass 
media. Thus, I suppose I cannot claim to be writing a completely ob- 
jective review of two of Professor Schultze 's recent books. However, 
let me hasten to add, perhaps to secure some measure of credibility 


as a reviewer, that I disagree with Quentin on a number of issues regar- 
ding the mass media, their influences, and Christian responses to them. 
I am less sanguine than is Schultze, less hopeful about the possibility 
for Christians having any significant influence over the course of an 
industry that has shown itself particularly intransigent to the efforts 
of people of goodwill to change it. 

I have been asked to review two books, one written by Professor 
Schultze, and one of which he directed the writing and to which he 
contributed. The first. Redeeming Television, is a brief and highly 
readable text in which the possibilities for Christians to understand, 
employ, and, as the title suggests, redeem television are set out. 
Redeeming Television shows Schultze at his best as a scholar with a 
popular voice, a writer whose academic credentials and theoretical 
understanding are sound, but who can nevertheless speak clearly to 
a lay audience. The book's argument centers on what Schultze calls 
"the Cultural Mandate, " an obligation of all Christian to "tend crea- 
tion and develop it responsibly" (p. 21). As television is part of that 
creation, is "a gift from God discovered by human beings," it falls 
under the Cultural Mandate. Thus, Christian critics such as Malcolm 
Muggeridge who find television beyond redemption have reneged on 
the Cultural Mandate. Schultze, in fact, finds that most critics, from 
Muggeridge to Jerry Mander to Neil Postman, have failed to see the 
potential for redemption in television because, apparently, of flawed, 
limited or absent theologies. 

Schultze's scholarship is careful, fair to opponents, and balanced, 
and his summaries of the positions of others are excellent. He wants 
Christians to be informed viewers of television, not narrow, frightened 
critics of it. Toward this goal separate chapters in Redeeming Televi- 
sion teach readers about our national viewing habits, ways of develop- 
ing "televisual literacy," and how to move "beyond moralism" in talk- 
ing back to the television industry. Schultze also probes the forces that 
move the Hollywood television machinery that creates and broadcasts 
the programs we view, and a summary chapter develops several steps 
all Christians can take to become better, more responsible viewers of 
television. Christian families, for instance, should discuss and develop 
criteria for evaluating the programs they watch, and should learn to 
distinguish what a program "portrays" from its underlying "point of 
view," the latter being the more important critical consideration. 

I believe Redeeming Television is a valuable book for any Christian 
or Christian family wishing to bring more understanding and discipline 
to television viewing. Schultze warns readers that television has ef- 
fects on all of its viewers, and that no one really understands these 
effects. He challenges us to think about problems in television con- 


tent "beyond the big-three moral issues — sex, violence, and profani- 
ty," for instance, the materialism informing much television comedy 
and drama. I would add a hearty "A-men" to his comment that "every 
decision to watch the tube is a decision not to do something else, 
whether spending time with our loved ones, serving the church, en- 
joying nature or praying for the needs of the world" (p. 168). 

I said at the outset that I disagree with Professor Schultze about the 
possibilities for redeeming television. Though my own expertise in 
communication does not include the mass media, as a Christian stu- 
dent of communication and culture I have to arrive at less hopeful con- 
clusions than does my friend. Though Quentin is quite aware of the 
problems, even dangers, associated with television, he finds my own 
rejection of the medium unacceptable. But then, my analysis of the 
medium departs from his as well. For example, Schultze writes on page 
78 of Redeeming Television that "Christians must do their part to shift 
television from a predominantly private, individual activity to a public 
and communal one. The tube cannot possible be redeemed as long as 
it is reduced to an essentially private and personal phenomenon." 
Nevertheless, Schultze argues in the same chapter that the television 
industry has a vested interest in keeping television viewing private. 
Thus, Christians trying to redeem television are pitted quixotically 
against a powerful industry that takes little heed of its critics. Televi- 
sion as currently constituted in America is largely a tool for generating 
enormous profits through advertising revenues for the few who con- 
trol the medium at a national level. Moreover, these profits are pur- 
sued by offering viewers a largely valueless product — programming 
— with no regard for the public weal on the part of television ex- 
ecutives and "artists." Industry-regulated television in a free-market 
economy has proved itself a catalyst of moral and social decline, and 
the individuals who control it have consistently adopted an attitude 
of cynical aloofness toward those "narrow minded bigots" who would 
demand of them some consideration of the responsibility of artists and 
entertainers to operate as accountable citizens of a free state. As 
Schutlze admits, Hollywood attracts shallow, ambitious and self- 
absorbed people who cannot identify with or care about the lives of 
"ordinary" people. 

All of this would be irrelevant to my review except that I think Quen- 
tin Schultze pay too little heed in Redeeming Television to the market- 
forces and base human motives that have made American television 
what it is. My own view is that the medium cannot be redeemed, that 
it deserves unreserved condemnation, and that Christians should stop 
watching it. Nevertheless, Redeeming Television is a sound and 
balanced Christian response to television, Quentin and I remain friends, 


and the dialogue continues. 

The second book, Dancing in the Dark is a collaborative effort by 
Schultze, Roy Ander, James Bratt, William Romanowski, John Worst 
and Lambert Zuidervaart to account for and provide a Christian 
response to that most remarkable, complex, and baffling of late- 
twentieth century artifacts — the media-manufactured youth culture 
of rock music, rock videos, and teen movies. The six authors worked 
toegther during 1989-90 on this massive project under the auspices 
of the Calvin Center for Christian Studies at Calvin College in Grand 
Rapids, Michigan. I have found Dancing in the Dark a tremendous 
resource for Christians seeking to understand American culture, par- 
ticularly that part marketed to the ten- to eighteen-year-old set. The 
research efforts of the authors are impressive, their insights important, 
and their writing clear. The book is large, but not unmanageable, and 
its argument is well illustrated and substantiated. 

Dancing in the Dark's ten chapters range over topics from the rise 
and success of Music Television (MTV), to the peculiar appeal of the 
peculiar movies marketed to teenagers, to the phenomenal allure and 
influence of rock music. The authors portray a generation of children 
abandoned by the traditional sources of security, self-definition, and 
moral training — family, church, educators. Entrepreneurs tuned-in 
to the angst of America's youth provide sources of identification and 
intimacy through a massive industry generating "youth products " such 
as music and movies. Rock stars become surrogate parents, teachers, 
and spiritual guides by portraying themselves as concerned for the 
welfare of young people. Music and movies provide misguided moral 
training through lyric and depiction. Though no real concern for youth 
exists in this largely parasitic industry (We don't appeal to fourteen- 
year-olds," says one MTV exec, "we own them") the illusion of car- 
ing is sufficient to fuel unbelievable sales of recordings, clothing, and 
other paraphernalia. 

Dancing in the Dark is not wholly condemning of youth-culture, 
however, and the hope for the redemption of teen movies and rock 
music is reminiscent of the theme of Redeeming Television. One of 
the most fascinating aspects of the book is the careful chronicling of 
the history of youth culture, a history that helps one understand the 
world of American youth at the end of the twentieth century. Danc- 
ing in the Dark is an important and sometimes disturbing book, one 
from which I have learned a great deal, and one which I regularly 
recommend to my students. Any Christian concerned with the mis- 
direction of America's young people should read it. 

In Redeeming Television and Dancing in the Dark, Quentin Schultze 
and colleagues challenge American Christians to think critically about 


the culture in which they live, and to be more responsible and account- 
able in our daily interactions with that culture. These books left me 
asking myself troubling questions: Why are we as Christians typically 
such lousy critics of culture? Why don't we do the things Schultze and 
his colleagues recommend? Why do the viewing and listening habits 
of Christians differ little from those of their non-Christian neighbors? 
Why have American evangelicals produced such artless programs of 
their own, often weakly mimicking secular models? American Chris- 
tians understand the mass media very poorly, and often have no signifi- 
cant, spiritually-informed response to them. Faced with a serious moral 
and intellectual challenge, we have capitulated on a massive scale. 
Quentin Schultze calls Christians beyond ignorant, lazy complacency 
about, or simple-minded moralizing responses to, American mass 
culture. I hope may readers will hear and respond to that call. 

James A. Herrick 
Department of Communication 
Hope College 
Holland, Michigan 

Alan P. F. Sell 

Aspects of Christian Integrity 

Louisville: Westminster /John Knox Press 
1990, 160 pages 

This book originated as a series of public lectures to general audiences 
in connection .with the author's responsibilities as holder of the Chair 
of Christian Thought in the University of Calgary. In the book. Sell 
uses the theme of integrity as honesty and wholeness to tie together 
several areas of Christian thought and practice. 

The first lecture concerns the integrity of Christian thought in the 
context of a contemporary secular university. This is one of the most 
successful of the lectures and serves as a forthright introduction to the 
full range of Christian theology and a statement of its place in a secular 

In the second lecture, Sell illustrates the importance of doctrinal in- 
tegrity by showing the interdependence of Christology and soteriology 
in the historical controversies surrounding F. D. Maurice, the 


Mercersburg theology, and The Myth of God Incarnate. Sell's exposition 
of these historical incidents is clear and to the point, but I wished for 
more attention to constructive theology. 

In his third lecture, on ethical integrity. Sell argues both that "ethics 
is an autonomous field" and, in the same sentence, that "Christians can 
and should view moral matters in the light of their Christian view of the 
world." (60) Sell goes on to assert the integrity of Christian theological 
and ethical reflection and practice by drawing on the concept of God's 
agape and applying it to the practice of apartheid in South Africa. Com- 
ing from within the reformed church. Sell's critique of apartheid is very 
important. However, I found this chapter one of the least successful. 
Given Sell's theme, I was particularly disappointed that he did not in- 
teract with the developments in theological ethics in North America in 
the work of Gustafson, Hauerwas, Mouw, and others. 

In his lecture on ecclesiastical integrity, Sell traces out a tension bet- 
ween integrity as wholeness and integrity as honesty: the church con- 
fesses faith in the gospel, yet never does so with complete faithfulness; 
the church confesses a unity given by God, yet is clearly divided. Sell's 
treatment of these issues displays the breadth and wisdom of his ex- 
perience. His answer to these tensions — that we are forgiven sinners 
— faithfully proclaims the gospel of God's grace even as it undercuts our 
desire for some kind of human resolution of the tensions. 

Sell's fifth lecture, on the integrity of Christian mission, offers a 
balanced and comprehensive introduction to the problems facing the 
church through confrontation with other religions and uncertainty about 
its own message. In a brief space. Sell addresses these and other issues 
on the basis of Christian doctrine and brings considerable clarity. 

In his final lecture. Sell uses the theme of pastoral integrity to discuss 
the church's integrity in fellowship, discipline, and worship and the need 
for whole ministers performing a whole ministry. Here again the theme 
of integrity allows Sell to treat many issues with wisdom, sensitivity and 

As I have aleady noted, this book is rich in wisdom and insight. The 
brevity and introductory nature of the lectures do not allow for depth 
in Sell's discussion, but at the same time this is something of a strength 
since it makes the lectures very accessible. Sell draws deeply from the 
Reformed tradition and shows its continuing vitality in relation to con- 
temporary concerns, making particularly good use of the work of P. T. 
Forsyth. No other contemporary work covers such a wide range of issues 
with such clarity, theological insight, and — integrity. 

Jonathan R. Wilson 
Westmont College 
Santa Barbara, CA 


Roger G. Betsworth 

Social Ethics: An Examination of American Moral Traditions 

Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 
1990, 200 pp., $14.99 

One motivation for Betsworth's book is his own experience as a 
pastor in Southern California during the sixties. He does not say this 
explicitly, but he opens the introduction by relating his experience and 
the experience of his congregations during the civil rights movement 
and the Vietnam war. So I do not feel it is unfair to state that his pastoral 
experience is a motivating factor in this study. Indeed, I hope that it 
is. The primary motivation for any theological inquiry ought to be the 

The book is grounded on the correct notion that in social ethics there 
is a question prior to: "What should we do?" That question is: "Who 
should we be? He writes of himself and his former congregation, 
"Somehow we had sensed the influence of community on persons, 
and we were in quest of a more faithful community for the building 
of character" (14). The best tool to use in the midst of this quest, ac- 
cording to Betsworth, is the cultural narrative. 

"Cultural narratives differ from ordinary stories told in a culture. 
In order to be told, a story must be set within a world. The cultural 
narrative establishes the world in which an ordinary story makes sense. 
It informs people's sense of the story in which they set the story of 
their own lives. The history, scriptures, and literary narratives of a 
culture, the stories told of and in family and clan, and the stories of 
popular culture all articulate and clarify the world of the cultural nar- 
rative in which they are set. Thus a cultural narrative is not directly 
told. Indeed, the culture itself seems to be telling the cultural nar- 
ratives" (15). A cultural narrative is one of the culture's rudimentary 
stories. Every society or community has more than one cultural nar- 
rative and they are rarely in full agreement with one another. 

Betsworth argues that four cultural narratives have shaped the story 
of America: "the biblical story of covenant, the Enlightenment story 
of progress, the story of well-being, and the story of America's mis- 
sion in the world" (16). While most Americans have been shaped by 
these four narratives, and the nation and the world are seen with 
refracted vision through the lenses of these narratives, there are others 
in America, who live outside the dominant groups of America and 
therefore see these narratives "to be transparently deceptive" (20) 
because the powerful appropriate them in oppressive ways. Cultural 
narratives, therefore, can be "cover stories" that hide the "real story" 


of self-deception, because "they often reflect a more favorable view 
of ourselves than the experience itself might suggest," and . . . "they 
enable us to avoid unpalatable truths about ourselves and our actions" 
(21, 22). It is, therefore, appropriate to examine, once again, these four 
dominant cultural narratives of American self- vision, because they claim 
to understand the truth of the human situation, and they have shaped 
those of us who live in the United States of America. 

In chapter two (25-52) Betsworth discusses the first American 
cultural narrative: the biblical story of the covenant in light of the 
Puritan perspective. He surveys the Deuteronomic vision of the cove- 
nant in the Old Testament (25-27), the covenant promise in the Gospel 
of Luke (38-47), and the Pauline language of the cross (47-48). The 
Puritans appropriated the notion of covenant and used it as "an inter- 
pretive framework for their actions and their sufferings" (52). In their 
successful crossing of the North Atlantic and in their safe arrival to 
the New World, God had offered the covenant anew to them. "New 
England was to be a new Israel — a covenanted community" (26). This 
narrative has dominated the American vision for two centuries (28). 
It is also a cover story as "the characters persistently avoid accoun- 
ting for actions that do not conform to the covenant" (50). It is also 
a cover story (in my own opinion) because there is simply no biblical 
evidence to suggest that America has a unique place in God's covenant. 

The Enlightenment story of progress is analyzed in chapter three 
(53-80). It is a cultural narative that slowly acquires power in America. 
Betsworth discusses Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and their 
belief that the first task of the churches in America was "to produce 
a common morality based on reason" (54). In other words Franklin 
and Jefferson affirmed the possibility of a public religion. Betsworth 
fills considerable space deliberating over Franklin and his concept of 
the self-made man (59-68). He argues that the Puritans and Franklin 
differed in their understanding of the purpose of human action. The 
Puritans believed that "one's actions are useful to God and neighbor 
within the context of the covenant. For Franklin, one's actions are 
useful in enabling one to rise from poverty to affluence in a world that 
encourages progress" (66). Franklin's language is no longer the 
language of the biblical story; it is the language of the Enlightenment 
(65). Betsworth builds his argument with a discussion of Andrew 
Carnegie and the "Gospel of Wealth," (68-70) and Social Darwinism 
(70-72). What makes the Enlightenment story of progress a cover story 
is that "it overlooks the reality of the limits of the world of the vast 
majority of persons" (78), and it provides no way to fight against self- 
deception (79). Yet even today the story of success serves as an im- 
portant cultural narative in the American vision, certainly for many 


persons in the "rising middle class" (80). 

Chapter four (81-106) "The Story of Well-Being" is a narrative in 
which "people seek to be faithful to the true inner self, and success 
is imagined in terms of developing a sense of well-being" (81). Such 
a story developed gradually and highlights a shift from the face-to-face 
community to a new world of anonymity (81). Betsworth clarifies the 
difference between the story of well-being and the biblical story in his 
assertion, "A person might choose to aid a neighbor who had been 
beaten and robbed on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, but the choice 
would not be made on the basis of faithfulness to the covenant but 
on whether one might feel better about oneself (83). Betsworth's argu- 
ment takes us on a trip through the use of psychotherapy (84-89), mass- 
marketing (89-91), mass entertainment (91-92), and therapeutic religion 
(92-98). In this last section he discusses the therapeutic theology of 
Bruce Barton, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Norman Vincent Peak, and 
Robert Schuller. Betsworth ends the chapter with an insightful discus- 
sion on the fundamental change which the story of well-being had on 
the conception of personal relationships (98-100). His concluding claim 
in the chapter is that the story of well-being "is now the dominant 
cultural ethic" (105). It's hard to disagree with this considering the 
growing number of psychologists, the growing number of people 
undergoing therapy, and the growing number of books available, 
deceptively labeled "self-help." The story of well-being presents us 
with "the vision of an intensely private sense of well-being to be 
generated in the living of life itself" (106). It is a cover story because 
it is radically individualistic. 

The final cultural narrative is outlined in chapter five: "The Mission 
of America" (107-137). "From the beginning of the settlement of 
America, Americans have believed they have a special destiny, a world- 
wide mission" (108). In his discussion, Betsworth highlights the no- 
tions of America as example and leader, and the conflict between the 
themes — that is, the tension between Washington and Jefferson, who 
believed that America was an example to the nations "because America 
had left behind the tragedy of war" (114), and Kennedy who argued 
that America as leader meant that the nation "shall pay any price, bear 
any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe 
to assure the survival and the success of liberty" (107). Betsworth 
rightly argues that America's wars have always carried the evangelical 
theme of liberty. He writes "... since aggression is not consonant with 
the way Americans want to see themselves, a cover story is required. 
The claim is made that if Americans annex a territory or take over a 
government, they are giving the people of those lands the institutions 
of liberty" (117). Betsworth bolsters his argument with a discussion of 


the Mexican War (with Manifest Destiny as a cover story), the Spanish 
American War, and the War in Vietnam. The Mission of America is 
a cover story in that it perpetrates injustices in the name of "freedom." 

On page 132 Bets worth offers what I think is his conclusion to the 
analysis of these four cultural narratives; "The real story of America 
has been a story of gifts and of limits." In other words, if America was 
a movie made for television, the critics would give it mixed reviews. 

Chapter six (138-177) appears to be the major thrust of the book: 
"The Outsiders." The outsiders are those who are not part of the ma- 
jor cultural stories in America. Because they are outsiders, they can 
"see how the cultural narratives of the majority support an oppressive, 
unjust social order" (138). The outsiders attempt to remold the cultural 
narratives "by drawing on their own stories, which they have created 
out of their religious, historical, and cultural experiences" 
(138- 139). This allows the outsiders to show how each dominant 
cultural narrative has been used to justify oppression. Through their 
own cultural narratives they attempt to reorder the vision of those who 
identify themselves with these unjust narratives. 

In the first part of the chapter, Betsworth looks at the black struggle 
for freedom in America (139-158) and discusses several different black 
leaders in that struggle who approached the conflict diversely: Nat 
Turner, David Walker, Henry M. Turner, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, 
and Martin Luther King Jr. In the latter part of the chapter, Betsworth 
examines sexism and the female struggle for equality. He analyzes the 
cover stories of helpmeet (where a woman is viewed as equal in work, 
but not in status), woman's sphere (which is being in the home raising 
children and maintaining the household), and the romantic (where 
female romantic sexuality is viewed as the way to well-being). The real 
story is not any of these three. The real story, according to Betsworth, 
is the woman-as-person. He does suggest, however, that the woman- 
as-person story cannot be the real story without covenant, and that 
means community. If woman-as-person continues to be described with 
the metaphors of well-being, it too will become another cover story 

Betsworth concludes in chapter seven, where he affirms once again 
the necessity of first asking the "being" questions in social ethics. Three 
convictions emerge from his study: "1) cultural narratives are inherent- 
ly conservative, 2) narrative is the form of rationality especially ap- 
propriate for ethics, and 3) we not only can, but must make judgments 
that one story is more adequate than another" (178-179). 

For the most part I have few quarrels with Betsworth analysis. (I 
have to confess that I am not enamored with his notion of woman-as- 
person. It seems to me that the concept of person is more trouble than 


it is worth.) I do think he is right to refer to these four-cultural nar- 
ratives as cover stories, and that Americans need to reshape their vision 
of how they view themselves. Nevertheless two critical observations 
need to be made. 

First, Betsworth argues that every narrative has a master metaphor. 
It is "the master image" that "provides a distillation of the story; it 
enables us to grasp concretely and practically what the story means" 
(18). What we need in our cultural narratives are good metaphors — 
metaphors that are heuristic, that is, metaphors that equip us to go 
on asking questions, to think with the freshness that precedes 
discovery, and to hope we are about to break out of our old inade- 
quate way of interpreting life into a new vision of reality (182). In other 
words we must avoid inadequate metaphors. 

With this I have no dispute. What I question is the "inadequate" 
metaphor Betsworth proffers. He gives a metaphor from Elizabeth 
Sewell, who also argues that this same metaphor is inadequate as it 
is not heurisitc. The metaphor is: "The foliage of the autumn trees has 
precisely the color range of the blossoms on the springtime azaleas." 
What Sewell and Betsworth find inadequate is that the metaphor does 
not enable one "to go on asking, thinking, and hoping" (182). My 
response to this is, "Why not?" Indeed, being an autumn lover myself, 
such a metaphor, such a realization, that there exists a relationship bet- 
ween the autumn foliage (which I enjoy) and blooming azaleas (which 
I have never particularly noticed) gives me a new appreciation for 
azaleas, and for the beauty of spring. I now have a new vision, a new 
way of seeing the month of April, and I now can think in new 
metaphors previously unavailable to me. 

What I am suggesting is that often the metaphor is not inadequate, 
the vision taken to the metaphor is. I have no doubt that inadequate 
metaphors exist, but the purpose of a story-formed community is not 
simply to discover and discard inadequate metaphors, but that com- 
munity must uncover and use the adequate metaphors judged inade- 
quate through lack of vision. 

Secondly, I am disappointed that Betsworth does not discuss the 
church as a cultural narrative and adequate metaphor for social ethics 
(perhaps Betsworth still wants to underwrite the Liberal social agen- 
da). At times he comes close and at one point he is very explicit. He 
writes, "One of the reasons for the confusion is that from the begin- 
ning of America, through the Civil War and the World Wars, the na- 
tion has taken the place of the church for many persons who think 
with the biblical story" (137). This ought to be more than a casual 
observation. From my perspective it is and continues to be precisely 
the problem the church in America confronts. As long as the church 


in America views itself as primarily part of a wider community, rather 
than its own community in and of itself, and as long as the church 
in America perceives the covenant promises as belonging the nation- 
state, rather than the church, there is no hope of seeing our cover 
stories for what they really are — false. The church, not the nation- 
state, is the way God has chosen to deal with the world. The church 
as church is the heuristic metaphor that allows the Christian to con- 
tinue asking and thinking and hoping. As long as the nation replaces 
the church as the covenant community, as the primary political com- 
munity, not only will we be faced with inadequate metaphors that fail 
to explain the true meaning of the story, we will also lack the vision 
to recognize many of the metaphors that are in reality adequate and 
reveal who we are as Christians. 

Allan R. Bevere 

Karen Lebacqz and Ronald G. Barton 
Sex in the Parish 

Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 
1991, 279 pages, « 14.95 

In this book the authors thoroughly cover ethical issues concerning 
"sex in the parish" and develop their own constructive approaches 
to those issues. In doing so, they draw on surveys, interviews, and 
a wide-range of contemporary ethical reflection. 

In chapters 1-3, the authors identify the basic elements of sexuality 
in the parish in order to set the stage for developing an ethical 
framework. Throughout this section their generous use of cases and 
anecdotes keeps the discussion well-grounded in the realities of 

In the first chapter, the authors seek to lay a foundation for a positive 
approach to human sexuality by drawing on the stories of those who 
have discovered the positive value of sexuality, often by moving from 
negative views. The stories they tell reveal that scripture, tradition, 
experience and reason play roles in the development of a positive 
spiritual value of our bodies. Although the authors' purpose in this 
chapter is admirable, their development of it is rather superficial. For 


example, they avoid the questions of balance and authority within the 
quadrilateral and although "incarnation" serves as a principle w^hich 
directs their approach, the actual incarnation — the preaching, per- 
son and work of Jesus Christ, plays no role at all. 

In the next chapter, the authors examine the threats to positive sex- 
uality in the parish. The kinds of dynamics they examine here are 
familiar, but they add to those accounts of how various ministers 
discern boundaries and danger signals in relationships. Most of these 
signals fall within the realm of "instinct" and the authors rightly ques- 
tion the adequacy of such an approach. 

Indeed, in chapter 3 the inadequacy of this typical approach is re- 
vealed by many stories of failure. The authors use these familiar stories 
to identify some of the needs that must be met as they develop an 
ethical framework for sexuality in the parish. 

In chapters 4-5, the authors develop an ethical framework for deal- 
ing with sexuality in the parish. They begin with an analysis of the 
pastor-parishioner relationship in terms of power and vulnerability. 
In this understanding, violation of the relationship by a pastor may 
be likened to incest. Then, within the context of power and vulnerabi- 
lity, the authors develop a framework for professional ethics and then, 
more specifically, for sexual ethics. This discussion is very sensitive 
to the complexities of power and vulnerability, trust, and cultural in- 
fluences in pastoral ministry. The authors conclude that sexual con- 
tact between pastor and parishioner is "generally wrong" (114). 
However, after further discussion they "acknowledge the possibility 
of a genuine loving, consensual relationship between pastor and 
parishioner, where the parishioner might meet the pastor as an equal 
and the pastor's own behavior is professional and ethical" (130). This 
acknowledgement is unsurprising, given some of turns earlier in the 
discussion, such as the incarnation as a principle, the willingness to 
adapt to culture rather than resist it, and the adoption of consent as 
guiding ethical principle; the conclusion is unsurprising, but it is also 

Following the development of their ethical framework, the authors 
focus on three topics that are of more specific concern: women, singles, 
and gays and lesbians in ministry. The chapter on women in ministry 
is of great importance for those denominations and traditions that 
recognize and encourage women in ministry. Particularly helpful is 
the observation that while male pastors tend to be concerned about 
protecting parishioners, female pastors tend to be concerned about pro- 
tecting themselves. This observation opens up questions of sexism and 
differing experiences of sexuality in our culture that the authors discuss 
in generally helpful ways. The chapter on single pastors is also very 


helpful and sensitive in identifying the issues confronting parishes and 
pastors, but the application of the authors' framework suffers from 
the same problems identified above when they conclude that to ex- 
pect celibacy of an unmarried pastor is unrealistic. Finally, their chapter 
on gays and lesbians in ministry assumes the morality of such a lifestyle 
and seeks to provide safeguards for its sexual expression in the parish. 
Intervening in these chapters (and somewhat our of place, although 
it draws on the women in ministry chapter), is a chapter on "God and 
Eros " in which the authors reiterate their affirmation of human sex- 
uality in the context of pastoral power and ministry in the parish. 

Finally, the authors turn in a chapter and an appendix to questions 
that confront various denominational structures when there is an ac- 
cusation of sexual misconduct. This material is helpful as illustrative, 
but denominational structures and practices vary so much that each 
will need to develop its own approach. 

In spite of the very serious differences I have with the authors and 
my criticisms of their arguments, this book is a very thorough and sen- 
sitive discussion of sex in the parish. The God we Christians serve is 
the creator of sexuality and the culture of North America is highly sex- 
ualized. So although the authors' framework needs to be reworked in 
many ways, the issues, questions, opinions, and experiences that they 
identify must be taken into account for the church to be faithful to 
the Gospel in this place and time. 

Jonathan R. Wilson 

Stephen J. Stein 

The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United 

Society of Believers 

New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992 

The Shakers have had an odd time in America. Unlike many other 
communitarian experiements which flowered, faded, and died with 
only passing notice by the American public, the Shakers have been alter- 
nately persecuted, despised, grudgingly respected, increasingly ig- 
nored, and finally today, thoroughly romanticized. Stephen Stein deals 
especially with this last reaction. He is intent on countering the 


"frozen" and falsely idealized view of the United Society of Believers, 
i.e., that fashion which has taken the name Shaker and imposed it on 
everything from sweaters to decor. But the crucially important religious 
beliefs, many of which would be quite offensive or foreign to the 
American mind — such as celibacy, the gender-dual God and com- 
munity property — have been conveniently ignored in the embrace. 

This is a comprehensive account of the group's more than two hun- 
dred year history. It stretches from the group's beginnings in England, 
its arrival, success and decline in America, and finally the "forbidden 
topic" of the remaining Shakers' recent split into two opposing fac- 
tions. Stein has done extensive original research, as well as bringing 
together much of the recent surge of scholarly interest in the Shakers. 
There are some surprises in this history, although perhaps not as many 
as one would expect from so monumental an undertaking. 

For instance. Stein frankly admits there is scanty evidence to sup- 
port the group's extensive hagiography about Ann Lee and the earliest 
period of the founders. He shows that biological family ties often had 
much to do with selection of leadership in spite of their famed eschew- 
ing such connections in favor of communitarian unity. He documents 
the factionalism, dissention, and turmoil which was present in every 
phase of their history, whether between the eastern and western bran- 
ches, clustered around favorite leaders, or arising from gender issues. 
He is brutally forthright about the occasional disreputable leaders who 
made personal gain or managed the Shaker assets more like capitalistic 
financiers than religiously-oriented communitarians. These and other 
emphases present a more well-rounded and honest picture of the 
Shakers than has previously been written. 

Stein especially takes to task Edward and Faith Deming Andrews' 
participation in creating the modern "world of Shaker." He shows how 
they and others were instrumental in making Shakerism into a con- 
temporary growth industry, often resulting in unfair advantage taken 
of elderly members, wildly inflated prices for Shaker furniture, and 
the nostalgic molding of their image into something quite foreign to 
the group's reality. The most valuable part of this lengthy volume is 
its intense focus on the current split between the remaining two com- 
munities, Canterbury and Sabbathday Lake. Previously, writers have 
either chosen to ignore it or have taken sides. Stein carefully leads up 
to his conclusion that this is not an aberrant fact of Shaker experience, 
but something which, although unfortunate, is understandable and 
could be accommodated into our view of Shakerism were it not for 
our contemporary romanticization of them. 

This book will certainly become a standard reference for Shaker 
studies. But there are a number of disadvantages. Unless the reader 


is familiar with the status of Shaker studies to date, the tone of this 
book will seem needlessly oppositional and refer to debates unfamiliar 
to the uninitiated. Stein's gender analysis is limited and superficial, even 
though gender issues were central to the Shaker's entire history and 
pivotal in all aspects of their lives. Stein also does not do justice to 
the theological creativity of the Shakers and so the book has restricted 
usefulness to those especially interested in Shaker theology. But as a 
comprehensive account, a contextualization of the Shaker story, and 
a rich treatment of issues previously ignored, this book will be in- 
valuable for those who continue the primary research into this creative 
and still evolving communitarian experiment. 

Linda A. Mercadante 
Associate Professor of Theology 
The Methodist Theological School 
of Ohio 

Daniel B. Clendenin 

From The Coup to the Commonwealth: an Inside Look At Life 

in Contemporary Russia. 

Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993, 180 pp. 

Daniel Clendenin, a guest professor of Christian studies in Moscow 
State University, here presents his own analysis of the major events 
that occurred in Russia recently. Being himself a witness of the changes 
he described, he produced a book which can serve as a brief introduc- 
tion to the most important features of today's Russian society. 

The book is divided into 5 chapters. Interesting historical material 
about the former Soviet Union and Russia can be found in the first 
chapter. The second chapter reflectis the author's own experience in 
terms of everyday life. Matters of economics are presented in chapter 
3, politics and religion are discussed in chapters 4 and 5 respectively. 

The book is interesting to read, abundant in entertaining details. 
Although at times outdated, the author's analysis of economic and 
political matters provides one with interesting material. For many 
readers chapter 5 can be of special interest: the author's reflections 
on his experience in the Russian Orthodox Church are intriguing. 


Almost every chapter is supplemented with interesting historical facts. 
The book is easy-to-read, and can be recommended to everyone seek- 
ing a useful and entertaining reading. For those thinking about visiting 
Russia or working in that country, the book can be helpful with its 
brief introduction to almost every major area of modern Russian life. 

Anton Solodukhov 

David B. Potts 

Wesleyan University, 1831-1910, Collegiate Enterprise in New 

New Haven: Yale University Press 
1992, xvii + 383 pp., $3500 

While there are a number of American institutions of higher educa- 
tion which employ "Wesleyan" in their titles, there is one which is 
often identified by "Wesleyan" alone and which has gained special 
distinction for its educational enterprise. Wesleyan University, in 
Middletown, Connecticut, is the subject of this very readable collegiate 
history by David B. Potts. For those who wish to just read the history, 
there are 232 pages of text plus several appendices. For those who wish 
to study the history in greater detail, there are 112 pages of notes. 

Why a review of a particular collegiate history in a theological jour- 
nal such as this? The answer lies in the fact that Wesleyan was estab- 
lished as a joint effort of both church and local secular officials, and 
its history is one of tension and balance between church and secular 
support. But by the end of the period under study, Wesleyan had 
almost totally divested itself of local secular control and influence and 
of church control and influence. It is the growth and survival of the 
school as both a church and secular institution which is the focus of 
much of the work. 

The rapid development of American Methodism in the early nine- 
teenth century was paralleled by the spread of the collegiate enterprise 
throughout the nation. Those Methodist colleges that predated 
Wesleyan failed by the time of the Civil War, although by that time 
as well there were almost three dozen Methodist colleges, most of 
which did not fail. Wesleyan's continued existence came as the result 


of its significant adjustment to secular interests and supporters, 
although its dependence on the church at critical periods of its ex- 
istence was absolutely vital. 

Potts follows this adjustment through the years under consideration, 
describing important transitions in the presidency of the institution, 
its Board of Trustees, its student body (with the struggles that accom- 
panied the eventual admission of women and blacks), and those 
somewhat less personal concerns such as the curriculum, the physical 
plant and fiscal survival, and even the growth of the athletic program. 
Changes in the curriculum were especially significant as Wesleyan faced 
the need to shift from a rather universal concentration on "classical" 
studies to more flexible offerings which were adaptable to the grow- 
ing scientific climate at the end of the nineteenth century. Not only 
did these changes clash at times with denominational expectations and 
attempts to preserve a religious or biblical flavor in the curriculum 
and/or student life, but new and more liberal teachers gained increas- 
ing freedom and support as the university attempted to stay in the 
vanguard of educational endeavor. 

It is the significant presidents and trustees of the university that gain 
most of Potts' attention as they were the key factors in the institution's 
continued existence. Particularly notable in the early establishment of 
Wesleyan are the first President, Wilbur Fisk, the third, Stephen Olin, 
and the fifth, Joseph Cummings who was the first alumnus to be elected 
to that position. What seemed especially important for the success of 
these early presidents was a certain preacherly or oratorical ability. 
Potts notes that "in an age when Americans paid close attention to 
oratory as high art and exciting entertainment, college presidents had 
an unusual opportunity to set the tone for an institution. " While the 
description of Fisk reveals a somewhat reserved and logical pulpit de- 
meanor, Olin, whose preaching for an hour and a quarter before the 
House of Representatives in 1845 received approbation from John 
Quincy Adams in glowing terms, was described by others as a preacher 
who conveyed "luminous argumentation and . . . deep evangelic 
pathos." Indeed we are told that listening to his sermons, which might 
last for more than two hours, was "like standing under Niagara," and 
that "his burning thoughts and glowing emotions . . . [poured] 
themselves forth in a mighty torrent, his gigantic form trembling and 
every nerve quivering, ' with the effect among student listeners that 
"hard hearts melted, eyes wept that were unused to tears, and many 
a young man vowed new allegiance to Christ " We can only wonder 
if the eventual and complete secularization of the academic enterprise 
at Wesleyan was at least partially the result of the later demise of such 
preaching or the failure of such preaching to keep pace with the chal- 


lenges to the mind which became rife in an increasingly secular and scien- 
tific world. 

Olin's son, Stephen Henry Olin, was a graduate of Wesleyan and a parti- 
cularly significant trustee whose service to the university lasted from 1880 
to 1925. As a loyal alumnus and New York City attorney, he represen- 
ted the kind of secular and urbanized support which was increasingly vital 
to the institution's perpetuation and growth. With the decline of close 
supporting ties to the local community, and with increasing competi- 
tion from other educational ventures, especially those such as Boston and 
Syracuse Universities that were within the Methodist tradition and geo- 
graphically competitive, and with the growing importance and wealth of 
eastern urban centers such as New York and Philadelphia, the backing of 
alumni such as Olin who were not only products of Wesleyan but of 
the urban milieu was essential. 

We know all too well that the American educational enterprise is rather 
littered with colleges and universities that have long abandoned once 
deeply-rooted religious ties. Those that have maintained such ties in this 
modern period, even the so-called conservative and evangelical institu- 
tions, face a constant struggle to continue some kind of commitment to 
the cause of Christ while drawing often needed fiscal support from the 
secular world. This reviewer is familiar with one doctoral dissertation in 
the sociology of religion which suggests that there is a certain inevitable 
slide from the sacred to the secular as educational institutions seek such 
support. Even the desire for respectability in the religious realm, let alone 
the secular, can produce a compromise of orientation and purpose from 
which there is no recovery. 

Wesleyan's break with Methodism was the result of many factors, 
changes in the structure of the trustees being among the most significant. 
The final separation was prepared in 1905 when the university was denied 
membership in the prestigious and wealthy Carnegie Foundation because 
it was "under control of a sect. " The following year the trustees were 
asked "to petition the Legislature to amend the charter of the University 
so as no longer to require membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church 
as a qualification for holding a position as trustee. President of the Univer- 
sity, or member of the Faculty." While this specific language was subse- 
quently altered, the charter change which came in 1907 was sufficient 
to gain not only the Carnegie membership in 1910 but also, in the same 
year, the first of significant grants from the Rockefeller General Educa- 
tion Board. As Potts concludes, "The days . . . when Methodists could 
claim Wesleyan as 'the crown and glory of our Church,' were gone." 

Streeter S. Stuart 


Michael G. Moriarty 
The New Charismatics 

Grand Rapids: Zondervan 
1992, 336 pp., $16.99 

One of the more significant aspects of twentieth century church 
history is the rise and growth of the Pentecostal and Charismatic 
movements. Now numbering in excess of 380,000,000 adherents, these 
movements have, in one way or another, influenced almost every part 
of the church world. Needless to say, not everyone would agree on 
the value of these revivals. On the one hand, they have been described 
as the most powerful movements of God in the twentieth century and, 
on the other hand, they have been attributed to Satanic origin. The 
whole issue becomes more complicated by the size and diversity of 
the movements and by the fact that, as with any movement, fringe 
groups have emerged that take positions with which others within the 
tradition would be uncomfortable. 

Michael Moriarty, a pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, 
Virginia, has sought to bring some clarity to the situation by assessing 
one particular aspect of these broader movements. Focusing upon what 
he calls the "New Charismatics," Moriarty seeks to expose the aber- 
rant theological positions and claims which characterize certain in- 
dividuals and groups who are no longer satisfied with beliefs and posi- 
tions taken by their forerunners in the Pentecostal and Charismatic 
movements. Specifically, Moriarty wants to examine the issues of pro- 
phecy, restorationism, dominion theology, the five-fold ministry de- 
rived from Ephesians 4.11, issues of power abuse (the idea of cover- 
ing and the shepherding movement), spiritual warfare, the prosperity 
doctrine, and the teaching that Christians are little gods. Although 
acknowledging that some within the movements are well balanced, 
Moriarty expresses concern for "... the vast majority of charismatic 
churches not only in the United States, but all over the world" (p. xvii). 

The author claims that he is able to offer an objective critique of 
the New Charismatics because he combines scholarly research (Moriarty 
is a graduate of Wesley Biblical Seminary) with an appreciation for the 
Pentecostal movement as a result of personal experience (he is also 
a graduate of Christ for the Nations Institute, which he describes as 
an eclectic charismatic institution). In the introduction he assures the 
readers, "My desire is not to be controversial, but to uphold biblical 
fidelity and to defend the true Christian message ... I am not a heresy 
hunter but a truth seeker setting out to shed light and to lend understan- 


ding to all who are seeking to assess what is going on in the charismatic 
world" (pp. xviii-xix). 

Moriarty divides his work into two major sections. In part one, the 
first five chapters, he offers an historical overview of the Pentecostal, 
Neo-Pentecostal, and Charismatic movements. Here Moriarty finds the 
emergence of a number of questionable doctrines and emphases which 
eventually manifest themselves in the kinds of aberrant teachings about 
which he expresses concern. His conclusions about the Pentecostal 
movement demonstrate both the tone and nature of his historical work 
when he notes that Pentecostals are: restorationists, experience- 
centered, personality-centered, theologically thin, and divisive. In the 
second portion of the work, Moriarty offers a critique of restorationism 
and a number of controversial charismatic distinctives. 

In a book of this size (384 pages), there are naturally a number of 
comments that could be offered about a variety of points made. 
However, the bulk of my comments must focus upon methodological 
problems for which, owing to the limitations of space, only limited 
examples may be offered. 

Moriarty's historiography is sometimes sloppy or misleading. For ex- 
ample, in his comments regarding William J. Seymour, a black minister 
who some regard as the father of twentieth-century Pentecostalism, 
Moriarty charges, "Sometimes he would preach defiantly at anyone 
who did not accept his views and would induce rallying seekers at the 
woodplank altars to 'let tongues come forth' " (p. 24). The implica- 
tion of Moriarty's statement is that Seymour somehow sought to 
manipulate believers into tongues speech. However, as numerous 
references in ihe: Apostolic Faith (II: 13, 2), a newspaper that Seymour 
published, points out, he was aware of those who sought to teach 
people how to speak in tongues and roundly condemned it. 

Moriarty also shows signs of inconsistent logic, when after sternly 
condemning Pentecostals and Charismatics for developing doctrines 
based on experience, such as visions, dreams, and ecstatic experiences, 
he denounces Earl Paulk's harsh criticism of the pre-tribulational rap- 
ture view. Moriarty complains that such criticism is uncharitable and 
that on a controversial topic like the second coming. Christians should 
be allowed to disagree. The irony, of course, is that most scholars now 
trace the origin of the pre-tribulational rapture view to the Irvingites 
(a nineteenth-century group that exhibited many 'Charismatic ' 
tendencies). There is even some evidence to suggest that this inter- 
pretation of the second coming was first articulated in a prophetic ut- 
terance by a young woman named Margaret Macdonald. For consis- 
tency's sake, one would think that a doctrine of such questionable 
origin would be viewed with suspicion by Moriarty. 


Throughout the book, Moriarty challenges various Charismatic 
writers, whom he critiques, to enter into dialogue with individuals like 
himself. However, it is often Moriarty who does not enter into dialogue 
with those who disagree with his position. Perhaps the most blatant 
example of this unwillingness to dialogue is found in his critique of 
the Pentecostal/Charismatic view that Spirit Baptism is a work of the 
Holy Spirit distinct from conversion. Naturally, Moriarty is entitled to 
make his own interpretative decisions on such matters, but to ignore 
the work of scholars such as Harold D. Hunter {Spirit Baptism: A 
Pentecostal Alternative (L2inh2im: University Press of America, 1983)]. 
Roger Stronstad [The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Peabody: Hen- 
drickson, 1984)], French L. Arrington [Acts of the Apostles {Vahody. 
Hendrickson, 1988)], and J. Rodman Williams [Renewal Theology II 
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990)] suggests that he prefers dialogue 
with strawpersons to dialogue with scholars who represent the posi- 
tion under examination. 

Moriarty is not always accurate in his depiction of positions taken 
by those within the movements. In discussing the relationship of 
tongues speech to Spirit Baptism in Pentecostal/Charismatic thought, 
he regularly refers to it as the "only evidence" rather than "initial 
evidence," as most Pentecostals prefer, in order to acknowledge that 
other evidences of Spirit Baptism are expected. Neither is Moriarity 
charitable in describing positions with which he disagrees, calling post- 
millenialism a modern beast and arguing that the medieval Roman 
Catholic Church was more responsible in its use of the "claimed" 
prophetic office than are modern Charismatics. 

There is some good in what Moriarty has written, despite the 
numerous problems. His discussion of dominion theology, the prosperi- 
ty doctrine, the teaching that Christians are little gods, and the belief 
by some that Jesus died spiritually and was born again in hell are 
helpful. But even here it must be noted that most of these issues have 
received better treatment elsewhere by other writers. 

Does Moriarty succeed in producing the kind of book needed on 
these topics? Unfortunately, he does not. While this reviewer has ab- 
solutely no interest in defending many of the aberrant positions that 
have emerged in some Charismatic circles, at the same time it must 
be observed that owing to the book's many flaws, the author's com- 
bative style (despite his numerous disclaimers), and his apparent suspi- 
cion of things experiential, the volume must be used with a great degree 
of discernment. Perhaps it will be greeted in some circles as an 
authoritative treatment of the "New Charismatics," but those who 
desire to get beyond caricature will need to look elsewhere. 

John Christopher Thomas 

Karl Barth 

Louisville: Westminster/John Knox 
1991, 136 pp., $10.99 

This English translation, in three chapters, is an expansion of The 
Preaching of the Gospel, published in 1963 and based upon student 
notes, the expansion made possible by the discovery of classroom 
records ("protocols") of a seminar which v^as conducted in Bonn in 
1932 and 1933. It bears the flavor of such records, at time almost giv- 
ing the impression that we are indeed reading the truncated notes of 
a student/secretary. As such it will not be a completely satisfactory text 
on preaching, but perhaps a good guide in the direction of biblical or 
expository preaching. 

Karl Barth is best known as the leading theologian of neo-orthodoxy. 
But in contrast to what we might expect of someone who is termed 
a "theologian," Barth suggests in the introduction to this work that 
"theology as a church discipline ought in all its branches to be nothing 
other than sermon preparation in the broadest sense." It is this rela- 
tionship between the theological discipline and preaching which forms 
the thrust of this book. 

Chapter 1, "The Nature of the Sermon," is based upon Barth's 
assessments or criticisms of the definitions of preaching extracted from 
the works of seven German theologians, the most familiar perhaps be- 
ing Friedrich Schleiermacher and Johannes Bauer. Barth's concern is 
to try to find an approach to preaching which will allow the preacher 
to bring the Word of God out of the Word of God or scripture, without 
the preacher getting in the way of the Word. Of Schleiermacher, whose 
approach to preaching changed through the years, but who 
demonstrated a strong dependence on emotion and the innermost feel- 
ings of the preacher himself, Barth says, "Where is the Word of God 
in this immanent sea of feelings? ... it is the human world which as 
such flows out from itself and back into itself." Barth characterizes 
Bauer's approach to preaching as "characteristic of the theology that 
dominated the years leading up to" World War I, such theology being 
"totally superficial, verbose, ill-defined and in the final analysis 
obscure. Systematic clarity and unambiguity . . . [were replaced by] 
. . . the reference to some kind of individual depth of soul, to per- 
sonality, or to experiences ..." Continuing, Barth finds Bauer's ap- 
proach to preaching as advancing the individuality of the preacher so 
that "it is the preacher that is to be free, alive, individual, personal, 


convinced, and enthusiastic. The preacher is the center, the founda- 
tion on which everything is to be built." This means that the biblical 
text must suffer: "The text is merely desirable. It is not an integrating 
element in the actual concept of preaching." Barth finds it incredible 
that "ministers are given full authority to show from their own life 
of faith what is good for their hearers, what these ought to experience, 
think, and desire ..." 

Barth offers his own two-part definition of preaching: 1. "Preaching 
is the Word of God which he himself speaks, claiming for the purpose 
the exposition of a biblical text in free human words ..." 2. 
"Preaching is the attempt enjoined upon the church to serve God's 
Word, through one who is called thereto, by expounding a biblical 
text in human words and making it relevant ..." How he arrives at 
this definition we are not told. Certainly he does not attempt to ex- 
tract it from scripture, but he is concerned for us to understand that 
preaching is our way of announcing what God wants to say. It is He 
who must be heard through His Word and not we ourselves. 

In chapter 2, "Criteria of the Sermon, " Barth directs us to nine such 
criteria, including "Revelation," "Church," "Confession," "Ministry," 
"Heralding, " "Scripture," "Originality," "Congregation," and 
"Spirituality." As we would expect of a neoorthodox spokesman, 
Barth's view of revelation insists that "preaching cannot try to be a 
proof of the truth of God . . . there can be no other proof of God than 
that which God himself offers." He adds, "The preacher should simply 
believe the gospel and say all he has to say on the basis of this belief." 
God will take care of the rest. Trust in the Word and faithfulness to 
it are essential. Scripture must not be used for the preacher's own pur- 
poses, in which case "the pastor might easily become the pope of his 
own congregation, presenting his own idea instead of God's Word." 

Barth suggests that preaching must always be done "in connection 
with the existence and mission of the church." To this end preaching 
becomes almost a sacrament, and should take place in close connec- 
tion with the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. It is not 
that the church needs liturgical enrichment, but the sacraments point 
to what God has accomplished (the "That") among His people. The 
task of preaching is to "repeat the testimony by which the church is 
constituted. It has to be witness to that witness . . . the sermon must 
be a text sermon. Preaching has to be 6/fe/ic«/ preaching." Preaching 
is exposition of scripture, which means that "there can be no ques- 
tion at all of preachers declaiming their own systematic theology or 
expounding what they think they know about their own lives, or 
human life in general, or society or the state of the world," 


Five points are made in regard to the preaching of scripture: there 
must be absohjte confidence in scripture; there must be respect or high 
regard for one's role as an expositor; diligence, which may mean 
"academic exegetical work, " must be applied to the study of scrip- 
ture; preaching must be modest since "the gospel is not in our thoughts 
or hearts," but in Scripture; and preachers must be flexible which 
means for Barth as a neo-orthodox theologian that the Bible is God's 
Word only when it becomes God's Word, that is, when the preacher 
expects to hear the voice of God through scripture. Barth even sug- 
gests that preaching must not be boring and says, "Against boredom 
the only defense is again being biblical. If a sermon is biblical it will not 
be boring." 

In chapter 3, "Actual Preparation of the Sermon," Barth touches 
upon some of the practical concerns of sermon preparation such as 
learning to seek the material of sermons "exclusively in the Old Testa- 
ment and the New," how to select and serve the text, how to be recep- 
tive to the message of the text, how to actively engage the text, etc. 
His approach to exegesis is hardly satisfactory since all he suggests is 
a reading of older and modern commentaries, although the study of 
exegesis has come a long way since the days of Barth's lectures. He 
warns that even some modern (to his day) conservative commentaries 
become like liberal commentaries when they fail to point to the 
ultimate Christian revelation, that the Word became flesh. 

Barth goes on to give suggestions about applying the revealed Word 
to the congregation, about writing the sermon, etc. He warns against 
"blowing mental bubbles, " which amounts to leading something out 
of the text that isn't there or making something which is secondary 
in the text a main point of the sermon, and he detests thematic 
preaching. He finds nothing good to say in behalf of introductions or 
illustrations which only tend to detract the listener's attention from 
the revealed Word itself. We err in trying to work up to God. Indeed, 
"something has to come down from above. And this can happen only 
when the Bible speaks from the very outset." He closes with a discus- 
sion of sermons by two students. 

Neo-orthodoxy and evangelicalism have been strange bedfellows of 
sorts. While the historical foundations and presuppositions of each may 
differ and provide some cause for evangelicals maintaining their 
distance from neo-orthodoxy, there can be no question about the 
positive response that many evangelicals would have to Barth's ap- 
proach to preaching, especially as preaching is found to be so depen- 
dent upon the biblical Word and the Word of God which speaks 
through the Bible. Those who have discovered the blessings of 


biblical/expository preaching will find themselves agreeing with Barth 
again and again. Those who do not know how to preach biblically, 
how to let one's message spring directly from scripture, would do well 
to allow this book to provide an impetus in that direction. 

Streeter S. Stuart 


Believers Church Bible Commentary Series 

Colossians, Philemon 

Ernest D. Martin brings years of service as pastor, 
teacher, and writer to the task as he focuses on the amaz- 
ingly relevant pastoral concerns that shaped Colossians 
and Philemon. 

In commenting on Colossians, Martin highlights a 
wholistic Christology in contrast to perversions of the 
gospel past and present. In the section on Philemon, he 
draws attention to the social implications of the koinonia 
of faith for the servants of Jesus Christ. 
Paper, $17.95; in Canada $22.50. 

Also available in the Believers 
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Paper, $17.95; in Canada $22.50. 


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Paper, $17.95; in Canada $22.50. 

Publication of the Believers Church Bible Commentary series is directed by an edito- 
rial council representing the Mennonite Church, the General Conference Mennonite 
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Available through your local bookstore or by calling 1 800 759-4447; in Canada call 
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ISSN: 1044-6494 





Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 1994 

ISSN: 1044-6494 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 




VThat Makes Spirituality Christian? 1 

Steve Harper 

Candlemaking: The Art and Craft of Spiritual 
Formation 29 

Linda Hines Geiser 

Spiritual Reading of the Christian Classics: 
An Avenue to Faith Deepening and Faithful 
Living 47 

Susan Muto 

Totally Fire. . .Why Not? 67 

Jerry Flora 

Friends of the Heart 79 

Elaine Heath 

Spirituality and the Disciplines: Priority 
Reading for the Pastor 132 

Brian Moore 

An Overview of Protestant Spirituality 167 

Eldon Sheffer 

To Emmaus, With Jesus Between Us 177 

Vladimir Berzonsky 

Book Reviews 200 

David W. Baker, Editor 

Ben Witherington, III/ Reviews 

Journal articles are indexed in Elenchus of 
Bihlica^ New Testament Abstracts^ Old Testa- 
ment Abstracts^ Religions and Theological 
Abstracts and Religion Index One; reviews are 
indexed in Index to Book Reviews In Religion. 
The latter two indices, published by ATLA, 820 
Church Street, Evanston, Illinois 60201, are 
also available online through BRS Information 
Technologies, DIALOG Information Services and 
Wilsonline. Views of contributors are their 
own and do not necessarily express those 
endorsed by Ashland Theological Seminary. 


Published and copyright held by Ashland 
Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio, 44805. 
Printed in the USA. 


The closing years of this century and 
millennium have brought with them a renewed 
interest in spirituality generally and Christian 
spirituality in particular. Cult groups, 
mainline churches, TV personalities, and world 
religions all market their own varieties to our 
consumer oriented society. The bookstores in our 
malls feature Self-Help on one side and New Age 
Spirituality on the other, with Bibles, 
Inspiration, and Theology squeezed in between. 
Confusion reigns. The possibilities are end- 
less. The opportunities are challenging. 

Dr. David W. Baker, editor of Ashland 
Theological Journal , asked me to assemble the 
writers and articles for this issue. Faculty, 
friends, and students of Ashland Seminary 
responded with gracious enthusiasm to invita- 
tions for material. Some are nationally-and 
internationally-known writers, some appear in 
print for perhaps the first time. All share a 
devotion to biblically-based Christian faith 
that demands to be lived out faithfully in the 
nineteen-nineties of our era. 

I express here sincere personal appre- 
ciation to Elaine A. Heath, my graduate 
assistant, who has collaborated at each step in 
conceiving, writing, and editing this journal. 
I thank Dr. Baker for the privilege of 
highlighting in this way such an indispensable 
part of Christian faith and life. To God be the 

Jerry R. Flora 

By Steve Harper* 

"Spirituality" is a popular term today. 
As I have browsed through bookstores, I have 
seen it connected with such topics as 
nutrition, aerobics, business management, 
stress reduction, counseling, marriage 
enrichment, recovery programs, human sexual- 
ity, and religion. Publishers and authors 
seem to think that if they can associate a 
particular topic with its respective 
"spirituality," they will sell more books! 
Likewise, the daily talk-shows regularly 
parade across the screen a wide variety of 
gurus and spiritual "experts" in the never- 
ending quest to help the American people 
feel better, transcend their circumstances, 
overcome past abuse, find their true selves, 
and know God. Everyone from Jerry Falwell 
to Shirley MacLaine uses the word. And 
therein lies our dilemma. 

Somewhere along the line it is 
inevitable, natural, and essential to ask, 
"What makes spirituality Christian?" We 
need a controlling perspective to provide 
boundary and guidance. In a culture where 
spirituality is attached to everything from 
soup to nuts, we must have some idea of what 
it means when it is connected to the 

*Dr. Steve Harper is professor of Spiritual 
Formation and Wesley Studies at Asbury 
Theological Seminary. 

Christian life. We must be able to speak 
authentically of "Christian" spirituality, 
otherwise we are merely putting a thin 
veneer over a wildly undefined phenomenon. 
In this article I hope to provide a general 
framework to assist you in developing a 
spiritual life which is characteristically 
and genuinely Christian. Because the 
readers of this journal come from a variety 
of traditions, I must speak generally, 
trusting that you can take this framework 
and interface it with the distinctives of 
your own theological and ecclesial systems. 
Furthermore, it is important to speak 
generally as a means of reminding ourselves 
that just as we must avoid a spirituality 
that is unbounded, we must also avoid any 
definition of Christian spirituality which 
imprisons it in a single tradition, denomi- 
nation, or point of view. In fact, I have 
come to believe that Christian spirituality 
can provide a basis for true ecumenism at 
the very time in history when "labels" mean 
less and less to people. Christian spiritu- 
ality provides an avenue for mutual 
appreciation and united activity in Jesus' 
Name. Christian spirituality offers us the 
opportunity to discover how large, deep, and 
rich the Body of Christ really is! But none 
of this can happen as it should unless we 
wrestle with the question, "What makes 
spirituality Christian?" 

Preliminary Considerations 

I want to begin by acknowledging the 
suspicions of some of my Christian friends 
when it comes to spirituality. For more 
than two decades I've encountered sincere 
Christians who believe that spiritual forma- 
tion is simply too vague, and that it offers 
too many opportunities to go off on 
tangents. I would not be honest in this 
article if I did not acknowledge that this 
has happened. As I have ministered across 
America and in a number of foreign coun- 
tries, I have occasionally been embarrassed 
by something that was being believed and 
being done under the umbrella of "the 
spiritual life." In a few cases, I have 
felt that the aberration was serious enough 
to confront and correct. To say it another 
way, not everything which occurs in the name 
of Christian spirituality is genuine. The 
folks who have concerns are not without 
justification. I want to acknowledge that 
right up front. In the final section of 
this article, I will return to the issue in 
greater detail. 

However, at the same time, I must point 
out that exaggeration or aberration is not 
sufficient to dismiss the serious consid- 
eration of a topic. Anything which is 
genuine can be counterfeited. For example, 
our Roman Catholic friends can point to 
numerous errors regarding the Mass or the 
veneration of Mary. Likewise, our charis- 

itiatic colleagues can speak long on the 
excesses of that movement. Mainline 
Christians can describe what goes wrong when 
you emphasize institutionalism too much. 
And evangelicals can testify to the problems 
which arise when the authority of Scripture 
is interpreted in a narrow or legalistic 
way. Christian spirituality is not exempt 
from error. But rather than use this as 
grounds for dismissal, I believe -we should 
use it as proof that serious scholarship and 
thought must attend our use of the concept. 

Second, we must also recognize that 
spirituality is not the exclusive possession 
of Christianity. Spirituality is a quality 
of human life, because human beings are made 
in the image of God. It is the imago dei 
which forms the basis for all considerations 
of spirituality. Because of this, writes 
Benedict Groeschel, "the individual is 
increasingly aware of a spiritual craving 
within."-^ The fact that we are made in the 
image of God not only means that we have 
this yearning for the divine, but that we 
have the capacity to respond to God. Adrian 
van Kaam calls the yearning our "aspiration 
for transcendence" and describes spiritual 
formation as "how people respond to this 
aspiration."^ Groescehl is again helpful as 
he calls the spiritual life, "the sum total 
of responses which one makes to... God. ""^ 

Every person, therefore, has a 
spirituality precisely because he or she is 
essentially spiritual. Every religion has a 

spirituality because it attempts to describe 
the nature of God, of human beings, and the 
ways in which human beings respond to God. 
Even conservative Christians acknowledge 
this dimension of spirituality. For 
example, E. Stanley Jones has noted, "the 
Way is written not merely in the Bible, but 
also in biology. The demands of religion 
and the demands of life are the same. The 
Way, then, is written in our nerves, our 
blood, our tissues, in the total organi- 
zation of life."'' Likewise, Lawrence 
Richards recognizes that "spirituality is a 
term broadly applied across the range of 
religions . "^ 

We must not miss this. If we do, we 
will not see the more comprehensive under- 
standing of spirituality which pervades 
human existence. We will make the mistake 
of narrowly viewing the Christian faith as 
"spiritual" and other religions as "unspir- 
itual." Agaiil, we must begin by recalling 
that spirituality is connected to human 
existence, not to religion per se. This is 
St. Augustine's description of the "restless 
heart." It is Wesley's understanding of 
prevenient grace, at work in general and 
particular ways long before a person 
professes faith in Jesus Christ. 

On a practical level, this should 
encourage us. It means that every person we 
meet has already been created for God! The 
God-shaped vacuum is really there, and the 
capacity to respond to God is given to 

everyone. In our evangelism, for example, 
we will get farther with people as we take 
the time to acknowledge the ways in which 
they are already "on the journey." As we 
celebrate the ways in which they already 
yearn for God, we can lovingly lead them to 
Jesus, the Incarnation of the God for Whom 
they yearn! To put it another way, as we 
seek to win persons to Christ, this 
universal understanding of spirituality cuts 
through any notions of triumphalism, because 
we are constantly aware that the Holy Spirit 
always gets there first! 

These preliminary considerations enable 
us to approach the question, "What makes 
spirituality Christian?" The first consid- 
eration validates the importance of the 
question and the need to provide definition 
and boundary. The second consideration 
enables us to ask the question with a solid 
theology underneath us--a theology of imago 
del and a theology of prevenient grace. It 
also enables us to approach the question 
with the spirit of humility. 

Primary Convictions 

No single article can fully grasp the 
magnitude of the question, "What makes 
spirituality Christian?" No single article 
can completely answer it either. Within 
arm's reach, I probably have several 
thousand pages of attempts to answer this 
question. And the books keep coming out! 

To remember that is a means of recognizing 
the profound mystery with which we are 
dealing. We need that in a highly 
analytical culture. We also need to 
remember that the answer is conditioned in 
part by the one who proposes it. Spirit- 
uality has objective dimensions, some of 
which I will work with in this section. But 
spirituality also comes via the inter- 
pretation of the author, preacher, testi- 
fier, etc. 

This means I must tell you a little 
about myself, so you will have a context for 
understanding why I answer the question the 
way I do . In brief, I would say I am an 
ecumenical evangelical reared (and at home) 
in the Wesleyan tradition. By "evangelical" 
I bear witness to my belief in historic 
Christian orthodoxy. I believe the Bible is 
the Word of God. I believe that Jesus is 
God's only-begotten Son. I believe all the 
doctrines expressed and implied in the 
normative Creeds of the church. By 
"ecumenical" I communicate my belief that 
Christian orthodoxy winds its way through 
every age and through every legitimate 
ecclesial expression. Consequently, I am a 
pilgrim in search of true Christianity 
wherever I can find it. I do not limit 
myself to Methodism, or even Protestantism. 
I thrill at exploring the richness of the 
faith in the classics of Roman Catholicism 
and Eastern Orthodoxy. I rejoice in every 
believer (living or dead) who sheds light on 

my path and deepens my devotion to Christ as 
Savior and Lord. By "Wesleyan" I mean that 
I have found a theological home--a place to 
locate myself--as a means of describing and 
nurturing life in Christ. I look upon John 
Wesley, the early Methodists, and the 
conservative Wesleyan tradition which 
emerges, not as a wall, but as a "window" 
through which to look in order to see Christ 
and the church better. As the ecumenical, 
evangelical, and Wesleyan components 
converge, I embrace the perspective which 
enables me to provide an answer to the 
question, "What makes spirituality Chris- 

In this article I will provide four 
primary convictions related to the question. 
Taken together, they will frame my answer 
but not exhaust it. Again, no article can 
do that. But I do believe it is possible to 
set forth key consensual parameters which 
enable us to speak of "Christian spirit- 
uality." At the end of my examination of 
each conviction, I will state briefly what 
response we can make which will enable the 
conviction to be a formative experience in 
our lives. 

First, spirituality is Christian in 
relation to the Christian story. To say it 
another way, it is the Christian story which 
interprets spirituality, not spirituality 
which interprets the Christian story. As 
people guided by the revelation of Scripture 
and twenty centuries of responsible 


tradition, we bring certain understandings 
to the table, understandings which enable us 
to speak more specifically about the 
spiritual life. By way of reminder and 
summary, I would mention the following: the 
nature of God (as Trinity) , the nature of 
humanity (as imago del) , creation, fall, 
covenant, the cycle of exile and return. 
Incarnation, redemption, church. Kingdom of 
God, and consummation.^ 

Once we have worked our way through 
these classic doctrines, we will define 
spirituality differently than people in 
other religions do, and differently than 
adherents of various "new-age" movements do. 
The reason is this: we begin with revela- 
tion, not metaphysics. And more precisely, 
we begin with revelation as it comes to us 
through the Bible. In determining what 
makes our spirituality Christian, we do not 
begin with the nature of being (philo- 
sophical ontology) , we begin with the gospel 
(biblical hermeneutics) . The starting point 
makes all the difference. It shapes the 
question in a new form — not "what does it 
mean to be spiritual?", but rather "what 
does it mean to be Christian?" 

This means that the story itself is 
formative. Tell me what you think it means 
to be Christian, and you will already have 
begun to specify what you believe it means 
to be spiritual. To say it another way, 
theology is transformational. What we 
believe about the journey and what we 

experience on the journey are the inhaling 
and exhaling of spiritual breathing; they 
cannot be separated. This is one of the 
mistakes some make who would put spiritual 
formation in the category of "practical" 
theology. Yes, it is that. But it is also 
intrinsically biblical, historical, system- 
atic, developmental, etc. Spiritually 
becomes "Christian" when it is viewed 
through the lens of the Christian story. 

Given this, our response is to 
increasingly familiarize ourselves with the 
Christian story through devout and deepening 
study of the Bible and the secondary 
devotional literature which enriches our 
knowledge and piety. This is why we cannot 
define spirituality as "my experience of 
God." My experience of God may be wrong! 
It may be conditioned by bad teaching, by 
past abuse and present dysfunctionalism, 
etc. Spirituality is highly experiential, 
but it is not exclusively so. I submit my 
experience to the story as revealed in 
scripture and tradition. I commit myself to 
be a true "disciple" — which means "learner, " 
all the days of my life. 

Second, spirituality is made Christian 
in its relation to Christ. If you are 
familiar with spiritual formation liter- 
ature, you know it falls into two broad 
categories: theo-centric and Christo- 
centric. Theo-centric literature uses a lot 
of "God" language to communicate its ideas. 
Much of this type of literature is valid and 


helpful. Even Christian writers have 
employed such language and style to write 
devotionally. But if our spirituality is to 
be overtly and substantively Christian, we 
need the benefits of Christo-centric 
literature as well. Christian spirituality 
is not merely metaphysical; it is 
Incarnational . We are people who believe 
that the Word became flesh and dwelt among 
us (John 1:14) . 

Dr. William Barclay expertly develops 
his commentary on the Prologue of John's 
Gospel, (1:1-18). He shows how the concept 
of Logos was already present in Jewish and 
Greek thought. When he comes to 1:14; he 
writes, "This is where John parted with all 
thought which had gone before him. This was 
the entirely new thing which John brought to 
the Greek world for which he was writing. 
Augustine afterwards said that in his pre- 
Christian days he had read and studied the 
great pagan philosophers and their writings, 
and that he had read many other things, but 
he had never read that the Word became 
flesh. "^ Barclay calls the phrase, "the Word 
became flesh, " staggering new and unheard 

Barclay provides a good analogy between 
the first century and the twentieth, between 
theo-centric and Christo-centric spirit- 
uality. The Logos corresponds to theo- 
centric spirituality. That is, it was a 
general concept known to many people, and 
one which incorporated numerous truths . But 


to say that the Logos became flesh is to 
compare with Christo-centric spirituality. 
That is, it takes all that the general idea 
communicated and puts it into a stagger- 
ingly new framework. This is precisely what 
Christian spirituality does: it draws on 
all that is generally beautiful, good, and 
true concerning the spiritual life. But it 
puts it into a radically new framework — the 
Incarnation. In Jesus we see the fullness 
of God in human form, and we see 
spirituality revealed in its finest sense. 

In a day of "new-age" monism^ this 
Incarnational focus is as radically new as 
it was in the day when John declared the 
Logos to be manifested in Jesus. And it is 
no less controversial. E. Stanley Jones has 
called this "the scandal of particularity." 
It flies in the face of syncretism (as we 
will see in the final section of the 
article) . But it is a position we must take 
if our spirituality is to be genuinely 
Christian. Edward Yarnold confirms this as 
he writes, "The highest and unique instance 
of God's self-giving is his entry into the 
world in the person of Jesus Christ. The 
highest and unique fulfillment of the human 
capacity for God is found in the life of 
Jesus Christ. "-^^ Benedict Groeschel further 
underscores this seminal truth by saying, 
"The center of Christian spirituality is the 
Incarnate Word of God. He is the center, 
not as a point of gravity, but as a single 
source of light in an utterly dark and 


lifeless universe. Just as He is the source 
of light and life to the material creation 
(John 1:3), so is He the source of salvation 
and spiritual life."^^ Groeschel goes on to 
note that this Christological center and our 
relation to it (Him) forces us to ask, "How 
Christian is my spirituality?" Just as 
Christ divides time into B.C. and A.D., so 
too he becomes the line of demarcation 
between the general and the particular in 
Christian spirituality. 

This truth not only applies to his 
person, but also to his work. Unfortunately 
in our day there is a rising tide against 
Christ's atonement. It is a rejection not 
only of Christ as the mediator, but also of 
the need for an atoning sacrifice as 
described in orthodox Christian theology. -^^ 
At stake here, for Christianity in general 
and Christian spirituality in particular, is 
the nature of sin and the process by which 
the grace of God operates to forgive us. 
Spirituality must address the question of 
one's right relationship with God. A 
theology (and experience) of sin and redemp- 
tion is intrinsic. Christian spirituality 
asserts that human beings are sinful and 
that Christ died for our sins. In both his 
person and work, Christ makes spirituality 

Our response, of course, must be to 
"abide in Christ" (John 15) . Christian 
spiritual life is life in Christ. It is 
living in Christ and having Christ living in 


us.^^ I have come to define Christian 
spirituality as the lifelong process of 
abiding in Christ and bearing the 
responsibilities of that relationship. If 
Jesus is indeed the Alpha and Omega 
(Revelation 1:8 and 22:13), he must be the 
starting point, guide, and culmination of 
our spirituality. 

Third, spirituality is made- Christian 
by its church connection. At the core, this 
means that our spirituality can never be 
purely individualistic. We are people of 
Covenant. As such, we are people of creed 
and community. We affirm the faith declared 
through the Apostles', Nicean, and 
Athanasian Creeds, as well as those later 
formulations which are in harmony with them. 
Furthermore, we are people of particular 
faith traditions (e.g. Lutheran, Calvin- 
istic, Wesleyan) , each of which professes 
orthodox belief and the Christian experience 
which flows from it. 

To be sure, our ultimate authority is 
the Bible. But Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia 
rightly points out that "We read the Bible 
personally, but not as isolated individ- 
uals... We read in communion with all other 
members or the Body of Christ in all parts 
of the world in all generations of 
time... Book and Church are not to be 

But today they are! And the spirit- 
uality which emerges from the separation is 
simultaneously erroneous, individualistic, 


and unaccountable. I will never forget Dr. 
Robert Cushman, one of my doctoral 
professors at Duke University, saying that 
the main problem with contemporary theology 
is that it is "free-lance" — that is, it is 
operating with no connection or account- 
ability to the Church. I could not agree 
more! There is great irony here. Evangel- 
icals are frequently accused by liberals of 
being triumphalistic in their focus upon 
Christ and the presentation of him as the 
Savior of the world. But what could 
possibly be more triumphalistic than the 
assertion that it is possible to produce 
good theology which stands apart from and in 
contradiction to two thousand years of 
orthodox interpretation? 

Here is one place where Christian 
theology is general and Christian spirit- 
uality in particular are in great danger of 
being captured by cultural ideology. It is 
the danger of open-ended, free-floating, 
radically independent individualism. 
Spirituality will never be fully Christian 
adrift from the Church. In the presentation 
of truth and the spiritual life which flows 
from it, we are not free to re-invent the 
gospel, but only free to proclaim it as it 
has been handed to us by the Church. When 
we presume an authority to step outside 
twenty centuries of tradition and advocate 
"another gospel," we have the civil right to 
do so, but not the ecclesiastical right. 
Spirituality is made Christian by its 


connection with the Church. 

Our response must be to be devoted 
churchpersons . When I joined my denomi- 
nation, I took the vow to uphold it with my 
prayers, presence, gifts, and service. So 
long as I remain a member, I am not free to 
violate those vows or to substitute rank 
individualism for them. Likewise, those of 
us who are clergy stand in the line of 
apostolic succession — the vocational priest- 
hood which has always had two primary tasks: 
guiding people in the ways of God and 
guarding the gospel. If I abdicate the 
guardian role through self-avowed assertion 
of my own views, I sever spirituality (and 
ministry for that matter) from its vital 
context. * 

Fourth, spirituality is made Christian 
by its grace-orientation. Those of us in 
the Wesleyan tradition understand theology 
as an "order of salvation." The order 
itself is the story of grace: prevenient, 
converting, sanctifying, and glorifying. -^^ 
With respect to Christian spirituality this 
means that we are always responders to God's 
prior action. Ours is not a spirituality of 
human effort or merit — i.e. "working our way 
up to God." Rather, it is a spirituality of 
"having been found" by God and living in 
ever-increasing gratitude for "God's coming 
down" to us. To say it another way, we grow 
spirituality as we respond to grace. 

Such response is made possible through 
the use of the means of grace, often called 


the spiritual disciplines. John Wesley 
called the means of grace "the ordinary 
channels of conveying [God's] grace unto the 
souls of itien."^^ In our day, Richard Foster 
has refocused and renewed our interest in 
the spiritual disciplines, showing how they 
shape the inward, outward, and corporate 
life of Christians. ^^ Grace thus becomes the 
priority and the means of living the 
spiritual life. 

This understanding of grace is what 
lies at the heart of viewing Christian 
spiritual formation as a journey. Lawrence 
Richards rightly notes that "Spiritual life 
must be nurtured. . .Spirituality does not 
come automatically."^® In the history of 
Christian spirituality that journey has been 
defined in many ways. Those in the mystical 
school have described it in terms of 
purgation, illumination, dark night of the 
soul, and union with God.^^ As we just saw, 
Wesleyans emphasize the order of salvation, 
which is itself a journey motif. Persons in 
the Reformed tradition frequently use the 
paradigm of God's Providence and our 
response to it as a means of articulating 
the journey. ^° Christian educators and 
psychologists connect the human journey and 
the spiritual journey by showing how the 
spiritual life is lived in relation to 
childhood, adolescence, adulthood, midlife, 
and older age.^-^ 

Kept in the context of everything we 
have said up to this point, it is possible 


to define Christian spiritual formation as 
the process of becoming fully human. ^^ This 
process is enabled through imitation (of 
Christ and the healthy examples of godly 
people) and penetration (as the grace of God 
is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit) . 
Understanding spiritual life as a journey 
sanctifies every age and state of life, and 
it puts every age and stage of life into its 
proper graced relationship to God. Benedict 
Groeschel gives a useful summary of all we 
have been saying in these words, "To develop 
spiritually as a Christian means to grow as 
a child of God according to the example of 
Christ and His grace. "^^ 

We respond to grace by abandoning all 
efforts at self-salvation and the legalisms 
which can so easily provide false limits and 
comforts. At the same time, we do not erase 
the role of our will in making obedient and 
faithful responses to God's movements in our 
lives. To say that Christian spirituality 
is grace oriented does not mean we are 
passive. It simply means that "Jesus is 
Lord" and we are always content for it to be 
that way! It means that we never "outgrow" 
our reliance upon God, we never come to a 
spiritual state which enables us to live 
henceforth on our own. 

To be sure, there is much more we could 
say about making spirituality Christian, but 
these are my primary convictions regarding 
the matter. When we utilize the Christian 
story, focus on Christ as the center and 


source of our spiritual life, maintain 
accountability to and community in the 
Church, and live by grace throughout our 
lifetime, we will have gone a long way in 
understanding and experiencing Christian 

Problematic Challenges 

Such a view of the spiritual life is 
not universally affirmed or supported in our 
time. In fact, the question "What makes 
spirituality Christian?" is one given to me 
as an assignment to address by those who 
recognize that the spiritual life is being 
wildly reimagined in our day. If Christian 
spirituality is to continue to exhibit its 
distinctiveness (a quality which some view 
as narrow and obscuranist) , the above 
characteristics will not be absent. At the 
same time, those characteristics are under 
fire on a number of fronts which must be 

Perhaps the most pervasive is 
syncretism. In the past twenty years we 
have witnessed an unprecedented attempt to 
blend all things into one, universally- 
accepted reality. Traditional beliefs and 
values are not seriously questioned and 
often undermined. Categories of "right" and 
"wrong" are threatened by an attempt to make 
everything an "alternative." With respect 
to Christian spirituality in particular, the 
syncretists would have us merge our views 


with virtually all others — especially those 
of the great religions of the world, and 
even the most-responsible advocates of "new 
age" perspectives. The end result would be 
a kind of B'hai spirituality — a view of 
reality and a resulting experience that puts 
Christianity and Christ in a respected, but 
not distinctive position. 

As I view the issue of syncretism, the 
main problem with it (but not the only one!) 
is that it tries to answer what Christianity 
(and other world religions, for that matter) 
leaves as mystery. As far as I can tell, 
the Bible holds in tension Christ's 
declaration that he is "the Way, the Truth, 
and the Life" (John 14:6) with the 
uncertainty of how that is so in each and 
every case. .The main problem of syncretism 
is that it falsely authorizes human beings 
to make conclusions about things known only 
to God. To be sure, there are questions of 
how one religion relates to another, 
questions of the validity of those 
religions, and questions about ultimate 
destiny. But they are questions about which 
we have insufficient revelation. What we do 
know is that Jesus claimed to be the Son of 
God and the Lord of life. The role of 
Christian theology in general and Christian 
spirituality in particular is to proclaim 
what we know and to remain humble before 
what we do not know. Syncretism is, at 
best, a human answer to questions beyond 
human knowledge. At worst, syncretism is 


simply wrong--analogous to blind men who 
each defined "elephant" by the single part 
he was holding. We recognize the serious 
challenge of syncretism, but we also 
recognize it to be essentially presumptuous 
in relation to depth of the questions it 
tries to answer. 

Christian spirituality is also facing 
the challenge of feminism. Womens ' issues 
have become such a focal point in the church 
and society it is almost impossible to say 
what you mean without being misunderstood. 
Let me try. I believe that many women's 
concerns today are valid and that the church 
needs to take them more seriously than it 
has. Furthermore, I believe there is a 
legitimate Christian feminism in which the 
orthodox faith is upheld even as the 
problems and possibilities of women are 
forthrightly advanced. 

There is a radical feminism in the land 
which not only damages the Christian faith, 
but actually ends up undermining the 
femininity it claims to uphold.^" In terms 
of Christian spirituality it has contami- 
nated theology and experience by redefining 
the Godhead, the person and work of Christ, 
scripture, and the church--to name a few.^^ 
In its most extreme forms it has (by its own 
declaration) remade Christianity into 
something entirely different from its 
orthodox precedent. In fact, orthodoxy is 
seen as an obstacle to "Woman Church." As 
far back as 1978, advocates of radical 


feminism were openly saying, "perhaps the 
demise of the church is in fact the first 
step in the emergence of the new planetary 
consciousness, karma as it were. .. Feminist 
women would not be losing much if they lost 
the church. "^^ It doesn't take much effort 
to see why radical feminism is a challenge 
to the kind of Christian spirituality we 
have described. 

The main problem of radical feminism 
(but again, not the only one) is that it 
would substitute one extreme for another. ^^ 
If we concede that Christianity has been too 
"male" (a charge which can be made, but not 
universally or unboundedly) , we cannot 
conclude that the answer is to make it 
"female." • Equal time is not an adequate 
base for theology or spirituality. 
Exchanging one excess for another will not 
bring us closer to the truth. Furthermore, 
we are on slippery ground whenever we begin 
to define our theology or our spirituality 
in terms of this-world categories like 
gender or race. While God cannot be less 
than our best examples of humanity. He is 
surely more! We must take divine attributes 
as our starting point, not human character- 
istics . 

We also face the challenge of 
consumerism. With respect to Christian 
spirituality the danger is presenting 
Christian formation as essentially positive 
and pleasant, quick and easy. Evangelicals 
face this danger as much as liberals. 


because the danger is not theological per 
se. It is cultural. It is the temptation 
to cater to certain groups with the message 
that "you can have it your way." We must 
remember that Christianity in general or the 
spiritual life in particular is not simply 
about getting your needs met, it is about 
getting your life changed. It is not merely 
about blessings, but also about respons- 
ibilities. It is not just about improve- 
ment; it's about transformation. Authentic 
Christian spirituality cannot avoid the 
Cross. Consumerism poses the threat to 
water down the spiritual life on the one 
hand, or to "market" it on the other in a 
way that promises maximum benefits for 
minimal investments. 

Finally, we face the challenge of 
ceremonialism. This is the contemporary 
term for the ancient problem of having the 
form of godliness, but denying its power (II 
Timothy 3:5). It is going through the 
motions for motion's sake. It is "playing 
church." It is dabbling in discipleship. 
It is making spirituality superficial. It 
is substituting performance for reality. To 
use Jesus' words, it is hypocrisy. We 
become play actors, people who pretend to be 
what we are not--people who can slip in and 
out of our "spirituality" depending on where 
we are or what day it is. In its corporate 
manifestations it is our ritual or spon- 
taneity divorced from authenticity. It is 
the vain attempt to honor God with our lips 


when our hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 
29:13). If Christian spirituality becomes 
ceremonial, it will die — and it ought to! 
For we will have traded in essence for 

What makes spirituality Christian? 
Good question! It is a question that 
demands close examination and lifelong 
reflection. I hope these thoughts will 
spark your own in-depth, creative explor- 
ation. No one has forced us to be Christian 
or to live a spiritual life in consonance 
with the Christian faith. If we choose to 
name ourselves after the Christ, and if we 
choose to hold membership in the Body of 
Christ, let's do our best to be who we say 
we are and to practice a spirituality worthy 
of the name "Christian." May God help us 
all to do just that! 


^Benedict Groeschel, Spiritual 
Passages (New York: Crossroad, 1986), 13. 

^Adrian van Kaam, Fundamental 
Formation (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 20. 

^Groeschel, 4. 

"E. Stanley Jones, The Way to Power 
and Poise (Nashville: Abingdon, 1949), 1. 


^Lawrence Richards, A Practical 
Theology of Spirituality (Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987), 11. 

^Les Steele, On the Way: A Practical 
Theology of Christian Formation (Grand 
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), chapter 
one, "The Christian Story", 15-24. Steele 
draws on the writings of people like 
Gabriel Fackre, James Fowler, and Frederick 
Buechner (in addition to his own insights) 
to expand most of the items I have put in 
my list of emphases. 

'William Barclay, The Daily Study 
Bible: The Gospel of John , vol.1 (Phil- 
adelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), 44. 

^Barclay, 45. 

^A metaphysical concept that "all is 
one"--that is, that all reality is a 
participation in one ultimate reality. 
Thus, all religions and spiritualities are 
essentially the same. 

'"Edward Yarnold, "The Theology of 
Christian Spirituality, " The Study of 
Spirituality (New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1986), 14. 

"Groeschel, 17. 


^^There are too many sources of this 
rejection to cite here. Several examples 
are R. N. Brock's Journeys bv Heart: A 
Christology of Erotic Power (1988), B. 
Harrison and C. Heyward's Christianity. 
PatiarchV/ and Abuse: A Feminist Critique 
(1989), and John Hick's The Metaphor of God 
Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic 
Age (1994) . 

"Maxie Dunnam, Alive in Christ: The 
Dynamic Process of Spiritual Formation 
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981). 

^"Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, "How to 
Read the Bible," The Orthodox Study Bible 
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 765. 

^^I provide a fuller treatment of each 
aspect of grace in my book, John Wesley's 
Message for Today (Grand Rapids: . 
Zondervan, 1983) . 

''Albert Cutler, The Works of John 
Wesley, Volume 1, Sermons 1-33 (Nashville: 
Abingdon Press, 1984), 380. John Wesley's 
sermon "The Means of Grace", paragraph 5. 
I also explore each of the means of grace 
in my book. Devotional Life in the Wesleyan 
Tradition . (Nashville, The Upper Room, 
1983) . 

'^Richard Foster, Celebration of 
Discipline (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 


^'Richards, 15. 

^^Evelyn Underbill, Mysticism (London: 
Methuen, 1911) . 

^"Robert Raitiey, Jr. and Ben Johnson, 
Living the Christian Life: A Guide to 
Reformed Spirituality (Louisville: John 
Knox/ Westminster, 1992) . 

^^Groeschel does a very good job in 
connecting human and spiritual development. 
He also provides a quality portrayal of 
purgation, illumination, and union. Les 
Steel's book is also valuable in connecting 
Christian education and spiritual forma- 
tion. In this regard, mention must also be 
made of Christopher Bryant's The River 
Within (London: DLT, 1978) and Iris 
Cully's Education for Spiritual Growth (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984). 

22Rachel Hosmer and Alan Jones, Living 
in the Spirit (New York: Seabury Press, 
1979), 30. 

"Groeschel, 29. 

^^Ronald Nash, Great Divides (Colorado 
Springs: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 61-76. 

"Kenneth L. Woodward, "Feminism and 
the Churches, " Newsweek, February 13, 1989, 


"Richard L. LaShure, "Changing the 
Subject: The Promise of Feminist 
Theology," Occasional Papers , Volume 1, No. 
21, October 25, 1978 (Nashville: The 
United Methodist Board of Higher Education 
and Ministry), 6-7. 

^^Points like this are presented 
clearly by evangelical spokeswomen such as 
Elizabeth Achtemeier in "Where are These 
Radical Feminists Coming From?" reNews, 
February 1994, 10-12 and Leslie Zeigler in 
"Christianity or Feminism?" Transactions , 
Volume 2, No. 3, July 1994, 1-4. 



Candlemaking : 
The Art and Craft of Spiritual Formation 
By Linda Hines Geiser* 

It is evident that there is flowing 
throughout contemporary society an emptiness 
of spirit, a lack of meaning, an insidious 
apathy. Rapid-paced technology, materialism, 
racism, sexism and moral confusion all 
contribute to the current malaise. For many, 
life is out of control. Homelessness has 
become more than an external reality. It is 
an internal spiritual condition. The church 
is not exempt from this state of affairs. 
Having "accepted" Christ and joined the 
church, many persons settle into a com- 
placent mediocrity. They are left wondering 
if that is all there is. Don't whisper it 
too loudly, but there have even been a few 
church leaders known to succumb to this 
crippling disease. 

The spiritual journey, held in the grip 
of such a contagion, is disabled and para- 
lyzed, shrinking up into death. The process 

*Linda Hines Geiser graduated from Ashland 
Seminary in 1994 with a Master of Arts 
degree in spiritual formation. She and her 
husband Charles formerly worked for 
Mennonite Central Committee in several Latin 
American countries. She is currently fini- 
shing the Master of Divinity degree at 


of inner growth begins to resemble a spiri- 
tualized version of a walk along the 
all-American, rise-to-the top, look out for 
number one, consumer path. Nourished by 
spiritual junk food and cheap entertainment, 
it leads directly into a hollow vacuum. 
This is a far cry from the vision Christ 
offers of new life, living water and 
abundant joy. 

How can the chains of apathy be 
loosened? What are the tools that will 
gently pry them open and ultimately cast 
them to the ground? The search for meaning 
and the pain of emptiness may, in fact, be 
the vehicles through which freedom will 
come. God is calling the human spirit 
precisely through such disillusionment, into 
a relationship characterized by depth, 
transformation, and inner at-homeness. The 
challenge is to find ways for people to make 
the connection. A new look at spiritual 
formation may shed some light on the path 
through this barren wasteland. 

Called to be Transformed 

The process of spiritual formation is 
about being transformed into the likeness of 
Christ. It is growth, movement and change. 
The word process suggests procedure, methods 
and particular steps employed to reach a 
desired goal. In spiritual formation this 
process progresses beyond concrete analysis 
into mystery and leads to transformation. 


All parts of the human being are gathered up 
into Christ, integrated and made holy. For 
what reason? So that we may love as Christ 
loves and be one with each other as He is 
one with the Father. Then the world will 
know that God is, God loves and God rejoices 
in creation, bringing all to completion in 

As humans we are whole persons. 
Together the combination of body, spirit 
(mind/heart) , and soul create a unified 
being. These parts are separate yet not 
separate, distinct yet not distinct. An 
intimate connection exists between them. 
They are not like a stack of books bound 
together by a cord. Nor are they pieces of a 
puzzle held in place with glue. The con- 
nection is deeper and more pervasive. The 
essence of each is a part of the others. 
What is the intangible unifying force that 
binds them? Isn't- it none other than the 
mystery of God? 

By virtue of being human every person 
carries wounds. They may be wounds of 
personal sinfulness or wounds left by the 
sinfulness of others. The wounding may 
center in body, spirit or soul. Wherever it 
is located, the others are affected as well. 
Wounding in one produces felt consequences 
in the others. They may not be destroyed, 
but are certainly bent. The soul espe- 
cially seems to absorb the wounding at a 
very deep level.. It is the ultimate place 
of woundedness, the keeper of all the 


secrets . 

Spiritual formation is about the healing 
of this woundedness . As relationship with 
Christ becomes more intimate, prayer 
deepens, healing increases and one 
experiences newness of life. There is a 
freedom to truly be. Lazarus is being 
unbound by the silent word of Christ spoken 
within the soul, as well as through the 
cooperation of those accompanying one on the 
journey. Lazarus could not unbind himself. 
Neither can we. We can only be still in 
consenting silence, listen to .the Word and 
allow sisters and brothers to be God's 
chosen vehicles of the unbinding action. 

The graveclothes wrapped around our 
souls conceal the wounds. Woundedness and 
fear construct walls and barriers of 
protection, keeping others, and even God, at 
a distance. The tender yet persistent love 
of God consistently taps on the door, 
waiting for an invitation to enter. What is 
the key that will unlock the door and allow 
God the Healer to enter? It is prayer, 
prayer of the quiet, waiting, receptive 
heart. This is the core of spiritual trans- 

In stillness and silence body, spirit 
and soul rest in God. In such rest one's 
entire being is offered to God, consenting 
to the Divine action within. God knows 
intimately the cracks and crevices of each 
soul, and will administer what is needed in 
a fashion appropriate to the individual. It 


is a process that takes time, patience and 
perseverance. Growth and healing usually 
occur in small doses, sometimes the size of 
a thimble. It is not without pain, 
confusion or even darkness. The entire 
process is enveloped by the mystery of God. 
It is essential to acknowledge, embrace and 
live in that Mystery by faith. 

The silent and vocal cries of those in 
the church pew are calling for deeper 
meaning and an end to the hollowness that 
plagues them. How can living in the mystery 
by faith become more real? How can con- 
nection with God and others on the way be 
fostered? New ways to teach about prayer 
and spiritual formation are desperately 
needed. Most people are visual learners, 
finding it helpful to connect an image with 
experience. Creative images which clearly 
illustrate the process are necessary tools. 
One such image is that of the art of 
candlemaking. Many likenesses to the 
process of spiritual formation arise from 
within this craft. The formation of a 
candle corresponds to the formation of a 
soul. It must be stated that there are 
limitations in any analogy. The hope is 
that this particular one may open vistas of 
clearer understanding in regards to the 
spiritual journey each of us is called to 
travel . 


The Process 

There are certain elements necessary in 
candlemaking. Most essential are the wick, 
the frame, the wax, the dipping process and 
a skilled person who knows the craft. An 
examination of each of these can produce a 
suggested correlation with the spiritual 

The wick is made of multiple strands of 
cotton thread woven into a strong, single 
braid. The three strands of the braid are 
clearly seen, even in the smallest wick. 
The braided form of the wick • offers the 
needed strength to withstand the rigors of 
the process, for "A threefold cord is not 
quickly broken (Eccl. 4:12b)." 

What does this threefold braid represent 
in the spiritual realm? Immediately, the 
threen^iss and oneness of the Trinity come to 
mind. The mystery and beauty of Trinitarian 
love reside at the core of the universe. 
Humanity was created out of this love, in 
the image of God who is Three in One. The 
braid is also suggestive, therefore, of the 
threefold being of humanity as seen in body, 
spirit and soul. Woven together they create 
the unified essence of personhood. 

The wick is strung on a wooden frame. At 
the top and bottom of the frame are small 
wire hooks. The wick is looped up and over, 
down and under until the frame is filled 
with the continuous thread. The frame holds 
the wick in place and provides structure as 


well as space for the candle to grow. It 
offers stability and enables many candles to 
be dipped at once. The stringing of the 
wick must be done with the right amount of 
tension, neither too slack nor too tight. If 
strung with too much slack the wax will not 
evenly coat the wick. The candles formed 
will be extremely misshapen. Some may be 
bent, rounded, even stuck together. The 
straight form necessary for a lovely candle 
and clean burning is lost. Such candles are 
not good for anything, but to be melted back 
into the remaining wax in the vat. 
Conversely, if the wick is too tight the 
danger arises of slipping off the wire 
hooks. The entire group of candles may 
unravel and be damaged beyond repair. In 
either case, the process is aborted. 

This illustrates the need for balance in 
our spiritual lives. Extremes are dangerous. 
Too little self-discipline results in sloppy 
living. We lose sight of the goal, entangled 
in things that hinder progress. Our lives 
become bent, rounded, enmeshed and out of 
focus. On the other side, too much disci- 
pline is destructive as well. Unrealistic 
demands and expectations imposed by self 
and/or others often create overwhelming 
stress. Such persons are in danger of 
careening off into space. If they do, the 
effect will be felt by those around them. 
As with the candles, the damage inflicted 
may be irreparable. 

The precise tension of the wick also 


suggests an internal, spiritual balance. It 
is the kind of balance needed for the 
body/spirit/soul to remain quiet and still 
in prayer. When strung correctly the wick 
is immobile. The " just-rightness" of its 
position ensures such stillness. 

How does one promote an atmosphere of 
stillness in prayer? Begin with the body. 
Although a quiet body does not guarantee a 
quiet spirit, it certainly enhances the 
possibility. The silence of tongue, the 
closing of eyes, the stillness of the entire 
physical organism will lead to sti-llness of 
the mind and emotions as well. Quietness 
makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to 
work freely in the soul. The wick, hooked 
both above and below to secure its position 
on the frame, is an appropriate and helpful 
reminder of the necessity for stillness in 

A single candle is not alone. Its wick 
is connected to the frame and to the 
remaining wick stretched on the same frame. 
The same wick runs through all the candles. 
In essence, they are one. Although each 
person must travel their own spiritual 
journey, none is truly alone. The frame is 
representative of the structure of communal 
support offered in the church. The church 
is to be a place where people experience 
safety, sustenance and space to grow. Such 
support for the journey may be offered in a 
variety of ways. Prayer groups, Sunday 
school, group and personal direction, and 


fellowship meals all provide a sense of 
community. Communal worship is an integral 
part of the supportive network. Singing, 
prayer, preaching, laying on of hands, 
communion and footwashing bind persons to 
each other and to God, for it is in the Body 
that Christ is made manifest as a very real 
Presence . 

Before the dipping process begins 
attention must be given to the wax. The 
type of candles referred to here are made 
from 100% beeswax. Worker bees eat large 
quantities of honey which they form into a 
waxy substance on their bodies. From this 
wax the bees make the honeycomb with its 
many cells for storing eggs or honey. 
Beeswax is obtained from the honeycomb by 
first extracting the honey, then melting the 
comb in boiling water. The wax rises to the 
surface and is melted again to remove 
impurities. Because the honey cannot be 
completely extracted, its delightful aroma 
remains in the wax. 

For best results in candlemaking the wax 
must be kept around 160 degrees. The force 
of heat can melt, purify and burn off 
blemishes from many substances. Too much 
heat can be totally destructive. The wax 
needs to be very hot, but not boiling. The 
intent is not to destroy the wick, but to 
prepare it to receive even more wax. 

The liquid wax is hot and sweetly 
scented in its purity. It symbolizes the 
God who is Love. The purity of God's love 


is reflected in the singleness of His 
purpose. He longs for us to be transformed, 
to experience in our human being-ness His 
presence and nature. Such love is undi- 
luted, absolute, genuine and clear. It is 
untainted by any corrupt element. 

The heat of beeswax is indicatixre of the 
intensity of God's loving desire. The 
immense strength therein is such that it was 
moved to manifest itself in the ultimate 
self-giving of Christ. It is pas-sion in the 
truest sense of the word. God is always 
seeking and searching, yearning and aching 
to give Himself. Divine Energy is another 
way to describe the hotness of the wax. The 
Energy that created the universe sustains 
life in all its forms, from the planets 
whirling in space to the ant invading the 
picnic basket. Bodies maintain their 
structure and souls are formed anew in this 
Energy. God's very presence is the source of 
this Energy. It is the same intense, 
passionate Energy that raised Christ from 
the dead (Rom. 8:11). 

With the wick firmly in place on the 
frame and the wax at the right temperature, 
the dipping process is ready to begin. The 
nature of the wick is such that it contains 
within itself tiny pockets of air. The 
first dip into the hot wax is extremely 
important. The wick must remain in long 
enough for the air to be pushed out. The 
wax needs to permeate the wick. If the wick 
is removed too soon air will remain trapped 


inside, and later in the process, as the 
candle takes shape, blemishes will appear. 

A constant, alternating rhythm begins. 
Dipping, drying, dipping, drying. Immersion 
in the hot, fragrant wax coats the wick ever 
so slowly. The wick goes in where it is 
hot. With care it is lifted straight up. 
As it is removed from the vat, most of the 
hot wax drips off. That which remains on 
the wick becomes a permanent part of the new 
candle . 

The frame is hung, preferably in a cool 
place, in order for the wax to solidify. 
The amount of time required for cooling and 
drying depends a great deal on the weather. 
A warm, humid day will obviously slow down 
the solidifying process. 

A balance of in and out is established. 
The developing candle must not remain in the 
hot wax too long. If it does, the heat will 
cause the already solidified wax to melt. 
The process then becomes counterproductive 
and destroys that which had previously been 
built up. Dipping the wick into the hot wax 
is like immersing oneself in God's loving 
presence through quiet, centered prayer. 
The soul/spirit/body remain steady and 
still. The warmth of God's love permeates 
one's entire being. 

Just as the wick contains air pockets, 
so, too, do our souls. The wounds of sin, 
many of which cannot be articulated reside 
deep within. God's love moves through and 
beyond awareness to push out the air 


bubbles, healing the wounds. We may sense 
the "pop" of that bubble in our everyday 
existence in some form. Then again, we may 
not. The important thing is to embrace 
faith, faith in the mysterious working of 
God's Spirit in the depth of our being. 
Faith, even when irritability, laziness and 
greed arise. Faith when darkness seems 
greater than light, when brokenness and 
sorrow overpower wholeness and joy. Faith 
that God does indeed know what He is doing. 
The wick is brought out of the wax and 
most of it drips off. As the soul comes out 
of the holy space of quiet prayer and much 
of the intense Presence of God will be left 
behind, dripping off the soul as wax off the 
candle. But some remains and is absorbed. 
The soul is in the process of healing, 
growth and transformation. This is not to 
say that the person leaves the Presence of 
God, or that God leaves the person. God is 
continually present. In prayer, however, the 
contact is more direct, face-to-face and 
intimate . 

The time for cooling, drying and 
solidifying takes much longer than the 
dipping. That is similar to the realities 
of everyday life. The call of our responsi- 
bilities allows time for the touch of God to 
settle in our souls. The change taking place 
within begins to manifest itself without. 
When external circumstances are like a warm, 
humid day, the integration of God's healing 
touch iitay require more time and patience. 


Slowly, the inner and outer realities move 
closer together and God becomes present to 
the world in and through us . 

The candle grows in size and beauty. 
The soul is united more and more to God at 
deep, unfathomable levels. There is contin- 
ual movement in the soul to live out of a 
freed, healed reality. Initially the change 
may be imperceptible. As healing increases, 
the change becomes noticeable. When the 
candle nears completion, one dip effects a 
significant change. So, too, in the soul's 
formational process. A growing awareness of 
and sensitivity to the working of God in 
one's life and the lives of others foments 
deepening conformity to the likeness of 
Christ. Increasingly our attention is 
directed Godward on a continual basis. This 
facilitates growth and transformative union. 

The candlemaker is key to the entire 
process. She/he must have learned the art, 
not solely through reading but through 
experience. The best way to learn is by 
apprenticeship, for there one is exposed to 
the expertise of the master. Through expe- 
rience the candlemaker learns the subtleties 
of the art. For example, the right amount 
of tension when stringing the wick on the 
frame and the exact time a candle can remain 
in the wax before it begins to melt. 

Patience, perseverance and skill must be 
cultivated by the candlemaker. The process 
may become tedious, repeating the same 
procedures over and over again. Even 


strength and gentleness are needed, for 
candlemaking is a process that calls for a 
tender yet sure touch. Sensitivity to the 
most conducive environment, flexibility and 
a sense of good timing are all necessary for 
the skilled craf tsperson. 

There is also, and perhaps most import- 
antly, a kind of wisdom that arises out of 
participation in such a process. It is a 
wisdom that grows from knowing the elements 
so well that any little divergence is keenly 
felt. Appropriate action is automatically 
taken to correct any problem. The candle- 
maker knows beyond thinking, and may know so 
well that she/he finds it difficult to 
articulate what is known. That is why in 
learning the art it is best to be face-to- 
face with the candlemaker in order to 
observe as well as listen. 

In spiritual formation, who is the 
candlemaker? Ultimately God is the Candle- 
maker. God draws souls to himself, meets us 
in prayer and in life's circumstances, and 
continually works to bring us to completion 
in Himself. God's patience, perseverance 
and wisdom are immeasurable. 

God also chooses to work through persons 
who have been formed through their own 
dipping and drying process. They are able 
by God's grace to be present to others who 
are also on the way. Perhaps they can be 
called God's apprentices in the art of 
soulmaking although they are apprentices, 
these persons must never abandon the process 


of their own soulitiaking. It would be 
disastrous . 

The Goal 

The candlemaker ' s task is nearing 
completion. What remains is to cut the 
candles from the frame, snip the wick that 
holds them together, place them where they 
are most needed and light the wick. The 
candles, which for so long have been united, 
are now separated. If not, they cannot be 
lit. A candle may be lovely to look at, but 
its ultimate purpose is to bring light. 
Even though they no longer need to be 
connected in the same manner, the candles 
maintain the same essence, for the wick has 
not changed. 

In the spiritual journey there comes a 
point where we are each alone. No one else 
can truly experience what we are called to 
experience. No one can come face-to-face 
with God for us. We must do it alone. Even 
though there is an essential unity, oneness 
and connectedness among those on the 
journey, there is also a call to rugged 

Candles come in a variety of sizes with 
differing purposes. All of them go through 
the same formative process. All will burn, 
but not all in the same place. In wisdom 
the candlemaker discerns what types are 
needed where and sets out to provide for 
that need. So, too, God has placed within 


each of us a call to become who we are 
intended to be. It is written on the very 
core of our being. Each is to be 
transformed and to be a source of light. 
The specific purposes and settings will 
differ. One must trust in the wisdom of the 
Candlemaker and be attentive to the call 
arising from within and from without. 

When the candle is fully formed, cut 
from the frame, standing alone, it is ready 
to be lit. The candlemaker knows when that 
moment arrives. So also God knows when we 
are ready to be a flame. We become Light 
from the spark of the One who is Fire. This 
is the essence of transformative union. God 
and the soul are one. The candle is still a 
candle. The soul is still a soul. God is 
still God. The human being does not lose 
her/his humanness; personality is not 
obliterated. Rather, it is made both whole 
and holy. 

As the candle burns, the wick begins to 
curve. It bends to make way for the new 
wick being exposed due to the burning. The 
tip of the wick eventually burns itself out 
and is no longer in the flame. Perhaps this 
speaks of an attitude of gracious humility. 
The soul is only concerned with the flame of 
God's light. It will continually move out 
of the way in order for the flame to burn 
even more brightly. 

In the actual spiritual journey, the 
process of becoming a fully formed candle, 
burning with the flame of God is probably 


cyclical in nature. We must experience the 
dipping and drying, the heat and coolness 
over and over again. It is a continual 
pattern of increasing insight, awareness, 
repentance, humility and trust in God's 

What is the task of the wick, of 
ourselves? It is to surrender to the 
process. What else can the wick do but give 
itself completely? It trusts in the wisdom 
of the candlemaker who sees the completed 
form even before it is begun, knows exactly 
what is needed to reach that goal and guides 
the process with a tender, confident hand. 
We are called to simply rest in God, the 
infinite Candlemaker, who creates lights of 
beauty beyond imagining. 

Hopefully, the usefulness of an image 
such as candlemaking to illustrate the 
process of spiritual formation is obvious. 
Not only do examples stimulate interest, but 
they are easily remembered. The intangible 
becomes a bit more tangible. By pointing to 
a reality beyond themselves, images and 
examples offer encouragement to persevere on 
the spiritual journey. Healing and trans- 
formation into Christ-likeness can replace 
the chaos and emptiness so common in both 
the inner and outer worlds. Possibilities 
of developing creative tools to communicate 
the truths of spiritual formation are 
endless. Now is the time for the church to 
respond. The need is obvious. The invita- 
tion is open. The challenge remains. 



Our Korean Doctor of Ministry program, 
in its third year of operation, is 
attracting more and more Korean church 
leaders to the Ashland campus for intensive 
courses. Also a newly established -cycle of 
counseling courses leading toward advanced 
Ohio Licensure (LPCC) has met with great 
interest. Therefore, ATS .is pleased to make 
the following official announcement: 

Ashland Theological Seminary, a 
conservative evangelical seminary, with 600 
students invites resumes from individuals 
for the following two tenured track posi- 
tions that will be available for 1995-96. 

Requirements include: Ph.D. or equi- 
valent, commitment to evangelical faith and 
life, &. pastoral experience. 

Biblical Studies/Biblical Languages: 
Candidate should possess strong teaching 
skills in Greek and Hebrew and OT or NT. 
Position will involve teaching on both 
Masters and D.Min. level. Candidates must 
be fluent in Korean and familiar with Korean 

Pastoral Counseling: Candidate should 
possess biblically-based counseling skills, 
ministry experience, and strong teaching 
skills. Position will involve teaching in 
state approved counseling program for LPC 
and LPCC. 

Resumes should be sent by April 1, 1995 
to: Dr. Frederick J. Finks, ATS, 910 Center 
St., Ashland, OH 44805. 


By Susan Muto* 

As fallible, finite creatures, we are 
always in need of God's grace to sustain us 
in our quest to live faithfully. In 
cooperation with grace, we may pursue and 
practice as an avenue to faith deepening 
certain disciplines that help us to meet God 
in everyday life. One of those recommended 
by masters of spirituality in all classical 
faith traditions is that of spiritual or 
formative reading. 

Formative reading requires that we 
become disciples of (obedient listeners to) 
the Word of God as it addresses us through 
the faith-filled words of scripture and the 
masters. This exercise in spiritual living 
prepares us for Christian service, since who 
of us can give to others what we ourselves 
do not live? How can we expect to radiate 
the values of a religious tradition if we 
are not living them on a day-to-day basis? 

*Dr. Susan A. Muto is Executive Director of 
the Epiphany Association in Pittsburgh, PA, 
and formerly a professor at the Institute of 
Formative Spirituality at Duquesne 
University. Her career of teaching and 
writing has taken her around the world, 
including guest lectureships at Ashland 


It is not enough to be knowledgeable in the 
literature of the natural and social 
sciences. Important as this information may 
be, it is insufficient for our purposes. If 
we read only to gather information, 
neglecting to deepen our interiority^ we may 
widen rather than bridge the gap between us 
and God. 

To preserve an appreciation, for the 
spiritual classics, we must not focus so 
much on what is new (information-gathering) 
that we forgot to resource ourselves in the 
formational texts, traditions, doctrines, 
and directives of our respective churches. 
As formative versus merely informative 
readers, we share in the task of restoration 
while remaining open to the power of the 
Spirit to lead us to new direction 
disclosures . 

I. From Mastery to Discipleship 

Spiritual reading returns us to the 
classics of our faith tradition while 
readying us for Christian witness in new and 
challenging situations. Let me set the 
scene for these reflections by paraphrasing 
a passage from the contemporary poet and 
spiritual writer, T. S. Eliot. 

In his poem, "Choruses from 'The 
Rock, ' " Eliot profiles our condition at this 
moment of history. He suggests in the 
opening lines that though ours is an age of 
technical progress, it may be, by the same 


token, an age of spiritual regression. He 
observes that we live in an endless cycle of 
idea and action, endless invention, endless 
experiment. This age brings us knowledge of 
motion, but not of stillness; knowledge of 
speech, but not of silence; knowledge of 
words and ignorance of the Word. The poet 
claims that all our knowledge brings us 
nearer to ignorance, that all our ignorance 
brings us nearer to death, but nearness to 
death, no nearer to God. Then he asks the 
formative questions: Where is the life we 
have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we 
have lost in knowledge? Where is the 
knowledge we have lost in information? 

His question gives us pause to think. 
Is what he says merely poetic or is it 
starkly prophetic? He concludes that the 
cycles of heaven in twenty centuries have 
brought us farther from God and nearer to 
the dust. 

The poet's words touch us deeply. They 
do more than inform us about the present 
age. They draw us into meditative 
reflection on the time of transition in 
which we live. Despite an abundance of 
information, why do so many professionals 
and teenagers commit suicide? God invites 
us to choose life abundantly. Why do so 
many choose death? 

If the words of the poet are to evoke a 
reflective response, we must read them in 
the right frame of mind. It is important to 
move from an information-gathering approach. 


which tends to master the text, to a docile 
approach, which readies us for graced 
transformation. The movement from mastery 
to discipleship creates a sphere of 
mutuality between us and the text. Trans- 
cendent meanings can only be released when 
we establish a personal relationship with 
these words, thereby allowing them to touch 
and transform our lives. 

II. Bridging Limits and 

Relational bonding between the 
listening heart of the reader and the words 
of power in the text is characterized by at 
least three attitudes: receptivity , 
appreciation , and participation . 

We could compare this kind of reading 
to what happens when we meet a friend. Our 
presence to one another is spontaneously 
receptive. We don't have to think about how 
much we enjoy being together. We are simply 
there for one another. The affinity we feel 
is rooted in our deep appreciation for one 
another's uniqueness. We respect each other 
physically, psychologically, spiritually. 
This appreciative mood makes us eager to 
listen to one another and to draw forth 
further insights from our conversation. 
Last, but not least, we care about one 
another. We want to be part of each other's 
life, not outsiders looking in, but involved 
and concerned persons. We are for one 


another because we know in some mysterious 
way that we participate in a love that is 
totally for us. 

Formative reading requires that we be 
receptive to those directives in the text 
that touch our heart. They evoke inner 
longings to receive God's word in the inmost 
center of our life. We appreciate the 
timeless meanings of the message, while 
letting go of time-bound accretions. What 
we seek are points with which we can 
resonate, not ones that spark argumentation. 
Rather than rebuff the text because we feel 
a few resistances, we try, as in a good 
relationship, to work these through by means 
of further reflection. Most of all, we 
attempt to make that with which we resonate 
a part of our lives. This means that we not 
only imbibe inner attitudes conducive to 
living a Christian spiritual life, we also 
let these attitudes flow forth in daily 
actions in the world. Our stance toward the 
text is not that of a spectator upon 
transcendent reality but of a participant in 

Formative reading thus involves a 
shift, in Adrian van Kaam's words, from 
"form-giving," in which we are inclined to 
impose our meaning on the text, to 
"form-receiving," in which we let its 
meaning influence us. We move from a mainly 
rationalistic, faultfinding mentality to an 
appreciative, meditative, confirming mood. 
Our spiritual life is refreshed whenever we 


take time to savor these timeless values. 
They become a living part of who we are. The 
text is like a bridge between the limits of 
our life here and now and the possibilities 
awaiting us if we open our minds and "hearts 
to God. 

Relating to sacred words in this way is 
like holding a two-edged sword in our hand 
(Heb. 4:12). Words of power challenge us to 
look at the quality and seriousness of our 
Christian life. At times the Lord's words 
cut deeply into our heart. We behold in 
ourselves the spectre of living a 
superficial spirituality. We feel a healthy 
pinch of compunction. Are we putting on a 
holy front,' or are we really trying to live 
in union with God? The words we read compel 
us to take off the mask of worldly 
sophistication. Are we ready to admit that 
without God we are and can do nothing? 

III. God the Gardener 

The words of Holy Scripture, the 
writings of the spiritual masters, can be 
likened to rain from heaven. " As droplets 
saturate dry fields, 50 sacred words quench 
our thirst for truth in a satisfying way. 
The Spirit is at work in this reader-text 
relationship. God can and does use the text 
to facilitate inner transformation. When 
words touch and transform our heart, we can 
be sure the Spirit of the Lord is the 
gardener behind them. God plants the seed 


of the word in the soil of our human spirit, 
whether it is parched or fertile. After a 
time of germination, the seed begins to bear 
the lasting fruit of transformation in 
Christ. We move from indifference to 
rededication, from casual prayer to trans- 
cendent presence. 

Formative reading could thus be defined 
as the art of listening with inner ears of 
faith to what God is saying in the 
happenings that comprise our life. 

This capacity to make connections 
between the text being read and our current 
situation can become a distinguishing 
feature of our life in the world. We not 
only absorb words and submit them to the 
reasoning process, we allow these words to 
evoke personal symbols, stories, memories, 
and anticipations. Significant connections 
may coalesce in our imagination and reveal 
meanings that were previously hidden. Amidst 
clutter and disorder, we behold the 
perfection of divine wisdom. 

Such reading makes us wonder if we are 
responding rightly to God's will or only 
waiting for our own expectations to be 
fulfilled. Will we despair in the face of 
life's limits or welcome them as challenging 
formation opportunities? Are we able to see 
our past, present, and future in the light 
of God's benevolence? A first step in the 
right direction is to personalize the 
ageless wisdom embedded in words of power. 
Reading and rereading them helps us to find 


the elusive link between life experience and 
the living God. 

IV. Reading as Dwelling 

Why is this time-tested practice 
difficult for many people today? As a 
spiritual exercise, slowed down formative 
reading is meant to transform our hearts and 
minds, to stimulate meditation, to inspire 
action. A day in the life of a monk is 
oriented in great measure around lectio 
divina. To do it well, one has to develop 
special dispositions like "rumination." 
Because the Word of God is like a precious 
morsel of food for the soul, we have to chew 
the text over again and again. In the 
process of digesting its wisdom, we grow in 
intimacy with God. We unite ourselves 
slowly yet steadily with the knowledge that 
accompanies faith. 

Another attitude of persons engaged in 
formative reading involves a change in 
awareness of self and others. We move from 
a "linear" to a "dwelling" approach. The 
word dwelling - -and words related to it like 
abiding, attending, resting, and slowing 
down--signif ies a kind of homecoming. The 
formative reader dwells upon or makes his or 
her home in the words of Holy Scripture and 
the writings of the spiritual masters. 

The attitude of dwelling fosters, in 
turn, that of docility or openness to the 
guidance' of the Holy Spirit through regular 


sessions of personal or shared spiritual 
reading. In a spirit of docility, the word 
is digested by the reader. One literally 
savors the wisdom sacred words contain. One 
listens with an inner ear to their teaching. 
In this sense faith comes through hearing 
with an attentive ear. We are tuned into 
the Spirit speaking in our heart through 
inspired authors and spiritual seekers. 
These texts are at once timely and of 
timeless value. They are classics. 

Contrast such attitudes as those of 
rumination, dwelling, and docility with the 
informational mentality that dominates 
today. Rather than reading the classics, we 
fall victim to the compulsion to be current. 
We desire above all to be in-the-know. We 
feel deprived if we do not listen to the 
evening news or flip through the daily 
paper. There is nothing wrong with keeping 
up with the events of the world. The 
problem is, if we get caught in the 
compulsion to be current, we may be unable 
to stand still. We may forget to drink from 
the well of words that speak to the heart of 
the listener, words that transcend the 
temporal and open one to the eternal . 

What is the effect on our dwelling 
consciousness when day after day we are 
bombarded by radio, television, newspapers, 
billboards--a whole kaleidoscope of infor- 
mation that takes us outside of ourselves? 
This question is not meant to imply that we 
should never listen to the radio, read a 


newspaper, or watch television. It is to 
remind us that mere information-gathering 
can be, an obstacle to spiritual reading. Do 
we spend too many hours in front of the 
television? Do we feel compelled to be, 
current to the point of shelving the 
spiritual classics? 

The attitude of rumination conflicts 
with a predominantly informational approach. 
Information, as opposed to rumination, has a 
tendency to fill us up, sometimes to the 
point of indigestion or information over- 
load, whereas the reader of a spiritual 
message wants to return to it. In formative 
reading there is always more to be said, 
whereas in informative reading we soon feel 

The informational attitude, unlike that 
of docile rumination, seeks to conquer and 
master its subject matter. One takes In as 
much as one can hold, choosing quantity over 
quality. One may indulge in a kind of 
"gourmet" spirituality. In this "taste 
test" approach, we act as if spiritual 
reading were a great smorgasbord spread 
before us for the taking. We go along and 
taste a variety of treats, but we do not sit 
down and savor a good meal. 

By the same token, there is a vast 
difference between "dwelling" and "linear" 
reading. Dwelling implies a spiral move- 
ment. We stand in one spot and go deeper. 
Linear suggests a horizontal approach aimed 
at expanding our knowledge. While both 


styles are necessary, an exclusively linear 
approach may cast us into a state of 
hyper-agitation. We have to be "in" with 
the latest. This tendency admittedly 
markets best-sellers, but what does it do to 
the spiritual classics? It can be an 
obstacle to the life of the spirit by 
fostering in people a penchant for "pop" 
spirituality rather than deepening faith. 

If outer informational listening is all 
that we do, what suffers is our capacity for 
meditative reflection. We may be prone to 
label a new book "progressive" or an old 
book "conservative" and feel no obligation 
to read it. Once a label is applied, we can 
escape the sometimes painful moment of 
reflection when we have to dwell on what the 
text is saying to us about our life 

The outer ear that gathers information 
is especially tempted to dismiss as 
irrelevant texts of old, for "What can a 
relic of the past teach us today?" This 
superficial response overlooks the wisdom 
found in the classical literature of 
spirituality. It cuts us off from a 
significant source of ongoing adult Christ- 
ian formation. 

V. Imbibing the Text 

To restore the art of formative 
reading, we have to try to devote time to 
this exercise, even if we only do so for ten 


or twenty minutes a day. We can sit down 
and read one psalm, for example, with our 
heart set to savor its meaning. Instead of 
turning from page to page searching .for 
something new, we stay with one verse, even 
one line. Through this slowed down 
approach, we meet God in the sacrament of 
the present moment. 

Faithful living implies, therefore, 
setting aside time for spiritual reading. 
Though our age tends to draw us away from 
interiority, preventing rather than 
encouraging us to ruminate, dwell, and 
listen with an inner ear, we must return to 
the classics. It is in this state of 
receptive presence that the words of 
scripture, as well as the writings of 
classic and contemporary spiritual masters, 
come alive for us. Such reading, done in a 
slowed-down way on a regular basis, 
reestablishes our commitment to Christ while 
helping us to let go of peripheral concerns. 

Formative reading is uplifting, but 
these gratuitous moments are not guaranteed. 
The danger is that we may grow discouraged 
if nothing happens. God asks us to remain 
faithful to his words in all circumstances, 
even if our human minds can never fully 
understand their meaning, even if our 
actions fail at times to conform to our 
beliefs . 

In addition to setting aside time, we 
must learn to slow down and read 
reflectively. We may even mark whatever in 


the text evokes a spontaneous resonance or 
resistance and ask ourselves why we feel 
this way. In the course of time, after 
persistent practice of this spiritual 
exercise, we may find that the words we read 
begin to take on a life of their own inside 
of us. Their wisdom sinks into our heart. 
It affects our thoughts and actions. We 
want to share the fruits of this 
transformation with others in need of 
inspiration — with our children, parish- 
ioners, colleagues, students. 

In this way we experience the passage 
from reading to meditation to action. To 
read is to receive the word into the heart; 
to meditate is to listen to its deeper 
meaning; to act implies a silent exchange of 
love in which we know that the Lord is the 
source of our strength. Relaxed and 
refreshed by these experiences, we can 
return to the task at hand. 

As we increase our attentiveness to 
sacred texts, new ranges of significance 
light up. The text stimulates us to go 
beyond superficial interpretations. We 
learn to wait upon the word, to reread a 
text of depth several times. The older we 
grow, the more meanings we are likely to 
detect. We accept that the mystery of grace 
does not have to conform to our time frame. 
We wait in gentle anticipation for lights to 
emerge. We ask God to help us to reach 
deeper levels of wisdom, whenever and 
however he chooses to grant this gift. 


We could compare reading a spiritual 
text in this fashion to puzzling a "koan." 
A "koan" is a riddle a Buddhist spiritual 
master might give to a disciple, not because 
he wants the disciple to solve the puzzle 
rationally but because he wants him to live 
in the wonderment of not being able to find 
a solution. If the disciple were to decipher 
the message, he would become a mere master 
of the word, taking pride in his expertise 
and^ thus losing the whole point of the 
exercise--to foster humility and to learn 
that the gift of enlightenment is beyond 
one's power to control. 

The Western disciple, in a similar 
vein, might desire when reading a text from 
scripture, to become a master of exegesis, 
linguistics, or biblical history only. This 
mastery, worthwhile as it may be, can also 
pose an obstacle to formative reading. If 
we exercise our capacity to master the text 
by means of study only, we may mi"ss its 
experiential connection. Analyzing the text 
is one thing. Imbibing it in intimate 
presence to God is another. 

The rational intellect, highly 
developed in the West, facilitates abstract 
reasoning and information sciences, but in 
and by itself it cannot grasp the full 
significance of spiritual texts as life 
messages. The text is an invitation, not an 
answer; a question, not a solution. 
Formative reading appeals to the reader to 
identify experiential with the faith search 


recorded in the text, to try and 
re-experience t*^' make it one's own. 

VI. How We Live It 

Ordinarily during our busy active work 
days, we live on the level of discursive 
reasoning. We have to manage our lives, 
organize schedules, get things done, conduct 
meetings. For important tasks like these we 
need to draw upon our rational, organizing 
intellect. We must also be able, on a 
regular basis, to "bracket" this functional 
mind when we approach a spiritual text in 
faith. We must now go to that text not so 
much to master it but to humbly dispose 
ourselves to be mastered by it. We respect 
its power to penetrate the surface mind and 
to draw us into a deeper level of wisdom. 
What awakens is not merely our exterior 
senses but those more interior intuitions 
that ready us for the experience of divine 
intimacy, should God grant this grace to us. 

Beyond the information that comes 
through the discursive intellect, we 
discover in an experiential way what it is 
like to live in the awareness of God's 
presence that transcends explanatory effort. 
Whereas theology helps us to understand the 
truths of revelation, spirituality points to 
their proximate lived reality. Formative 
spirituality asks not so much why we live 
the faith but how we live it. This 
knowledge of the heart is what classical 


spiritual masters want to communicate so 
that we, their readers, can come to live 
personally the mystery of our faith. 

If we wish to hear the Spirit speaking 
to us through the words of the masters, we 
have to be at peace with the fact that their 
message may at times appear to be cryptic. 
We may not understand it on first reading 
and, in a sense, it ought not be understood 
that easily. New layers of meaning continue 
to be revealed to us each time we return to 
the text. As we develop and deepen the art 
and discipline of formative reading, we also 
open ourselves to God's grace alive and at 
work in us. The words we read may be the 
same, but their meaning is different. In a 
sense, the text discloses its secrets to us 
as we grow in wisdom and grace before the 

Texts that seemed easy to ■ understand 
may become more paradoxical. The faith we 
took for granted challenges us anew. God 
becomes a "dazzling darkness." The Spirit 
is a "speaking silence." What does it mean 
to lose myself in order to find myself in 
God, to decrease that God may increase? How 
mysterious, strange and wonderful it is not 
only. to know about God (information) but to 
begin to come to know God (formation) . 

VII. Re-sourcing Ourselves 

Our goal as Christians is to become not 
the masters, but the servants of the Word. 


Mastery is appropriate when we are composing 
a term paper or taking minutes at a meeting. 
When we turn to sacred writers, our role is 
different. In docility to the Spirit, who 
leads us to truth and who searches the deep 
things of God, we are to use our times of 
spiritual reading to heighten our knowledge 
and love of God, to reaffirm the gift of our 

To read formatively is to retire 
momentarily from our busy life of service so 
that we can once again re-source ourselves 
in the wisdom of the masters. Only then can 
we appraise whether the Spirit is truly 
speaking in our life or whether we are 
listening solely to the sound of our own 
voice. The words of the masters aid us in 
this assessment. As the complexities of 
modern life compound, we need to read the 
classics. Their appeal for simplicity 
becomes compelling in a world where, as 
Henry David Thoreau said so aptly in Walden , 
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet 
desperation. " 

We Christians are called to be 
shepherds of the sacred dimension of 
reality, to transform the world into the 
house -of God. There is an acute need in our 
culture for spiritual leaders, formed by the 
classics, who will guide us out of the 
wasteland of spiritual regression toward the 
promised land of faithful living. 

The way of formative reading is the way 
of discipleship. It helps us to follow 


Christ more faithfully in this world so that 
we may enjoy his company forever in the 
next. With St. Paul we, too, can say: 

Not that I have already obtained 
this or have already reached the 
goal; but I press on to make it my 
own, because Christ Jesus has made 
me his own. Beloved, I do not 
consider that I have made it my 
own; but this one thing I do: 
forgetting what lies behind and 
straining forward to what lies 
ahead, I press on toward the goal 
for the prize of the heavenly call 
of God in Christ Jesus. Let those 
of us then who are mature be of 
the same mind; and if you think 
differently about anything, this 
too God will reveal to you.. Only 
let us hold fast to what we have 
attained (Phil. 3: 12-16, NRSV) . 


Augustine, Saint. The Confessions of St. 
Augustine . Translated by John K. Ryan. 
Garden City: Doubleday, Image , 1960. 

Eliot, T. S. The Complete Poems and Plavs, 
1909-1950 . New York: Harcourt, Brace & 
World, 1934. 


Kierkegaard, Soren. Purity of Heart Is to 
Will One Thing . Translated by Douglas 
V. Steere. New York: Harper, 1956. 

Muto, Susan. Blessings that Make Us Be: A 
Formative Approach to Living the Beati- 
tudes . Petersham: St. Bede's, 1982. 

. A Practical Guide to Spiritual 

Reading . Petersham: St. Bede's, 1995. 
. Pathways of Spiritual Living . 

Petersham: St. Bede's, 1991. 
. Approaching the Sacred: An 

Introduction to Spiritual Reading . 
Denville: Dimension Books, 1975. 

. Steps along the Wav. : The Path of 

Spiritual Reading . Denville: Dimension 
Books, 1975. 

. The Journey Homeward: On the Road 

of Spiritual Reading . Denville: Dimen- 
sion Books, 1977. 

and Adrian van Kaam. Divine 

Guidance: A Basic Directory to the God- 
Guided Life for all Believers . Ann 
Arbor: Resurrection, 1994. 

van Kaam, Adrian. Looking for Jesus . 

Denville: Dimension Books, 1978. 


The Woman at the Well. Denville: 

Dimension Books, 1976. 

The Mystery of Transforming Love . 

Denville: Dimension Books, 1982. 

and Susan Muto. Commitment: Kev to 

Christian Maturity . New York: Paulist, 

and Susan Muto. Commitment: Kev to 

Christian Maturity, A Workbook and 
Study Guide . New York: Paulist, 1991. 


By Jerry Flora* 

One Person : The Reality 

Her name was Alberta, and I called her 
my mystic. At ninety years of age she was 
attractive, bright, and vital. She spoke to 
the audience gathered from many miles to 
hear her for what would likely be the last 
time. When she had settled into the chair 
provided for her and gotten acquainted with 
the microphone, she began to talk in her 
still-rich, mellow voice. 

She declared the ancient Christian 
truth that God is love and where love is, 
there God dwells. She spoke of life, 
reality, and mystery. She hinted at 
eternity, infinity, and mystery. She knew 
Christ, his Spirit, and Mystery. She had 
walked so far into the light that we knew 
none of us there could catch her. As she 
spoke it was with the authority and 
conviction of one who has peered into 
another world. 

The Bible, the hymnal, the saints, the 
sacraments--they were her friends. In her 
home was a room dedicated to her work of 
prayer, filled with aids to prayer and 
mementos of teachers, colleagues, and pupils 
in prayer. Glenn Clark, Gerald Heard, E. 

*Dr. Flora is Professor of New Testament 
Theology at Ashland Theological Seminary. 


Stanley Jones, Albert E. Day, Frank 
Laubach — she knew them, studied under them, 
or worked alongside them. 

She was in love with Jesus Christ, 
filled with his Spirit, burning with the 
mystery that is God. She had served, suf- 
fered, and sung, and laughter or an open 
smile often lighted her face. She was on 
fire, quietly blazing with the light of 
eternal day. 

When her talk concluded and the 
audience began to disperse, she asked for 
two women--both seminarians — to be brought 
to her. She had never met them, but 
something in their attention drew her to 
them. Quietly, unobtrusively she laid her 
hands on them, blessed them, and sent them 
away filled with awe. 

I am writing this a year, after her 
death, which occurred a few days before her 
ninety-second birthday. Those who knew her 
speak quietly of the wonder that was this 
woman. She was consumed with the reality 
that is God, the mvsterium tremendum et 
fascinans. She was totally fire. ' 

Alberta was one model of a Christian 
who has been spiritually formed. In the ten 
or twelve years that I knew her we saw each 
other only six or eight times. We corre- 
sponded fitfully and conversed by telephone 
on rare occasions. But the note of authen- 
ticity in her was unmistakable; the reality 
of God in her was undeniable. She was an 
athlete of the spirit, and I am a different. 


better Christian for knowing her. 

What is it that produces such a power- 
ful individual? What forms, re-forms, and 
transforms followers of Christ like this? 
Spirituality is a hot topic in the closing 
years of this millennium. The marketplace 
of ideas and products is filled with a 
plethora of possibilities. Christian spir- 
ituality has become a major concern in 
churches and seminaries across the United 
States. Pastors and professors alike are 
seeking ways to know God for themselves, to 
experience and nurture ultimate reality as 
it is in Jesus Christ, and to lead col- 
leagues and congregations to vital Christian 
living in a post-Christian world. 

One Decade : The Resources 

There is no single way to think about 
spirituality or spiritual formation. What 
has emerged as a congeries of concerns in 
the 'nineties brings with it a variety of 
conceptions as well. Let us take a quick 
look at some descriptions of spiritual 
formation that have surfaced in the past 
decade. This brief review only scratches 
the surface of the mass that remains below, 
but these soundings give an idea of what is 
being discovered. 

In 1984 Susan A. Muto ' s Pathways of 
Spiritual Living was released. Author or 
co-author of twenty books on Christian faith 
and life. Dr. Muto is an acknowledged leader 


in the field of spiritual formation, 
especially through study of devotional 
classics. "Though salvation is ours," she 
writes, "though forgiveness is ours, the 
reality of our fallen condition means that 
the quest for holiness lasts a lifetime" 
(Muto, 1984, 28) . That is one excellent way 
of describing spiritual formation--the quest 
for holiness. This little book is an 
extended discussion of spiritual formation 
through the time-honored practice of lectio 
divina or sacred reading. As Dr. Muto 
develops it, the pathway to spiritual living 
includes solitude, silence, reading, jour- 
naling, meditation, prayer, contemplation, 
and serving God in the world. Her 190 pages 
provide meat for many miles. 1995 should 
see a new edition of one of her most 
acclaimed books: A Practical Guide to 
Spiritual Reading . 

Calvin Miller is a popular name in some 
reading circles, especially well known for 
his Singer Trilogy . 1984 saw the release of 
his small work The Table of Inwardness , a 
book on "nurturing our inner life in 
Christ." This work is especially notable 
for its beauty of style and the breadth of 
its coverage. Chapter 1 alone contains 
references to Francis of Assisi, Martin 
Luther, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, 
Brother Lawrence, Malcolm Muggeridge, and 
Mother Teresa. Here is a conservative 
Protestant who casts his net widely. 

Jerry R. Flora and Mary Ellen Drushal 


of Ashland Seminary prepared a leader's 
guide for using The Table of Inwardness in 
church classes. That guide. Spiritual 
Formation: A Personal Walk to Emmaus (1990), 
opens with this definition: "Spiritual 
formation is the deliberate process of 
learning to love God completely; learning to 
conform ourselves to the image of Christ ; 
and learning to walk in the Spirit / thus 
learning together to be friends of God" 
(Flora and Drushal, 1990, 3, altered) . Here 
are elements of process, learning, delib- 
erateness (both volitional and slow-paced) , 
trinitarian orientation, and corporate 

Asbury Theological Seminary was the 
first Protestant divinity school to estab- 
lish a department of spiritual formation 
(originally called the department of 
prayer) . It was headed for a number of 
years by Steven Harper who now works with 
Shepherd's Care, "a ministry to ministers." 
Dr. Harper edited a series of class study 
guides on spiritual formation prepared by 
the Asbury faculty. In his foreword to the 
series he offers this description: "Spir- 
itual formation blends the best of 
traditional discipleship concepts with the 
more reflective disciplines of an individual 
journey toward friendship with God. It is a 
lifestyle, not a program, a relationship 
•rather than a system, a journey instead of a 
roadmap. It calls us into holy partnership 
with God for our spiritual development" 


(Harper, 1987, 7) . Each phrase in this 
excellent description deserves the most 
careful pondering. 

Howard L. Rice, chaplain and professor 
at San Francisco Theological Seminary, has 
written Reformed Spirituality . which 
includes a commendatory foreword by Morton 
Kelsey, formerly on the faculty of Notre 
Dame University, an Episcopal priest reared 
in the Reformed tradition. Kelsey wonders 
why the riches of Reformed spirituality have 
been hidden or lost to so many for' so long. 
Dr. Rice has rightly shown the way to 
recovering this treasure. The quantity and 
quality of his bibliography show that this 
is no soft-headed area when it comes to 

W. Paul Jones divides his year equally: 
for six months he is Professor of 
Philosophical Theology at a United Methodist 
seminary, and in the other half he is a 
Family Brother of the Trappist Order. This 
social activist father of five published 
The Province Beyond the River in 1981 to 
chronicle his experience as a Protestant in 
a Catholic monastery. In his 1992 work 
Trumpet at Full Moon, Dr. Jones conceives of 
spirituality and theology as two sides of a 
single coin: spirituality means living 
one's theology; theologizing, in turn, means 
articulating into self-consciousness one's 
spirituality (Jones, 1992, 8) . His book, 
"an introduction to Christian spirituality 
as diverse practice, " points consistently to 


the rich resources available in Scripture, 
history, theology, literature, music, 
liturgy, and art. 

Lutheran author Bradley P. Holt has 
recently given us an excellent survey in 
Thirsty for God: A Brief History of 
Christian Spirituality . Here may be the 
ideal brief text for personal study and for 
class use. Professor of Religion at Augs- 
burg College in Minneapolis and a former 
theological educator in Nigeria, Holt has 
prepared 150 pages packed with helpfulness. 
For hiip. Christian spirituality "refers in 
the first place to lived experience"; that 
is, "a particular style of Christian disci- 
pleship" lived out in the context of the 
community which is the body of Christ. 
Second, it is what might be termed 
"spiritual theology, " an academic discipline 
alongside doctrinal or systematic theology 
(Holt, 1991, 6-7) . Each chapter of Holt text 
concludes with discussion questions, exer- 
cises in spiritual disciplines, and sug- 
gested readings. This outstanding little 
book deserves to be within arm's reach of 
every alert pastor and Christian worker. 

One of the best-known names in 
spiritual formation for the past fifteen 
years has been that of Richard J. Foster, 
who has recently moved to California where 
he heads Renovare, a new organization 
intending to highlight the best in five 
spiritual movements. His colleague James 
Bryan Smith has published A Spiritual 


Formation Workbook in which he associates 
these five traditions with aspects of the 
life of Christ: (1) compassion for others — 
the social justice movement; (2) scriptural 
and evangelistic--the evangelical movement; 

(3) devotion to God — the contemplative move- 
ment; (4) virtue in all of life — the holi- 
ness movement; and (5) Spirit empowered-- the 
charismatic movement (Smith, 1993, 16) . 
Here is a reminder that true spiritual 
formation tends to broaden our awareness of 
Christ and his people. We discover kinships 
across what were thought to be forbidden 
zones or even enemy territory. 

Invitation to a Journey is the title of 
a recent introduction by M. Robert Mulhol- 
land, Jr., provost and a New Testament pro- 
fessor at Asbury Theological Seminary. 
Known for both exegetical competence and 
concern for spiritual formation, Mulholland 
has produced an engaging text that moves 
from the nature of spiritual formation 
through personality, piety, and personal 
disciplines to corporate and social spirit- 
uality. He uses a fourfold definition: 
Spiritual formation is "(1) a process (2) of 
being conformed (3) to the image of Christ 

(4) for the sake of others" (Mulholland, 
1993, 15) . Along the way he anchors his 
discussion in the best of Scripture study, 
psychological discoveries, and the classic 
traditions of how Christians grow. 

A final example of recent discussion is 


The Upward Call , a work jointly authored by 
four leaders in the Church of the Nazarene. 
This book by and for believers in the 
Wesleyan-holiness tradition defines its 
subject as follows: Spiritual formation is 
"the whole person in relationship with God, 
within the community of believers, growing 
in Christ-likeness, reflected in a Spirit- 
directed, disciplined lifestyle, and 
demonstrated in redemptive action in our 
world" (Tracy et al, 1994, 12) . Prepared 
for church study classes. The Upward Call 
discusses the path, resources for the jour- 
ney, companions on the way, and how to serve 
others on the journey. 

With such imagery as the pathway, the 
table, the thirst, and the call these 
writers of the last decade try to describe 
and interpret our human experience of 
interacting with God. This is focused for 
us in Jesus Christ our Lord who is both 
source, content, and goal. In spiritual 
forination we intend to nurture our 
relationship with God through him. We "are 
seriously committed to disciplines and 
practices required for growing in the mind 
and spirit of Christ" (Day, 1988, 184) . We 
participate by the gift and power of his 
Holy Spirit on the basis of Holy Scripture 
in the community of the Holy Church. All 
this is both individual and corporate, 
theoretical and experiential, forming and 
being transformed. We engage in it for the 
glory of God, the good of our neighbors, and 


the fulfillment of our own creation. 

This quest for holiness, this call to 
commitment, is as old as the Christian 
movement. In the desert of fourth-century 
Egypt lived a famous spiritual guide, Abba 
Joseph. Believers sought him out for 
discernment and words of wisdom to direct 
their lives. On one occasion a visitor 
said, "Abba Joseph, I say my daily prayers, 
I fast, I meditate, I live in peace, and I 
discipline my thoughts as best I can. What 
more can I do?" 

According to the story, Abba Joseph 
stood up, stretched his hands toward heaven, 
and his fingers became ten flaming torches. 
He said to his visitor, "Why not become 
totally fire?" (Ward, 1984, 103, para- 
phrased) . 

Both world and church today are 
desperate for leaders who will pay the price 
of such transformation. Alberta was "one who 
did, and lived a remarkable life of example, 
instruction, and intercession. She modeled 
the reality; the writers above mention the 
resources. The rest is up to us. 

Totally fire . . . why not? 


Day, Albert Edward. 1988. Discipline and 

Discovery . Rev. ed. Springdale, PA: 

Whitaker House for The Disciplined 

Order of Christ, Nashville, TN. 


Flora, Jerry R., and Mary Ellen Drushal . 
1990. Spiritual Formation: A Personal 
Walk to Emmaus. Ashland, OH: The 
Brethren Church. 

Harper, Steven. 1987. Embrace the Spirit: 
An Invitation to Friendship with God . 
Victor Books. Wheaton, IL: SP Publi- 
cations . 

Holt, Bradley P. 1993. Thirsty for God: A 
Brief Historv of Christian Spirit- 
uality . Minneapolis: Augsburg 
Fortress . 

Jones, W. Paul. 1992. Trumpet at Full Moon: 
An Invitation to Spirituality as 
Diverse Practice . Louisville, KY: 
Westminster/ John Knox. 

1981. The Province Beyond the 

River: The Diary of a Protestant at a 
Trappist Monastery . Nashville, TN: 
The Upper Room. 

Miller, Calvin. 1984. The Table of 
Inwardness . Downers Grove, IL: 
InterVarsity . 

Mulholland, M. Robert, Jr. 1993. Invitation 
to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual 
Formation. Downers Grove, IL: Inter- 


Muto, Susan Annette. 1984. Pathways of 
Spiritual Living . Petersham, MA: St. 
Bede' s . 

. 1976. A Practical Guide to 

Spiritual Reading . Denville, NJ: 
Dimension Books. 

Rice, Howard L. 1991. Reformed Spirit- 
uality: An Introduction for Believers . 
Louisville, KY: Westminster/ John Knox. 

Smith, James Bryan. 1993. Spiritual Forma- 
tion Workbook: Small-Group Resources 
for Nurturing Christian Growth. New 
York, NY: HarperCollins. 

Tracy Wesley D., E. Dee Freeborn, Janine 
Tartaglia, and Morris >A. Weigelt. 
1994. The Upward Call: Spiritual 
Formation and the Holy Life . Kansas 
City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas 

Ward, Benedicta (trans.). 1984. The 

Sayings of the Desert Fathers : The 
Alphabetical Collection . Rev. ed. 
Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publica- 
tions . . 

By Elaine A. Heath* 

Personal faith nurture, the careful 
tending of one soul's health by another, is 
in short supply these days. We are hurried 
people, busy people, estranged people, 
anemic people. In our haste to go important 
places and do important things, we have 
taken the swing off the front porch of our 
souls, removed the welcome mat, and turned 
off the lights. It is not that we meant to 
become isolated. It just happened. 

There are seasons in our lives when 
spiritual direction is more needful, times 
when we are driven to hang the swing back on 
the porch and call a trusted friend. While 
group direction is perhaps adequate for most 
people most of the time, (small Bible study 
fellowships, a Sunday School class) , at 
certain junctures in life one-on-one 
direction is necessary. Adolescent and 
midlife crises, grief due to death or other 
loss, times of difficult vocational 
decision-making, and times of "spiritual 
darkness" are all times for personal 
direction. In these contexts, as Adrian van 
Kaam puts it, spiritual direction is not 

*Elaine A, Heath is completing her studies 
at ATS for an M.Div. degree in theology. She 
plans to pursue doctoral studies in theology 
and spirituality with the goal of teaching 
in a seminary. 


mainly to educate the mind, nor relieve the 
Christian's bodily, cultural, or psycho- 
logical needs, but " assist his 
innermost search for his spiritual 
identity. "^ 

The search for spiritual identity is a 
continuous process for all of us, though, 
whether in crisis or not. The search for 
spiritual identity is, quite simply, the 
search for God. It is the quest of all 
quests, the homing instinct of the human 
heart. Without spiritual direction we tend 
to, in the words of an old country western 
ballad, "go lookin' for love in all the 
wrong places." Evelyn Underhill puts her 
finger on the problem when she speaks of our 
restlessness, heroisms, and attainments as 
the effort to "still that strange hunger for 
some final object of devotion,. .. some great 
and perfect Act within which your little 
activity can be merged."^ 

While private, one-way direction is, as 
van Kaam says, not available to most 
Christians and is filled with risks, ^ 
companionable direction is not only 
accessible, it is a key factor in "stilling 
the strange hunger." We need companions, 
fellow travellers who walk with us in our 
restless, homesick longings, who help us 
find our way home to the One who is Love. 
As Simone Weil wrote in a letter to one of 
her spiritual friends, "... nothing among 
human things has such power to keep our gaze 


fixed ever more intensely upon God, than 
friendship for the friends of God."'' 

Macarius, one of the outstanding spirit 
spiritual giants in Eastern Orthodoxy in the 
last century, writes of the necessity for 
spiritual direction for anyone serious about 
a deeper life in Christ: "Whenever we set 
out firmly to tread the inner path, a storm 
of temptations and persecutions always 
assails us. It is because of the dark host 
that spiritual direction is profitable, nay 
necessary to us whether we retire to a 
monastery or continue to live in the world. "^ 

What is the "dark host" of which 
Macarius speaks? It is the evil of this 
world, both within and without one's own 
soul. It is also the desolation of some who 
travel the inner way, seasons that John of 
the Cross called "dark nights of the soul." 
For those who love God, there is probably 
nothing more frightening, more spiritually 
alienating, yet more purifying than dark 
nights of the soul. These are seasons when 
God and things spiritual seem to have 
evaporated, when the abyss seems to have 
opened within one's own soul. , Spiritual 
darkness cannot be theologized or psy- 
chologized away, nor can it be assuaged by 
books, sermons, or advice. At such times 
the thing most needed is the presence, 
prayer, and love of another. Spiritual 
darkness, as Kenneth Leech says, is not a 
pathological condition in the Christian 
life, " is a symbol of the entire 


process of movement toward God. Those who 
enter the night never leave it, though the 
night changes."^ Thus we find spiritual 
companionship a critical need during 
spiritual desolations — dark nights of the 
soul . 

Surprisingly enough, then, those most 
in need of spiritual companionship and 
direction are those whose lives are given 
over to knowing God. If contemplatives are, 
as Kenneth Leech says, "the clear eyes of 
the church, " those most in need of special 
care,^ mystics and prophets are the heart and 
mouth, and equally in need. These are the 
ones who face the abyss both within 
themselves and mystically, intercessorily, 
on behalf of the Church. As Paul wrote, 
they are the ones who "...complete what is 
lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake 
of his body, that is, the. church" 
(Colossians 1:24). While we may easily argue 
for the importance of spiritual direction to 
anyone serious about discipleship, those who 
are most in need of support and com- 
panionship are those most sensitive to the 

What then, is the end result of good 
spiritual direction? First, one becomes 
increasingly aware of the movements within 
oneself, increasingly able to discern what 
is true and what is false, what is of the 
Spirit and what is of "the world, the flesh, 
and the devil." The Light shines with 
growing splendor in the thoughts of one's 


own heart. Rather than becoming more 
compulsive about religious duty, the 
maturing disciple grows more relaxed, less 
inhibited, more dependent upon God, more 
accepting and appreciative of life as it 
unfolds. There is a steady deepening and 
broadening of prayer. Fearful clinging 
gives way to generous release of all that 
one holds dear: people, places^ and things. 
Most telling of all is the increase of love. 
Those who go into the deeps of Christ are 
lavish, joyous lovers. Their hearts are 
warm, roomy, hospitable. Laughter and tears 
spring with equal ease from the fountain of 
their souls. 

Alan Jones speaks of spiritual 
direction as the force that helps us move 
from choosing to being chosen "Spiritual 
companionship helps me move from being a 
consumer to being a lover and a friend."^ 
It is the fidelity of holy, impassioned love 
that grows from spiritual companionship. Is 
this not the flame of God's own heart? 

The Long Tradition 

In his landmark work. Soul Friend , 
Kenneth Leech traces the history of 
spiritual direction from the early days of 
Eastern monasticism up to the present. From 
the start, spiritual directors focused on 
being, rather than doing. Directors taught 
by example more than words . The fourth and 
fifth century desert fathers and mothers 


were regarded as just that - -spiritual 
parents. Tilden Edwards describes their 
style of direction, saying that following 
the Romanization of the church they 
"...replaced the bishop and presbyter as 
representative of Christ, but charis- 
matically, not hierarchically. His guidance 
was so personal that it often involved the 
disciples' living in the same cell, and 
learning from the abba's whole way of being, 
not just from his words. "^ 

Over time in the Western church, 
spiritual direction came to be associated 
with the confessional, a responsibility of 
priests. Even so, during the counter- 
Reformation contemplatives both among clergy 
and laity were often sought out as spiritual 
guides. In the Eastern church the role of 
the staretZf or spiritual guide, remains 
virtually intact today as it was in the 
third century. 

The phrase "soul friend" is Celtic in 
origin, coming from ancient pre-Christian 
spiritual traditions. The anmchara, or 
spiritual guides, were originally Druid 
shamans who advised Celtic chiefs. 
Following the advent of Christendom in the 
British Isles, the name came to signify a 
Christian spiritual guide. -^^ 

Spiritual direction has been a part of 
Protestant spirituality from the beginning, 
particularly in the form of letter writing. 
Early Lutheran leader Martin Bucer wrote On 
the True Cure of Souls (1538), a guide to 


pastoral care and spiritual direction 
ministries. Zwingli advised the occasional 
use of a spiritual counselor, while Calvin 
himself gave personal spiritual direction. -^^ 
The great Puritan, Richard Baxter, wrote 
A Christian Directory (1673) and The 
Reformed Pastor (1656), urging pastors to 
provide competent spiritual direction to 
their charges. It is noteworthy that 
Baxter, too, believed that strong Christians 
are the ones most in need of quality 
spiritual direction. -^^ 

Within early Wesleyanism,, spiritual 
direction was carried out within class and 
band meetings as well as through individual 
relationships. Mutuality and accountability 
were stressed in these nurturing efforts. 

Howard Rice, in his excellent history 
of Reformed spirituality, lauds the Puritan 
method of spiritual direction. Rather than 
being a function of ordained clergy, 
spiritual guidance was sought among those 
with the necessary spiritual gifts. "Since 
Puritanism was a grassroots movement of the 
people, pastors were not the center of 
spiritual guidance. People tended to choose 
their peers. This was especially true of 
women, who became spiritual guides for one 
another. "'^^ 

From the earliest times women as well 
as men have served as spiritual mentors. 
St. Macrina, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of 
Siena, Teresa of Avila, Mme . Jeanne Guyon, 
and Evelyn Underhill are but a few. Like 


female intellectuals and artists, most 
female spiritual giants have remained in 
obscurity because of patriarchal eccle- 
siastic structures and historiography. 

Interestingly, Tilden Edwards remarks 
that in his experience, he has found more 
potentially gifted women than men as 
spiritual guides/" Some would say the 
discrepancy is because women are inherently 
more intuitive and nurturing than men. 
Others would attribute the phenomenon to 
social conditioning. (And some, we might 
add, would take general offense at Edwards' 
observation!) Edwards' comments about 
spiritual quality and sexual complemen- 
tarity are worthy of full quotation: 

There have been recorded Christian 
women spiritual guides from the 
early days of the church onward. 
These included guides of men and 
mutual spiritual friend-ship with 
them (the most well-known perhaps 
being the relationship of John of 
the Cross and Teresa of Avila) . 
There seems to be an unquenchable 
sexual equality and comple- 
mentarity in spiritual wisdom that 
cannot be held down, even though 
oppressed. (This contrasts with 
the much more uniformly male 
dominance of speculative theology 
and doctrinal development.)-^^ 


Whether spiritual companions are male 
or female, (ideally we will have both) , 
their gifts help us to find and embrace 
reality. In the words of Evelyn Underhill, 
they assist in "...the transformation of our 
personal, professional, and political life 
into something more consistent with our real 
situation as small, dependent, fugitive 
creatures, all sharing the same limitations 
and inheriting the same half-animal past."-^^ 
The history of spiritual direction is 
the story of women and men turning into the 
bracing winds of life together, hearts open 
to God, minds illumined by the Spirit, arms 
lovingly held out to the world. 

"And Who is Equal to Such a Task? 

II 17 

Who indeed? Paul spoke honestly as he 
pondered his own ministerial call. Is 
anyone equal to the high and holy task of 
spiritual guidance? We must answer "yes" 
and "no" with equal vigor. God calls and 
equips the most unlikely souls to do his 
choicest work. He takes particular pleasure 
in things "foolish, small, weak, and 
despised. "^^ Even a cursory trip through the 
Bible tells us that. So our first answer 
is: yes, anyone is potentially equal to the 
task. The challenge, though, is in the 
words "call" and "equip." How does one know 
one is called? How does one become 
equipped? What are the signs of giftedness 
in the area of spiritual companionship? 


These are vital questions, for the work of 
spiritual direction must never be taken 
casually. It cannot be done with integrity 
apart from God's empowerment. 

Alan Jones writes of the surprise 
element of the call. People spontaneously 
begin to seek "the called one" out, and he 
or she does not understand why. At that 
point, Jones wisely counsels, it is time to 
get in touch with "...a long and honorable 
tradition and begin to learn about those who 
have preceded him or her."^^ The spiritual 
guide's nurture and protection are ensured 
by remaining in community with other 
spiritual companions through the ages, as 
well as in community with a local body of 
the Church. 

Those who are truly gifted to be 
spiritual guides are averse to advertising 
themselves as such. As Christopher Bryant 
puts it, "For the most part they are pressed 
into the position by those who discern in 
them the qualities of insight and sympathy 
that they desire in a guide of souls. "^° 
Tilden Edwards says the chief criterion in 
the selection of participants for Shalem 
Institute's spiritual directors' training 
program, is whether others spontaneously 
seek out the person for spiritual counsel. ^^ 

At this point it is good for us to 
pause and remember that God guides us to 
those we need to have as spiritual 
companions. The kinds of companions God 
chooses for us are sometimes surprising. As 

we mature, we need have different needs, so 
God provides the ones who will help in the 
various legs of the journey. (Notice, 
incidentally, that the word "companions" is 
plural. No one person can provide all the 
companionship or guidance . that another 
person needs.) The key in all of this is 
God's initiative on both sides--the matter 
of calling and equipping and the matter of 
discovering our spiritual friends. 

What then, for the spiritual guide, is 
needed in the way of preparation? This is 
an extremely important, even controversial 
question. The answer to it depends upon the 
kind of spiritual direction one is doing. 
On one end of the spectrum we find the 
argument that no one is ready to give 
spiritual guidance until they have completed 
many years of formal training in the areas 
of psychology and spirituality. This view, 
of course, is reasonable for those who 
engage in one-way, therapeutic direction 
that includes psychotherapy. On the other 
end of the spectrum are those who point to 
the great spiritual masters through the ages 
who ministered with tremendous power long 
before the advent of modern psychology. 
Spiritual giftedness is the primary equip- 
ment for the guide. This view is more 
suited to companionable ' or mentor style 
direction. Morton Kelsey attempts to strike 
a balance between the two poles: 

The great directors of con- 


science, the great spiritual 
guides, have had an instinctive 
knowledge of what makes human 
beings tick, and so they were able 
to reach other human beings and to 
facilitate miracles of trans- 
formation. However, few of them 
could pass on their intuitive 
understanding. The science of 
psychology is not yet one hundred 
years old. It has provided an 
accumulated body of data about how 
human beings operate. If we would 
lead others or ourselves upon the 
spiritual journey it is foolhardy 
to ignore the findings of the 
least of modern psychology. It is 
like going to a hungry third-world 
country with no knowledge of 
modern agriculture.^^ 

Kelsey's affirmation of modern 
psychology is apt, yet we cannot help but 
ask ourselves how relevant it is for the 
thousands of ordinary people God gifts as 
spiritual guides, who have no hope to study 
modern psychology. Many devout and gifted 
believers in remote regions of the world, or 
even the decaying neighborhoods of Detroit, 
will never have the opportunity of advanced 
education. As Kelsey himself points out, 
the intuitive gifts necessary for powerful 
spiritual guidance, cannot be passed on. 
They are charisms, gifts from God, given 


according to his will. I would add that all 
the psychological tools in the world are 
useless to spiritual growth, without the 
divine empowerment of the Holy Spirit. 

Timothy Jones argues that we do not 
need professional training or credentials to 
help another in his or her journey. We 
mostly need to just make ourselves available 
to others and convey in simple ways what we 
are learning about God.^^ 

Whether one has the tools of formal 
psychology or not, God himself does most of 
the preparation for spiritual direction. 
From the director's own life journey grow 
the humility, wisdom, discernment, patience, 
detachment, simplicity, self-knowledge, 
purity, warmth, gentleness, honesty, love, 
and deep prayerfulness that are needed for 
this work. It takes little reflection to 
conclude that God's educative process is 
gradual, long-term, and made up of the 
ordinary stuff of life. There is no greater 
preparation than suffering. 

Dom Bede Frost writes of the particular 
sufferings common .to those called to 
spiritual direction. They must endure many 
seasons of aridity in prayer, dark nights of 
the soul, sensations of being abandoned by 
God which include, at times, physical 
suffering. Great spiritual guides, more 
than anyone else, "...dwell in the wilder- 
ness in silence, obscurity, and suffering."^'' 
Their lives are often a kind of spiritual 
obstacle course, with one trial after 


another. In this way their faith is 
purified. In repeated brokenness they are 
driven to God for himself alone. Their 
spiritual authority and power flow from 
their very brokenness and dependence upon 

Loneliness, self-contempt, and moral 
ambiguity are "the triple agony" known by 
all who give true spiritual direction, 
writes Alan Jones. ^^ The battles within 
oneself are the birthing room of holiness. 
If self-knowledge is the foundation to 
anyone's spiritual growth, it is doubly so 
in one who would lead others closer to 
Christ. True directors must be experienced 
in the deep struggles of life, firmly 
accepting of their own humanity,- their own 
mix-fed condition, and committed to ongoing 
direction themselves. They must be beyond 
the "mid-life hurdle" which usually takes 
place in the mid-thirties, in order to 
accept their own finitude and to have 
matured past the drivenness and consuming 
appetites of young adulthood. ^^ 

Alan Jones describes the interior 
freedom and purity in such a one as the 
embodiment of the three ancient monastic 
virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. 
These qualities draw others, who "...can 
dare approach him [or her] and ask for help 
because this kind of poverty of spirit 
creates around itself an open and free 
space . "^^ 

If we could summarize the qualities, 


experiences, and character of those called 
and equipped for spiritual direction, 'we 
would have to say that authentic spiritual 
guides are people whose lives are utterly 
abandoned to God. 

Creating an Open Space 

Having considered the purpose and need 
for spiritual direction, the "long and 
time-honored tradition, " and the calling and 
equipping of spiritual guides, we are now 
ready to focus our attention upon the nature 
of the relationship itself. What is the 
difference between pastoral counseling and 
spiritual direction? Is a truly mutual 
spiritual friendship possible, advisable, or 
necessary? What does spiritual direction 
look like? Here we enter the murky waters 
of controversy. 

Pastoral counseling can include 
spiritual direction, but for the most part 
it is like its sister discipline, psycho- 
therapy. People usually go to a counselor 
because they are "diseased, " overwhelmed 
with problems that are too big to handle 
alone. Thus both pastoral counseling and 
psychotherapy are crisis-centered, aimed at 
problem solving and the restoration of 
coping skills. Spiritual guidance, on the 
other hand, is life-process centered, having 
to do with ongoing spiritual health. 
Kenneth Leech goes so far as to say that one 
needs to be emotionally stable and healthy 


for spiritual direction to work. "The 
ministry of spiritual direction indeed is 
more important when there are no particular 
crises. "^^ He makes further distinctions by 
saying that counseling is clinic or 
office-based, while spiritual direction is 
rooted firmly in one's family, community, 
and congregational life contexts. ^^ Dyckman 
and Carroll see yet another distinction in 
that the direction session will involve 
frequent pauses for reflection and prayer 
concerning what has been discussed. "^° 
Scripture may also be used in these pauses. 
Thus there is an intentional waiting upon 
God by both the director and the directee 
throughout the session. It is very clear 
that the Holy Spirit is the real director. 

There are four reasons why at least 
some knowledge of psychology is helpful to 
those who give spiritual guidance. 
Christopher Bryant emphasizes the need for 
self-knowledge in the director, a task that 
is aided by psychology. The deepening 
knowledge of one's own psycho-spiritual 
amalgam enables the director to intuitively 
understand, empathize with, and touch the 
need of the directee. ^^ 

Spiritual guides must also be able to 
see when a referral is needed. While strug- 
gles with sexuality, childhood scars, and 
authority are normal issues in spiritual 
growth, these and other issues may require 
professional therapeutic assistance. Some- 
times a person needs both spiritual 


direction and therapeutic help. For this 
reason it is a good idea for spiritual 
guides to build a network of relationships 
with others in helping professions so that 
when referrals are needed, resource people 
are available. 

The third reason some knowledge of 
psychology is important is that an 
understanding of basic personality types 
(i.e. Jung's models) can be very helpful in 
understanding the particular clusters of 
strengths and weaknesses a person will 
usually have in conjunction with his or her 
personality. Both in understanding and 
affirming the directee, and in knowing what 
kinds of spiritual disciplines to suggest, a 
knowledge of personality theory can be 
valuable. The caution here, of course, is 
that no one fits a "type" perfectly. One of 
the aims of spiritual direction is to help 
people embrace and give expression to the 
underdeveloped aspects of their person- 
alities. (At this point we have to smile at 
God's "built-in" balancing act in creating 
us to be intuitively attracted to those with 
personalities complementary to our own!) 

The fourth helpful aspect of psychology 
to spiritual direction is a basic knowledge 
of human developmental phases. The ego 
issues of an eighteen year old man are 
different from those of a sixty year old 
grandmother. Spiritual guides need to be 
familiar with the nature of transitional 
stages in life, particularly those of 


adolescence and midlife. Often a person's 
spiritual turmoil is linked to these natural 
transitions, but the connection is not 
always evident to the directee. Here again, 
though, we must exercise caution. A so- 
called midlife crisis of identity can happen 
to people as young as teenagers when the 
individual is very sensitive or gifted. 
Then again, some people are frozen in 
emotional adolescence until their golden 
years. There simply is no way to get around 
the uniqueness of each person's inner 

Having safely forded the tributaries of 
psychotherapy and spiritual direction, 
stepping gingerly across the stones of 
personality theory and psycho-spiritual 
developmental phases, let us take the plunge 
into mutuality vs. one-sidedness in the 
relationship of spiritual companions. First 
we will consider the claims of those who say 
a one-sided relationship is best. 

Tilden Edwards suggests that it is rare 
for two people who are "right" for each 
other as mutual guides, to find one another. 
(This is particularly true of marriage 
partners, who almost never make good 
spiritual directors for one another.) In 
Edwards' view, spiritual direction is more 
effective if it is one-way because the focus 
of the relationship is one person's life. 
There is not a cluttering of issues. ^^ In 
those rare cases where mutual direction is 
possible, Edwards advises structuring ses- 


sions so that the first half is devoted to 
one person, then the second half to the 
other . 

Timothy Jones, whose book. Mentor and 
Friend . generally favors mutuality and 
non-professionalism in spiritual guidance, 
speaks of the difficulties in establishing a 
completely mutual direction relationship. 
One partner may be inadequate, insensitive, 
lacking in sufficient wisdom or discernment 
to effectively guide the other. -^^ 

According to Elizabeth O'Connor, the 
vital ingredient that is missing in a mutual 
spiritual friendship (as opposed to a one- 
way direction relationship), is authority. -^^ 

Elizabeth O'Connor's position raises 
two critical questions about the nature of 
spiritual authority within the context of 
friendship, questions that are pivotal in 
the discussion of one-way direction vs. the 
friendship model. First, does increased 
intimacy in a relationship automatically 
decrease authority? Second, is it possible 
to simultaneously enjoy mutuality in a 
relationship and to exercise authority? 

Let us first consider the relationship 
of intimacy and authority. If we are to 
believe the biblical summons to ever- 
increasing intimacy with God, then we must 
question the assumption that authority and 
intimacy are not compatible. One of the 
first proofs of human intimacy with God is 
the disciple's yielded life. God's author- 
ity Increases in the human heart as the 


relationship becomes more intimate. If this 
is true of God, the source of all spiritual 
authority, then it must follow that it is 
true in relationships between human beings 
who are but vessels of divine authority. It 
is both possible and desirable to increase 
intimacy and maintain or increase spiritual 

We must also answer "yes" to the second 
question. Mutuality and the exercise of 
spiritual authority are not only possible, 
but normal in kingdom living. The problem 
lies not with authority per se, but with our 
impossible expectations of those who are 
spiritual, and our low expectations of 
friendship. The biggest problem of all is 
our worldly definition of authority. 

Spiritual authority, to our befuddled 
disappointment, is not expressed in terms of 
human hierarchy. Jesus' authority was 
equally powerful in the manger, the 
storm-tossed boat, and Pilate's judgment 
hall. Jesus' life and words teach us that 
authority is a matter of yieldedness to the 
Father's will. It has nothing to do with 
controlling people. Authority, rather, is 
over powers and principalities, over the 
forces of world, flesh, and devil that 
ravage human souls. Again and again Jesus 
told his ambitious and insecure disciples 
that "lording" is alien to kingdom life. 
Jesus' paradigm of an authority figure in 
the kingdom was a vulnerable, powerless 
slave (Luke 22:24-27) . Thus spiritual 


authority in a spiritual relationship is not 
a matter of one person having power over the 

There is also the matter of how we view 
friendship. If we approach all our friend- 
ships sacramentally, viewing them as 
reflections of the Triune God, then we are 
prepared to hear the authoritative Word in 
the context of those friendships. Alan 
Jones perceptively writes, "The remedy is to 
take our friendships more seriously than we 
do rather than insist on a qualitative 
difference between [spiritual] direction and 
friendship. "^^ 

What, then, is the essential role of 
the spiritual friend who would serve as a 
guide; for our souls? If his or her task is 
not to be "over" us in some way, what is it? 

Howard Rice likens the spiritual friend 
to a midwife. "The role of the guide is 
like that of a midwife, who assists the 
other in the process of giving birth to that 
which is seeking expression in the other's 
life... The midwife does not force the birth 
to occur, but stands by and gently assists 
in an appropriate way as needed. "^^ The 
spiritual friend is one who stands by to 
encourage, affirm, and at times assist with 
the increased birthing of Christ in another 
soul. Spiritual friendship is largely a 
matter of loving, attentive presence in one 
another's lives. With that in mind, let us 
now turn to the development of an 
intentional, nurturing, spiritual friend- 



A Faithful Friend is an Elixer of Life^^ 

As Alan Jones has written, spiritual 
friends are united to one another not 
directly but indirectly in God. "Only he is 
large enough to hold them together and, at 
the same time, maintain the distance between 
them which true friendship requires."^® 
Intentionality regarding the bond in Christ, 
is key in spiritual friendship. Personal 
affinity may be irrelevant. 

We might assume that all Christian 
friends want to be primarily bonded in 
Christ, but such is not the case. More 
often than not we Christians choose our 
friends the way everyone else does,.- based on 
personal affinity. Age, social groupings, 
education, occupation, marital status, 
denominational affiliation, and gender 
figure heavily in choice of Christian 
companions. Spirituality may or may not 
play a significant role. Spiritual friend- 
ships, on the other hand, are not based on 
personal affinity nor are they haphazard 
about spirituality. Instead, the relation- 
ship is focused, deliberately built to 
nurture one another in Christ. 

Pastor Charles Denison describes his 
search for spiritual friendship as a long 
and lonely process. After a careful search 
he tentatively began to develop an 
intentional spiritual relationship with an 


acquaintance. "Only after we had grown to 
trust one another - and that took awhile - 
did we agree to a serious weekly meeting to 
read, share, and pray together. . .We held one 
another accountable. .. and then we prayed, 
and I will never forget those prayers. "^^ 

Denison's simple description encap- 
sulates the ingredients of a fruitful 
spiritual friendship. It begins with an 
initial seeking out, a process that often 
takes time and perseverance. Then the two 
people agree to meet together to talk about 
expectations and hopes for their 
relationship. Once their aims are estab- 
lished (this can even be done covenantally, 
in writing) , regularly scheduled meetings 
are undertaken. The content of their times 
together is focused on spiritual nurture by 
means of formative reading, Godward sharing 
of life situations, prayer, and account- 
ability regarding any agreed-upon spiritual 
disciplines such as journaling or fasting. 

The shape of a given spiritual 
friendship will be unique, since each 
relationship is a kind of world unto itself. 
Seventeenth century spiritual director 
Francis Quillore insightfully spoke of the 
need to imitate God's creativity as we seek 
to support others in their journey. ^° God 
adapts himself to each of us, not forcing 
change, but adjusting his approach to the 
nuances of our temperaments. Gentle, 
respectful adaptation of approach to the 
real condition of our friend is a guiding 


principle in building a spiritual 

Timothy Jones offers several practical 
helps to getting the spiritual friendship 
off to a healthy start. ''^ An initial meeting 
should focus on both people's expectations 
for the relationship. It should be clearly 
stated that neither person is the answer- 
giver or authority over the other. If one 
person has sought the other out as a wiser, 
experienced guide, then it will be helpful 
to discuss the dynamics of a more one-sided 
relationship rather than mutual friendship. 
By making it plain in that situation that 
the relationship is primarily for spiritual 
nurture, not a general socializing 
friendship, boundaries can be set from the 
beginning, thereby preventing misunder- 
standings and hurt. 

After times and a meeting place have 
been agreed upon it is a good idea to 
specify a date to evaluate the relationship 
after a "trial run" of 3-4 meetings has 
taken place. At that time all aspects of 
the relationship need to be ' reviewed. 
Changes that seem needful can be agreed upon 
or an unsatisfactory relationship can be 
brought to a gentle conclusion. (It is 
important to recognize the need for a 
goodness of fit between both people. 
Sometimes a direction relationship does not 
work simply because of personality 
differences . ) 

Frequency of meetings may vary 


depending upon time constraints, presence or 
absence of crisis (greater frequency is 
needed during crisis times) , and distance to 
be travelled. In general a meeting every 3- 
6 weeks is adequate. Some friends prefer 
weekly meetings. Usually one hour provides 
enough time to share and pray. Letters and 
telephone calls may supplement face-to-face 
discussion. It almost goes without saying 
that individual spiritual companionship is a 
supplement to, not a replacement for regular 
corporate worship and ongoing participation 
in a spiritual community. 

It is helpful to have room and 
furniture arrangements that are simple, 
quiet, and comfortable. Conversation is 
facilitated by chairs that are at a slight 
angle rather than directly facing one 
another, and as close as possible while 
still providing leg room for both people. 
When planning the comfort of the room 
consider chair size, lighting, plants, art 
objects, ventilation, and a good supply of 
facial tissue. Probably the most important 
element is to be out of the main traffic 
flow, free from interruptions. 

In general it is good to begin and end 
the meeting with prayer. The beginning 
prayer is to help both people become 
"centered" and to focus on the hour to come. 
This prayer may include silence and a time 
of confession that deals with feelings of 
failure, sin, guilt, or anxiety. After 
confessional prayers it is important to pray 


thanksgiving for God's forgiveness and 
cleansing. Howard Rice suggests occasion- 
ally making the sign of the cross on the 
person's forehead at this time/^ The 
concluding prayer may be a benediction over 
the time and words shared, with supplication 
concerning specific issues raised. 
Thanksgiving and worship are important 
elements as well. As always, it is 
important to be sensitive to the Holy 
Spirit's leading regarding when and how to 
pray. The necessity of a listening posture 
cannot be over-emphasized. 

The primary subject matter for 
discussion is the person's life, 
particularly his or her feelings about what 
is happening in day to day living.. Signs of 
grace operating, spiritual disciplines that 
are being followed, blocks or aids to the 
person's prayer life, relational issues, 
dominant images of God and self, the 
person's dreams, spiritual experiences, 
expectations, faith issues, and life 
commitments are all ingredients of his or 
her spiritual formation. The companion's 
task is to help the friend discover God in 
the context of all these things. 

The most important human skill needed 
is the art of reflective listening.. By 
sensitively listening to and reflecting what 
is said we can help the other person 
articulate and objectify what is going on 
inside. In addition to words we must listen 
to body language, tone of voice, pictures or 



music shared, clothing, facial expressions, 
and what is not said. Dyckman and Carroll 
remind us that "...most people have very 
poor self images and find their stories 
discouraging and depressing or, worse, 
boring. The sensitive listener hears the 
bright spots and underlines them."''^ 

Tilden Edwards suggests beginning the 
shared journey by asking, the other person to 
take inventory of his or her journey thus 
far. Before the next meeting ask the person 
to spend an hour or two writing about "the 
footsteps of God" in their lives thus far: 
events, relationships, and experiences. 
When the person returns to share his or her 
reflections watch for the following ele- 
ments: growth patterns, fruits of increas- 
ing conversion of the whole person to 
holiness, the role of disciplines, 
tradition, and spiritual friends. Look for 
ways in which the person's images of self 
and God have developed along the way. After 
working through these reflections together 
allow a few moments of silence, then have 
the person complete this sentence: "My 
spiritual journey now is like..."""" This 
exercise can help with tentatively charting 
a course in terms of recommended spiritual 
disciplines, becoming familiar with the 
other person's spiritual vocabulary, and 
current spiritual needs. It helps the ones 
being guided to appreciatively look back and 
see "goodness and mercy" following them, as 
well as to look hopefully toward the future. 


While it is beyond the scope of this 
paper to present an extensive discussion of 
how to deal with various issues raised in 
the course of a spiritual direction 
relationship, it is worthwhile to note some 
of the general issues that may be expected 
to surface. 

The integration of one's spirituality, 
sexuality, and general physicality is a 
chronic problem for many religious people. 
Effective spiritual guidance will help these 
strugglers accept and appreciate the 
sacramental nature of the physical world, 
including their own bodies.''^ 

Numinous experiences, inner darkness, 
and temptation require careful, prayerful 
discernment on the part of the- spiritual 
companion. As Kenneth Leech points out, 
from the earliest times spiritual directors 
expected the inward journey to include 
encounters with evil spirits, temptation, 
and seasons of darkness. Ignatius Loyola, 
among other spiritual masters, believed the 
discernment of spirits to be pivotal in the 
direction relationship."^ In these matters 
it becomes particularly clear that wisdom 
and spiritual maturity are necessary 
characteristics to one who would serve as a 
spiritual companion. 

Certain theological themes emerge 
repeatedly in the ministry of spiritual 
guidance. Skewed theology concerning the 
nature of faith, God, the law, works, and 
grace create major obstacles to a mature 


view of God and self. Questions of theodicy 
naturally arise during times of suffering. 
While spiritual guides need not have 
professional theological training, it is 
important to be theologically astute, or, in 
the words of the author of Hebrews 6:14, to 
be "...those whose faculties have been 
trained by practice to distinguish good from 
evil, " capable of sharing both the milk and 
meat of biblical truth. 

Past emotional wounds have a strong 
impact on spiritual development. Perfec- 
tionism, low-grade, chronic hostility, 
compulsions, phobias, and other psycho- 
logical issues frequently come to light in 
spiritual direction. While some of these 
issues can be successfully worked through 
between trusted friends, referral for 
professional help may be advisable. 

Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, 
Bible reading, fasting, and journaling are 
essential issues in a spiritual friendship. 
Competent spiritual guides are herme- 
neutically adept, familiar with the 
spiritual classics, understand and affirm 
various approaches to prayer (including at 
least a cursory knowledge of apophatic and 
kataphatic prayer) , and have some 
familiarity with the three stages of 
spirituality (purgation, illumination and 
union) . While it is not necessary for the 
spiritual companion to have personally 
experienced all the kinds of prayer, stages 
of spirituality, or mystical experiences, it 


is important to have an appreciative 
knowledge about these matters in order to be 
able to recognize spiritual movements in the 
other person and to make appropriate 
suggestions regarding spiritual disciplines. 
Tilden Edwards wisely cautions us to 
maintain a certain lightness regarding the 
disciplines so that they do not become ends 
instead of means. "Every discipline is a 
form of "attentive patience, " a way of 
allowing what is needed to happen, a way of 
reinforcing trust in a promised, incipient, 
and dynamic wholeness that unfolds as it 

While it is hard to overstate the 
benefits and joys of authentic spiritual 
friendship, some caution is necessary. 
Relationships that probe the depths of one's 
spirit and lay bare the weakness of one's 
soul are rife with potential for abuse. In 
spiritual friendships as in other areas of 
the Christian life we are called to be "wise 
as serpents and innocent as doves." 

Keeping an Even Keel 

The greatest dangers inherent in a 
spiritual direction relationship may be 
boiled down to two overlapping areas: 
emotional entanglement and power. How close 
is too close? When does guidance become 
tyranny? Most important, how do we keep an 
even keel? 

"The constant temptation in any love 


relationship, " Dyckman and Carroll write, 
"is to control or possess the beloved, but 
this is precisely what the Lord never lets 
us do. Prayer will involve the constant 
tension of letting the Lord more and more 
possess us, while we become less grasping 
and more open-handed in that embrace."''^ 

Emotional entanglement is the fearsome, 
insecure, tight-fisted grip of one person on 
another. Inappropriate sexual intimacy is 
one avenue of expression of entanglement, 
but by no means the only or even greatest 
danger. The possibilities for negative 
forms of transference and counter-trans- 
ference are legion. Co-dependency, that 
catchword of dysfunctional relationships, is 
an immensely tempting form of emotional 
entanglement for many in the helping 
professions, including spiritual directors. 

Dyckman and Carroll are correct-- 
entanglement is a potential snare in all 
loving relationships, including marriage. 
The preventive and cure for it is healthy 
detachment, a willful, continuous process of 
letting go of our insecure clutching of 
those we love. Such a movement is only 
possible as we come to deeply experience the 
unconditional, limitless love of God. Only 
God can provide the profound degree of 
intimacy our needy hearts require. It is 
crucial for those who would be spiritual 
companions to others, to know themselves 
deeply so as to recognize and refuse the 
siren voice of entanglement. 


Detachment is an emphatic theme with 
virtually every spiritual master in history. 
God calls the spiritual guide to be set 
apart from the world, unto God, for the 
nurture of other people. Jean- Jacques 
Olier, seventeenth-century founder of the 
Society of Saint Sulpice, likens the 
possessive spiritual companion to a soldier 
enlisted by the king, who, after using the 
king's resources to conquer new land, steals 
the land for himself. Such a one is an 
ungrateful, traitorous infidel, guilty of 
serious evil.''^ As Alan Jones has said, any 
time we become captivated or infatuated by 
another person our inner freedom and 
authority are lost. Thus- spiritual 
directors, of all people, must cultivate 
detachment and embrace solitude. ^° 

What does healthy detachment in 
spiritual friendship "look like"? Is it a 
cool, aloof stance, an impersonal, clinical 
approach? Not at all. Evelyn Underhill 
describes it as "love without claimfulness, " 
a deliberate listening for and seeking after 
God's interests in the other person's life, 
not my interests or even the other 
person' s.^^ As we have seen, the spiritual 
.guide's own life is the primary source for 
his or her sensitive and compassionate 
ministry. One cannot minister from the 
depths of oneself without exposing "a good 
deal of one's own inner world. The key is 
not impersonality, but in guarding against 
"claimfulness." Detachment cannot be 


developed unless we recognize the natural 
but fallen human drives toward claimfulness . 

In Dynamics of Spiritual Self 
Direction , Adrian van Kaam provides an 
excellent discussion of the two instinctive 
biological drives that need to be 
"acknowledged and utilized without being 
allowed to take over.^^ These two forces are 
the sex drive and the "care instinct." Of 
the two, the latter is by far more 
problematic in spiritual direction rela- 
tionships. The care drive is the natural 
instinct to protect, nurture, and provide 
for significant others. All people need to 
both care and be cared for. This natural, 
God-given drive has been distorted by sin, 
however, and can become the source of 
enormous damage. 

According to Fr. van Kaam, when a man 
or woman is fixated on one person for relief 
of the care instinct, he or she is overly 
dependent upon that person. "All other 
kinds of power seem weak in comparison with 
this power. The manipulation of another 
person's needs is the most brutal and 
tyrannizing form of power. "^^ Both people in 
the relationship may be "hooked" unwit- 
tingly. Fr. van Kaam suggests a threefold 
cluster of traits that may snare a caring 
spiritual guide: a directee who needs help, 
protection, and guidance, one who gives the 
impression of being less knowing, less 
informed, and less experienced than the 
director, and who is experienced as being in 


some way like the director.^'' When these 
three traits are evident caution is strongly 

If emotional entanglement is one 
potential danger, the other side is failure 
to show generous acceptance and love for the 
one being guided. Spiritual growth is a 
slow, sometimes laborious process. True 
change rarely comes quickly or without a 
struggle. Wise companions recognize the 
need to exercise steady patience and 
encouragement to those in their care. 
Failure, sin, and weakness call for mercy 
and grace. Never is a soul so vulnerable as 
when he or she has confessed the dark 
secrets of the heart. The tremendous need 
at such times is to be lovingly accepted. 
With eye contact, tone of voice, posture, 
and words, the spiritual guide must 
communicate gentle acceptance. 

What about confrontation? Francis 
Libermann urges directors to: "Be patient 
with sinfulness for a long time, and if 
there are occasions when you think you 
cannot stand it another minute, accept it 
again. In the end you will recognize that 
you did a good thing. "^^ Confrontation is 
necessary at times, but only when done with 
kindness, compassion, and a well-laid 
foundation of merciful love. 

Anglican priest and professor of 
theology, Martin Thornton, speaks cour- 
ageously of the need to love boldly in the 
direction relationship. "The evil is not 


that a close pastoral relation of love is 
wrong, but that the scruples of the devil 
(and the newspapers) make us think that it 
might be. We become inhibited through 
ignorance and frustrated by un-Christian 
convention. "^^ 

Fr. Thornton goes on to say that we 
need to recognize that all our interactions 
with one another include our whole being: 
mind, body, spirit, senses, emotions, will, 
and sexuality. We can no sooner atomize our 
interactions than we can atomize ourselves. 
Citing the examples of John reclining 
against Jesus' breast and Mary washing 
Jesus' feet with her own tears and hair, Fr . 
Thornton challenges us to be like Jesus, 
boldly welcoming the whole person. There is 
a time and place for tears, laughter, words, 
silence, prayer, and nurturing touch. 

Loving boldly is a tremendous risk. 
Yet it is the surest way to image our God, 
the Prodigal Father. For each of us it 
requires stumbling, trial-and-error efforts. 
Morton Kelsey really speaks for us all as he 
confesses: "I find that it is better to love 
badly and faultily than not to try to love 
at all."^' 

Crossing the Gender Line 

What about "loving boldly" across the 
gender line? Many of us in the church have 
been taught to regard cross-gender 
friendships with the same feelings we have 


for large, angry dogs or small, enclosed 
spaces. Our highly eroticized culture, 
patriarchal conditioning, and the general 
lack of models of chaste, intimate, cross- 
gender friendships make such relationships 
challenging if not impossible. There are 
many barriers to overcome, but the struggle 
is more than worth the cost. 

In considering the advisability of 
cross-gender spiritual friendships we need 
to look at three issues: transcendence, 
complementarity, and sexual attraction. 
Transcendence is the theological basis for 
such friendships. Complementarity is the 
vivifying dynamic of cross-gender friend- 
ships. Sexual attraction is the natural 
drive that must be acknowledged and 
redirected, for the relationship to remain 

Our first indication of the trans- 
cendent nature of spiritual friendship is 
Jesus' friendships with women. Unlike his 
nervous male disciples, Jesus unhesitatingly 
touched, spoke to, and formed close 
friendships with a number of women. Jesus 
frankly refused to sexualize the women in 
his life. He regarded them as whole human 
beings of eternal worth, made in God's 
image, capable of spiritual discernment and 
chaste intimacy (even former prostitutes) . 
Jesus never defined women in terms of 
appropriate gender roles. Rather, he 
affirmed women who know and do God's will, a 
remarkably open-ended commission (Luke 


11:27-28, Mark 3:35). By his example more 
than anything else, Jesus legitimized, 
sanctified, and ordained cross-gender 
spiritual friendships. Jesus is our primary 
role model for cross-gender friendships. 

Paul's close friendships with several 
women, including Phoebe, Priscilla, and 
Persis further underscored Jesus' egal- 
itarian message. Speaking of the relation- 
ally redeeming heritage of all God's 
children, Paul writes: "There is no longer 
Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or 
free, there is no longer male and female; 
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" 
(Galatians 3:28). When writing to Timothy 
concerning appropriate relationships with 
men and women in the congregation, Paul 
urged his younger friend to regard the older 
men and women as fathers and mothers, and 
the younger men and women as brothers and 
sisters (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Healthy familial 
bonding is the best model for intimate 
cross-gender relationships. The pure, nur- 
turing, supporting, holy love of grand- 
parents, parents, and siblings is the kind 
of love that God intends for us to expe- 
rience across the gender lines. 

Speaking of the sexually transcendent 
nature of spiritual friendship, Tilden 
Edwards writes: 

God after all is not only male and 
female in Christian symbolism, but 
infinitely beyond male and 


femaleness. . . It therefore would be 
misleading to speak of any 
essentially crippling or guaran- 
teeing quality either in an intra 
or intersexual spiritual friend- 
ship. Moreover the primary rela- 
tionship in spiritual friendship 
is between God and the friend, not 
between the friends themselves . ^^ 

Tilden Edwards, along with many 
Christian feminists, argues that sexual 
complementarity can be a significant boon to 
group spiritual formation, with leadership 
being shared by male and female co-leaders . ^^ 
Regarding one-on-one direction he encourages 
cross-gender relationships when there is a 
choice between two people (male and female) 
of equal capability and with whom one is 
equally at ease. Based on Jung's theories 
of animus/anima integration, projection, and 
transference, Edwards believes that mature 
cross-gender spiritual friendship helps us 
to get in touch with qualities of the Divine 
that are lacking in our own consciousness. 
We are also less likely to be subtly 
competitive in cross-gender friendships .^° 

Having understood all these things we 
still must realistically face a fallen world 
and our own fallen natures. Sexual attrac- 
tion is a force to be reckoned with any time 
we cross the gender line. (Sexual attrac- 
tion can also be a problem in same-sex rela- 
tionships. For the purpose of the discus- 


sion at hand, however, I limit my focus to 
cross-gender relationships.) 

Our sexuality cannot be divorced from 
the rest of who we are. One of the best 
preventives to sexual immorality is to 
embrace one's sexuality, one's gendered 
identity, as a gift. Christian feminist 
Anne Borrowdale speaks insightfully 
concerning sexuality in the context of 
cross-gender friendships; 

It is, paradoxically, the ability 
to be fully sexual beings which 
liberates us from sexual sin. 
Those who are afraid of their 
sexuality, or see it as a loath- 
some appetite which must be kept 
under control at all costs, 
magnify the sexual element in all 
relationships way out of propor- 
tion. Those who are happy with 
their sexuality find it enhances 
their relationships without lead- 
ing to inappropriate physical 
expression. ^-^ 

Kenneth Leech wisely urges those 
involved in spiritual direction ministries 
to study contemporary insights into human 
sexuality, and to honestly face their own 
sexuality and sexual needs. ^^ In order to 
guard against inappropriate sexual behavior 
we need to be firmly in touch with our inner 
world, including our sexuality. 


In this area as others, healthy 
boundaries need to be maintained in the 
relationship to prevent the growth of sexual 
intimacy. Honest accountability to at least 
one trusted person outside the friendship is 
important. (Once again we are reminded of 
the necessity for those giving spiritual 
guidance to be under guidance themselves.) 

When erotic impulses surface, as they 
do from time to time, it is best to honestly 
own them, bring them to God, and pray about 
them with the trusted "accountability" 
person. Fearful and shameful denial of 
these feelings only increases their power. 
At such times it is important to take 
inventory of the relationship, asking if 
either or both persons are saying or doing 
things that subtly build sexual intimacy. 
Both friends in the relationship need to be 
prepared to honestly confront inappropriate 
sexual behavior at any time. 

For those who are married, a spouse's 
input can be valuable regarding appropriate 
or inappropriate behavior. This assumes, 
however, that the spouse is mature and 
secure, and the marriage is strong. I know 
of several couples in which one partner is 
able to maintain healthy cross-gender 
relationships but the spouse is emotionally 
entangled. Exclusivity and fear prevent the 
spouse from seeing things as they truly are. 
There are no easy solutions in this 
situation, but both partners need to work 
toward honesty, trust, and disentanglement. 


The root issue of emotional entanglement 
needs to be addressed, usually with the help 
of a marriage counselor. 

There are times when same-sex spiritual 
friendships are preferable. Tilden Edwards 
believes that the ability and willingness to 
redirect sexual feelings is not possible for 
most people until they are past the "mid- 
life hurdle, " past thinking that sexual 
intercourse is the most important experience 
in life. Same-sex friendships are best for 
"genitally very driven" persons and for 
those who struggle with powerful gender- 
related anger or fear, since too much energy 
is drained into keeping a distance. ^-^ 

Loving boldly across the gender line is 
a tall order, one of the toughest we shall 
ever face as redeemed women and men living 
in a broken world. In order to build 
strong, healthy cross-gender friendships we 
need to understand the biblical basis of 
transcendence, to embrace the biblical model 
of familial love that is both intimate and 
chaste, and to maintain clear boundaries 
that prevent inappropriate sexual involve- 

ment . 

Love is the Aim 

How can we tell whether spiritual 
direction, companionship, mentoring, or 
friendship is fulfilling its purpose? What 
should we look for? The answer lies on a 
continuum and has more to do with attitudes 


than actions, with process than function. 
Dyckman and Carroll invite us to reflect 
upon the following questions: Are they 
becoming more loving? Are they more able to 
see others as valuable, lovable people? Are 
they laying down their lives more for 
others? Are they becoming a grain of wheat 
that dies in order to produce an eternal 
harvest?^" Love is the task of spiritual 
guidance. Love is the aim. 


^Adrian van Kaam, Dynamics of Spiritual 
Self Direction (Denville; Dimension Books, 
1976), 395. • 

^Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism: 
A Little Book for Normal People (New York: 
E.P. Dutton & Co., 1914), 111. 

■'van Kaam, 384. 

^Jerome M. Neuf elder and Mary C. Coelho, 
eds . , Writings on Spiritual Direction By 
Great Masters (New York: Seabury, 1982), 15. 

^Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend (London: 
Sheldon, 1977), 47. 

^Ibid., 160. 

'Ibid., 167. 


®Alan Jones, Exploring Spiritual Di- 
rection (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982), 

^Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New 
York: Paulist, 1980), 52. 

^°Leech, 49-50. 

i^Ibid., 85. 


Ibid., 86-7. 

^^Howard Rice, Reformed Spirituality 
(Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox, 1991), 

^'^ Edwards, 67. 

^^Ibid., 43-4. 

^^Evelyn Underbill, The Spiritual Life 
(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1937. Wilton 
Connecticut: Morehouse Barlow, Co., Inc., 
1955), 54. 

"2 Corinthians 2:16b. 

^^1 Corinthians 2:26-29. 

^^Jones, 74. 

^^Christopher Bryant, The Heart in 
Pilgrimage (New York: Crossroad/Seabury, 
1980), 129. 



Edwards, 207. 

^^Morton Kelsey, Companions on the Inner 
Way (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 40-1. 

"Jones, 108. 

2^Neuf elder, 89. 

^^Jones, 56. 

^^Edwards, 108. 

2"^ Jones, 68-71. 

2^Leech, 100. 

2^Ibid., 101. 

^°Dyckman, 26. 

^^Bryant, 130. 

^^Edwards, 106. 

^^Timothy K. Jones, Mentor and Friend 
(Batavia, Illinois: Lion, 1991), 98. 

^"Neufelder, 178-9. 

^^Jones, Exploring Spiritual Direction , 

^^Rice, 142. 



Ecclesiasticus 6:16. 

^^Alan Jones, Exploring Spiritual 
Direction / 111. 

^^Charles S. Denison, "Soulwork, " 
Leadership . 8 (Spring 1992) : 106. 

^°Neuf elder, 93-4. 

""^Jones, Mentor and Friend , 28ff. 

^^Rice, 147. 

''■^Dyckman, 22. 

'^Edwards, 140-1. 

^^Leech, 114-15. 

^^Ibid., 128-9. 

^^Edwards, 158. 

"^Dyckman, 48. 

^^Neuf elder, 113. 

^° Jone s , Exploring Spiritual Direction , 

^^Evelyn Underbill, House of the Soul 
and Concerning the Inner Life (London: 
Methuen & Co., 1947. Minneapolis: Seabury, 


nd) , 107. 

^^van Kaam, 48 6. 

"Ibid., 493. 

^^iDid., 488. 

^^Neuf elder, 95. 

''Ibid., 115. 

'^Kelsey, 199. 

'^Edwards, 110. 

''Ibid., 192. 

'°Ibid., 108ff. 

"Anne Borrowdale, Distorted Images: 
Misunderstandings Between Men and Women 
(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/ John 
Knox, 1991), 132-3. 

"Leech, 114. 

"Edwards, 109-10. 

'""Dyckman, 40. 



Borrowdale, Anne. Distorted Images: Misun- 
derstandings Between Men and Women . Louis- 
ville: Westminster/ John Knox, 1991. 

Borrowdale critiques patriarchal 
conditioning within the church that perpe- 
tuates sexist attitudes against both men and 
women. Draws from wide variety of sources, 
offers alternatives to stereotyped attitudes 
and behavior. 

Bryant, Christopher. The Heart in Pilgrim- 
age . New York: Crossroad/Seabury, 1980. 

Introductory work concerning spiritual 
formation. Helpful overview of Jung's four 
personality types in relation to styles of 
prayer and worship. 

Chambers, Oswald. Approved Unto God . 
Basingstoke, Hants: Oswald Chambers Publi- 
cation Association, 1946. Bristol :Marshall, 
Morgan, and Scott Publications, Ltd., 1987. 
Meaty little work concerning God's 
preparation of his servants for the task of 

Denison, Charles S. "Soulwork." Leadership 
8 (Spring 1992) : 104-108 . 

Dyckman, Katherine Marie, and L. Patrick 
Carroll. Inviting the Mvstic, Supporting 
the Prophet: An Introduction to Spiritual 
Direction . New York: Paulist, 1981. 


Written to encourage both new and ex- 
perienced spiritual directors. Challenges 
reader to draw from his or her own journey 
for primary source of ministry. Well-writ- 
ten, practical. 

Edwards, Tilden. Spiritual Friend . New York: 
Paulist, 1980. 

Classic work on spiritual direction by 
founder of Shalem Institute. Excellent 
regarding all aspects of spiritual friend- 
ship. Helpful outlines of Shalem' s training 
program and where to go for more help or 

Finley, Mitch. Catholic Spiritual Classics . 
Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1987. 

Enjoyable little introduction to thir- 
teen classic writings in the Catholic tradi- 
tion. De-mystifies cultural baggage, good 
synopsis of how to read a spiritual classic. 
Great for students. 

Foster, Richard. Prayer: Finding the Heart's 
True Home . San Francisco: HarperSan Fran- 
cisco, 1992. 

Foster's new classic on the discipline 
of prayer. Wise, well-written, applicable to 
sage as well as newborns in Christ. 

Hall, Thelma. Too Deep for Words . New 
York: Paulist, 1988. 

Fine explanation of lectio divina for 


contemporary reader. Includes 500 scripture 
texts from NJB for use in prayer. 

Jones, Alan. Exploring Spiritual Direction . 
San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. 

Outstanding treatment of spiritual 
friendships, beautifully written in essay 

Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Ed- 
ward Yarnold, eds . The Study of Spiri- 
tuality . New York: Oxford University, 1986. 
Massive survey of the history of spi- 
rituality, primary Christian but includes 
sections on other religions. Ecumenical. 

Jones, Timothy K. Mentor and Friend . 
Batavia: Lion, 1991. 

Slim introduction to spiritual direc- 
tion, written for an evangelical lay audi- 
ence. Fine work for those unfamiliar with 
the jargon of traditional spiritual forma- 
tion. Invites evangelicals to find spiri- 
tual friends and to explore other faith tra- 
ditions' treatment of spiritual formation. 

Kelsey, Morton T. Companions on the Inner 
Way . New York:Crossroad, 1983. 

Approaches spiritual direction from 
professional, psychological perspective. 
Helpful discussions on various issues, 
particularly spiritual darkness and the 
dangers of transference. 


Leech, Kenneth. Soul Friend , London: 
Sheldon, 1977. 

Classic work on the history of spiri- 
tual direction. Needs revision with inclu- 
sive language. 

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea . 
New York: Pantheon, 1955. New York: Vintage 
Books, 1978. 

Beautifully written classic on the spi- 
rituality of friendship. Geared toward wo- 
men, but applicable to all. 

Neufelder, Jerome M., and Mary C. Coelho, 
eds . Writings on Spiritual Direction b y 
Great Christian Masters . New York: Seabury, 

Rich anthology compiled to help inform 
contemporary understandings of spiritual 
direction, both for those giving and re- 
ceiving spiritual direction. Fine biblio- 

Nouwen, Henri J.M. The Wav of the Heart . 
New York: Ballantine, 1981. 

Powerful little volume on the inner 
life. Deals with solitude, silence, and 

Pennington, M. Basil, Alan Jones, and Mark 
Booth, eds. The Living Testament . San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. 

Samplings from 72 major Christian 


devotional writers from early patristics to 
contemporary church. 

Rice, Howard L. Reformed Spirituality . 
Louisville, Kentucky : Westminster/ John Knox, 

Well-written history of spirituality in 
the Reformed tradition. Helpful for stu- 
dents of spirituality and church history. 

Senn, Frank C, ed. Protestant Spiritual 
Traditions . New York: Paulist, 1986. 

Introductory survey of seven Protestant 
spiritual traditions, written by represen- 
tatives of each tradition. 

Teresa of Avila. Interior Castle . Trans- 
lated by E. Allison Peers. New York: Doub- 
leday-Image Books, 1989. 

Classic work on the spiritual journey, 
treats the various stages of spiritual 
growth, prayer, temptation. 

Toon, Peter. Spiritual Companions: An In- 
troduction to the Christian Classics . Grand 
Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1990. 

Two-page introductions to 100 devo- 
tional writers. Geared for Protestant lay 
audience, but ecumenical in scope. Only in- 
cludes work that is clearly trinitarian, a 
disappointing exclusion of Quaker writers. 

Topping, Eva Catafygiotu. Holy Mothers of 


Orthodoxy . Minneapolis: Light and Life Pub- 
lishing Company, 1987. 

Collection of 32 articles and essays 
concerning female spiritual masters in the 
Orthodox tradition. Written by an Orthodox 
feminist to correct traditional approaches 
that speak only of "church fathers." 

Underhill, Evelyn. Practical Mysticism: A 
Little Book for Normal People . New York: 
E.P. Button & Co., 1914. 

Written for lay audience, designed to 
increase appreciation for mysticism as a 
normal expression of Christian spirituality. 
British, earthy, readable. 

. The House of the Soul and 

Concerning the Inner Life . London: Methuen 
& Co., 1947. Minneapolis: Seabury, nd. 

Two books in one volume. The first is a 
delightful devotional -work that likens the 
spiritual life to a house. 

The second treats the spiritual forma- 
tion of Christian workers. Powerful, wise, 
enjoyable to read. 

van Kaam, Adrian. Dynamics of Spiritual 
Self Direction . Denville: Dimension Books, 

Important, thorough work by contempo- 
rary master in spiritual direction. Details 
various aspects of spiritual direction of 
oneself and others. Van Kaam's vocabulary 
requires explanation to those unfamiliar 


with his psycho-spiritual theory of human 
development . 

van Leeuwen, Mary Stewart. Gender and 
Grace . Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1990. 
Excellent treatment of sexual identity 
written by evangelical social scientist. 
Draws from findings of behavioral sciences, 
maintains high view of scripture, tackles 
tough issues including nature vs. nurture in 
the formation of sexual identity. Signi- 
ficant contribution to ongoing evangelical 
dialogue on gender issues. 


Spirituality and the Disciplines: 

Priority Reading for the Pastor 

By Brian Moore* 

God is doing a new thing in our time! 
A renewed hungering and thirsting after 
righteousness has appeared in the church - 
and even in society in general. This desire 
has likely been spawned by the sense of 
powerlessness in the church and the 
barrenness of the affluent life society has 
created for itself in the late twentieth 
century. The "good life" that was supposed 
to be available in the lap of luxury has 
escaped us again! The desire for something 
transcendent has also been stimulated by a 
deep fear that we, as a society, as a world, 
are lost and hopeless. The problems facing 
us are beyond comprehension, not to mention 
solution. "When all around my soul gives 
way", what shall be my hope and stay? These 
situations have created an ideal climate for 
God to reach out to His empty creatures and 
fill them with Himself. Admittedly, all the 
quest for the transcendent is not Christian. 
In this fertile soil, sub-Christian or even 
anti-Christian elements also flourish. Good 

*The Reverend Brian H. Moore is pastor of 
Saint James Brethren Church near Hagerstown, 
MD. A graduate of ATS, he currently is a 
D.Min. cadidate specializing in spiritual 
formation and ministry. 


Good soil produces better weeds as well as 
better crops! Spirituality alone is ambig- 
uous. "Spirituality is a slippery word" 
(Steven Harper, Class Lecture, "The 
Spiritual Life of the Minister", Ashland 
Theological Seminary, July 19, 1993) . 
Spirituality must be qualified. "The goal 
of Christian spirituality is conformity to 
Christ - not togetherness, or meditation, or 
acceptance. The issue is discipleship. 
Discipleship is learning from Jesus Christ 
how to live my life as he would live it if 
he were me." (Dallas Willard, Interview, 
Renovare , 3,4.) 

God seems to be doing a new thing in 
our time, and yet, from another perspective, 
God has been doing this same thing 
throughout the ages of Christian history. 
He has always had a people who were not 
satisfied with the status quo, people who 
sought something deeper, more vital and rich 
in a living relationship with Him. Their 
lives have been a witness to the living 
presence of Jesus Christ among His people. 
Their testimony through life and writings 
stands to call us all to that transcendent 
dimension of existence which lifts us out of 
a functional or mechanical mode to that 
realm closer to the imago del within us. 

In the first section of this paper I 
will review two books which give a 
historical overview to Christian 

In the second section, I will highlight 


writings that invite us to practice the 
disciplines which give form and substance to 
the "new thing" . 

In the third section, I will review a 
number of writings which seek to integrate 
the renewal of Christian spirituality with 
ministry, especially pastoral service in the 

I. Christian Spirituality: A Historical 


A History of Christian Spirituality , by 

Urban T. Holmes (New York: Seabury, 1980, 


Seekers After Mature Faith i. by E. Glenn 

Hinson (Waco: Word Books, 1966, 240pp.) 

These two books, although similar in 
purpose, differ from each other in emphasis 
and sympathy. Therefore, they are comple- 
mentary and together provide good balance. 
Unfortunately, the Hinson work' is -no longer 
in print. 

Holmes states a fivefold benefit of 
understanding the history of Christian 
spirituality: l)broaden the limitations of 
our own horizons; 2) free us to seek a 
pattern of discipline in the spiritual life 
that is most suitable for our own life; 
3)ena ble us to help others without 
insisting that they be like us; 4) enlighten 
and inspire us by the examples of saints 
throughout the ages; 5) enhance our skills 
that we might become more competent 


spiritual guides (Holmes, 3) . 

A beneficial diagram is included early 
in the book which helps us to categorize a 
particular person's emphasis in the 
spiritual life. The four poles on the axes 
are speculative/affective and apophatic/ 
kataphatic . Speculative refers to the 
emphasis on the illumination of the mind 
while affective refers to the illumination 
of the heart. Apophatic emphasizes an 
eiriptying approach to spirituality while the 
kataphatic in imaginal in its approach. 
While it may be a bit unfair to a person to 
reduce his or her spirituality to a certain 
point on an axis, it is nonetheless 
worthwhile to employ the axis to identify an 
overall approach one uses in his or her 
quest for a life with God. These four 
patterns and variations thereof do seem to 
appear in the writings of the spiritual 
masters and to that extent Holmes' diagram 
on "A Phenomenology of Prayer" is useful 
(Holmes, 4) . An excess in one area of the 
axes leads to an imbalance in approach and 
perspective. A truly "mature faith" would 
likely contain elements of all four 
dimensions, although context and temperament 
would likely cause one emphasis or another 
to be preferred. But the awareness alone 
would help one to identify one's preferences 
and, at the same time, seek to balance one's 
approach to God. Thus, an understanding of 
"a phenomenology of prayer" would help 
fulfill the above-listed purposes of 


matriculation in a history of Christian 

One does not read far in Holmes before 
one encounters a sure and certain disdain 
for one strand of Christian spirituality, 
namely, pietism. And Holmes is not content 
to disparage pietism once; more than any 
other particular spiritual emphasis dealt 
with in the book, pietism seems to be the 
"whipping boy" of Christian spirituality (9, 
83-88, 136-142) .Throughout most of the book 
the various ideas and emphases are described 
with the dispassion of a news reporter. But 
suddenly, in almost venomous terms, pietism 
is disparaged: "Pietism is a term which, 
while historically rooted to the late 
seventeenth century, describes a degen- 
eration of spirituality that may be 
characterized more generally as suffering 
from sentimentality, biblicism, personalism, 
exclusionism, fideism, anti-intellectiialism, 
etc. It flourishes in self-cpngratulatory 
small groups. It is impervious to criticism 
because it recognizes no canon of truth 
outside the subjective meaning of its 
membership" (Holmes, 83) . And with many 
other such words he blasts pietism and its 
place in Christian expression, even 
associating this movement with the occult 
and witchcraft. 

Implicated in this critical assessment 
are the likes of Gerard Groote (1340-1384), 
Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) and Catherine of 
Genoa (1447-1510) . Further, Martin Luther 


and Frederich von Hugel came under the 
influence of pietism. So, pietism, for all 
its negative evaluation by Holmes, has had 
significant impact on church history. This 
extraordinarily caustic approach does remind 
us however, that pietism is not above 
criticism. Even though I would defend its 
emphasis and its place in my own 
denominational background, certain aspects 
deserve rebuke and balanced correction. 
One, its emphasis on the individual tends to 
downplay the community of faith, a trait 
that seems to play well into the hand of the 
American virtue of individuality. Again, 
pietism tends to overemphasize detachment 
from society. In its emphasis on the 
hereafter, it encourages an irresponsibility 
toward the present. But, there are 
indications in pietism, taken as a whole, 
which reveal its sensitive social 
consciousness . 

Before leaving Holmes, the overall 
value of the book needs to be emphasized. 
It really is an extended annotated 
bibliography. (And I might add, biography!) 
It gives a fine overview of the scope of the 
quest for God throughout the years of church 
history. Many interesting sidelights are 
included, such as St. Francis being the 
first to emphasize devotion to the infant 
Jesus, so manger scenes and much of our 
Christmas tradition relating thereto can be 
attributed to him (Holmes, 66) . Another 
example is the origin of what we call the 


oratorio : the Oratory was simply a room 
where a group of priests met with Philip 
Neri for religious renewal (Holmes, 108) . 

Helpful in the use of the book is its 
table of contents organized chronologically 
with individuals listed by page number. 
This functions as an index of names, but 
arranged chronologically rather than 
alphabetically. Further, each chapter is 
summarized by "Instrumental Images" and 
"Terminal Images", which we might also call 
"strategies" and "goals" in any particular 
spiritual emphasis. 

Holmes' conclusions (157-161) fittingly 
close the book. We are reminded that while 
a history of spirituality is rich and 
varied, a number of images recur (the 
ladder, fire, mountain, desert) . We are 
cautioned to refrain from the attempt to 
codify another's experience with God. We 
need to be constantly aware of the effect 
Neo-Platonism has had upon Christian 
spirituality, for its influences from the 
beginning to the present are unmistakable. 
We are urged to constantly seek a biblical 
spirituality, for this, more than anything 
else, will keep us from plunging into the 
uncertain waters of subjectivism. And most 
of all, we are urged to get on with the 
journey. It is a journey; we will not 
arrive to perfection in this life. It is 
imperative, however, that we answer the 
call, listen for God even if it makes us 
uncomfortable, for in hearing Him we are 


made whole. 

Hinson's book, like Holmes', sets the 
spiritual masters in their historical 
context. However, I find more emphasis on 
the historical setting in Hinson. The book 
is a different sort of excursion into church 
history, using the "life and times" of the 
spiritual master as the theme. 

Hinson, like Holmes, urges the reader 
to sample the spiritual classics widely in 
order to discover writings which "feel 
right", which especially seem to fit one's 
temperament and interests. Once this 
process is made, one should live with that 
classic, master it and allow its fruit to 
grow in one's life. (Hinson, 18-22). (I 
have found Richard Foster's Devotional 
Classics [HarperSanf rancisco, 1993] to be 
especially helpful in this process. In an 
earlier era, Thomas Kepler's Fellowship of 
the Saints [New York: Abingdon, 1948] 
fulfilled the same purpose) . 

Hinson's book is unique in the 
inclusions of notes by Dr. Wayne Oates. The 
notes are comments on the text from the 
viewpoint of pastoral psychology. These 
almost create a book with a book and lend 
interesting insight into the phenomena 
described in the text itself. 

It may be worthwhile to compare Holmes' 
view of pietism with that of Hinson. 
Obviously, Hinson is affirmative of pietism. 
For example, instead of being a maudlin 
expression of sickly sentimental piety 


(Holmes) , The Imitation of Christ is, 
according to Hinson, the highlight of the 
mystical piety of pre-Reformation Germany 
and the Netherlands (Hinson, 92-93) . The 
Imitation , according to Hinson, is one of 
the most highly praised and yet highly 
criticized books of devotion. Its scrutiny 
and scrupulosity seem overbearing, yet its 
zeal is without peer. Too self-centered, 
say some. But, in balance, unless self is 
tended to, there will be no worthwhile self 
to give to others. 

This movement has left its mark on 
Christendom to this day in the following 
ways : 

1. Denial of the world 

2. Disciplined living 

3. Group (small group!) accountability 
and development. 

To this day, I suspect .a disdain for 
the pietistic/mystical strain in the 
families of the Reformed faith. A deep 
experience of God is, in this thinking, no 
substitute for a rationalistic and logical 
ordering of the faith. This makes me 
appreciate all the more the statement 
someone made about being "weaned from the 
barren breast of Calvinism." Calvin scoffed 
at Theological Germanica , an anonymous 
writing which impressed Martin Luther 
(Hinson, 96-98) . And yet Calvin believed 
that "theology exists for the sake of piety" 
(John H. Leith, ed., John Calvin, The 
Christian Life , San Francisco: Harper and 


Row, 1984, vii) . 

It is worth noting in this context that the 
early Reformation period did not produce any 
classics of devotion. The agenda seemed to 
be apologetic and theological. Deep piety 
existed in the Reformers, but it bore no 
fruit in classical writings (Hinson, 129- 
131) . But, as these historical overviews 
consistently portray, the Spirit of God will 
not allow the devotional life to wane for 
long. Just when things may seem the 
darkest, some new light breaks out and 
someone arises to call the Church back to 
its first love. The fire has always been 
there, just waiting to break out into a 
blaze ! 

In the way of critique, Hinson' s work 
suffers from a number of limitations: 

1. It is obviously "a child of the 
'60's", especially linguistically. 

2. It suffers when it comes close to 
the present time. Radical upheavals and 
power shifts have severely dated the infor- 
mation relayed in the modern period (Hinson, 
202-203) . For this reason, I would like to 
see the book revised and updated. 

3. The historical backgrounds, in some 
instances, are all too superficial. For 
example, the rise of monasticism was more 
than the quest for the Christian ideal. 
Monasticism was also a result of an 
insidious neo-Platonism which had penetrated 
Christian thought (Hinson, 30-31). 

On the positive side, Hinson' s overview 


leads toward some worthwhile considerations: 

1. The need for discipline in the 
Christian life. The devotional stream finds 
power when it flows with-in the banks of 

2 . Devotional or spiritual perception 
are never static. Therefore, there is no 
one frozen correct approach to the life with 
God. It is a journey, indeed! 

3. Old disciplines (solitude, silence, 
meditation) seem more relevant today than 
ever because of our compulsive lives lived 
out in a compulsive society. 

4. The church must always interpret 
life to people under the view of God and the 
Scriptures . 

5. Retreats as much as ever are 
important ways to counteract the high- 
pressure society, to keep from being 
squeezed into its mold. 

6. A new need is arising for those 
persons who can lead us through the unknown 
territories of our human spirits. The place 
of a spiritual director is well-established 
in the light of these historical overviews. 

7. Small groups help overcome the 
vertigo of self-guided spiritual tourism. 


II. Spirituality and the Disciplines 

The Spirit of the Disciplines , by Dallas 

Willard (HarperSanFrancisco, 1988, 270pp.) 

Celebration of Discipline , by Richard J. 

Foster (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978, 


Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home , by 

Richard J. Foster (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, 


The three books above form a delightful 
introduction to the disciplines of spirit- 
uality. They provide fine companions for 
the Way of Jesus Christ, lived out in modern 
times. I will discuss each one individ- 

Dallas Willard provides the interested 
seeker with a deep and thorough rationale 
for the disciplined Christian life. He 
writes from the standpoint of someone on a 
crusade to change the face of the church! I 
think his posture is well-taken. He insists 
that the disciplined Christian life of which 
he speaks is normal for all of Christianity. 
Somehow the church has been doing a soft- 
sell over the years until now we have such 
an anemic version of the Christian life that 
"the real thing" looks highly abnormal! 

He challenges what many of us deal with 
in ourselves and in our parishioners: that 
salvation equals forgiveness. When the 
meaning of salvation is limited to 
forgiveness and right standing with God, the 
result is a disembodied spirituality. As 


such, it is neither seen nor heard and, in 
all likelihood, does not truly exist. If 
salvation equals forgiveness of sins, after 
the initial "decision" to "accept Jesus" one 
has an arrested spiritual development. One 
is placed in a passive stance toward growth, 
and the result is the lack of growth. 

I appreciate Willard's emphasis on what 
could be called "incarnational spirit- 
uality", i.e., growth in the Christian life 
occurs within our bodies. Our body is also 
of the essence of who we are. If listened 
to carefully, Willard would root out 
present-day expressions of Neo-Platonism in 
which the body is considered to be 
unimportant and the soul is the all in all 
of Christian experience. The body, rather 
than being merely an encumbrance, is the 
creation of God and only needs to be "tamed" 
to become an instrument of God for 
righteousness. The disciplines are about 
presenting one's body to be a living 
sacrifice, pleasing to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). 

Willard is very careful to clarify the 
place of disciplines in the scheme of 
things, emphasizing the difference between 
works for salvation and the works of 
salvation. This emphasis must constantly be 
made because human nature seeks to create 
some avenue of self- justification. On the 
one hand, grace . alone leads to passive 
Christianity; on the other hand, grace alone 
seems too simple for most people to accept. 
We naturally want to add something to the 


formula. Disciplines in the hands of the 
insecure could easily be practiced for 
meritorious reasons. Willard's cautions 
deserve recognition (25-26) . 

In reading this excellent book, I got 
the impression that the first 150 pages is 
devoted to clearing away misunderstandings, 
objections and poor theology. This impres- 
sion only points out, in my mind, how far we 
as Christians have gotten from fundamental 
New Testament teachings about the nature of 
the Christian life. Because the disciplines 
have been abused over the centuries much 
misunderstanding has grown up around them. 
This must be dealt with in order for sane, 
balanced views to be presented. I think 
Willard has done a great job in bringing 
back the importance of the disciplines and 
showing how they are an intrinsic part of 
the New Testament. 

I find it interesting that the book 
makes overtures into many of the classic 
academic disciplines. I found the subjects 
of anthropology, theology, exegesis, philo- 
sophy, history, psychology, hermeneutics, 
sociology and political science all inter- 
woven with the theme. This indicates to me 
that the disciplines are relevant to all 
aspects of life, inner and outer, abstract 
and concrete, personal and corporate. It 
also indicates to me that Willard has done 
his homework. 

By way of recommendation, this book is 
required reading for all who wish to 


discover the place of disciplines in the 
Christian life. Willard has done a great 
service to the church by rescuing the 
disciplines from being viewed either as an 
aberration or a luxury to being viewed as 
essential and nuclear in the Christian life. 

Logically, Willard' s writing precedes 
Foster's; chronologically, Foster's -precedes 
Willard' s by ten years! (Foster's 
Celebration of Discipline has been revised 
and expanded recently.) Celebration of 
Discipline, probably more than any other 
book, brought the spiritual disciplines to 
the attention of the modern church. It 
rushed in to fill the vacuum and the 
vapidity of contemporary Christianity. The 
response to the work only indicates how 
hungry the church is for moral and spiritual 
substance. A workbook and a video series 
has further enabled the contents of this 
important book to become readily available 
to many. So, what is the secret? 

First, I think the warm and engaging 
style draws readers into the subject. One 
does not feel threatened by what Foster is 
saying. Rather, his own honesty regarding 
being a beginner and stumbling often encour- 
ages the reader to try or keep trying. But 
the warmth and honesty cannot mislead a 
person into thinking that this is a light- 
weight matter. The subject matter is 
serious, yet one gets the feeling of being 
taken on an exciting adventure. 

Second, the book satisfies the seeking 



soul because one is excited about being on a 
hunt for buried treasure. Buried in the 
Scriptures and Christian history are 
concepts which have been long neglected. 
The writings of the saints, with which 
Foster is obviously well-versed, are like 
buried treasure. They have suffered from 
obscurity and Foster brings them out in a 
tantalizing way. Just a glance at page 62 
is enough to whet the appetite! 

Foster, like Willard, is careful to 
caution anyone against falling into the pit 
of works-righteousness in the practice of 
the disciplines. He speaks of walking 
through a narrow chasm, bordered on the 
right by moralism and on the left by 
antinomianism. But there is a path through 
the chasm: the disciplines of the spiritual 
life (7) . They are the "door to liber- 
ation", freeing us from the struggle to save 
ourselves or from losing ourselves in 
carelessness . 

Foster arranges the disciplines into 
convenient categories, inward (meditation, 
prayer, fasting, study) , outward (simplic- 
ity, solitude, submission, service) , and 
corporate (confession, worship, guidance, 
celebration) . Foster treats them individ- 
ually, taking time for careful explanation, 
inserting . cautions regarding misuse or 
imbalance, and offering practical appli- 
cation and illustration. I found his ap- 
proach to be sane and practical in every 
case, never exotic or "superspiritual" . He 


calls us to a level of spiritual awareness 
and sensitivity that will not be found by 
simply living in the area of "lowest common 
denominator" Christianity. Like Willard, he 
believes that this is normal Christianity, 
not some avant-garde version for the select 
few. To think such is only to reveal how 
far we have gotten from a life-chanaina 

Foster has been criticized by some for 
being a handmaid of New Age teaching. The 
stress on inwardness and a mystical approach 
incline some to be suspect of his approach. 
However, in defense of his approach, I would 
suggest some considerations. First, 
Foster's identification with the Friends 
community indicate that he is following the 
tradition of his spiritual roots. Second, 
such criticism indicates a superficial 
acquaintance with Foster's works. He is 
careful to be biblical (e.g., " "The one 
Spirit will never lead in opposition to the 
written Word which He inspired", 162) . For 
Foster, Christ is all in all. Third, suspi- 
cions regarding New Age teaching are almost 
as popular now as the movement itself! The 
movement (if there is such) has gotten much 
free publicity at the hands of those who 
seem to have little else to do other than 
inspect the "bushes"! Fourth, similarities 
between Foster's themes and New Ages themes 
are coincidental. Both indicate a spiritual 
quest. With Foster as one's guide, there is 
little danger of being seduced into heresy. 


Prayer is an expansion on the central 
discipline of the spiritual life. Prayer 
is, according to the author, like "coming 
home", to a place where one feels one truly 
belongs. Similar to his first book. Prayer 
takes us into Scripture and into the 
spiritual classics, deepening and broadening 
one's understanding of the subject. 

The book is a call to prayer in its 
many forms. Foster isolates and discusses 
twenty-one aspects of the prayer life, 
forever dislodging the view that prayer is 
simply prayer. To read the book is to be 
reminded that some of the aspects of prayer 
are often practiced unconsciously while 
others need to be consciously addressed. 
Unless we keep in mind the breadth of 
possibilities in prayer, we tend to slide 
into the rut of unchallenged (and 
unchallenging) habit and repetition. 

I chose to read the book as a guide to 
practice, rather than as an academic 
exercise. As such, it took me almost eight 
months to complete and I felt some sorrow in 
parting when I reached page 256. Each 
section under a bold heading was "sufficient 
unto the day" . I read and I trust I 
inwardly digested, but I did not mark in the 
text. I plan to come back to these pages 
again and again, and I hope to do so with a 
sense of freshness. 

I would recommend this book as a 
devotional guide, taking the pilgrim on a 
journey into the expansive land of prayer by 


a trusted friend who knows whereof he 
speaks . 

By way of summary and conclusions for 
this section, these three books taken 
together remind us that there is no 
advancement in the spiritual life without 
effort. Discipline is required to practice 
the disciplines! So many contemporary 
Christians are in a state of arrested 
spiritual formation because, first, our 
corporate theology of growth is entirely 
deficient, and second, because few have been 
willing to take "the road less travelled", 
thinking the way is hard, unrewarding and 
joyless. Willard and Foster are like a 
team, sent out by two, to show us a more 
excellent way. If heeded, the faith of the 
church will become more robust and less 
flabby; if heeded, saltiness will be 
restored to the salt and the light will 
again shine because it cannot be hidden. If 
these voices are not heard in our time, our 
consumer church mentality will prevail and 
"hot tub religion" (Packer) will replace 
true discipleship. When that approach comes 
to fruition, the church will enter a new 
dark ages, awaiting yet another call to 
purgation and renewal. My opinion is that 
even the presence of these voices indicates 
that we are beginning to emerge from a dark 
night, and a new day is beginning to dawn. 


III. Spirituality Applied to Ministry 

Spirituality for Ministry / by Urban T. 

Holmes (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982, 


Pastoral Spirituality: A Focus for Ministry 

by Ben Campbell Johnson (Philadelphia: 

Westminster, 1988, 152pp.) 

Sacrifice and Delight: Spirituality for 

Ministry by Alan Jones (HarperSanFrancisco, 

1992, 189pp.) 

These three writings are united in 
their supposition that a pastor ministers 
out of who he or she is. Therefore, self- 
understanding and spiritual nurture are 
priority number one for anyone who would 
minister in Jesus' name. Each of these books 
makes this assumption and attempts to 
approach the subject from all angles. Taken 
together, the three cover every apparent 
aspect of the issue and probe deeply into 
the soul and mind of the reader while doing 

Holmes and Jones both represent a 
sacerdotal view of ordination and ministry 
and some of their discussions reflect this 
view. However, much can be gained by 
listening to them, even by those of us who 
espouse a more functional view of 
ordination. Sacerdotal or functional, each 
must pay close attention to his or her life 
and the role of God in it. Perhaps those 
with a sacerdotal view are more vulnerable 
to laxity in this area because of a supposed 
"fixed" view of ordination. At the same 


time, those with a functional view of 
ordination may tend to forget the power of 
the symbolism inherent in ordination at all. 
In a given ministry situation, an ordained 
person is considered to be someone "special" 
to God, even if the pastor himself or 
herself does not think so. In other words, 
lay people in both persuasions are 
sacerdotal in how they view the ordained 
ministry. Regardless, "the minister" is the 
symbol of God, His presence and His power. 
Whether there is reality behind the symbol 
depends on one's "spirituality". 

Holmes' work places a great deal of 
emphasis on the place of prayer in the life 
of the pastor as well as the parish (the 
chapter on "A Parish Piety" is excellent) . 
"Prayer is to spirituality as eating is to 
hunger" (19) . 

However, I found in his chapter, "Prayer and 
the Unconscious", a quagmire of .subjectivism 
arising from a sense of trying to rewrite 
Scripture with obvious deference to 
psychology, especially Jung. But one needs 
to be patient even in this, for there are 
some fruits to be gleaned. -After all, 
Teresa of Avila is noted for her exploration 
of "the interior castle." 

Holmes' work concludes (literally! for 
he died soon after writing this book) with a 
discussion on the place of a spiritual 
friend. The chief purpose of this companion 
is for accountability in the journey, an 
accountability related to the adoption of a 


rule. The rule, interestingly enough, ought 
to contain lectio , silencio , oratio , and 
actio. Meditatio could also be included. 

His concluding words are worthy of 
being included here: 

The pastor is truly called to 
live with people at the level of their 
ultimate issues and values, as in 
matters of sexuality, vocation, birth, 
and death. In the final analysis, 
what can be more worthwhile? Why 
do we have to pander to false models? 
We cannot pretend to be such 
instruments, however, if we do not 
renounce what would distract us from 
such a delicate caring. We have to be 
tough. . .We have to be rooted in what 
feeds our soul - the intimate know- 
ledge of God. . . (190) 

In Pastoral Spirituality / Johnson 
builds his .thoughts around a hypothetical 
pastor named Tom, and his spiritual guide, 
Jesse. While these two do not dominate the 
scene, they are referred to periodically 
throughout the book. More attention is 
devoted, and rightfully so, to the contents 
of the situation facing pastors than to the 
characters through whom the ideas are being 

Like peeling off the layers of an 
onion, the life of the pastor is layer-by- 
layer exposed and discussed. Again, in- 
sights from Jung are notably prominent and 


they are helpful as applied to pastoral 
spirituality. Spiritual formation is seen 
in the total context of one's self, one's 
community of faith, one's time and culture, 
and one's destiny, all encompassed about by 

Taken as a whole, the book could be 
useful as a handbook for pastoral ministry, 
giving a substantial rationale behind 
specific acts of ministry. The pastor is 
the symbol of the work of God among His 
people and, as such, is called to integrity 
and reality. 

Some of the segments of the book were 
useful to me as I led pastoral couples on 
retreat for my project. At the present 
time, I am also working on a course for the 
seminary in the area of Pastoral Self-Care. 
Johnson's book, more than others I have 
read, informed me of the importance of the 
"self" which is to be cared for. "Who is 
this self? How did it come to be? Do I 
accept - celebrate, even - this self I am? 
Johnson's work is valuable in dealing with 
these questions. 

Sacrifice and Delight must be read with 
caution, with a careful filtering system. 
Some assumptions in the work seem most 
carefully hidden but must be exposed so the 
reader does not stumble over them. One of 
those assumptions is a version of monism, 
that all reality is a whole, that all being 
is one, everything is together in a cosmic 
whole. I find a hearty biblical differ- 


entiation lacking in that view. A second 
assumption, like unto the first and possibly 
deriving from it, is the relativity of 
truth. There is little (almost nothing!) 
that makes this book distinctly Christian. 
The author seldom refers to anything 
specifically biblical or Christian. That 
alone does not make a book less than 
Christian (or why is Esther in the biblical 
canon?), but in its ranging to and fro one 
gets the feeling that "the Rock which makes 
people stumble" is carefully sidestepped. 
This aspect was somewhat frustrating to me 
because I had to continually make mental 
adjustments in order to glean the truth of 
what he was saying and refashion it to fit 
my theological framework. Rather than 
simply "delight" in the truths being stated, 
I had to "sacrifice" the mental energy 
required to restructure the ideas to conform 
to my evangelical persuasion. 

With that understanding, the reader is 
taken into a journey which is expansive and 
challenging. The author quotes from a wide 
range of sources, gathering insights from 
poets, novelists, historians, psychologists, 
love songs, the spiritual classics, theolo- 
gians, sociologists, journalists and others. 
His own writing is more abstract and poetic 
than most writers in this field today. This 
approach may try the patience of the 
practical-minded, but when one is patient 
and seeks for the "treasure buried in the 
field", the rewards are unmistakable. 


The issue Jones is addressing is, what 
is the role of the minister today? To 
answer that question, we are taken into the 
absurdities of ordination (from a human 
point of view) , the woundedness or 
brokenness of the vessel God has chosen to 
use ("the wounded fool"), and nurturing or 
caring for the broken vessel. 

The ministry is described in such terms 
as "storytelling", "art", "acting", "sacri- 
fice" and, most of all, "delight". His 
concluding thrust is in a lighthearted vein, 
calling us to learn to befriend ourselves, 
take delight in what God has made, approach 
life "playfully". 

One of the most helpful aspects of the 
book is the chapter on "The Context of 
Ministry" (59-72) . That section is the most 
astute analysis of contemporary ministry I 
have seen anywhere. The two major trends of 
individualism and pluralism have demoralized 
pastors everywhere. (The analysis' will be 
helpful in that portion of my final project 
on "Ministry From a Contemporary Per- 
spective") . Jones calls the pastors • to 
become the visionaries of a revitalized 
spirituality founded on the resurrection 
(71) . "The Church needs to recover both its 
intellectual and social nerve" (70) . Our 
task in the years ahead is to address the 
spiritual poverty of our world. This is 
Jones at his best. 

The Living Reminder (New York: Seabury, 
1981, 78pp) , In the Name of Jesus (New York: 


Crossroad, 1991, 81pp.) and The Way of the 
Heart (New York: Ballantine, 1981, 78pp.) by 
Henri J. M. Nouwen. 

What can I say of the works of Nouwen? 
He has been a literary companion of mine for 
fifteen years, coming to me by way of The 
Genessee Diary and then The Wounded Healer, 
With Open Hands, and Thoughts in Solitude. 
Later, Reaching Out / Creative Ministry, and 
Clowning in Rome widened my acquaintance 
with the Dutch priest and professor. It has 
come to the point that, when Nouwen speaks, 
I listen! 

I have chosen the three writings above 
for their particular emphasis on spirit- 
uality for the pastor. Each has a 
particular contribution to make in this 
regard without being simply repetitive. 

The Living Reminder is a call to keep 
spirituality alive in the routines of 
ministry. We do this by seeing our tasks 
primarily as servants of God, rather than of 
people. We stand in the presence of people 
as "living reminders" because we have first 
walked in the presence of God. We can be 
truly present to people because we have been 
absent from them in order to be present to 
God. Our professionalism can so easily 
cause us to become "lukewarm technicians", 
functional, rather than transcendent (see 
Adrian van Kaam, The Transcendent Self) . 
The Living Reminder is a reminder to keep 
one's own house filled with Holy Spirit so 
that ministry can be alive with God, rather 


than the mere dead letter of the law. 

One sentence I have had cause to 
reflect upon and even to pass along to 
others is this: "One of the most comforting 
remarks I ever heard was: 'I wish you could 
experience yourself as I experience you. 
Then you would not be so depressed'" (67- 
68) . This indicates to me that we can 
minister by who we are without even being 
aware of anything other than our weaknesses 
and inabilities. In that, there is hope. 

In the Name of Jesus addresses three 
great temptations of pastoral leadership and 
offers guidance to help overcome them. Who 
of us does not wrestle with the temptation 
to be relevant, to be spectacular, and to be 
powerful? These temptations are addressed 
in the context of Jesus' encounter with 
Peter in that post-resurrection scene on the 
shores of Lake Galilee, Jesus' 'own 
temptations in the desert, and in Nouwen's 
ministry context of the Daybreak -community 
for the mentally handicapped. For each 
temptation there is a corresponding task and 
a corresponding discipline. The combined 
effect is to become a humble servant in the 
presence of God. Nouwen himself is living 
this out in ministry. 

The book should be required reading for 
all pastors because we cannot escape the 
expectation of success placed upon us by 
society, our peers, and our churches. We 
are very worldly in this regard and we need 
the corrective of this book to remind us who 


we are before God. (There is also a very 
searching comment for the seminary system of 
today, 69-70.) 

The Way of the Heart is written to help 
deliver pastors from "tyranny of the 
urgent", our compulsive manner of behaving 
in performing ministry. Deliverance is to 
be found in solitude, silence and prayer. 
Drawing on the wisdom of the Desert Fathers, 
Nouwen directs us to the most important 
aspect of ministry, our attention to God. 

Solitude breaks the stranglehold of 
people-demands upon us. Silence breaks us 
from the oppression of wordiness. Prayer, 
then, becomes possible because of solitude 
and silence. 

"The prayer of the heart" is praying in 
a way that is not primarily an intellectual 
and oratorical exercise (getting the words 
and phrases "right") . It is "standing in the 
presence of God with the mind in the heart" 
(59). It is, to use Paul's phrase, to "pray 
without ceasing" because it is not limited 
by formality. It is a posture of the inner 
life before God that is portable, goes 
wherever we go and is involved in all that 
we do. It is "practicing the presence of 

Nouwen 's writings are, in my 
estimation, necessary to help balance the 
"how to's" of ministry. Theological and 
practical skills need to be developed, but 
not at the expense of the interior life. 
Even as Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can 


do nothing." Just to go through these three 
books and reread my underlining is renewing 
and comforting as well as challenging. 
The Contemplative Pastor (Carol Stream, IL 
and Dallas: Christianity Today and Word, 
1989, 176pp.), Under the Unpredictable Plant 

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992, 197pp.) 
and Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1987, 131 pp.) by Eugene H. 

Eugene Peterson is speaking a much- 
needed word to pastors today in the light of 
the vocational crisis many of us face. Some 
pastors drop out of the professional 
ministry while many others simply endure the 
misery of an unfulfilling career. Peterson, 
like Nouwen, calls us to investigate our 
ideas of pastoral roles and seek to recover 
a more biblical stance. These three 
writings represent Peterson at his finest in 
helping today's pastor perform a paradigm 
shift in ministry. It remains to be seen if 
many of us can "pull it off" . 

The Contemplative Pastor will speak to 
the heart of many of us. We, as Peterson 
states, began with a calling and found 
ourselves with a job. In other words, the 
ministry becomes professionalized both by 
external expectations and inward responses 

(perhaps Nouwen 's list of temptations: to be 
relevant, spectacular and powerful) . When 
this happens, we must go back and be re- 
formed spiritually and vocationally. 
Peterson's method is to take the Beatitudes 


for sources of renewal and re-formation. He 
shows how the commonplaces of ministry can 
once again become holy ground. We pastors 
"shine" in times of crisis, but we become 
dull and sub-ordinary in the ordinary. New 
perspectives are called for, to see the 
commonplace as God's place. 

Peterson's chapter entitled, "Lashed to 
the Mast", an exposition of ordination, is 
the best in the book, in my opinion, and 
could well be made more accessible by being 
issued in booklet form. 

Under the Unpredictable Plant is yet 
another call to pastoral integrity and an 
attack on religious professionalism. Using 
the story of Jonah as matrix, Peterson takes 
the reader on a delightful journey with the 
prophet. Tarshish is our self-chosen field 
of ministry, in contrast with God's chosen 
assignments. The storm is the (super) 
natural result of using ministry for self- 
aggrandizement. We escape the storm by 
abandoning religious careerism and returning 
to ministry as vocation. Ministry as 
vocation is sustained by askesis , the 
training regimen of an athlete, the 
disciplines of the spiritual life, the 
return to becoming "contemplative pastors" 
(see 88-115, for excellent expansion of 
these ideas.) • Re-formation is finding the 
road back to Nineveh. "The unpredictable 
plant" is ongoing life in ministry, living 
under the adventure of the Holy Spirit who 
is constantly in the process of creating and 


demolishing, destroying all concepts of 
static ministry, always bringing forth 
newness. The new call is to make that 
paradigm shift from church operator to 

Working the Angles is yet another way 
to challenge many contemporary forms of 
pastoral ministry and to recall them to true 
vocation. In this imagery, Peterson thinks 
of the lines of a triangle as the usual 
functions in ministry, the obvious things we 
do in our public performances and duties. 
The angles, however, are the three necessary 
less visible aspects of ministry, our first 
calling of prayer. Scripture and spiritual 
direction. Peterson feels that most 
contemporary pastors have abandoned the 
angles and have been working the lines. The 
angles, however, determine the shape and 
size of the triangle. The book is an urgent 
call to recover the first business of 
pastoral integrity: solitude and leisure 
before God, pondering Scripture and being an 
unhurried presence to other people. This, 
too, is a book about spiritual re-formation. 
Having been destroyed by the contemporary 
image of the pastor as a "church operator", 
many pastors must come back to the biblical 
image of "pastor". The job-description 
needs to be rewritten and a new 
accountability system must be. devised so 
that pastors do not go off "whoring after 
other gods" of ministry redefined. 


Summary and Conclusions 

The thrust of the writings I have 
reviewed here indicate that ministry is 
first a spiritual matter. It is about 
spirituality and SPIRITUALITY IS LIFE 
(Harper, class lecture, July 22, 1993) . The 
historical perspective is necessary to 
remind us that the quest is agelong and 
lifelong. God has put that hunger there and 
the historical overview narrows down for us 
the parameters within which this hunger is 
to be satisfied. People may look elsewhere, 
but the quest is really a spiritual one. 

Spirituality can only be pursued within 
the time-tested disciplines. Disregard 
these and the spiritual life will ever be 
shallow and dispersed. Disciplines provide 
a channel for energy and focus. Little will 
change without them; we will not be changed 
without them. 

Since ministry is a spiritual matter, 
spiritual vitality is of first importance 
for the pastor. Skills are necessary, but 
vocation must be preeminent. Unfortunately, 
it has . taken some of us many years to 
discover this. We assume that what we need 
is some new "wow" program that will 
guarantee success. Many of us in ministry 
are still on an ego-trip, trying to prove to 
ourselves, our parents, or our professors 
that we truly are capable "somebodies". For 
many of us, our egos are all wrapped up in 
our ministries and we can scarcely tell one 


from the other. Perhaps the whole ethos of 
pastoral ministry needs redefined. We have 
been swept away by the shifting streams of 
current expectations. How can we return to 
our unique selves, surrendering "the 
religious businessman" image? Re-formation 
along the lines of Peterson's and Nouwen's 
emphases is the key to a recovery of 
pastoral integrity and wholeness in our time 
or any time. Our core selves must be 
rediscovered (Holmes and Johnson) and those 
selves must be reshaped by the disciplines 
of the spiritual life. Then those renewed 
selves must be cared for and re-commissioned 
for ministry in new patterns of expectation 
and expedition. The seminaries must accept 
their role in the formation of the pastor 
and place greater emphasis on being rather 
than doing. Many of the skills come only in 
practice anyway; it seems that the seminary 
might help this recovery if formation were 
given greater priority. 

God is doing a new thing in our time! 
Renewal is coming to the church. A shift is 
beginning. The literature I have reviewed 
here indicates that out of the restlessness 
a new being is emerging to guide the people 
of God in the coming years. We can 
participate with joy and watch with hope for 
new expressions of the reign of God among 
us . 



roster, Richard J. Celebration of 

Discipline . San Francisco : Harper and 
Row, 1978. 

. Prayer: Finding the Heart's True 

Home . San Francisco: Harper San Fran- 
:isco, 1992. 

Johnson, Ben Campbell. Pastoral Spiritua- 
lity: A Focus for Ministry . Philadel- 
phia : Westminster, 1988. 

Jones, Alan. Sacrifice and Delight: Spirit- 
uality for Ministry . San Francisco: 
HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. 

iinson, E. Glenn. Seekers After Mature 
Faith. Waco: Word, 1966. 

iolmes. Urban T. A History of Christian 
Spirituality . New York: Seabury, 1980. 

. Spirituality for Ministry . San 

Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982. 

Jouwen, Henri J. M. In the Name of Jesus . 
New York: Crossroad, 1991. 

. The Living Reminder . New York: 

Seabury, 1981. 


. The Way of the Heart . New York 

Ballantine, 1981. 

Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative 
Pastor. Carol Stream and Dallas: 
Christianity Today and Word, 1989. 

. Under the Unpredictable Plant 

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992. 
. Working the Angles . Grand 

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. 

Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Discip- 
lines . San Francisco: HarperSanFran- 
cisco, 1988. 


By Eldon Sheffer* 

History of Spirituality 

Christian spirituality has deep roots 
into the spiritual traditions of many 
centuries back to the time of Christ. 
However, the focus of this article will be 
to briefly examine some of the main streams 
of tradition since the time of the 
Reformation (sixteenth century) . To give a 
sense of the more recent history of 
spirituality, the following traditions will 
be surveyed: Lutheran spirituality. Reformed 
spirituality, Anabaptist spirituality, 
?\nglican spirituality, Puritan spirituality, 
the spirituality of Pietism, and Methodist 

Lutheran Spirituality 

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a central 
figure in the early stages of the Protestant 
Reformation. Although others made signifi- 
cant contributions to this renewal movement, 
Luther, through his quest" for piety, 
certainly played an important role. 

*Dr. Eldon Sheffer is pastor of Ripley 
Church, Greenwich, OH. An instructor in 
Creek at Ashland Seminary, he holds the 
D.Min. degree with specialization in 
ministry with men. 


Liturgical piety has been a vital 
element in Lutheran spirituality. Frank 
Senn points out: 

The chief Liturgy of Word and 
Sacrament especially has been a 
way in which Lutherans have 
appropriated God's grace by faith 
and responded with the sacrifice 
of praise and thanksgiving in 
prayer, liturgical chant, and 
hymnody. In their worship Luther- 
ans have been nourished by the 
means of grace in order to put 
their faith to work in the 
everyday world. The liturgy has 
been formative of a genuine lay 
spirituality, which is also a 
major contribution of Luther to 
Protestant spirituality in 
general . . . -^ 

From the emphasis on the liturgy of the 
Word and Sacraments come other elements 
which are important in Lutheran spirit- 
uality. The "priesthood of all believers" 
gave laity a greater stake in things of a 
spiritual nature. There is no difference 
between the clergy and the laity except one 
of office. The "Catechism" served as a 
foundation for spiritual life. Instruction 
in and regular attention to the Ten 
Commandments, the Apostle's Creed, and the 
Lord's Prayer is expected of Lutheran young 
people in preparation for confirmation. 


Hymnody and devotional literature have also 
played an important part in Lutheran 

Reformed Spirituality 

Reformed spirituality finds its roots 
in the experience and thinking of Ulrich 
Zwingli (1484-1531) and John Calvin (1509- 
1564). Zwingli emphasized two elements 
which relate to spirituality. He insisted 
on the centrality of Scripture which brought 
about a spirituality that was largely 
inward. Also, he placed an emphasis on 
knowledge which drifted into a rationalistic 
approach to spirituality. 

Calvin, on the other hand, placed much 
emphasis on the mystical union of the 
believer with Christ. Justification and 
sanctif ication enable growth into the 
likeness of Christ. The Church is also 
important since that is the main context for 
development and growth in spirituality. One 
of Calvin's favorite statements illustrates 
this belief: "We cannot have God as our 
Father if we do not have the Church as our 
mother."^ Within the church, the believer 
grows through the preaching of the Word and 
the eucharist. Through the Word Christ is 
made real in an audible way and through the 
eucharist he is made real in a visible way. 
Through the Word and the eucharist the 
believer is empowered and enabled to render 


obedient service to God in the world. 

Anabaptist Spirituality 

The spirituality of the Anabaptists 
developed in the context of the Radical 
Reformation (dating from the 1520s) with 
several different branches and leading 
characters involved. They had a real zeal 
for God and focused on love, faith, and 
bearing the cross. In The Study of 
Spirituality , Sebastian Franck is quoted 
concerning the essence of their spirit- 

They [Anabaptists] showed them- 
selves humble, patient under 
suffering; they brake the bread 
with one another as an evidence of 
unity and love. They helped each 
other faithfully, called each 
other brothers, etc... They were 
persecuted with great tyranny, 
being imprisoned, branded, 
tortured and executed by fire, 
water and the sword. ^ 

Anabaptists became known for their 
separation from the world and holiness of 
life. Their spirituality "was expressed 
less in acts of worship and devotion than in 
the whole of life. .. [They] lived moderately, 
avoiding ostentation,..."'' Membership was by 
public profession of faith and baptism. 
Anabaptists gathered in independent gather- 
ings apart from any traditional churches. 


They often gathered in secret because of 
possible persecution but were always ready 
to bear the cross in life. 

Anglican Spirituality 

The focus for Anglican spirituality has 
centered on The Book of Common Prayer. This 
was originally prepared by Archbishop 
Cranmer in 1549 for the purpose of communal 
piety. The discipline of public or common 
worship is critical to their spirituality 
leading to a corporate unity. A statement 
made by archbishop Robert Runcie in 1988 
lists the main elements of Anglican unity 
and spirituality: 

TVnglican unity has most char- 
acteristically been expressed in 
worship, which includes four 
essential elements: scripture 
pro-claimed, creed confessed, 
sacraments celebrated, and order 
maintained through an authorized 
episcopal ministry.^ 

Public worship and prayer and devotion 
precedes and prepares the way for private 
prayer and devotion. The family, then, is 
the place of worship apart from the Church. 
With the facility of the Book of Common 
Prayer, the weekly readings and devotion of 
the family can maintain a link with the 
devotions of the whole Church. Thus every- 
one had opportunity to participate in 
corporate worship. This was a foundational 


concept of Anglican spirituality. 

Puritan Spirituality 

Lewis Bayly, Bishop of Bangor wrote The 

Practise of Pietie in 1610 and is quoted as 

describing the essence of piety as follows: 

to joyne together, in watching, 

fasting, praying, reading the 

Scriptures, keeping his Sabboths, 

hearing Sermons, receiving the 

holy Communion, relieving the 

Poore, exercising in all humilitie 

the workes of Pietie to God, and 

walking conscionably in the duties 

of our calling towards men.^ 

Puritans viewed the spiritual life as a 

pilgrimage. They were pilgrims who "looked 

forward to the city which has foundations, 

whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 

11:10). Self-examination and prayer were 

important to live a heavenly life while 

passing through this life on the way to 

heaven. The reading of (praying and poring 

over) scripture was central. Fasting, 

keeping the sabbath, good stewardship, 

"heart" religion, and seeking to transform 

both individuals and society were all 

elements of Puritan spirituality. 


Pietism was a renewal movement in the 
later seventeenth and the eighteenth 


centuries growing out of the church life of 
both Lutheran and Reformed. Philipp Jacob 
Spener was one of the leaders in this 
movement. In reaction to the spirit of 
rationalism that had developed, emphasis was 
placed more upon a personal Christianity 
including the new birth/regeneration/ 
conversion experience. Spener made six 
proposals regarding faith and spirituality: 

1. A more extensive use of the word of 
God... in teaching and preaching 
than what was prescribed in the 
pericopes for each Sunday and a 
more sustained encounter with 
Scripture by use of the convent- 

2. More exercise of the Spiritual 
priesthood. .. If the convent- 
icles could develop properly 
and lay persons assume their 
rightful priesthood, then 
renewal had a chance and 
pastoral care could truly be 
pastoral . 

3. It is not enough to have knowledge 
of Christianity, for Christ- 
ianity consists of practice. 

4. Great care must be exercised in the 
conduct of religious controver- 
sies... the practice of Christianity 
is part of the apologetic in any 
defense of the gospel or reproof 
of error. 


5. Seminaries are to be places of 
spiritual formation, not just 
places of intellectual exercises. 
" . . .Study without piety is 
worthless . " 

6. Seminaries are to provide practical 
experiences in ministry.^ 

The implementation of these propositions 
within groups of committed people was 
intended to spread renewal throughout the 

Methodist Spirituality. 

Methodist spirituality begins with John 
Wesley in the eighteenth century. He saw 
the Christian life as inward spiritual 
growth as well as active discipleship in the 

Methodist spirituality had a 
purpose which transcended the 
personal formation of its 
practitioners. It was the appro- 
priation and application of those 
disciplines which equip and 
empower the believer to be a 
faithful disciple in the world. 
The goal of their spiritual 
pilgrimage was the mind that was 
in Christ. But their immediate 
task was to be the ambassadors of 
God to a sinful and resistant 
world--of which they were also a 
part .^ 


The key to Methodist spirituality was 
the class meeting. These were small groups 
of people that provided opportunity for 
teaching and spiritual accountability. 
Other elements of spirituality that were 
stressed in Methodism include the quest for 
Christian perfection (not without its 
struggles/back-slidings) , the rich tradition 
of hymnody, and holiness (the second 
blessings by the Holy Spirit — a cleansing 
from sin) . 

This brief overview from an historical 
perspective reveals the fact that the 
Protestant spirituality of our day has a 
rich heritage. Men and women of God have 
for centuries realized the importance of 
cultivating a deep relationship with God. 
Although various expressions of spirituality 
gave rise to different forms or emphases, it 
is important for us to realize today that 
underneath traditions are common threads 
that bind us together in our understanding 
of Christian spirituality. 

^Frank Senn, ed., Protestant Spiri- 
tual Traditions (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 
1986), 26. 

^Ibid., 63. 

'C. Jones, et ai.. The Studv of 
Spirituality (New York: Oxford University 


Press, 1986), 351. 

^Ibid, 352-53. 

^Robin Maas and Gabriel O'Donnell, 
eds . , Spiritual Traditions for the Con- 
temporary Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 
1990), 269. 

'Senn, 165. 

'Senn, 206-207. 

«Ibid, 230. 


By Vladimir Berzonsky* 

At first glance one would consider that 
Orthodox Christians and the conutiunions 
derived from 16th-century Anabaptism are so 
remote from one another that there is insuf- 
ficient common ground to warrant serious 
discussion. Each approaches the Christian 
faith with different premises. Where might 
dialogue begin? 

We might begin by considering one an- 
other as God's children who believe in the 
Triune nature of the One God and affirm that 
Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God, entered 
the world to save sinners by His death and 
resurrection. But we have differing under- 
standings of the implications of those basic 
spiritual facts. If we indeed are to have 
some respect for one another's doctrinal 
positions, it must transcend patronizing 
cliches based on what just may be inadequate 
theology. Christ's call for unity demands 
that we explore the premises behind our 
stated convictions. 

Let's imagine a prototypical Orthodox 
and an Anabaptist taking the place of those 

*Dr. Vladimir Berzonsky (D.Min., Ashland) 
pastors Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in 
Parma, OH. At the 11th Believer's Church 
Conference, held 1994 at Ashland, he was the 
invited respondent from the Orthodox Church 
in America. 


two disciples of our Lord on their way to 
Emmaus on that glorious afternoon of the 
resurrection (Lk. 24:13-35). We pose the 
situation this way in order to push it to 
its limits: Eastern Christianity, which did 
not actively participate in either Roman 
Catholicism or the Protestant renewal of 
Europe versus the so-called left wing of the 
Reformation. At least in the Gospel we find 
Clopas and his companion in serious 
discourse over the momentous events that 
shaped history, which is more than we have 
often done in company with one another. And 
their surly demeanor ("Are you the only one 
living in Jerusalem who doesn't know what 
things have happened there in these days?" 
V.18) rather suggests the attitude we 
sometimes take, not to Christ but to one 
another. We too have made sweeping gen- 
eralizations about each other that may not 
be accurate, just as the two disciples made 
about their unknown traveling companion, 
for, contrary to their false assumption, 
Jesus was not a resident of that city. 

We go as equals, both followers of 
Christ, knowing something of that momentous 
day's events without comprehending all of 
its implications until they are pointed out 
to us, and by none other than the stranger 
in our midst whom we fail to recognize. 

It would be helpful to contemplate the 
facts and realize how the Holy Spirit within 
us, listening to the Lord Jesus, reveals the 
meaning of the weekend's happenings by 


disclosing God's plan of salvation conceived 
before the cosmos came into existence. And 
He does this, in a literal sense, step by 

We are leaving Jerusalem, the city that 
has done its worst to Him who tried His best 
to redeem it, even while knowing that, as He 
told the woman at Jacob's well, God cannot 
be localized or described because He is 

Spirituality, like so many terms 
commonly used by Christians, has a variety 
of understandings and connotations for 
believers. One of my seminary mentors felt 
that we would be better served by 
eliminating the term "spirituality" from our 
religious vocabulary and substituting 
"Christian life." ^ I suggest we take the 
cue from another writer who had created a 
handbook on spirituality and offer the term 
"spiritual theology" ^ since it includes all 
members of the Holy Trinity: theos, the 
Father; logos., the Son of God; and 
spiritus-pneumatoS / the Holy Spirit. In 
this way we unite those who share a common 
essence (ousis) , yet who are divided in 
person ( hypostasis ) . 

Christ expounds the Scriptures on the 
way to Emmaus; thus we would do well to 
begin and end in the Bible. It was Basil of 
Caesarea who insisted upon the principle 
that the witness of Scripture must verify 
every word and deed of the Church and its 
members.^ We must emphasize, however, the 


difficulty of knowing the mind of Christ and 
the danger of assuming that our version of 
truth is His. How do we approach this basic 
hermeneutical problem? 

We pray that He be ever between us on 
the way. Even when we cannot recognize 
Him--perhaps not even realizing that we are 
together walking along the path from the 
Jerusalem of time and space towards the 
Jerusalem from above (Rev. 21) --it behooves 
us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, who 
will expound the meaning of the Scriptures 
in light of Jesus Christ. 

From the beginning throughout the 
journey we do well to realize our biases and 
limitations. We may take as truisms what 
others have thought through and passed on to 
us without ever testing and probing, limited 
by the fact that we as individuals are 
finite by definition, looking out from one 
set of eyes and interpreting cosmic events 
by means of our circumscribed perspectives. 

Asking About Ourselves 

Assuming that "beginning with Moses" 

(Lk. 24:27) means the Torah, we may ask 

Christ, not only about God but about 

ourselves. Taking a cue from Psalm 8:4 

("what are human beings ...?"), we have a 

new look at our creation in Genesis 1:26 

("Let us make humankind in our image, 

according to our likeness") . Do we Orthodox 

make too much of the different terms "image" 



and "likeness"? Granted, in Hebrew they may 
appear as synonyms ( be-selem / ke-demut ) , but 
we read the Septuagint, and we remind others 
that it was the Bible of the Church for the 
first generation of Christians. The Greek 
eikon (image) can be understood as that gift 
of God's image which offers us a dignity and 
nobility that come with being human, while 
homoiosis ("likeness") grants us the oppor- 
tunity to strive towards becoming what we 
are already. 

We cannot walk far together without 
coming to some tacit agreement on this 
issue. Orthodox will feel that we have here 
a personal way of realizing another aspect, 
of the "already" and "not yet" tension which 
characterizes our existence. Now we are 
made in God's image, while we have at least 
one lifetime to complete the likeness to God 
by becoming what we already are in His mind. 

We might anticipate the objections from 
Protestant scholars, dominated often by the 
sweeping theology of Augustine, to consider 
the Orthodox approach to spirituality a form 
of hubris., the pride of human affirmation 
which the African renounced in the battle 
against Pelagius. Salvation, the Augus- 
tinian Reformers would contend, must be the 
pure gift of God which comes through faith 
alone ( sola fide ) , the absolute sovereignty 
of God demanding nothing more from the human 
being than reception. This identity of sola 
gratia with a particular conclusion, ex- 
trinsic justification,^ thereby changes noth- 


ing in us in the process. 

Of course, we've gone through this 
gunboat style of theological "discourse" 
time after time in the past, where the 
Orthodox now draw up their ship alongside 
and fire back by an attack on the limits of 
the sixteenth-century academic setting, 
steeped as it was in scholasticism (i.e., a 
grace that either saves us without having an 
effect on us or else works along with our 
independent cooperation, which would mean 
that we save ourselves) .^ 

Salvation for such western Christians 
involves grace being added to the "natural" 
person. For an eastern Christian a person 
is by his or her very nature made in the 
image of God (by the grace of the Holy 
Spirit). It's not a matter of grace added 
to nature to form a supernatural being, but 
of the human and divine aspects that are 
basic to having been formed a creature made 
to share the nature of God. And it doesn't 
mean that we are swallowed up in the 
process, like a pat of butter in a furnace. 
On the contrary, we can only be truly the 
person we are when we are freed from sin and 
filled with virtue. 

It may be that our differences can be 
understood by examining our battle scars. 
Orthodox witnesses to truth were early 
"struggling against religions; basically 
dualistic in nature: Manichees, Bogomils, 
Messalians and the like,^ while the Refor- 
mers continued the seemingly never-ending 


Augustinian dispute against Pelagius, which 
takes the form of demonstrations as to how 
human nature has been weakened and corrupted 
by sin. I don't imply that Augustine was 
misguided — only that the weapons against sin 
have been colored in variant shades since 
our enemies have been diverse.^ 

Augustine's severe judgment on human 
potential dominates western Christianity and 
persists relentlessly throughout both Catho- 
licism and Protestantism. If, for instance, 
the father of the prodigal son (Lk. 
15:llff.) is Christ's way of conveying the 
relationship of a heavenly Parent to a 
sinful child, is God (in the famous words of 
Jonathan Edwards) "an angry God," or more 
like a wise, loving Father waiting for His 
child to realize sin, repent and return 

In general, the Orthodox will have a 
more winsome concept of the human being's 
potential for atonement, for they are aware 
that they are challenged with the respon- 
sibility for their oneness with God, never 
forgetting for an instant that it is God who 
takes the initiative. The Father has sent 
His only-begotten Son into the world, who 
accomplished everything He came to achieve 
( tetelesthai , Jn. 19:39). When He returned 
from whence He had come, the Holy Spirit 
then was sent to complete the process of 
salvation, a process that never does 
violence to the freedom of our opportunity 
to cooperate in our own salvation. By 


opening ourselves to the prompting and 
whispers of the Spirit within, we draw ever 
nearer to Jesus Christ who introduces us to 
His Father. And by a miraculous mystery 
incomprehensible to our limited nature, we 
too are adopted into that Holy Family and 
permitted to understand what is meant when 
we call the Almighty our "Abba." 

In the matter of the Holy Spirit, it is 
imperative that we investigate our trini- 
tarian and christological statements. The 
Orthodox seem to feel that all westerners. 
Catholic and Protestant alike, have a 
defective concept of the Holy Spirit that 
can be traced to the great and blessed 
Augustine. In his stating one truth, that 
the Father and Son are united by love and 
that love engenders the Holy Spirit, he 
leaves the Spirit, the Orthodox feel, in a 
category that disallows complete sharing 
with the other Persons of the Trinity. 

Identifying with Mary and John 

As we continue with the Lord towards 
Emmaus, it would be most natural for an 
Orthodox Christian to express some interest 
regarding Jesus' earthly family, especially 
His mother. Christianity is not a faith for 
adults only, according to the Orthodox 
awareness of family values, therefore, it 
would be most natural to call to mind the 
scenario of the Cross. We remember that 
before He could utter that term so pregnant 


with meaning, "It is finished, " He took into 
account the welfare of His mother. Recall 
that He entrusted her to the one apostle 
filled with enough courage and love to dare 
be at His side in those traumatic moments 
before His death (Jn. 19:27). 

Can we not begin to consider a 
spiritual value by identifying with the 
beloved disciple, challenging ourselves to 
love as much as he, so that we might iden- 
tify with both Mary and John? Consider: 
what other persons in the New Testament had 
known as much about the historical Jesus? 
And, with the possible exception of Paul, 
which of them had made more spiritual 

Think of Mary the girl at Annunciation, 
the birthing episodes, the Cana wedding, 
even the misunderstandings of her Son's 
mission (Lk. 2:48; Mk. . . 3:31)--here was one 
who grew in grace. So did John, from being 
the seeker with Andrew called with James 
"Boanerges" for his irascible temper (Mk. 
3:17), through the courageous stand at the 
cross and his dash to the tomb, to becoming 
the legendary old man of the church uttering 
to one and all: "Little children, love one 
another . " 

"We Have Beheld His Glory" 

Continuing on the way in company with 
the risen Lord, we might take up the bibli- 
cal theme of glory. We might ask Him if 


there is a place for beauty on the way of 
salvation. After all, we have a vision 
ahead of us, that of the heavenly Jerusalem 
(Rev. 21:10ff.). Have we the right to adorn 
the world with some intimations of heavenly 
beauty, even as we pass through this interim 
period of space and time? Imagining we were 
like the actual companions of Christ--Jews 
who loved to pray in company with their 
Hebrew sisters and brothers in temple and 
synagogue--might we not ask Him if the 
Psalms would ever again be sung in some 
setting similar to what they had known and 

What are we to make of the vision that 
came to Isaiah in the temple and changed his 
life (Isa.. 6)? Or of Ezekiel, who saw won- 
derful things, not only in the skies but a 
vision which nourished his, soul with the 
exact specifications of a renewed, restored 
temple in Jerusalem (Ezek. 40-48)? An 
important Russian Orthodox layman, Fedor 
Dostoevsky, wrote: 

Are you aware that mankind can do 
without the English, that it can 
also do without Germany, that 
nothing is easier for mankind to 
do without than the Russians? 
That it can live without science, 
or even bread? Only beauty is 
absolutely indispensable, for 
without beauty there is nothing in 
the world worth doing. Here is 
the entire secret, all of history 


in a nutshell. 

Is he right? If so, is there some 
opportunity — even obligation — for Christians 
to restore beauty to the world? This is a 
delicate subject. Even within the Orthodox 
world a divergence has come about over this 
issue. About the time when America was 
being discovered, Russia was divided over 
the proper manner of expressing Christian 
faith. Some felt that the Church should 
demonstrate the glory of the Lord in 
tangible ways. Was it not beauty of liturgy 
that captivated the ambassadors of Prince 
Vladimir as they went about visiting a 
variety of religious expressions in search 
of a faith for their people? So it was that 
the first tendency, more commonly associated 
with Russian Orthodoxy today, was given a 
raison d' etre . Majestic temples, elaborate 
rituals, churches adorned with flowers, 
candles, incense--all that which may appear 
to the Anabaptist traditions^distasteful, if 
not downright abominable — these are meant to 
celebrate Christ's glory on earth. Beyond 
that, to possess lands, even for monas- 
teries, and to utilize sound husbanding of 
resources in order to have something tan- 
gible to offer the needy beyond prayers and 
blessings, to become involved in social 
programs of educations health and phi- 
lanthropy, were seen as the supreme means of 
giving glory to the Holy Trinity. Those who 
pursued this line were called Possessors, as 
they justified the Church's duty to serve 


God and state in a material way. 

Less known were their adversaries, the 
Non-Possessors or Transvolgans, who lived 
actually and metaphorically on the other 
side of Russia's most famous river. They 
were the intellectuals, people who could 
rise above the limits of ethnic and 
nationalistic allegiance. They felt it an 
encumbrance to become enmeshed with mundane 
responsibilities. In their view Christians 
in general and monastics in particular must 
be free to follow Christ, enlightened in 
ways of the Spirit that preclude coercion in 
matters of faith, capable of measuring the 
state against the demands of the gospel. 
Neither in architecture nor in ritual, but 
in simple ways is God to be glorified.^ 

St. Seraphim of Sarov, for example, a 
renowned elder of nineteenth-century Russia, 
stood in the tradition of the Transvolgans. 
He said that the entire purpose of the 
Christian life is to acquire the Holy 

They [the priests] tell you: "go 
to church, observe the command- 
ments, do good. That is the goal 
of your Christian life." They do 
not speak as they should have. 
Prayer, fasting, vigils, and all 
other Christian works, however 
excellent they might be, do not in 
themselves constitute the goal of 
the Christian life. They are but 
the indispensable means of attain- 

ing that end. The true end of the 
Christian life is the acquisition 
of the Spirit of God. . .of the 
grace of the Holy Spirit. 
Orthodox Christianity profited as long 
as both tendencies functioned in Russia, 
offering a vigorous, refreshing opportunity 
for the gospel to be demonstrated in a 
variety of possibilities. In time, however, 
the tsar suppressed the Transvolgans in 
favor of the Possessors, a decision which 
imposed itself upon all subsequent expres- 
sions of Russian Orthodoxy. 

We would expect most Anabaptists to 
favor the Non-Possessors of Russia, exclud- 
ing, of course, the fact that they were 
monastics whose theology of deification 
along with their love of iconography would 
not sit well with the Protestant theology of 
justification, or its frequent iconoclasm. 

Meeting of Mind and Heart 

Continuing with the metaphor of the 
Emmaus journey, we can see that the inn is 
still a great way off. As long as we 
continue in company with the Lord, listening 
and struggling to comprehend every word, 
it's possible to make progress. We're on 
solid ground when we hold fast to a 
christological approach, for that is what 
Luke implies: "He explained to them what 
was said in all the Scriptures concerning 
himself" (v. 27) . 


Recall the distinction between syna- 
gogue worship and temple sacrifice. We 
might consider being on the road with Jesus 
the synagogue aspect of our togetherness, a 
"liturgy of the Word," a Bible study with 
the main figure present to help us, through 
this Heilsgeschichte . Yet there is more 
than mere learning. Clopas and his compan- 
ion would later reflect: "Were not our 
hearts burning within us while he talked 
with us on the road and opened the 
Scriptures to us?" (v. 32) . The place of 
the heart in spirituality is where we may 
find a challenge worth exploring. 

One cannot imagine Orthodox spirit- 
uality without considering the heart's 
primacy. For us it is the very principle of 
unity and stability. To be in constant 
prayer is to have so stabilized the heart 
that all distractions are outside. Here is 
where the Spirit takes up His abode and 
prays for us with unuttered phrases, where 
those with pure hearts see God (Mt . 5:8), 
where one finds a passage to the Kingdom of 
God. "There is a certain road in particular 
which leads to the union of humans; it is 
the heart. "^ The hesychasts are the "quiet 
ones" who have shut down the senses and are 
alert to the mystery of God's union with the 
person through the heart. 

Here is not a place for romanticism or 
subjectivism, a flight of fantasy for 
dreamers. In fact, some Protestants among 
others have criticized the Orthodox for what 


they consider a capitulation to hellenistic 
philosophies. There are indeed those spir- 
itual writers (Origen, for example, and his 
disciple Evagrius Ponticus^° who were prop- 
erly condemned for their philosophical 
speculations which contradicted the basic 
presuppositions of biblical Christianity; 
but the Church in principle has always 
affirmed a balance between head and heart in 
the ways of theology. 

And we Orthodox would question what 
appears to us in most Anabaptist traditions 
to equate mystical illumination with an 
intellectual understanding of what takes 
place when God meets the human creature. 
There is much room here for meeting of minds 
and hearts, explaining as precisely as 
possible what transpires when God comes to 
us in Christ via the Holy Spirit. 

There comes a time when our Lord leaves 
us (though, as He promised. He will never be 
far from us) . Still, we are j.eft to discern 
through the Holy Spirit the implications of 
Christ's birth, life, death, resurrection, 
reign with the Father, and return. How are 
we to come to agreement on vital issues that 
divide us? For example: 

(1) What do we know about Him, and how 
much are we to make of His self-under- 
standing? He was the One who was promised 
by the prophets. Do we agree with the "high 
christology" of the Johannine Gospel? Let's 
assume that we are in accord with the 
Pauline insights regarding the risen Lord, 


which are far too profound and varied for 
this paper. Let us also take for granted 
that we are opposed to all extremes of 
heresy, from the Ebionite sect of Jewish 
Christians who could envision in Jesus only 
a role model for everyone, having observed 
the Law in such detail that He was selected 
to be Messiah, to the other extreme of the 
hellenist Docetics who had so low a regard 
for matter that they felt incarnation of the 
deity to be loathsome and repugnant. 
Gnostics in general always follow this 
latter tendency to deprecate sarx (flesh), a 
view against which John's writings are 

(2) How do we respond to His love for 
the world--not only for one another ("A new 
commandment I give to you, that you love 
each other," Jn 13:34), nor for humanity in 
general, but for that earth He promised as 
an inheritance given to the meek (Mt . 5:5)? 
It appears to me that many communions among 
Anabaptist ; Protestants share the same 
criticism heaped upon monastics in both the 
Orthodox and Catholic traditions: they care 
m.ore for their own salvation than they do 
for the welfare of the world. 

I would suggest that those who 
denigrate the Constantinian era, which was 
until then an inconceivable concept of the 
known world's conversion to Christ, consider 
the enormous problem which faced the Church 
in that era. That questionable "success 
story" caused some leaders to assume that 


nothing worse imaginable could have 
happened. True martyrdom was all but ended, 
adequate preparation for baptism was 
impossible with so many rushing into the 
Church, and nominalism was all but 
inevitable. Many serious Christians fled to 
monastic life in the desert. -^^ Numerous 
other solutions have been offered throughout 
history for ways to preserve the "little 
flock" from the world and at the same time 
to take Christ's gospel throughout that 
fallen creation which the Lord demanded we 
evangelize . 

So how does a Christian live in Christ 
without abandoning the world He came to 
save? And how does he or she do so without 
some compromise with personal spiritual 
pilgrimage or, better stated without some 
imitation of the kenotic nature of God as 
described in Philippians 2:5ff.? 

The Meal at the ^Inn 

Now for the most difficult problem of 
all. if he were going farther" (V8 . 28) Why? 
Because He has something more important to 
do than to dine with us? Not likely, for He 
does want to be recognized, and that can be 
achieved only at table. Because He doesn't 
want to impose on us, knowing that we are 
ill prepared to have Him at a common table, 
since we are unable to take responsibility 
for hospitality, divided as we are? 

We are to be the hosts. What sort of 


meal will it be? Not an "agape feast, " 
surely, for that would suggest a compas- 
sionate mutual love we have not begun to 
explore, much less realize. We Orthodox 
would insist on bringing to the table our 
children, whom the Anabaptists consider 
"unbaptized, " and at the same time we check 
all theological credentials by reciting the 
Nicene Creed and exploring the meaning 
within it. The meal comes at the end of the 
spiritual journey, after agreement on 
Scripture and doctrine. 

For us the entire journey to Emmaus has 
a liturgical meaning. We recall the origin- 
al eucharistic gatherings of an entire 
community of several parishes who met at a 
designated locale and processed to a 
featured church. They would pray on the 
way, perhaps to emulate the Jews on their 
way up to Jerusalem as they sang the Psalms 
of degrees. Once assembled there would be 
readings from the Bible and a homily, 
followed by a prayer for those yet to be 
baptized as they left the assembly. Those 
remaining recited the Creed, heard the 
anaphora summary of the salvation events 
recounted, then imitated the Last Supper in 
the presence of the risen Lord. 

"He acted as if he were going farther" 
because He wants to show us that there's 
much more we have to learn on the way to the 
Kingdom. It is we who have need of rest for 
the night. Our limits are not His. Our 
poor human eyes--so weak and vulnerable! 


Recall the brightness of the Transfiguration 
experience (Mt . 17.2; Mk 9:2), where the 
brilliance of the glory dazzled the three, 
and the Gethsemane scenario, when the same 
three were unable to keep their eyes open 
for the lateness and the effects of the 
repast . 

He never imposes himself on us. Always 
the human is free to choose Christ or reject 
Him. This fearful gift is more than we 
would desire. Better let Him impose himself 
on us, we would prefer, since He knows 
better than we what is good for our 
salvation. But the dignity of humanity 
implies that even the Creator will not force 
us to share His life. True love is like 

Despite all our differences, now that 
we have urged Him to remain with us for the 
meal (which seems to be a eucharistic 
celebration, since it is clear from the 
story that Christ himself is president of 
the assembly) , what sort of prayer will we 
offer to the heavenly Father? 

It was Christ who taught us the Lord's 
Prayer; but how can we in good conscience 
say together that He whom we both were 
taught to address as "Abba" is in a real 
sense "our Father"? Orthodox Christians 
recite this prayer morning and evening. We 
use it as a mealtime benediction: "Give us 
this day our daily bread." In monasteries 
and churches it is part of the invocations 
at various special services. 


But there is a place par excellence 
where the Lord's Prayer is located. In the 
Divine Liturgy, long after the Liturgy of 
the Word is accomplished, the Creed is 
recited to separate learners from the 
baptized and to assure God and humankind 
that all present are "of one mind and one 
heart." Then follows the consecration of 
the sacred gifts that are indeed Body and 
Blood of Jesus Christ, sitting as it were at 
the table between the descent of the Holy 
Spirit and the actual partaking of the 
Eucharist, present as it were not only in 
those in the Upper Room but even in Moses 
and Elijah on the very Transfiguration 
Mount--the whole Church gathered with 
Christ, the Church throughout the universe, 
the Church triumphant and the Church yet to 
be — it is then that the Church recites as it 
had originally, or in its present style 
chants or sings, the Lord's Prayer. 

Just before this is done, however, the 
celebrant says, "Grant, Lord, that boldly 
and without condemnation we may dare to call 
upon You as God the heavenly Father, and to 
say...." What is the meaning of this 
phrase? Can it be some oriental expression 
of humility, a self-effacement before the 
epitome of all potentates? No, because the 
children of the imperial one would not be 
required to treat their parent as though 
they were servants ("I no longer call you 
servants," Jn. 15:15). 

Then what is this request for a gift of 


boldness? Is it some collective shyness, as 
though the Church is psychologically condit- 
ioning itself against the charge of 
arrogance or of brazen, even impudent, 
rustic, ill-mannered presumption in the 
presence of godliness — the attitude we might 
surmise that Judas Iscariot may have 
expressed by chastising Jesus over his 
indulging the woman with the perfume, yet 
permitting his feet to be washed and so 
accepting Christ's humility, accepting the 
choice morsel at the Last Supper and yet 
betraying the Master? Or can it be the 
overwhelming experience of Isaiah that year 
of King Uzziah's death, when he was present 
at the theophany of the Almighty in the 
temple, and in his reaction felt his lips to 
be unclean, living as he did among those 
with unclean lips, so that a seraph pressed 
a live coal to his mouth, taking away his 
guilt and atoning for his sin (Isa. 6:1-7)? 
This passage helps capture the understanding 
and focus on the spiritual experience of the 
Orthodox Church. Here is a verbal expres- 
sion of the physical obeisance, the deep bow 
each communicant makes before his or her 
Creator, touching the forehead to the earth. 
We bow so low because we rise so high. 

Anabaptist and Orthodox, we have much 
to learn from one another as well as about 
our traditions since the walk to Emmaus in 
company with Christ is but a metaphor, and a 
limited one at that. History has taken' us 
on different paths from the inn. What does 


the gospel tell us about returning to 
Jerusalem, meeting with Peter, John and the 
others, and what does that suggest as to 
remaining in the body which is the Church? 


^Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of 
the' World (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Press, 
1973) . 

^Tomas Spidlik, The Spirituality of the 
Christian East (Kalamazoo: Cistercian 
Publications, 1986) . • 

^Ibid., p. 22, n. 2. 

"Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms 
of Protestantism (New York: Meridian Books, 
1964), p. 1394. 

^Ibid., p. 155. 

'Spidlik, p. 64. 

"'It seems that Melancthon had some 
thought of salvation as a joint venture be- 
tween God and humans as they worked towards 
justification, but one cannot make out just 
what he was getting at. See his Loci 
communes , ch. IV. 


^Nicholas Zernov, Eastern Christendom 
(New York: Putnam, 1961), p. 142. 

^Ibid., Spidlik, p. 106, quoting John 
Climacus, Step 28, 

^°John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology 
(New York: Fordham University, 1974), p. 25. 

^^Georges Florovsky, "Antinomies of 
Christian History: Empire and Desert," ch. 
Ill in Christianity and Culture , vol. II in 
his collected works (Belmont: Nordland Pub- 
lishing Company, 1974) . Here is an excel- 
lent study on the implications of Christian 
social responsibility and the effects it had 
upon the early Church. 



Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton 
A Survey of the Old Testament 
Grand Rapids: Zondervan 
1991, xviii + 461 pp., $22.99 

The two authors, teachers of Old Test- 
ament and Hebrew at Wheaton College and 
Moody Bible Institute respectively, have set 
out' "to bring together the most significant 
data from Old Testament historical and 
literary backgrounds, critical and technical 
introduction, biblical commentary, and Old 
Testament theology." They have done so in 
an admirable and readable manner. It sets 
out to provide a companion to Robert H. 
Gundry's A Survey of the New Testament 

(1981) . 

The first of the six major divisions of 
the text deals with such general intro- 
ductory matters as the nature of the OT as 
revealed scripture and how to study and 
apply it (including a very abbreviated 
introduction to some different critical 
methodologies) , its transmission and growth 

(writing, text criticism, canon--with an 
introduction to extra-canonical literature) , 
and an overview of OT history, geography and 
archaeology. Each chapter here, as well as 
all subsequent ones, include useful discus- 
sion questions as well as suggestions for 
further reading. The latter contain works 
from as recently as 1990. 


The next four major sections deal with 
the biblical books in Protestant canonical 
order, i.e. the Pentateuch, historical books 
(Former Prophets) , poetic books, and the 
prophets. The headings play somewhat fast 
and loose with some of the books, since 
Lamentations, occurring after Jeremiah under 
prophets formally should fit under poetic 
books, while in actuality almost all of the 
prophetic books are poetic in form as well. 
The last section looks forward to the New 
Testament and also provides an encapsulated 
theological and ethical summary of the Old 
Testament . 

The book is thoughtfully laid out, so 
will be easily navigated by the interested 
reader. Each chapter (the author of which 
is identified by initials in the table of 
contents) discusses, always in this order, 
the book's composition (authorship, form, 
date, etc., including brief discussions of 
some critical issues) , background in the 
ancient near eastern world, an outline of 
the book, its purpose and message, structure 
and organization, and major theological 
themes. There are helpful maps, time-lines, 
charts and figures interspersed within the 
book which help bring the written discussion 
into greater clarity. The volume achieves 
its goal as an introduction well, and will 
serve conservatives well in class-room and 
Bible study contexts. It deserves a place 
on church library shelves, as well as of 
those interested in starting a serious study 


of the Old Testament. David W. Baker 

Rolf Rendtorff 

The Old Testament: An Introduction 

Philadelphia: Fortress 

1985 transl. of 1983 original, xi + 308 pp., 


Rolf Rendtorff is Professor of Old 
Testament at the University of Heidelberg in 
Germany, and one of the leading OT scholars 
active today. This new paperback edition of 
his translated introduction is thus most 
welcome, especially since it breaks new 
ground than regularly worked by scholarship. 
For example, in his view of the composition 
of the Pentateuch, the history of tradition 
as being more productive than a standard 
source critical approach (see his previous 
work The Problem of the Process of Trans- 
mission in the Pentateuch . 1990, which has 
caused quite a stir among OF scholars) . 

The volume is divided into three sec- 
tions: "The Old Testament as a Source of 
the History of Israel", in which he looks at 
historical sources and then a survey of 
Israel's history from the Patriarchs through 
the restoration; "The Literature of the Old 
Testament in the Life of Ancient Israel", in 
which he studies the social sphere of the OF 
including family, law, cult, politics, and 
prophecy; "The Books of the Old Testament", 
where each of the books is introduced, and 


the concept of canon is encountered. Each 
section, and many of the subsections, have 
their own bibliography, which, by the nature 
of the publication history of the volume, 
are somewhat dated and show a natural, 
though not exclusive, tendency toward German 

The layout of the book is quite useful, 
with subheadings given clearly in the out- 
side margins, along with cross-references to 
relevant discussions elsewhere in the volume 
itself. A very useful feature is hidden 
among the index at the back of the volume — a 
listing of the differences between Hebrew 
and English biblical verse reference num- 
berings, a constant source of confusion for 
students. It is important to remember the 
subtitle, since an introduction can only be 
allusive, leading one into major areas of 
discussion and debate, but not having 
adequate room to resolve these, nor to delve 
into some of the equally interesting, though 
more minor, areas of concern. This book 
would serve well as a supplementary text- 
book, illustrating good, mainline scholar- 
ship, as well as being a foil to try and 
test one's own theories of composition, 
historicity, etc. It should be in all 
seminary libraries, and serious students of 
the OF should consult it in the course of 
their studies. David W. Baker 


Stuart Briscoe 

Mastering the Old Testament: Genesis: 

A Book-by-Book Commentary by Today's Great 

Bible Teachers 

Dallas: Word 

1987, 414 pp., $12.99 

This is the first of a series of Old 
Testament commentaries based on the New King 
James Version. It sets out to be neither an 
exegetical nor a devotional commentary, but 
rather one seeking application for daily 
living. The volume contains useful insights 
from a seasoned pastor, but the format is 
quite annoying. The entire text of the 
passage is printed prior to any comment, so 
the actual content for which one buys the 
book is only about 50% of the total. One 
would have appreciated much more of Briscoe, 
since we already have our own biblical 
text. David W. Baker 

Anthony F. Campbell 

The Study Companion to Old Testament Lite- 
rature: An Approach to the Writings of Pre- 
Exilic and Exilic Israel 
Old Testament Studies #2 

Collegeville: Liturgical, Michael Glazier 
1989, 504 pp., $19.95 


John J. Scullion 

Genesis: A Commentary for Students, Tea- 
chers, and Preachers 
Old Testament Studies #6 

Collegeville: Liturgical, Michael Glazier 
1992, 366 pp., $19.95 

These two volumes are examples of this 
series, and its sister New Testament series, 
which provides a serious introduction to the 
biblical literature from the perspective of 
contemporary Catholicism. It is interesting 
to observe Catholic biblical interpretation 
as evidenced in these volumes. The trends 
in post-Vatican II scholarship seem to have 
homogenized those of a more critical Pro- 
testant and Catholic persuasion to such a 
point that discernible differences between 
viewpoints are no longer on the Catholic- 
Protestant axis, but rather on that dealing 
with the view of the inspiration and 
authority of Scripture which is espoused. 
The division concerns whether the Bible is a 
record of divine revelation, faithfully 
reflecting events and words as they actually 
transpired, or is it only a noble human 
product, noble in intent but definitely 
flawed in its execution as regards such 
items as historical accuracy and continuing 
normative expectation. This series, as re- 
gards such matters as the dating of the 
composition of texts, is definitely reflec- 
tive of the more liberal perspective. 

Campbell's book is divided into four 


major sections. Each of these is looking 
more at methodology and issues than at con- 
tent matters, an approach which is fitting 
for this kind of volume. In section 1 (Gen- 
esis to Deuteronomy) , we are introduced to 
the literary nature of the Pentateuch with 
such concerns as source and form criticism 
receiving major attention. Then the pur- 
ported source documents P and J are studied 
in more detail. Section 2 (Deuteronomy to 2 
Kirlgs) introduce the concept of the Deute- 
ronomistic History and explores its intent 
and constituent elements. Campbell's third 
section is entitled "The Pre-exilic Pro- 
phets", though why discussion of Ezekiel and 
"Second Isaiah" is included here in a chap- 
ter so entitled is not clear. The fourth 
section (Jonah and Job) is simply repre- 
sentative of the Writings, since the major- 
ity of them are not discussed in any detail 
at all in the book. 

An eye is kept on the reader throughout 
the book, since representative and important 
Scripture passages are suggested for reading 
at the head of each chapter. These help the 
novice with little or no biblical background 
and not enough time to read the whole Old 
Testament. There are also frequent, though 
short, sections called "Today", which look 
at contemporary application, as well as 
brief list of further readings on the 
chapter's topic. 

Fr. John Scullion, S.J., did not live 
to see his commentary in print, since he 


passed away in 1990, following a career as 
teacher, author and translator. 

Scullion provides a useful, concise 
overview of the critical position of Julius 
Wellhausen concerning the composition of the 
Pentateuch, a study of the discussion of the 
issue as it preceded Wellhausen, as well as 
a sketch of subsequent research, including 
that which eschews Wellhausen. He presents 
his own approach also, looking firstly at 
the structure of the larger units within 
Genesis, then their constituent elements, 
noting in particular matters of literary and 
theological import. He also provides useful 
and interesting historical and linguistic 
insight, and shows awareness of the 
scholarly literature. Conservative writers 
are not ignored, though the bibliography is 
slanted more toward the left. All in all, 
this is a very good overview of mainline 
understanding of this most important book, 
one which is readable and deserves to be 
read. David W. Baker 

Dale Ralph Davis 

Such a Great Salvation: Expositions of the 

Book of Judges 

Expositor's Guide to the Historical Books 

Grand Rapids: Baker 

1990, 227 pp., $11.99 

This is the second set of expositions 
(see ATJ XXIV [1992], 107-8) which Davis, a 


Presbyterian pastor from Maryland, has pub- 
lished. Davis provides historical and 
philological coinment on passages from the 
text, as well as applications and 
illustrations from his own ministry. It is 
not a commentary, but then it does not set 
out to be such. As with the previous 
volume, he mixes exegetical insight with 
homiletical skill to produce a work which 
will find a welcome place in a church 
library or on a pastor's desk. 

David W. Baker 

John G. Gammie and Leo G. Perdue, eds . 
The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East 
Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 
1990, xiv + 545 pp, $42.50 

Prophet, priest and king are function- 
aries familiar to students of the Bible. An 
equally important figure, not only within 
the life of Israel, but also elsewhere in 
the ancient Near East, and even through the 
time of Christ, was the wise person, the 
sage of the title of this excellent 
collection. In thirty-six chapters by thir- 
ty different authors, this culturally signi- 
ficant class is studied through the histor- 
ical gamut from the ancient Sumerians 
through the rabbis in a very useful manner. 

The book is divided into six sections. 
The first covers "the sage in ancient Near 
Eastern literature." It includes chapters 


on the evidence for the function of sages in 
Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Ugaritic and 
Iranian cultures, along with a very inter- 
esting, and needful, chapter on the place of 
women among this group in texts from 
Mesopotamia (they were rare, but they did 
exist) . A section of nine chapters explores 
"the social locations and functions of the 
sage." It has chapters on the court func- 
tions in Israel, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, 
Canaan and Greece, and the significance of 
Solomon, the patron of wisdom in the Bible. 
The training and life of the wise in school 
and temple, in family and clan are also 

The third and fourth sections deal with 
the Old Testament texts themselves, namely 
"t^he sage in the wisdom literature of the 
Hebrew Bible" (on Job, Psalms, Proverbs, 
Ecclesiastes, as well as the female sage in 
Israel) , and "the sage in other biblical 
texts" (the Pentateuch, the Deuteronomistic 
history of Samuel through Kings, the 
prophets and the Chronicler, with which the 
author groups Ezra and Nehemiah) . The fifth 
major section discusses "the sage from 
before the close of the Hebrew canon to 
post-biblical times" includes studies of 
Greek and Roman literature, apocalyptic and 
pseudepigraphic literature, including sep- 
arate studies of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and 
the Wisdom of Solomon, Qumran, the early 
rabbis, and Jesus. The last entry is very 
sketchy (only 17 pages), and you will want 


to consult the book on this subject by 
Ashland's Ben Witherington, Jesus the Saae 
(Fortress, 1994) . 

The sixth and final section covers "the 
symbolic universe of the sage", comprised of 
chapters on "from scribalism to rabbinism"-- 
emerging Judaism, "cosmology and the social 
order," and "from prudentialism [or tradi- 
tional wisdom] to apocalypticism" . There 
follows a fourteen page bibliography which 
is subdivided into twenty sections which do 
not follow exactly layout of the volume 
itself. Included are works from as recently 
as 1989. There follow indexes of modern and 
classical authors, of ancient Near Eastern 
writings, and of Scripture and related 
writings. In all the book is very well put 
together and commendably produced, standing 
as a credit to the technical skill of the 
editors and publisher. 

The coverage within the volume is 
broad, beyond the interest of all but the 
most immersed in the topic, but there will 
be for the finding material which will 
benefit the scholar as well as the pastor, 
teacher and student. All seminary and col- 
lege libraries should have the book avail- 
able, and all readers of this journal will 
do well to be aware of it and to consult it, 
for they will find much of interest. The 
scripture index will probably be the most 
efficient means of access for most readers 
to the treasure house which awaits them when 
they consult this work. David W. Baker 


John Pilch 

Introducing the Cultural Context of the Old 

Testament : Vo 1 . 1 Hear the Word 

New York/Mahwah: Paulist 

1991, xiv + 212 pp., $14.95 

This is a useful workbook for those in- 
terested in moving toward understanding the 
Old Testament in its cultural environment, 
while also seeking its relevance to today. 
It is thus a very necessary introduction to 
cross-cultural interpretation. The book 
will be useful in small group settings, but 
it is also accessible for individual study. 
It can well be used for those with little or 
no biblical knowledge, as well as by those 
who have done previous study. 

Catering to the very elementary needs 
of beginning students. Pilch very carefully 
gives instructions on the use of the book as 
well as to biblical interpretation itself. 
He also is not afraid to use aids from today 
to help illustrate his points. For example, 
to illustrate the difficulty experienced at 
times in cross-cultural communication, he 
asks that the reader watch and think about 
the movie 'The Gods Must be Crazy' in the 
light of obstacles to intercultural under- 

The author is Catholic, and some of the 
readings he suggests are from Catholic docu- 
ments, e.g. the Vatican II Document on 
Divine Revelation, or from the Apocrypha, a 


number of readings coining from Ecclesias- 
ticus. This could add a useful ingredient 
for Protestant study, leading to even great- 
er understanding not only of the biblical, 
Mediterranean context but also of our own 
contemporary society. Where current docu- 
ments are suggested, relevant sections are 
quoted, since they will be less accessible 
to most readers than would biblical or apoc- 
ryphal passages, which are referred to but 
not quoted. 

Each chapter involves three sections. 
"Preparation" gives preliminary homework for 
evaluation and discussion, the movie men- 
tioned being an example. The lesson itself 
has numerous scriptural passages and ques- 
tions which are to be read and answered, 
there generally being space left in the 
workbook for comments, though extra space 
will at times be needed. The "follow-up" 
involves suggestions to continue on in the 
theme after the lesson has been completed. 

The text is divided into seven ses- 
sions. Following the introduction to inter- 
pretation, there is an "overview of the 
wisdom literature in a Mediterranean cul- 
tural perspective" (an introduction to Pro- 
verbs, Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] , Ecclesi- 
astes. Job, Wisdom of Solomon, Song of 
Songs, and the Psalms) , "core cultural 
values" (honor and shame/guilt) , parenting 
(discipline), "human relationships" (U.S. 
individualism versus Mediterranean group 
solidarity) , "status and roles" (age and 


gender), "time: a chronological framework of 
the Old Testament" (where some more critical 
views, e.g. late-date Daniel and the Docu- 
mentary Hypothesis creep into a discussion 
of the placement of the biblical events and 
books on a time-line) and "why believe the 
Bible?" (discussing spiritual beings as well 
as revelation and inspiration) . 

While some of the material will find 
disagreement among many readers of this 
review, the concept of the book is a sound 
one. Judicious use of it, with an adequately 
prepared group leader, will undoubtedly help 
to make the Old Testament more under- 
standable and interesting to the beginner. 
Why don't some of you work on a similar 
concept and format from an Evangelical 
perspective? David W. Baker 

Avraham Gileadi, ed. 
Israel's Apostasy and Restoration: 
Essays in honor of Roland K. Harrison 
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 
1988, xiii + 325 pp., $24.99 

This belated review joins in honoring 
one of the leading Evangelical Old Testament 
scholars of this generation, Roland Har- 
rison, emeritus professor of Old Testament 
at Wycliffe College in Toronto. Roland Har- 
rison pursued his studies at the University 
of London but came to Canada in 1949, where 
he has taught and ministered ever since. He 


is probably most widely known for his nu- 
merous publications, including his massive 
Old Testament introduction, and his edi- 
torial role with the New International Com- 
mentary on the Old Testament. He passed 
away in 1993. 

Rare among Festschrif ten , or works in 
honor of a scholar or teacher, this endeavor 
asked the contributors to address an as- 
signed topic, rather than the customary 
practice of allowing them to choose their 
own. Thus, for the most part, the contrib- 
utors were not addressing areas of their 
primary expertise. The respect with which 
they viewed the honoree impelled the 
contributors to stretch themselves into 
these new areas. 

Following are the topics and the 
contributors in the volume: 
Peter C. Craigie - Forward; Avraham Gileadi 

- Preface, "The Davidic Covenant: A Theo- 
logical Basis for Corporate Protection"; 
Frederick E. Greenspahn - "From Egypt to 
Canaan: A Heroic Narrative"; John N. Oswalt 

- "Golden Calves and the "Bull of Jacob: The 
Impact on Israel of its Religious Envi- 
ronment"; James R. Battenfield - "YHWH's Re- 
futation of the Baal Myth through the Ac- 
tions of Elijah and Elishah"; Daniel I. 
Block - "The Period of the Judges: Religious 
Disintegration under Tribal Rule"; William 
Sanford LaSor - "The Prophets during the 
Monarchy: Turning Points in Israel's De- 
cline"; C. Hassell Bullock - "The Priestly 


Era in the Light of Prophetic Thought" ; 
James K. Hoffmeier - "Egypt as an Arm of 
Flesh: A Prophetic Response"; Paul R. Gil- 
christ - "Israel's Apostasy: Catalyst of As- 
syrian World Conquest"; John D.W. Watts - 
"Babylonian Idolatry in the Prophets as a 
False Socio-Economic System"; Bruce K. 
Waltke - "The Phenomenon of Conditionality 
within Unconditional Covenants"; William J. 
Dumbrell - "The Prospect of Unconditionality 
in the Sinaitic Covenant"; Gary A. Smith - 
"Alienation and Restoration: A Jacob-Esau 
Typology"; Alfred E. Krause - "Historical 
Selectivity: Prophetic Prerogative or Ty- 
pological Imperative?"; Ronald Youngblood - 
"A Holistic Typology of Prophecy and 
Apocalyptic"; Wayne 0. McCready - "The "Day 
of Small Things" vs. the Latter Day^ : 
Historical Fulfillment or Eschatological 
Hope?"; Joseph E. Coleson - "Israel's Life 
Cycle from Birth to Resurrection"; Duane L. 
Christensen - "A New Israel: the Righteous 
from among All Nations"; Eugene H. Merrill - 
"Pilgrimage and Procession: Motifs of Is- 
rael's Return"; Stephen D. Ricks - "The Pro- 
phetic Literality of Tribal Reconstruction"; 
Douglas K. Stuart - "The Prophetic Ideal of 
Government in the Restoration Era"; John M. 
Lundquist - "Temple, Covenant, and Law in 
the Ancient Near East and in the Hebrew 
Bible"; Victor H. Matthews - "Theophanies 
Cultic and Cosmic; "Prepare to Meet thy 
God!"; Herbert M. Wolf - "The Transcendent 
Nature of Covenant Curse Reversals". 


We wish to join in honoring a great 
scholar and Christian gentleman. 

David W. Baker 

Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman 

Amos . The Anchor Bible 24A 

New York: Doubleday 

1989, xlii + 979 pp., $30.00 

John H. Hayes 

Amos-The Eighth Century Prophet: His Times 

and His Preaching 

Nashville: Abingdon 

1988, 256 pp., $13.95 

Shalom M. Paul 
Amos, Hermeneia 
Minneapolis: Fortress 
1991, xxvii + 409 pp., $46.00 

Gary V. Smith 

Amos: A Commentary 

Library of Biblical Interpretation 

Grand Rapids : Zondervan 

1989, XV + 307 pp., $17.95 

Recently there has been a bumper crop of 
commentaries on the prophecy of Amos. This 
is not inappropriate, since the book, though 
classified among the 'Minor' prophets, has 
major theological and homiletical im- 
portance. Each book comes from a different 
theological viewpoint and is directed toward 


a different audience, but all are most 
welcome . 

The earliest of the books under review, 
that of John Hayes, is also the shortest. 
The author, from Candler School of Theology, 
Emory University, is an authority on Isra- 
elite history, and represents the main-line 
of Protestant OT scholarship. Hayes' his- 
torical interest is clear throughout the 
book, but most striking in the two 
chapters. The first places Amos firmly in 
his historical and geographical context. 
Hayes shows extensive interaction with 
ancient Near Eastern sources, claiming a 
pro-Assyrian position for the Israelite king 
of the prophecy, Jeroboam. He does play a 
bit loose with some of his sources (the OT 
in particular) , in claiming, without sub- 
stantiating argument, a change in 1 Kings 20 
from an original narrative concerning Je- 
hoahaz and Hazael to the present concern 
with Ahab and Ben-hadad. In general, how- 
ever, the historical reconstruction will 
prove quite informative and necessary to the 
reader in placing the prophecies in their 
context . 

The second chapter gives a useful 
overview of the history of Amos research, 
highlighting areas of debate, especially as 
regards Amos' literary history, and the 
chief contributors to these debates. He 
himself holds to an Amos authorship of the 
collection, or possibly a compilation by one 
of the immediate audience. 


The coininentary proper, covering 200 
pages, is brief, but packed with useful 
information. Its format can be seen using 
1:1 as an example, since each section is 
much the same. There is an extensive 
bibliography, the author's translation of 
the verse, and then a word-for-word com- 
mentary discussing such things as ancient 
Near Eastern background, the words for 
'vision' and the name 'Amos', as a person-- 
where he lived and what he did, and the 
historical setting of the verse and the 
book. There is much very useful information 
here, though theological reflection is 
slight, and New Testament and contemporary 
reinterpretation and application is con- 
spicuous by their absence. The book con- 
cludes with general, author and scripture 
indices . 

Gary Smith's volume comes from the 
Evangelical side of the theological spec- 
trum, he being a professor at Bethel Theo- 
logical Seminary. It is part of an ad hoc 
series of occasional commentaries, unlike 
the one-off volume of Hayes and ■ the esta- 
blished, regularly appearing series in which 
the next two commentaries fall. It was com- 
pleted in mid-1986, so is somewhat dated, 
though this is partly due to the tardiness 
of this review! His introductory material is 
only about 50% of that of Hayes, even though 
the volume is over 25% longer. 

Smith has an interest in theology, with 
a section on themes in his introduction as 


well as in the course of commenting, but he 
sadly refrains from addressing the important 
issue of the use of 9:12 in Acts 15:17, 
where a very significant theological point 
for the readers of this review is made on 
the basis of a (mis?) reading by the Sep- 
tuagint. While the commentary is on an OT 
book, a bit more discussion of its use in 
the NT and the church would have been 
welcome. Smith's tracing of development and 
themes in the OT is good, as is his inter- 
action with both liberal and conservative 
scholars, the latter often lacking in more 
mainline works. 

Each commentary section includes the 
following sections: introduction (restating 
the message of the section in its context in 
the prophecy) , background (within the bib- 
lical and historical contexts) , structure 
and unity (providing the author's trans- 
lation with a parallel outline, textual 
notes, a discussion of the structure and the 
unity of the passage) , interpretation (a 
verse by verse commentary) , and theological 
development. Hebrew words, always in trans- 
literation, are rare, and have accompanying 
translations in the interpretation section, 
so the volume is accessible to the non- 
specialist, as is that by Hayes. 

By contrast, the other two commentaries 
are directed more toward the specialist, 
though .pastor and student will find it worth 
the effort in using them. Andersen and 
Freedma'h's volume is a massive opus, much 


like their previous Anchor Bible work on 
Hosea. Their collaboration is exemplary for 
the possibilities of Evangelical (An- 
dersen) /Liberal (Freedman) cooperation by 
two of the more influential OT scholars. 

In some ways their work might seem to be 
overkill, but at least very few, if any, 
stones are left unturned. For example, 
their introduction, at 178 pages, is almost 
as long as Hayes entire volume. Included 
here, among many other things, is a detailed 
reconstruction of the phases of the book's 
composition, a thorough analysis of its 
contents, an essay on Israel's God as shown 
in Amos, and another on the very important 
problem of the identification of 'Israel' in 
Amos . 

The format of the commentary proper 
follows the standard for the series, with 
translation by the authors, at times an 
introduction, notes on the interpretation of 
the individual words and textual matters, 
and a comment section on he passage. There 
are also accompanying maps and even a set of 
8 photographs providing geographical, 
religious and archaeological insight into 
the book. Due to its exhaustiveness, the 
authors have almost produced everything you 
need to know about Amos, the 'almost' 
arising again from a dearth of theological 
and applicational reflection (there are only 
24 NT citations in the book, half of them on 
only two pages). Pastors will find a bounty 
of sermon preparation background material. 


but will need to search for their own points 
to be applied to their congregation. This 
is probably not all a bad thing. 

Shalom Paul teaches in Jerusalem and 
brings a Jewish perspective to the book. 
His volume is of interest since it is the 
second in the Hermeneia series on this same 
prophecy, the first, by Wolff, having been 
translated from the German original in 1977. 
The series is thus seeking to provide 
completely new studies of each of the OT 
books . 

The bibliography, running to 68 pages, 
needs to be consulted by serious students of 
Amos even if nothing else were worthy of 
study, but that is not the case. Paul's 
interest and expertise in the ancient Near 
Eastern background of the Bible makes this a 
very vital part of his work as well, with 
citations of the literature covering 5 pages 
in his citation index. His Jewish back- 
ground also has prepared him to be able to 
use the rabbinic sources to a greater extent 
than the other commentators, and his fluency 
in modern Hebrew allows him to cite Israeli 
sources not used by the others. 

The Hermeneia format is familiar, with a 
translation by the author followed by a 
lengthy commentary on each verse, with 
copious footnotes to the secondary sources. 
The Hebrew and Greek are untransliterated, 
and also rarely translated. There is good 
interaction with other scholars, even citing 
a few Evangelical scholars. The rarity of 


the latter citations is not due to an over- 
sight on the part of Paul, but rather a real 
need for serious conservative scholarship on 
the book and its problems. 

Which of these works should you buy? To 
some extent, that depends on who you are. 
As a working pastor who seeks to preach from 
the OT, Smith will probably be the most 
help, but you will be disappointed in 
application. It might also well find a 
place in a good church library, while the 
other three commentaries will be for the 
more serious student of the OT. Pastor's 
will find much of interest in them, and 
should be aware of their existence, but 
scholars will need to consult them for 
important new insight and challenge. We are 
sadly short of excellent commentaries which 
cover the range of requirements of the 
average pastor--from text to sermon. 

David W. Baker 

Clayton N. Jefford 

The Sayings of Jesus in The Teaching of 

the Twelve Apostles 

Leiden: E. J. Brill 

1989, $50.00 

The study of early Christianity has too 
often limited itself to only the evidence 
one can derive from the canonical material 
found in the NT. There are, however, other 
sources, some of which likely were written 


in the first century AD, which deserve close 
scrutiny for they provide us with a further 
window on the early days of Christianity. 
No document outside the canon more deserves 
such scrutiny than 'The Teaching of the 
Twelve Apostles', more often known to modern 
readers as the Didache. 

In a meticulous form and tradition cri- 
tical study of the Didache, C. N. Jefford 
has provided us with yet further evidence, 
if any were needed, that this document bears 
some relationship to both Q and the Synoptic 
Gospels (particularly Matthew) , as well as 
to other early Jewish traditions, including 
both sapiential and eschatological tra- 
ditions. Jefford maintains that there are 
two main portions of the Didache, 1.1-6. la 
and chapters 7-15, which were composed by 
different persons at different times (the 
former perhaps as early as the 50s or 60s, 
the latter chapters during the last twenty 
years of the first century) . The former 
section may in fact have originally been 
part of a purely Jewish rather than Chris- 
tian source, while chapters 7-15 clearly 
bear some relationship to the Synoptics and 
Q. There are various signs of the primi- 
tiveness of the document including the ma- 
terial in chapter 16 about Christ's return. 

As for provenance, Jefford suggests 
that the Didache in its final form must have 
come from the same place or region from 
which Matthew's Gospel originated, namely 
Syrian 7\jitioch. We receive a salutary 


reminder in Jef ford's study that it is not 
merely the Gospel of Thomas, but also the 
Didache which bears witness to the fact that 
early Christians were making collections of 
the sayings of Jesus for a variety of pur- 
poses, mostly ethical, and thus that the 
theory of the existence of Q is not likely 
without substance, even though we have found 
no Q document . 

Clearly enough the compiler of this 
remarkable document, was, much like the edi- 
tor of 2 Peter, more of an editor rather 
than a creator of his source material, draw- 
ing on a variety of sources that were widely 
available to early Christians. The nearly 
exact parallels between the Epistle of Bar- 
nabas and the Didache in the handling of the 
two ways material (cf. Barnabas 18-20) shows 
the use of such source material. Jef ford 
posits that the sayings in Did. 1 . 3b-2 . 1 and 
in 6.2-3 were added to the document at the 
point when the two major portions of the 
work (the Jewish early chapters in 1-6, and 
the Christian later ones in 7-15) were 
blended together. This may be so, but it 
would be well to keep in mind that in the 
similar wisdom document of James we have the 
blending of Jewish wisdom with the specific 
teaching of Jesus (favoring the Matthean 
Sermon on the Mount form of it) not in two 
stages but in all likelihood in one stage by 
a Jewish Christian author. What both James 
and the Didache suggest is the influential 
Gospel of Matthew seems to have been widely 


circulated in the early Church, in parti- 
cular in the eastern end of the Medi- 
terranean. This conclusion is also sugges- 
ted by traces of Matthew in some of the 
early Church Fathers. 

Jefford is to be commended for again 
bringing to our attention this fascinating 
document called the Didache. Whether one 
accepts his tradition history analysis about 
the stages of growth of the work or not, the 
placing of this document once again within 
the first century must force on NT scholars 
the necessity of giving this material its 
due. Early Christianity was considerably 
more complex than we often realize, and if 
the Didache is any indication, it would be 
wrong to underestimate the number of Jewish 
Christians even at the close of the first 
century AD for whom this sort of document 
would be especially germane. 

Ben WitheringtOxi, III 

R.J. Coggins & J.L. Houlden, eds . 
A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation 
Philadelphia/London: Trinity /SCM 
1990, xvi + 751 pp., $49.95 

This dictionary is not a Bible diction- 
ary per se, where one is introduced to all 
of the biblical characters, places and 
themes, but rather a dictionary of the 
interpretation of the Bible, as the title 
states. We do meet biblical characters. 


e.g. Abraham, but mainly as a catalyst for a 
hermeneutical discussion of, for example, 
theology and history. Important inter- 
preters (e.g. Barth, Calvin, Erasmus, West- 
cott, Lightfoot and Hort) , interpretational 
approaches (e.g. historical-critical method, 
psychological interpretation, reader-re- 
sponse criticism), genres (e.g. law, poetry, 
but not history or narrative) , and other ca- 
tegories (e.g. calendars, commentary, har- 
mony [of the Gospels] , resurrection, Septu- 
agint) are covered. 

The contributors to the dictionary are 
a diverse lot, coming from Australia, Ca- 
nada, Germany, Eire, Israel, Norway, Spain 
Sweden, the US, but mostly from the UK, and 
include theological liberals as well as 
those who are more conservative, Protes- 
tants, Catholics and Jews. In all, this 
will be a very useful volume for seminary 
libraries, and students of the Bible and its 
study will do well to consult it 
regularly. David W. Baker 

Peter Cotterell and Max Turner 
Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation 
Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 
1989, 348 pp., $19.99 

God chose to reveal himself to humanity 
firstly through the written word of 
Scripture, and then more completely through 
the living Word, his Son. Since God chose 


to speak, using such mundane things as 
propositions consisting of words, sounds and 
grammar, it behooves those who would hear 
him to study not only the words, but also 
how they mean. This is an aspect of lin- 
guistics, which Cotterell and Turner 
readably present to us in this volume. 

Linguistics is the study of how lan- 
guage works, and it is briefly introduced in 
the first chapter. Then the authors turn to 
semantics and hermeneutics, the study of 
meaning and interpretation respectively. 
They especially spend time discussing the 
author's meaning, and problems in deter- 
mining it, but the necessity of doing so 
since revelation's meaning must first of all 
originate from the ultimate Author of 
Scripture. Also related to these areas are 
meaning and significance, what the words 
mean in themselves and their context, and 
the importance or significance they have for 
the hearer or reader, 'what do they mean to 
me'. The latter is not to be a subjective, 
"anything goes" kind of interpretation, but 
must find a tie with the actual meaning 
intended by the author. 

The authors discuss meaning on its low- 
est level, that of the word, how word stu- 
dies have been misused, but also the neces- 
sity of doing them, using the tools of 'le- 
xical semantics' or how words mean. Ul- 
timate meaning does not lie in a simple 
understanding of each word, however, but how 
they are combined into higher levels such as 


clauses, sentences, paragraphs and dis- 
courses. Analysis at these levels involves, 
among other things, careful note of such 
seemingly minor connectives as 'but, how- 
ever, etc.', which provide clues as to the 
relationship between these units. It is in 
these higher levels that some of the newer 
insights in linguistics are taking place. 
As the authors state, "a new kind of com- 
mentary is needed which can place lexical 
studies in their appropriate place but can 
give to larger structures more careful 
consideration" . 

The book closes with a discussion of 
figurative or non-literal language. This 
topic is of extreme importance in particular 
to Evangelicals in their theological dis- 
cussions of inspiration, authority, iner- 
rancy and infallibility. How does one 
understand the concept of truth in a text 
which is not literal? Finally the reader is 
provided with a nine page bibliography and 
indices of authors and Scripture. 

Students as well as pastors should make 
it a point to read this book, which could 
also well be on the shelves of church 
libraries. If God stooped to reveal himself 
in words, and we preach and teach in words, 
shouldn't we become familiar about how they 
work and how we can better understand them? 

David W. Baker 



Thomas F. Torrance 

The Christian Frame of Mind: Reason, Order 

and Openness in Theology and Natural Science 

Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard 

1989, $22.95 

How often have you heard, "Religion is 
about faith, science about facts"? This 
misunderstanding about the historic relation 
of science and the Christian faith has mo- 
tivated an increasing number of scholars, 
scientists, pastors and interested lay 
people to study and discuss the actual 
nature of this relation. Thomas F. Tor- 
rance, Professor Emeritus of Christian Dog- 
matics at the University of Edinburgh, as 
one of the prime interpreters and leaders of 
this movement, has spent his career in- 
terpreting the Christian roots of modern 
science. For the student or Christian lay 
person not acquainted with issues of the 
relation of theology and natural science, 
Torrance, in the book. The Christian Frame 
of Mind: Reason^ Order and Openness in 
Theology and Natural Science, provides an 
introductory guide for understanding what 
the relation of scientific inquiry to the 
Christian faith and ultimately the God of 
creation is. 

Many of Torrance's works are densely 
worded, tightly argued treatments of what he 
terms, "Theological Science". The scope of 
his thought demonstrates the historical 
continuity of both the church's thinking on 


the natural world since the early centuries 
of Christianity and the development of 
science within the context of a biblical 
understanding of creation. His writings 
range from investigations into the early 
church's understanding about the relation of 
God to creation in the context of science 
and philosophy of the Greco-Roman world to 
interpreting and outlining the similarities 
between theology and modern science. Re- 
curring themes in Torrance's writing concern 
the character of creation as a unified 
whole, which is rational, orderly and inte- 
grally related through its divine creator, 
and humanity's God-given role as steward or 
mediator of creation. 

The Christian Frame of Mind, written 
for an educated lay audience, provides a 
good introduction to Torrance's thought and 
this growing field of inquiry. Each chapter 
is a self-contained treatment of one aspect 
of the larger field of the relation of the- 
ology and natural science. Chapter One, 
"The Greek Christian Mind" examines the 
ideas of three early church fathers, St. 
Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nazianzus 
and St. John Chrysostom, demonstrating how 
important the Hellenistic mindset was to the 
early church and how fundamental it was in 
the formation of Christian doctrine and 
ultimately the rise of modern science. For 
the reader unfamiliar with the Patristic 
theologians, this chapter will give a taste 
of the significant riches that are found 


here . 

Issues in the relation of science and 
theology comprise the focus of chapters two 
through six, with particular emphasis on 
order in creation and the nature of 
scientific inquiry. Chapters two and three 
discuss the concept of order in theology and 
science, with humanity as the mediator of 
order. The concept of order is fundamental 
for both Christian theology and natural 
science, because for the Christian it points 
to a divine creator who formed creation 
reflecting his love. It is this under- 
standing of the orderliness of creation 
which enabled the Western world to under- 
stand that the material world was real, and 
that the God of creation discovered in the 
Incarnation was like-wise real and loving 
towards all that he created. On the other 
hand, natural science was able to be born 
because the natural world was understood to 
be real, not being a vague reflection of 
some divine idea, and could be studied, 
analyzed with conclusions brought, because 
the orderliness of nature made their 
observations meaningful. 

Torrance, in chapters four, five and 
six, more explicitly addresses the nature of 
science as an outgrowth of the Christian 
world view which came during the early cen- 
turies of the church. Both natural and 
theological science are essentially creative 
sciences, looking to understand what is 
observed, rather than arguing theories with 


proof texts. Science, in both kinds, looks 
to discover that which is unseen. Torrance 
finds agreement in the philosopher of 
science, Michael Polanyi, who demonstrated 
how often scientific advancement comes from 
intuitional leaps of judgement, not pure 
rational observations. This creative sci- 
ence, for Torrance, is how humanity relates 
to the unseen God, who is discovered in the 
observations of daily life in the light of 
the wisdom and revelation of the Word of 
God. Torrance's perspective is specifically 
focused upon the similarities in theological 
and natural science's methods of discovery. 
But the broader implication for the 
Christian is a perspective on how faith is 
nurtured in the real and contingent 
orderliness of human life. 

The Christian Frame of Mind concludes 
with a chapter on "The University within a 
Christian Culture", providing an important 
defense of Christian Higher Education, and 
an appendix which consists of a sermon 
entitled, "The Theology of Light." One of 
the great benefits of this book as an 
opening to Torrance's thought is that it 
includes an introduction by W. Jim Neidhardt 
which provides an excellent overview of the 
distinctives of his writings. Any pastor 
who has engineers, scientists or teachers in 
his or her congregation would be served well 
with a richer understanding about the 
relation of science and the Christian that 
Thomas Torrance has to offer. The Christian 


Frame of Mind will be a good beginning point 
for understanding. Edwin R. Brenegar, III 

Timothy George 
Theology of the Reformers 
Nashville: Broadman Press, 
1988, 337 pp., $21.95 

Timothy George is Dean of the Beason 
Divinity School of Samford University in 
Birmingham, Alabama. He previously taught 
church history and historical theology at 
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 
Louisville, Kentucky. The book reflects 
both his careful scholarship and his. know- 
ledge of the teaching profession. Conse- 
quently it serves well as a text book on the 
Reformation period. 

The first two chapters provide a con- 
text for the study of the reformers. Chap- 
ter one probes interpretive questions about 
the Reformation itself in light of recent 
historiography. Chapter two sets the events 
of the Reformation into the European devel- 
opments that were part of the transition 
from Medieval society to the modern one. 

Chapters three through six comprise the 
bulk of the book. Successive chapters are 
devoted to Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, 
John Calvin, and Menno Simons. Each study 
traces key events in the life of the re- 
former, followed by an analysis of his the- 
ology, noting both characteristic emphases 


and unique positions. Similarities among 
the reformers are noted and helpful con- 
trasts are cited to help one grasp the 
stance of each leader. Good use is made of 
the primary writings of these figures. 

One of the strengths of the theological 
sections is the relation of theological 
arguments to the larger history of dogma in 
the Christian church. Ideas are traced to 
patristic sources, doctrinal formulations of 
the Western church, and to the mystical 
writers of the late Medieval period. The 
author does not hesitate to probe technical 
phrases, particularly the Latin expressions 
of Medieval scholastic theology. Each ex- 
pression is clearly explained when used, and 
a five page glossary at the end of the 
volume assists the reader who is 
unacquainted with these terms. 

The author is to be commended for 
providing sympathetic treatments for each of 
the reformers. This is particularly appre- 
ciated in regard to Zwingli and Simons, who 
often get less space in such books and thus 
come across as somewhat second rate re- 
formers. George gives them each the same 
length of attention that he gave Luther. 
Calvin obviously serves as a personal favor- 
ite of the author, seen by the fact that he 
gets about forty pages of text above what 
each of the other three received. The final 
chapter of the book considers the points at 
which the Reformation made helpful and 
lasting contributions to the life and 


thought of Christianity. 

I have one major criticism of the book 
from the standpoint of its usability as a 
course textbook. There is no theologian to 
represent the English reformation! If an- 
other edition is to be forthcoming, this 
would be a welcomed improvement. 

Luke L. Keefer, Jr. 

Russell E. Richey 

Early American Methodism: A Reconsideration 
Bloomington: Indiana University Press 
1991, 137 pp., $25.00 

Russell Richey is recognized as a 
careful scholar of 7\merican history, and the 
Methodist share of that history in par- 
ticular. His position as Research Professor 
of Church History at the Divinity School of 
Duke University affords him the opportunity 
to write thoughtful volumes such as Early 
American Methodism . 

The words "A Reconsideration" in the 
title were lost in the publication process, 
though the author's introductory chapter 
clearly assumes them. He writes: "As the 
titles indicate, this is self-consciously a 
revisionist endeavor ." (p. xi) Without those 
crucial words one is apt to misjudge both 
the subject and the intention of the book. 
This is not a history of Methodism in Ame- 
rica from 1770 to 1810. It is an exercise 
in the methodology of American Methodist 


history. Richey wrestles with the issue of 
a Methodist hermeneutic in understanding its 
American development. 

It is a "revisionist endeavor" in that 
it challenges popular interpretations of 
American Methodism both within the Methodist 
guild and among the wider field of American 
church historians. The author either re- 
jects the utility or questions the hegemony 
of such interpretive models as the "Amer- 
icanization of Methodism, " the movement from 
"society to church, " and the transition from 
"sect to denomination." He writes: "These 
notions suffer from being overworked and 
insufficiently attended. Like any draft 
animal they can be abused. " (p. xv) 

His method is to explore early American 
Methodism in terms of four separate but in- 
ter-related "languages." The first of these 
is the pietist or evangelical language. 
Methodism shared in this larger heritage of 
personal conversion that promoted such 
endeavors as revivals and awakenings. For 
Richey this was the primary language of 
early Methodism in America, as it was for 
much of its nineteenth century orientation. 

This pietist language blended well with 
the distinctively Wesleyan language that was 
inherited from British sources. Thus the 
second language receives little attention in 
the book, apart from the demonstration that 
it contributed both to the continuities 
within Methodist development and the 
ultimate confusion resulting from the ten- 


sions among the various languages. 

"Episcopal language, " the third cate- 
gory, emerged from the independent foun- 
dation of the Methodist Church in America in 
1784. In ordaining bishops, American Metho- 
dism involved itself in a rhetoric which 
obcured both its true structure and mission. 
This led to confusion within Methodism and 
in the way it is perceived by other reli- 
gious groups in America. 

The fourth language, its political 
tongue, betrays the complexity of the issues 
regarding Methodist social conscience and 
political awareness. Why, for example, did 
Methodism adjust so readily to the insti- 
tution of slavery when it began as an aboli- 
tionist denomination? Did it support Ameri- 
can democracy as enthusiastically, espe- 
cially in the early period, as some of its 
pronouncements might seem to imply? Richey 
feels Methodism was weakened in its early 
phase by a lack of a political theology 
which characterized Reformed theology in 

The basic conviction of the book is 
that both the continuities and the changes 
within Methodism are best understood by the 
interactions of these four languages. The 
argument for the early period of Methodism 
depends, to a large degree, upon the au- 
thor's preference for the Methodist ver- 
nacular. .Much of his evidence is drawn from 
letters, diaries, journals, and accounts of 
the times in church records and public 


newspapers. Asbury's expression, "a glass 
of the heart, " (which highlights the chapter 
on Methodist views of the nation) could also 
categorize the author's approach. He be- 
lieves Methodist expressions of their own 
self-understandings should hold greater 
weight in assessing the early American 
period than secondary interpretations from 
later historians, theologians, and social 
scientists . 

As one whose area of interest is John 
Wesley and early Methodism, I am in complete 
agreement with Richey's assessment of 
sources. Methodism, especially in its ear- 
liest phases (both in England and America) , 
will look deceptively like other social and 
religious movements until one explores the 
primary sources. Then the true soul of Me- 
thodism emerges. Richey engages this soul 
of Methodism in this book. Consequently the 
chapters on "Community, Fraternity, and 
Order," "From Quarterly to Camp Meeting," 
and "The Southern Accent of American 
Methodism" are loaded with information and 
insight. They contain, I believe, the chief 
value of the book. 

The concluding chapter I found to be 
mildly disappointing in that the book ends 
with a question: "The question raised but 
not answered by this volume is the relation 
these languages have had to one another. 
Was it Babel or Pentecost?" (p. 97) In terms 
of the entire history of Methodism in 
America, it is appropriate to leave this 



question of language (hermeneutic) unde- 
cided. But one would think that the period 
1770-1810 is less ambiguous. Here the 
author's preference for the pietist language 
is largely justified. The question really 
is whether a paradigm which works well for 
the early period of American Methodism can 
be stretched to cover the whole as well. 

Luke L. Keefer, Jr. 

Norman Geisler and Winfried Corduan 
Philosophy of Religion , 2nd ed. 
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 
1988, 402 pp., $18.95 (paper) 

In recent years Norman Geisler has been 
producing books which are co-authored with 
other scholars. He follows this pattern in 
this revision of his 1974 text en the 
philosophy of religion. 

The second edition is nearly an exact 
reproduction of the first in terms of con- 
tent. The chapter titles and outlines are 
the same, and so is most of the exposition. 
The differences are in format rather than in 
content. References which were chapter end- 
notes in the first edition occur as foot- 
notes in the second. This facilitates read- 
ability. The second edition also provides 
several guiding questions at the beginning 
of each of the four parts of the book, along 
with selected general readings. This should 
enhance its value as a course text in philo- 


sophy of religion. 

The new edition also improves the 
bibliography and the indices. The bib- 
liography includes more sources, especially 
those which were published since the first 
edition. The "author index" of the 1974 
edition becomes a "name index" in the 1988 
book. The reader therefore has a better 
guide to the thinkers represented in the 
text, for views are presented even when 
specific publications are not analyzed. 

Since the context is largely the same 
in both editions, the strengths and weak- 
nesses of Geisler's writing still prevail. 
His strengths are his ability to organize 
clearly, summarize succinctly the charac- 
teristic thought of basic philosophic trends 
and their chief spokespersons, and his 
critiques of each school from a Christian 
point of view. 

His weaknesses are closely allied to 
his strengths. There is a tendency to push 
schools of thought and various philosophers 
into set identity boxes which may not always 
fit comfortably. Something can be lost when 
complex systems are reduced to simple 
characteristics so as to note similarities 
shared by different approaches to a given 
question. Representative philosophers are 
more vulnerable to a particular author's 
critique when viewed according to isolated 
themes separated from the context of their 
total system. 

In the final analysis, this book works 


very well as an introduction to philosophy 
of religion. Students and "lay readers" in 
philosophy will find it very helpful in 
introducing the discipline: its history, 
its systems and methods, and its notable 
thinkers. Those with more extensive back- 
grounds in philosophy will chafe at its 
weaknesses. It all depends upon the level 
of the readership. Luke L. Keefer, Jr. 



91 < 

ISSN: 1044-6494 




Ashland Theological Seminary I 


Ashland, Ohio 1995 { 

ISSN: 1044-6494 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashlancf, Ohio 



A Biblical and Contemporary Model of Ministry 1 

Brenda B. Colijn 

Day of Ceasing, Day Of Joy 15 

Elaine A. Heath 

Forms of Prophetic Speech in the Old Testament: 30 

A Summary of Claus Westermann's Contributions 

Bill T. Arnold 

The Violent PaciHst 41 

J. Robert Douglass 

The Postmodern Phenomena of New Age Spirituality: 54 

Examples in Popular Literature 

Mark J. Bair 

Liberation Theology: Fossil or Force? 83 

Howard Summers 

Book Reviews 108 

David W. Baker, Editor 

Journal articles are indexed in Elenchus of Biblica, New Testament 
Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts, Religions and Theological 
Abstracts and Religion Index One; reviews are indexed in Inc^x to 
Book Reviews in Religion. The latter two indices, published by 
ATLA, 820 Church Street, Evanston, Illinois 6020 L are also available 
online through BRS Information Technologies, DIALOG Information 
Services and^Wilsonline. Views of contributors are their own and do 
not necessarily express those endorsed by Ashland Theological 


Published and copyright held by Ashland Theological Seminary, 

Ashland, Ohio, 44805 Printed in the USA. 


This issue of the Journal brings things new and famiUar. The 
^miliar is the return to an eclectic collection of articles, not following a single 
theme, but rather looking at various themes of interest to the church. We also 
include an extensive review section, and solicit interest for those who might 
like to review for us. 

New are some of our contributors, several of whom are recent 
Seminary graduates. The discerning reader might note another new thing, in 
that Drs. Bill Arnold and Ben Witherington have moved, and have been 
replaced by Dr. Daniel Hawk, formerly of Centenary College in Shreveport, 
LA, and Dr. David deSilva, a recent graduate of Emory University, 
respectively. We welcome their arrival in the ATS conmiunity. 

We trust that both aspects, novelty and tradition, will serve to make 
the Seminary, and this Journal , an even more useful tool for the church and 
for God's kingdom. 

David W.Baker 


by Brenda B. Colijn* 


Every church operates with a model of ministry, whether conscious 
or unconscious. Developing an intentional model of ministry will force a 
congregation to ask itself crucial questions about its character and purpose. 
It will enable a congregation to sharpen die focus of its ministry, increase its 
ministry effectiveness, and integrate its members more fully into its hfe and 
witness. The following is an attempt to develop from bibhcal principles a 
ministry model that has contemporary relevance. 

Figure 1 shows an overall model of ministry. The shape indicates 

*Dr. Colijn (M.A., Ph.D., Cornell; M.A.,ATS) is an adjunct instructor at 

that ministry extends from the center of the church outward into the world. 
The model has four parts, with each part built upon the parts inside it. The 
center of the diagram (the innermost circle) represents the authority for the 
church's ministry. The Jewish leaders asked Jesus with what authority he 
acted as he did (Mark 11:27-28). With what authorization does the church 
engage in ministry? From whom or what do we receive direction about what 
the church is to be and do? The next circle represents the identity of the 
church, what the church is to be. The church develops its identity on the 
basis of its sources of aufliority. The five-part ring surrounding the identity 
circle represents the church's mission, what the church is to do. The church's 
mission is based upon, and supported by, its sense of identity. The five points 
of the star represent the church's vision, the specific programs and ministries 
an individual congregation engages in to fulfill its mission.' The points of the 
star indicate flie sharper focus required for particular ministries that will reach 
out into the world to achieve the church's purpose in the world. ^ In what 
follows, I will examine each of the four parts of the model in mm. I will 
sometimes illustrate my points by reference to Smoky Row Brethren Church, 
the congregation in which I serve as a deacon and lay leader. 


Figure 2 is an expansion of die authority, identity, and mission 
circles from Figure 1. The inner circle (authority) has been expanded to show 
three parts: a cross, representing Christ; the Word, or Scripture; and the 
Holy Spirit. The authority for the church's ministry is fundamentally 
Christocentric. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus states: "AH authority in heaven 
and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all 
nations, baptizing diem in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the 
Holy Spirit, and teaching diem to obey everything that I have commanded 
you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of die age" (NRSV). 

The church has thus been commissioned by Christ to go into the 
world to make disciples, and he promises to be widi us in our task. The 
church's authority is based on die authority given to Jesus by the Fadier (John 
17:1-2). Just as the Fadier sent the Son into the world, Jesus sends his church 
into the world to continue his ministry (John 17:18; 20-21). God has 
reconciled us to himself dirough Christ and has given us the ministry of 
reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20). 

Pigvire 2 

The authority of Christ is revealed and affirmed to us by the Bible 
and the Holy Spirit. The Word and the Spirit provide guidance for the 
church's ministry and equip its people to do it. Both Word and Spirit testify 
to Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39-40; John 15:26). The Word reveals to 
us the way of salvation and equips us to fulfill our calling (John 17: 17; 2 Tim. 
3:15-17). The Spirit guides us into truth, reveals God to us, helps us, and 
empowers us for ministry (John 14:15-17, 26; 16:13-15; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 
2:10-13). Through the Word and the Spirit, the church develops its sense of 
identity and mission. 


The middle section of Figure 2 is an expansion of the identity of the 
church. The five segments in the background represent the church's 
ecclesiology~its understanding of what the church is and what qualities are 
fundamental to it. The five spokes radiating outward from the Word and the 
Spirit and supporting the mission circle represent the church's philosophy of 
ministry—what approach the church will take to fulfilling its mission. 

The ecdesiology represented in the model has five elements: people 
of God, body of Christ, truth, love, and mutual accountability. 

People of God. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible shows God's 
unfolding plan to form a people for his own glory (Gen. 17:7-8; Ex. 6:7; 
Deut. 7:6-8; Is. 43:6-7, 21; Jer. 31:31-33; Rom. 9:24-26; Eph. 1:3-14; Rev. 
21:3). God began this work with the Old Testament nation of Israel and 
continued it with the New Testament church. This understanding of the 
church as the people of God has several impUcations. God has called his 
people into existence, has redeemed them, and has promised to be eternally 
faithful to them. They, in response, must remain faithful to him, live hves 
worfliy of their calling (Eph. 4: 1-3; Phil. 1:27-28), and seek to glorify him in 
everything they do (1 Cor. 10:31). As God's people, the church is inclusive, 
crossing racial, ethnic, class, age, and gender boundaries (Mt. 28:18-20; Gal. 
3:28; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 7:9-10). The church should be a place where 
dividing walls are torn down and peace is proclaimed to those who are far off 
(Eph. 2: 11-22). As God's people, the church is a community rather than a 
collection of individuals, and it should have an identity that distinguishes it 
from the world (Phil. 2:14-16). 

Body of Christ. Several passages in the New Testament describe the 
church as the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-26; Eph. 1:22-23; 
4: 11-16; Col. 1:18). This image shows that the church consists of diversity 
in unity —a diversity of personalities, backgrounds, experience, needs, and 
gifts brought into unity in Christ. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. 
Members of the church are members of one another, dependent upon one 
another for the health and growth of the whole body. Each believer is joined 
to the head of the body, Christ, from whom the body receives its hfe. 
Everyone in the church is valued, and everyone's contribution is necessary. 
This understanding helps flie church avoid a hierarchy of function in which 
some persons or offices are esteemed and others are not. It also makes 
essential a church organization that fosters mutual caring, support, and 

Truth and love. The proper functioning and growth of the body of 
Christ also requires a balance between truth and love: "But speaking the truth 
in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 
from whom the whole body, joined and knit togetfier by every ligament with 
which it is equipped, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love" 
(Eph. 4: 15-16). The church must model both a commitment to the truth of the 

gospel and a loving acceptance of people. It is easy to overbalance in either 
direction. We can preach the truth with a harshness that is insensitive to 
human need and drives away the very people we want to reach with the 
message of God's acceptance in the gospel. We can also let our desire to 
reach people water down our witness so that we never present them with the 
demands of the gospel. 

Mutual accountability. Speaking the truth in love is one aspect of 
the mutual accountabihty that must exist among the members of the church. 
Believers are to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2), encouraging one 
another and admonishing one another when necessary (Col. 3: 12-17; 1 Thess. 
5:14; Tit. 2:15; Heb. 10:24-25). We must practice a form of loving discipline 
that takes sin seriously and maintains the purity of the church while always 
having forgiveness and restoration as its goal (Mt. 18:15-17; 2 Cor. 2:5-8; 
Gal. 6: 1; Jas. 5: 19-20). We must also have a philosophy of leadership that 
encourages consensus and provides accountabihty for all members. 

The philosophy of ministry represented in the model consists of five 
elements: discipleship, spiritual gifts, servant leadership, equipping, and 
every-member ministry. These five elements form a sequence. 

Discipleship. The fundamental condition for effective ministry is a 
commitment to a life of discipleship on the part of individual members and the 
church as a whole. In the Gospels, Jesus calls people to follow him as their 
basic response to his announcement of the gospel (Mark 1 : 17). Furthermore, 
disciple-making is the focus of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). We 
must be disciples before we can make disciples. It is only as we follow Christ 
that we can engage in his ministry with the promise of his constant presence. 
Disciples will bear fruit; apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5, 8). 

Being Jesus' disciple means continuing in his word and obeying him 
(John 8:31; 14:15, 21). It is a hfe-long process. The church should foster 
discipleship through its preaching and teaching, and particularly through a 
network of small groups in which members can grow together and can be 
accountable to one another. It is critical that the church's presentation of the 
gospel not detach conversion from the call to discipleship. We must be 
sensitive to the brokenness of everyone who responds to the gospel; many 
people need to ftiUy grasp the message of God's grace before they can hear 
God's demands. Yet in the face of our culture, which encourages lack of 
commitment, the church must proclaim Jesus as Lord and ourselves as his 
disciples (Rom. 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 2:5-11). 

Spiritual gifts. As part of their growth in discipleship, members 
should identify their spiritual gifts. The Lord has given gifts to the body of 
Christ to prepare its members for service so the body may be built up (Eph. 
4:7-12). The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as he desires (1 Cor. 12:11), 
This means that the various ministries of die church should be performed by 
the persons gifted in those areas, whoever they may be. Since every believer 
has at least one gift, it also means that every believer will have an area of 
ministry (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Pet. 4:10). This approach makes recruitment a 
matter of prayerful discernment and openness to the Holy Spirit rather than 
one of pigeonholing and arm-twisting. 

The church must teach about spiritual gifts and model their use. 
Small groups are the ideal setting in which to discern and develop spiritual 
gifts.' The main bibhcal passages on spiritual gifts can make people aware 
of numerous possibilities, although these lists are probably representative 
ratiier than exhaustive (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30; Eph. 4:11). 
Inventories such as the Wagner-Modified Houts Ouestioimaire can assist in 
this process." 

Servant leadership. Among the spiritual gifts given to the body is 
tfie gift of leadership (Rom. 12:8). George Bama identifies leadership as the 
critical issue facing the modem church.^ As with other spiritual gifts, the gift 
of leadership can be discovered and developed in small groups, which provide 
a safe context for behevers to take on new responsibilities and practice new 

Numerous models of leadership compete for attention in our culture, 
many of them based on the exercise of power and authority. Jesus describes 
a different model in Mark 10:42-45: leaders in the church are not to dominate 
others but to serve them, following the example of Jesus himself.* In their 
character and attitudes, leaders exercise influence through example (1 Tim. 
3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9).' In developing vision and setting direction, servant 
leaders work by consensus, respecting the guidance of die Holy Spirit through 
all members and taking responsibihty for bringing the congregation to a unity 
of mind and purpose (Rom. 15:5-6; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 2:2).* 

Equipping. Servant leaders will equip the members of the body to 
do die work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-13). The congregation should make 
training available for all areas of ministry, from Sunday school teachers to 
worship leaders to nursery workers. More often, a church will simply recruit 
workers and tiien turn them loose widiout training ot supervision. A 

commitment to equipping requires that leaders share responsibihty and 
intentionally impart skills as well as knowledge to the congregation.' It also 
takes time, but it is an investment in the effectiveness of present ministry as 
well as in the pool of future leadership. '° 

E very-member ministry. Gifted disciples, equipped by servant 
leaders, will be prepared to do the ministry of the church, which belongs to 
every member (Eph. 4:12; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)." The congregation should be 
organized to involve everyone in ministry. Its structure should channel people 
with identified gifts into appropriate areas of ministry and provide ongoing 
support for them. At Smoky Row Brethren Church, the work of the church 
is assigned to various ministries, the chairpersons of which sit on the Board 
of Directors. Participation in one of these ministries (along with membership 
in a small group) is expected of all members. 


The mission of the church follows from its identity as the people of 
God and the body of Christ. The outer ring of Figure 2 represents the 
five-fold mission of the church: worship, nurture, fellowship, service, and 
outreach. This element of the model is illustrated by the description of the 
early church in Acts 2:42-47.'^ 

Worship. Worship is both the beginning and the end of the church's 
mission." Acknowledging God's worthiness and giving him praise and honor 
is the only possible response to what he has done for us (Rom. 12: 1-2; Heb. 
13:15).''* Worship deepens our relationship with God, out of which all our 
ministry grows. Corporate worship also deepens our relationship with one 
another. Worship celebrates and draws upon the presence of God in our 
midst and fits us for our hfe in heaven.'^ 

Nurture. Teaching is one of the aspects of Christ's commission to 
the church (Mt. 28:20). One of the goals of the church is to promote the 
growth of its members "until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the 
knowledge of the Son of God, to mamrity, to the measure of the full stamre 
of Christ" (Eph. 4: 13). The purpose of the Christian hfe is to be conformed 
to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). The church is the context in which such 
growth takes place.'* 

Fellowship. God has called believers into fellowship with Jesus and 
with one another (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3, 6-7). The word usually translated 

as fellowship, koinonia . actually means participation. The fellowship of the 
church is not merely social activity but intimate involvement in one another's 
lives as we hve out together our relationship with Christ." Some scholars 
have said that all the ethics in the New Testament are community ethics. We 
can carry out the responsibihties of the Christian hfe only with the help of one 

Service. Within the church, behevers are called to serve one another 
in love (Gal. 5:13). The numerous "one another" passages in Paul's letters 
demonstrate the interdependence of the members of the body of Christ. Jesus 
himself is our example of humble service (Mark 10:42-45; John 13: 1-17; Phil. 
2:5-1 1). The church should provide opportunities for each member to become 
involved in ministry.'* Service to others is a primary means for believers to 
grow in their own faith, as well as the only means for the body itself to be 
built up. 

Outreach. Outside the church, behevers are called to minister to 
people's spiritual and physical needs. The church's commission from Christ 
is to make disciples in all the world (Mt. 28:18-20), and each believer must 
be ready to give a defense of his or her faith (1 Pet. 3:15-16). We must also 
be willing to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care 
for the sick, and visit the prisoners (Mt. 25:31-46). Too often the church has 
created a false dichotomy between evangelism and social concern. The gospel 
of Christ brings salvation to the whole person, so the church must be ready 
to minister to the whole person." 

Outreach can take the form of church programs or support for the 
members of the congregation in their individual ministries outside the church. 
It can take place in specialized settings or in the everyday settings behevers 
find themselves in. Although Figure 2 shows outreach as one part of the 
fivefold mission of the church. Figure 3 illustrates that outreach can take place 
in all five areas. 


Figure 3 focuses on the vision of the church, the specific ministries 
a congregation engages in to fulfill its mission. Specific ministries will vary 
according to God's calling for a particular congregation.^" The figure hsts 
possible ministries in each of the five mission areas. For example, worship 
can be carried on in private, through prayer groups or meetings, in the 

Sunday service, through singspiration evenings, and in seeker services 
directed to the community. Nurture can be accompUshed in personal study, 
small group Bible studies, Sunday school classes, the youth program, and 
adult seminars. Fellowship can be developed through personal relationships, 
fellowship groups, men's and women's groups, and all-church events. 
Service can be performed in acts of personal assistance, targeted care groups, 
participation in church ministries, ministries of reconciliation, and counseling. 
Outreach may involve personal evangehsm, mission groups, foreign missions, 
and community services such as a food pantry or preschool. Once the 
congregation's vision has been developed and implemented, its programs 
should be periodically evaluated and, if necessary, redefined or terminated.^' 
Because each beUever is a member of the body and is involved in relation- 
ships, each mission area Usts activities that take place in an individual context, 
in a small group context, and in a larger corporate context. The church must 
encourage personal devotion and spiritual growth as the foundation for 
personal and corporate ministry. It must also take advantage of the 
encouragement, exhortation, and vision that come from the whole body 
assembhng together (Heb. 10:24-25). But it also needs small groups for the 
aspects of Christian hfe and ministry that are not easily accomplished by 
individuals or by the body as a whole. 

Small groups are critical for building close relationships, encour- 
aging growth, and engaging in targeted ministry. Without small group 
experiences, members will not feel closely connected to the church, especially 
if the church is large (over 150-200). With the increasing brokenness in 
families and the fragmentation in society, the church must provide people the 
network of relationships they cannot find elsewhere.^ Small groups espec- 
ially can take the place of the extended family that most people no longer 
experience. At Smoky Row, small groups provide much of the infrastructure 
of the church, serving as the main conduit for communication, fellowship, 
personal growfli, spiritual care, accountability, and practical material support. 
Small groups can also be a base from which hke-minded or similarly gifted 
individuals can engage in ministry. To be effective, small groups must be 
thoroughly integrated into the hfe and structure of the church.^' 


This ministry model is flexible enough to be implemented in churches 
with a variety of organizations and pohties. It does require that a con- 
gregation be self-aware and intentional about its ministry. It estabUshes an 
organic relationship between a church's identity and actions, and it requires 
fliat church programs function to fulfill the mission of that congregation in its 
context. This model shows members where they fit in die hfe of the church. 
It is grounded in the church's foundational behefs, but it is adaptable to new 
situations, encouraging a periodic review of programs and ministries to see 
if they are achieving the purpose for which they were created. Finally, it is 
a whoUstic approach, addressing members as whole persons in relationship 
with odiers and encompassing the whole hfe of the church in its mission to the 


'See George Bama, Todav's Pastors (Venmra, CA: Regal Books, 1993), 
117-120 for the distinction between mission and vision. 

^R. Paul Stevens has challenged the church to view its members as 
missionaries rather than church-tenders. He says that members "must 
insist that the hfe, teaching and training of the church should be directed 
toward the marketplace, home and society rather than to the church. " The 
Equipper's Guide to Everv-Member Ministry: Eight Ways Ordinary People 
Can Do the Work of the Church (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 
1992), 16. 

'R. Paul Stevens, Liberating the Laity: Equipping All the Saints for 
Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 63. 

'' Wagner-Modified Houts Ouestionnaire . 5th ed. (Pasadena, CA: Charles 
E. Fuller Institute of EvangeUsm and Church Growth, 1989). 

*Bama, 117. 

*In David L. McKenna's model of incarnate Christian leadership, the core 
of leadership is character; the mission of the leader is servanthood; the task 
of the leader is team-building; and die goal of the leader is empowering 


others. Power to Follow. Grace to Lead: Strategy for the Future of 
Christian Leadership (Dallas: Word, 1989), 22, 24, 25. 

'See Stephen R, Covey, Principle-Centered Leadership (New York: 
Summit Books, 1991), 119-122. 

*For James D. Anderson and Ezra Earl Jones, effective leadership "forges 
a consensus rather than simply searching for an amenable, smoothed-over, 
majority point of view. " The Management of Ministry (New York: Harper 
& Row, 1978), 81. Kennon L. Callahan beheves that successful missional 
churches have "solid, participatory decision making." Twelve Keys to an 
Effective Church: Strategic Planning for Mission (San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1983), xiii. 

'Stevens acknowledges that equippers (such as equipping preachers) will 
face "the challenge of making room for others to minister. " They must 
find their security not in doing all the ministry themselves but in trusting 
God and exalting others. Stevens describes several methods of equipping 
other than imparting information in traditional courses, such as appren- 
ticeships, situational learning, and small group contexts. He advises a 
variety of approaches (Equipper's Guide . 33, 14). 

'"Mary Ellen Drushal has observed that developing leadership in the church 
involves equipping the spiritually gifted and then encouraging the equipped 
and affirming their labor. Mary Ellen Drushal, "Recruitment of Leaders," 
Lecture given at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, on 
March 28, 1994. 

"George Bama found that a top priority of American pastors is getting the 
laity involved in ministry, although pastors are often uncertain how to 
accomphsh this (100-103). Bama traces part of the problem to the lack of 
the gift of leadership among pastors (122). Kenneth C. Haugk describes 
several other reasons why churches are not practicing the "priesthood of all 
beUevers," including inertia, traditionalism, a focus on the institution rather 
than human needs, a reluctance of clergy to give up control, lack of 
training in equipping, apathy, and lack of faith. "Lay Ministry: The 
Unfinished Reformation," The Christian Ministry (November 1985): 5-8. 


'^This five-fold purpose (with evangelism substituted for outreach) appears 
in the constitution of Smoky Row Brethren Church. I served on the com- 
mittee that drafted the constitution. 

''"To the extent that ministry flows out of worship, to that extent it is 
renewing, enabled, empowered, and yields abiding fruit. To the extent that 
ministry does not flow out of worship, it is impaired, exhausting, and leads 
toward fleeting accompUshment. " Douglas M. Little, Lecture given at 
Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, on March 7, 1994. 

'"See the definition of worship by Julia Ann Flora, "Come, Let Us 
Worship!" The Brethren Evangelist 106 (July/ August 1984): 8. 

'^Stevens, Equipper's Guide . 78. 

'^Stevens suggests that the various means of nurture in the church be inte- 
grated by a congregational learning curriculum developed by the 
congregation itself (Eauipper's Guide . 20-26). 

"Stevens observes that sohd relationships are necessary for ministry: "In 
order to be an equipping environment, tiierefore, the local church must be 
structured for relationships" (Liberating the Laity . 31-32). 

'^Stevens calls for an "experimental climate throughout the church" in 
which members can discover and develop their gifts (EQuipr)er's Guide . 

"Stevens observes, "The church's mission is composed of both evangelism 
and social action and each is deadly without the oflier" (Liberating the 
Laity, 105). 

^"Callahan states that successful missional churches have two or three 
specific objectives to minister to identified groups of people (xii-xiii). 
George Bama argues that all churches should have a target audience in 
mind (105-1 1 1). This is an important factor when planting a church. 
When an established church wants to become more intentional about its 
ministry, it would do well to get to know its community and target the type 
of people in that community. 


^'Mary Ellen Dnishal has created a detailed procedure for developing and 
implementing vision in a local church. Her process includes evaluation and 
redirection. "Instructions for Strategic Planning in the Local Church" 
(Department of Christian Ministries, Ashland Theological Seminary, 
Ashland, Ohio, 1994, Photocopy). 

^Stevens argues that the model of kinship within die church can help 
people hve out their own covenant relationships in their marriages and 
families (Equipper's Guide . 131). 

^See the categories used by Karen Hurston and Judy Hamlin in "Three 
Basic Types of Small-Group Systems," Discipleship Journal , Issue 62 
(1991): 43-45. The small group system at Smoky Row has features of both 
the "incorporated" and the "totally integrated" system. It is overseen by 
the Board of Deacons rather than a professional staff person, it does not 
take die place of Sunday school, and it does not have evangehsm as its sole 
focus. However, the system does take the place of traditional Sunday 
evening or midweek services. It is integral to die church's functioning, 
and is not merely one possible activity among many. 

K* • • ^^=:^C* • *■ 


Day of Ceasing, Day of Joy 

by Elaine A. Heath* 


When I was ten years old a friend of my mothers offered to take my 
brother and me to Sunday School. Our experiences with church were as 
scattered and varied as the numerous places we had hved. Now and then in 
our familial hopscotching across the country, some kindly neighbor would 
offer to take us children to Sunday School. We attended the Nazarene 
vacation Bible school, the Baptist church, the First Christian Church, the 
Seventh Day Adventist church. I even made it to a Mormon gathering once. 
So off we went, wondering what this one would be Uke. Two hours later my 
mother's friend dropped us back at our front door. 

"Well, what did you think?" my mother asked. "It was okay," I 
answered. "The preacher's wife smoked and read the comics before Sunday 
School started." My mother nearly choked, then said she guessed that was the 
kind of Sunday School she would like to go to. She talked about blue laws 
and hypocrites, and railed on about the Seventh Day Adventist folks who said 
all the people who smoke are going to Hell, but it was rather beyond me, 
especially since I was hungry and ready to read the comics myself. I 
remember, though, thinking about the righmess of smoking and reading the 
comics on Sunday. Were tiiere really people who thought God got mad when 
people read comics on Sunday? Just what did God think? 

It has been nearly three decades since I first mused upon sabbath 
theology. Those primitive and youthful cogitations led to others. The 
question of what sabbath means stays with me, though. No one is better at 
breaking the sabbath than church workers. It is one of the ironies of our 
lives. In my pursuit of understanding the sabbath, I realized with increasing 
deUght that God's purpose in th^ day of rest is not to take away our comics. 
(Cigarettes are another matter.) On the contrary, the sabbath is to be a day 
of joy, refreshment, childlike wonder and play. It is to be a day unlike other 
days, a day set apart for the sheer pleasure of Uving. Not only that, the 
sabbath is to be the central day from which all other days are hved. Just as 
the sabbath was the zenith of creation, it is to be the high point of our week. 

*Rev. Heath (M.Div.,ATS, 1995) is a United Methodist pastor in north east 


Let us turn now to Genesis, where we first meet the sabbath. After 
that we will explore sabbath teachings in the Pentateuch, highlights from the 
prophets, and the New Testament, most notably Jesus' interpretation of the 
sabbath. In so doing we may discover new ways in which to help ourselves 
and other Christians more fully enjoy all that the sabbath is meant to be. 

Sabbath in the Pentateuch 

"So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God 
rested from all the work he had done" (Genesis 2:3). Our introduction to the 
sabbath, the pinnacle of God's creation, is found early in his story. Several 
questions jump immediately from the text. Was God tired? After all, he 
rested. What does it mean that he "hallowed" the day? What can we learn 
about sabbath meanings from this text? 

The Hebrew word rendered "rested" in English, is shabath, meaning 
"to cease." Contrary to the mental image the EngUsh translation suggests, 
where God wipes his sweaty brow and takes a breather after all that hard 
work, God finishes creation, ceases from it, and says that his ceasing is 
blessed, hallowed. God takes pleasure in the work he has done, much hke an 
artist stepping back, laying the brushes aside, and gazing with satisfaction at 
die finished painting. There is a sense of wholeness, completion, and deUght. 

In the seventh day wholeness we first meet the idea of holiness. God 
hallows iqadash), or makes holy, the seventh day. It is set apart exclusively 
for him.' Later on in Mosaic law the holiness of the sabbath is stressed in 
every passage. While we often think of holiness as God's mysterious, 
awesome, frightening power, we should not overlook the celebratory 
connotation of holiness in Genesis 2:3. 

Guy Robbins notes that our definition of sabbath holiness ought to 
include God's approachability. The rejoicing, blessing, dehghtfuhiess of 
sabbath holiness is invitational. Humans are enjoined to draw near to God in 
the sabbath. Robbins supports his argument widi reference to the burning 
bush dialogue. God invited Moses to take off his sandals, not out of dreadful 
fear, but as a welcoming gesture. Just as the fire did not consume the bush, 
God would not consume Moses. The usual protection of sandals was 
unnecessary, for Moses was welcome and safe with God.^ 

Robbins' interpretation of the removal of sandals may be strained, 
nevertheless his point is well taken. Sabbath is an invitation to participate in 


the holy wonder of creation. God at rest is God enjoying his creation. 
Humans at rest are humans reflecting the enjoyment of God. Instead of 
firetfully looking at what needs to be done, we can look at what has been done, 
saying with God: "It is very good. " 

After the creation text nothing more is said of the sabbath until 
Exodus 20:8-11, where the fourth precept in the Decalogue is the 
conmoiandment to keep the sabbath. At this point sabbath meanings fairly 
explode upon us. Keeping the sabbath involves ceasing from work, an egaU- 
tarian rest that extends to all people, nativebom, resident ahens, slave, or 
free. Animals, too, are to enjoy a day of ceasing from their work. Why are 
the people commanded to rest? God himself set the precedent at creation. 
The sabbath is to be a conmiemoration of Creator God's ceasing, blessing, 
and hallowing. 

Of aU the commandments, the sabbath command is the only one 
concemed with ttie stewardship of time. The first three focus on honoring the 
one God, Yahweh, not turning aside to idols and not misusing his name. The 
next commandment has to do with time. Interestingly, while it specifies the 
rhythmic seasons of holy rest, the commandment does not deal with form or 
ritual. As Niels-Erik Andreason says, "The sabbath is time, specifically the 
seventh part of time, which is both given to man and required of man. "' 
Abraham Heschel contrasts the six workdays hved under the "tyranny of 
things of space," to the sabbath, when we attend to holiness in time."* 

Sabbath then, has to do with regularly, intentionally experiencing 
time from the vantage point of eternity. In beckoning us into his sabbath, God 
ushers us into his eternal "nowness," giving us rest from all that wearies our 
hearts and dulls our minds. Walter Brueggemann sees the sabbath as a 
"kerygmatic statement about the world."* God's timeless and tranquil safe- 
keeping of the world is proclaimed each time his people observe the day of 
ceasing. A well-kept sabbath is a foretaste of heaven. 

What does it mean, then, to observe the ceasing commandment as we 
should? That question occupied the busy minds of post-exihc rabbis, whose 
sabbath rulings in the Mishna often went far beyond the scriptures. Robbins 
reminds us that the Bible does not specify what exactiy one should do or not 
do on the sabbath, since one person's work may be another person's 
recreation. The Bible is more concemed about an abiding mental attitude than 
with regulations.* We automatically assume today that sabbath activities are 
religious, having to do with church attendance, wearing nice clothes, that sort 


of thing. It is informative to look again at Mosaic instructions for worship 
and sabbath. Worship activities, including sacrifices, were part of Israel's 
daily hfe, not something done once a week. The sabbath, then, was not the 
day set aside to do rehgious things. It was, rather, the day set aside to cease 
from work. As we begin to explore some of the implications in the ceasing 
let us begin by seeing who is included in the ceasing. As we do so, we find 
a current of deep humanitarianism as well as a practice that promotes mental 
and emotional health. 

Humanitarian concerns are expressed in the Exodus 20 Decalogue, 
but are even more obvious in the Deuteronomic account. In Deuteronomy the 
focus is the Exodus from Egypt, rather than creation. After hsting all the 
people who are to cease from labor, including the male and female slaves, the 
law states: "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the 
Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an 
outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the 
sabbath day" (Deut. 5:15). Sociologically, sabbath reflects an egahtarian 
message against human exploitation. Israel is commanded to observe the 
sabbath not only because of creation, but as a memorial of freedom from 
bondage. It is significant that the sabbath commandment is sandwiched 
between those that speak of honoring God, and those that speak of honoring 
other humans. Humanitarian and egahtarian sabbath themes are further 
developed in the sabbath and jubilee years, to which we shall direct our 
attention shortly. For now it is important to note that regular, frequent 
reminders that "you too were once a slave," are necessary precursors to 
carrying out the other humanitarian thrusts of the Tora. Only as we find 
sohdarity in our shared humanity, our shared history of sin and the need for 
grace, are we able to extend the dignity and provision that God wills for all 

Robert Johnston contrasts the difference between Hebraic, Greek, 
and Protestant views of work, noting the egahtarian, whohstic emphasis of 
sabbath laws. To the ancient Greeks, rest was a luxury permitted only to the 
elite. The Protestant work ethic has glorified work, denigrated rest, and 
shamed play. The Hebraic model of sabbath, however, embraces both work 
and play in a rhythmic dance of hfe. Animals and the land itself are included 
in the weekly and yearly sabbaths.' Johnston's concept of play as the 
appropriate sabbath activity is keenly insightful. The playfiihiess of a true 
sabbath is one of its most empowering quahties, giving people the mental and 


emotional nourishment that can only come from freely chosen, non-pro- 
ductive activities. 

In his definition of play, Johnston describes activity that is freely 
chosen, has its own time and space limits, is a deUberate break in the work 
world, and involves its own spontaneous reality. Play frees the spirit to move 
outward, where it encounters the sacred. Play is not goal oriented; it is 
process and it is time-transcendent.* The consequences of authentic play are 
joy, release, encounters with the sacred, and a new spirit of thanksgiving and 
celebration that carry back into the workaday world. 

What then, of those fortunate souls whose work feels like play? "For 
those few today whose work is intoxicating, whose labor is more play than 
toil, the sabbath relativises their efforts. They are not to think themselves 
God. But for the many for whom work is wearisome, if not debihtating, the 
sabbath is meant to restore. They are not to think of themselves apart from 
God."' Sabbath ceasing from work is a means to remind us that God is God, 
that our Uves and work are but expressions of the God who made us. Living 
from the sabbath means recognizing God's sovereignty. It is a liberating 
proposition, releasing us from the ball and chain of self. 

How bibhcal is the view that play is an essential part of the sabbath? 
We must first hearken back to Genesis 2:3, in which God ceases, blesses, and 
establishes the day as holy. His work has been good indeed. He simply 
enjoys what he has created, and in Exodus 20: 1 1 and 31: 17 he instructs his 
people to enter that same state of ceasing, resting, and enjoying in the 
sabbath. In laying aside productive labor, the people are not to sit idly. In- 
stead, there is to be an atmosphere of celebration. Eastern Orthodox 
iconogr^hy is illustrative at this point. Icons are expressions of divine reality 
in a tangible form. We, the people of God, are hving icons. As we celebrate 
the playfulness of sabbath rest, we image the timeless, holy resting of God. 
We participate in his sheer joy in what he has done. Such a resting is play 
indeed. It is not somber, gloomy, or dour. 

Madeline L'Engle, in Walking on Water , ponders the rich connection 
between playful creativity and authentic faith. Worship, the kind that the 
sabbath is meant to inspire, has much more to do with Van Gogh's Starry 
Night than it does with many religious Sunday School ideas. Rejoicing that 
her father's work schedule prevented her from attending Sunday School as a 
child, L'Engle writes: "I have talked with such a surprising number of people 
who have had to spend most of their hves unlearning what some well-meaning 


person taught them in Sunday School, that I'm glad I escaped!"'" 

Anthony Campolo would agree with L'Engle, saying that most 
Christians are party poopers who have taken the joy out of worship. The 
Kingdom of God is a Party is Campolo 's attempt to tell the church to get back 
to its partying roots, to their heritage that is found in sabbath law." In the 
sabbath years and jubilee, in particular, Campolo argues, we find radical 
reasons for celebrative worship. The egalitarianism of weekly sabbath rest is 
carried to radical sociahst extremes in the Jubilee. 

Simply put, the sabbafli and Jubilee years were unprecedented socio- 
economic strategies to keep the land in the hands of the people, to prevent the 
rise of class oppression, and to severely limit economic inequities. Every 
50th year, the Jubilee, debts were to be canceled, land returned to its original 
owners, and prisoners set free. The poUtical, social, and economic 
implications of Jubilee are staggering. It is abundantly clear from Jubilee 
laws that God highly values freedom, and that freedom from socio-economic 
oppression was one of his purposes for estabUshing the sabbath in all its 
forms. Liberation dieologians and Christian social critics such as Ron Sider 
consider the Jubilee ordinance an important bibhcal mandate for social jus- 

While no evidence has been found that would testify to Israel ever 
having kept the Jubilee, some exists in the intertestamental period and early 
Roman Empire, showing that attempts were made to observe the sabbath 
year." Every seventh year the land was to he fallow (Leviticus 25:1-7). For 
six years Israehtes were to work the land, setting aside grain and provision for 
the seventh year. During the sabbath year Israel was to Uve from the 
provisions saved, as well as whatever grew naturally. 

The keeping of the sabbath was no hght matter. Those who broke 
the sabbath were to be stoned. The first instance of capital punishment for 
sabbath-breaking is found in Numbers 15:32-36, A man who was found 
gathering sticks on the sabbath was summarily executed. It. may seem 
excessively harsh to us that capital punishment was used to enforce a day of 
rest and play. Yet we need to keep in mind the profound theological, social, 
and ethical impUcations of the sabbath. Sabbath law was foundational to other 
Mosaic law. Its premise of the sovereignty of God, the creatureliness of 
humans, and the protection of human rights all were at stake in sabbath- 

Israel's unique covenant relationship with Yahweh would be put to 


the test again and again, not only in the wilderness, but primarily in the 
promised land. Frequent reminders such as Leviticus 19:3 link sabbath 
observance to remembering that Yahweh is Israel's God. He is holy, the 
sabbafli is holy, and his people are to continually remind themselves through 
die observance of sabbath, that they are a holy people. Israel has been called 
apart to reveal the holy God to all the world. 

Sabbath Parallels in the Ancient Near East 

At tiiis juncture we might ask ourselves how unique the sabbath was 
to Israel. Was it strictiy a Hebraic paradigm, or did other cultures in the 
ancient Near East also celebrate a sabbath? Scholars offer several hypoflietical 
parallels to the Hebrew sabbath, none of which have yet been conclusively 
linked to the Old Testament sabbath. Ancient Akkadian, the language of the 
Babylonians, had the word sabattu, which is similar to the Hebrew sabbat. 
Some sources render the meaning of sabattu as "day of rest of the heart, " or 
"day of appeasement."''' Others link it to the day of the full moon.'* While 
it is possible that sabbat and sabattu share etymological roots, it is not at all 
evident that cessation from work or even a weekly observance was part of 
sabbat. An even greater distinction between sabbat and sabattu is seen in that 
the Babylonian day was ominously evil, a day in which demonic forces were 
at work. Nothing could be further from the blessed, beautiful, holy day of the 

Assyria had "evil days" (umu lemnu) that fell approximately every 
seven days. Andreason resists die possibihty that these were sabbath days, 
arguing that even though the king and other nobihty were to avoid certain 
tasks on evil days, the population at large was not forbidden to work.'* 
Beyond that, the Hebrew sabbadi was not linked to a particular day of the 
month, such as the day of the full moon, while umu lemnu were. 

The Kenite hypothesis suggests that Moses adopted the Kenite 
sabbath practice during his years among the people of Midian. The Kenites 
were metal smiths, a factor that proponents of the Kenite theory see evidenced 
in Exodus 35:3, where fire-making is prohibited on the sabbath. Evidence for 
a weekly sabbath practice among the Kenites is lacking, however." 

Although these and other theories have been posited regarding 
ancient Near Eastern parallels to the Hebrew sabbath, evidence is too scant 
for any of them to be convincing. In any event, the estabUshment of the 


Hebrew sabbath created a week that was separate from lunar cycles or 
growing seasons. That in itself is suggestive of the distinctly Hebrew Creator 
God, the one who stands outside of time. 

Sabbath and the Prophets 

Despite their good start in keeping sabbath and punishing the hapless 
stick-gatherer, Israel lapsed into sin in this as well as other ordinances of the 
covenant. The prophets spoke loudly to Israel's transgression of the sabbath. 
Their messages also reiterated the blessings promised to those who truly keep 
the sabbath, and include eschatological interpretations of the sabbath rest. 

Sometime in the middle of die eighth century, BC, Amos left his 
work as a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees in Israel's southern 
kingdom, to carry a prophetic message to Samaria. There the Israelites had 
developed oppressive class cults, some of Amos' most stinging rebuke was 
directed against social injustice. Amos 8:4-6 denounces the money grubbing 
attitudes of those who can hardly wait for the sabbath to end so they can go 
back to exploiting the poor. Both the resentment against the sabbath and the 
dishonest trade practices were abhorrent to God. 

A contemporary of Amos, Isaiah hved and carried out his ministry 
in Jerusalem. In some of the most beautiful and comforting language of the 
Old Testament, Isaiah promises special blessings to eunuchs and foreigners 
who have joined themselves to the Lord and have kept the sabbath (Isaiah 

To the eunuchs, who cannot preserve their name through namral 
offspring, God promises: "I will give, in my house and within my walls, a 
monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an 
everlasting name that shall not be cut off (56:5). Eunuchs were not permit- 
ted to carry out priestly functions in Mosaic law, since they were blemished. 
The promise in Isaiah points to God's gracious love that welcomes even 
eunuchs into his house, where they receive the heritage of God himself. 

Foreigners, too, are given a precious heritage. First God assuages 
their fear of abandonment, in verse 3. "Do not fear that you will be cut off 
from me," God says. He then promises a hearty and joyous welcome in his 
house, where they will serve him and minister to him just as his other children 
do. All of their sacrifices and offerings will be accepted (56:6-7). Every 
outcast in the world who turns to God, honoring the sabbath and holding fast 


to his covenant will receive the heritage of true children. These words were 
immeasurably comforting in Isaiah's day and continue to be so today. 

In another passage, 58: 13-14, Isaiah makes a conditional promise to 
sabbath-keepers. This text is instructive in that it defines what sabbath means 
in attitudes of the heart, ^the person ceases from pursuing his own interests, 
serving and honoring God instead, then he will find his deUght in God and in 
so doing, will prosper and will receive die heritage of Jacob. 

Isaiah also prophesies an eschatalogical fulfiUment of die sabbath. 
In the day the glory of the Lord is revealed to "all flesh, " the day of the new 
heavens and new earth, everyone shall come and worship God from sabbath 
to sabbath (Isaiah 66:23). Life will flow from the very heart of sabbath rest, 
which is the unceasing rest of God himself. 

Jeremiah warned the kings and leaders of Israel, shortly before the 
captivity, that sabbath-breaking would bring absolute destruction upon 
Jerusalem (Jeremiah 17:19-27). Israel callously profaned the sabbath, 
carrying on business as usual in order to make more profit. If only Israel 
would turn around and keep the sabbath, Jeremiah wept, they would ensure 
perpetual habitation and prosperity in Jerusalem. Such was not to be the case, 
though. Not long after uttering his oracle, Jerusalem was carried into 

Ezekiel lamented the wanton sabbath-breaking of Israel as well, 
saying that the sabbaths were to be a sign between Israel and Yahweh, 
continually reminding her that Yahweh is God (Ezekiel 20:20). The only 
reason God did not wipe Israel out completely, as they deserved, was that he 
did not want his name profaned among die watching nations. God had 
estabhshed his covenant first with Abraham, then with Moses, promising to 
bring his people into a promised land. If he failed to do this even diough 
Israel sinned and brought disaster on herself, he might look common (the 
meaning of) like any Canaanite god, as if he were impotent and could not 
keep his promise (Ezekiel 20:8b-26). 

Like Isaiah, Ezekiel looked to the ftiture when die eschatological 
fulfillment of the sabbath would find its expression in perfect sabbath 
observance (Ezekiel 46: 1-12). The interpretation of this passage continues to 
trouble scholars. It is safe to say, though, that worship will be the center 
from which all activity flows in the eschaton. 

New Testament Sabbadi Meanings 

Sabbath reforms were a large part of Nehemiah's platform. Between 
the time of Nehemiah (ca. 400 BC), and Jesus, rabbinic interpretation of the 
sabbath became increasingly complex, while rank and file Jews endeavored 
to live more faithfully according to sabbath law. By the time of the 
Maccabees, the Roman army excused Jews from military service because they 
were virtually useless on the sabbath.'* Seneca accused Jew of laziness for 
spending one day a week in idleness." An example of interpretive excess 
may be found in Jubilees 50:8, which forbids sexual relations on the sabbath. 
Later on the stipulation was amended.^ 

Jesus came on the scene in the midst of sabbath excess. His radical 
interpretation of the sabbath as a day of healing and restoration was 
considered nothing short of blasphemous by his critics. Some of Jesus' 
harshest condemnation of religious hypocrisy was reserved for those who 
perverted the sabbath into an intolerable burden. 

All four gospels contain pericopae about the sabbath. The three 
synoptics share the story of Jesus and his disciples hungrily plucking grain 
while walking through a field on the sabbath. When Jesus is chastised by the 
religious leaders, his response hearkens back to David, who ate die forbidden 
Bread of the Presence on a sabbath. He also reminded them fliat priests 
routinely break the sabbath as they carry out their duties. The real issue is 
mercy, not reUgious ritual, he said. Then he made the outrageous statement 
that "the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath" (Matthew 12: 1-8). 

Following that encounter he entered the synagogue, where he healed 
a man with a withered hand. His explanation to hvid critics was that "it is 
lawful to do good on the sabbath" (Matthew 12:12b). The Markan account 
describes Jesus angrily healing the man (Mark 3: 1-5). (We cannot help but 
pause to reflect upon the surprising possibihty of holy, healing, sabbath 
anger.) From that moment the Pharisees set about planning for Jesus' 
destruction. God had gone too far. 

Other sabbath healings include the woman whose back had been 
crippled for eighteen years, a malady Jesus attributed directly to Satan. Jesus 
regarded healing as a matter of plundering the enemy, restoring people from 
evil bondages. In this sense he was carrying out the spirit of sabbath found 
in Deuteronomy 5, which stresses hberation from bondage. Jesus said he was 
bringing a daughter of Abraham into freedom, an act that surely was more 
important tlian the legally permissible hberation of a trapped farm animal on 
the sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). 


When religious critics challenged his healing of the lame man at the 
pool of Bethsaida, Jesus answered that he worked on the sabbath because his 
Father was working, and he only did what he saw his Father doing (John 5:1- 
24). By example and word, Jesus taught that it is consonant with the spirit of 
sabbath to participate in God's work. The giving of eternal Ufe is a work that 
the Father is continuously about, and it is a work that most fully expresses the 
meaning of sabbath. To enter into eternal Ufe is to cease from one's own 

Such was the sabbath interpretation given by the writer of Hebrews, 
as well. All of the sabbath teachings in the Pentateuch were valid in the time 
of the Old Covenant, but they pointed to the eternal reahty of the New 
Covenant of Christ (Hebrews 3:7-4: 11). Canaan was a type of sabbath rest 
which the first generation of Israelites missed because of the hardness of their 
hearts. Instead of obeying God, they rebelled, and could not enjoy a ceasing 
from their wandering. (3:11-19). Disobedience and unbelief regarding the 
true sabbath rest, Christ himself, continue to prevent people from entering 
into a ceasing from their spiritual struggles. Only as we believe the Good 
News, can we enter that rest. 

"So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God: for 
those who enter God's rest also cease from their labors as God did from his" 
(Hebrews 4:9-1 1). To remain in the true sabbath rest is to abide in a state of 
worship, honoring God with one's entire being. The sabbath Ufe is one that 
no longer profanes what is holy, distinguishing between secular and sacred. 
Instead, it is a life of humility and obedience, a perpetual resting in God's 

This is the capstone of creation—the sabbath rest in Christ himself. 
According to Leviticus 16:29-34, the Day of Atonement was the "complete 
sabbath," because it gave people a ceasing from their sins. They were 
cleansed and forgiven in God's sight. Jesus was the true Paschal lamb, whose 
sacrificial death fulfilled what the animal sacrifices only pointed to. The 
complete sabbath, the complete cleansing, healing, and rest, are found in 
Christ alone. 


What are we to make of sabbatfi laws today? Since we honor the Ten 
Commandments as binding for all time, it holds that sabbath-keeping is still 
a serious matter. As we have seen, Christ is the fulfillment of the sabbath, so 


it is possible to interpret the sabbath spiritually and reduce or eliminate the 
ancient tradition of ceasing from one's work. That is the unintentional acting 
out of the commandment by many Christians. Yet God had whohstic pur- 
poses in mind when he instimted the sabbath. There is the matter of playing 
and resting. We have also seen that attention to social justice is part of the 
sabbath plan. Finally, there is the celebratory element of sabbath that is 
nothing less than a party. 

We Christians still have lessons to learn from Jewish sabbath 
traditions. Rabbi Solomon Goldman extolls the virtues of sabbath, likening 
the day to a beautiful bride. Sabbath, he says, is to be a time of eating food 
"as rich and tasty as one's pocket and digestion will allow, "^^ It should be a 
day of joy and delight, when friends and family gather for happy fellowship. 
Rabbi Goldman goes on to say that "work" is defined not by the amount of 
energy expended, but by the degree of productivity involved. Therefore, 
work that is non-productive is quite acceptable on the sabbath.^ 

The day of the week for sabbath observance has been a source of 
contention for Christians. An entire denomination, the Seventh Day Baptists, 
is based on the sole belief that Saturday, not Sunday, is the correct sabbath. 
"There is a purity of sabbath experience that cannot be found on any other day 
than God's own day," writes Herbert Saunders, a Seventh Day Baptist 
pastor.^' While we admire Saunder's commitment to what he believes, it is 
difficult to imagine that God hallows one day more than another, when Paul 
clearly writes in Romans 14:5 that the choosing of a special day or regarding 
all days aUke is a matter of human prerogative. 

Increasing numbers of books and articles are being written from an 
evangelical position, suggesting creative ways to experience the sabbath. 
Marva Dawn's Keeping the Sabbath Wholly . (Eerdmans, 1989), focuses on 
the four themes of ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting. Outlines for 
ways families can enjoy the sabbath may be found in Karen Burton Mains' 
Making Sundav Special . (Word, 1987). Pastors and other church workers 
will find Eugene Peterson's "The Pastor's Sabbath", (Leadership . Spring 
1985), helpful. 

The experience of the sabbath, while hved in a context of com- 
munity, is personal. Sabbath encompasses all of one's life: work, 
relationships, physicality, spirituahty, time, and space. The message of the 
sabbath is nothing less than a miniamre message of the entire Bible. We are 
created to enjoy God, to rest in him, not in ourselves. As we Uve and move 


from a sabbath perspective, celebrating what God has done, we shall find 
healing and renewal all the days of our hves. 


' New Bible Dictionary . J. D. Douglas and F. P. Bruce, eds., et al (Wheaton, 
IL: Tyndale House, 1982), 487. 

^uy L. RobbtQS, And in the Seventh Day (New York: Peter Lang, 1987), 

'Niels-Erik Andreason, Rest and Redemption (Berrien Springs, MI: 
Andrews University Press, 1978), 1. 

'Ibid., 7. 

'Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (Atianta: John Knox Press, 1982), 35. 

"Robbins, Seventh Day 178. 

Robert K. Johnston, The Christian at Play (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 
1983), 89. 

Ibid., 34. 

'Ibid., 92-3. 

'"Madeline L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art . 
(Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Pubhshers, 1980), 58. 

"Tony Campolo, The Kingdom of God is a Party . (Waco, TX: Word, 1990), 


"Andreason, Rest . 54. 


•'Ibid., 13. 


'%id., 14. 

"Ibid., 17. 

•%hnston, Play, 88. 


^Andreason, Rest . 95. 

^'Solomon Goldman, A Guide to the Sabbath . (London: Jewish Chronicle 
PubUcations, 1971), 15. 


^'Herbert E. Saunders, The Sabbath: Symbol of Creation and Redemption . 
(Plainfield, NJ: American Sabbath Tract Society, 1970), 13. 


Andreason, Niels-Erik. Rest and Redemption . Berrien Springs, MI: 
Andrews University Press, 1978. 

Boice, James Montgomery. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary , yol. 1. 
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982. 

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis . Interpretation Series. Aflanta: John 
Knox Press, 1982. 

Campolo, Tony. The Kingdom of God is a Party . Waco, TX: Word, 1990. 

Dawn, Marva J. Keeping the Sabbath Wholly . Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 
Pubhshing Co., 1986. 


Goldman, Solomon. A Guide to the Sabbath . London: Jewish Chronicle 
Publications, 1967. 

Jewett, Paul K. The Lord's Day . Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pubhshing 
Co., 1971. 

Johnston, Robert K. The Christian at Plav . Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 
Pubhshing Co., 1983. 

LaSor, William Sanford, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic WiUiam Bush. 
Old Testament Survey . Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing 
Co., 1982. 

Livingston, G. Herbert. The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment . Grand 
Rapids, MI. Baker Books, 1987. 

New Bible Dictionary . 2d ed. Eds. J. D. Douglas, P. P. Bruce, J. I. Packer, 
et al. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1982. 

Robbins, Guy L. And in the Seventh Day . American University Smdies. 

Series VII Theology and Rehgion. Vol. 36. New York: Peter 

Lang, 1987. 
Roop, Eugene F. Genesis . Behevers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, 

PA: Herald Press, 1987. 

Saunders, Herbert E. The Sabbath Symbol of Creation and Redemption . 
Plainfield, NJ: American Sabbath Tract Society, 1970. 

Sayers, Dorothy L. The Mind of the Maker . New York: Harcourt, Brace, 
1941. San Francisco: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1987. 



Forms of Prophetic Speech in the Old Testament: A Summary of 
Claus Westermann's Contributions 

by BiU T. Arnold* 

This article is occasioned by the reissuance of Westermann's 
now famous Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech .' and the appearance of 
the English translation of its companion volume, Prophetic Oracles of 
Salvation in the Old Testament .^ The first of these volumes was 
originally pubUshed in Germany in 1960 (Grundformen prophetischer 
Rede) and became available in Enghsh in 1967. 

Westermann furthered the work of Hermann Gunkel, the father 
of Form Criticism, who first called attention to the oral prehistory of the 
prophets. Like Gunkel, Westermann attempted to define the formal 
features of the Gattungen (genres) of the prophetic speeches and to place 
them in their hfe situations in the institutional hfe of ancient Israel. 
Since the volume has become something of a classic in form critical 
investigation of the prophets, students of the Old Testament will 
welcome this new release, which is identical to the 1967 edition, with 
the addition of a new forward by Gene M. Tucker. The opening section 
of Basic Forms traces the history of investigation into the prophetic 
speech forms since the begiiming of the twentieth century (pp. 13-89). 
Westermann recounts how Gunkel and company began with the initial 
observation that prophecy is comprised of individual prophetic sayings. 
Several of the earlier form critics arrived at a consensus that a basic 
form of the prophetic judgment-speech was a messenger's speech with 
two parts, the reason (or accusation) and the announcement of judgment 
(pp. 86-87). Westermann concurs with this consensus. 

The heart of the book is his survey of the speech forms in the 
prophetic books of the Old Testament and his important discussion of the 
messenger formula: "Thus says the Lord" (pp. 128f). Westermann 
focuses on a single speech form, the announcement of judgment. He 
argues that the Old Testament prophetic books contained three major 
kinds of speech: A) accounts, by which he means historical narratives, 
B) prophetic speeches, and C) utterances directed from man to God, or 
prayer (p. 90-91). The famous confrontation between Amos and 
Amaziah the priest of Bethel (Amos 7:10-17) is an example of an 
account. But such accounts are rare in the written prophets. Jonah is 

*Dr. Arnold (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is a professor at Asbury 
Theological Seminary. 


the exception, since it is only an account. Other examples of what 
Westermann means by account are generally prophetic sections in the 
historical books. The utterance is also less frequent in the written 
prophets. It has two major forms: lament and praise (as in the Psalms). 
Jeremiah's confessions are utterances, as are the doxologies of Amos 
(4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6). The diagram on the next page summarizes 
Westermann's three types of prophetic speech. 

The second category, the prophetic speech, is the most common 
form in the written prophets. Many of the classical prophets contain 
only prophetic speeches (ex. Isaiah 40-66, Nahum, Habakkuk, 
Zephaniah, etc.). Prior to the time of the "writing" prophets, the 
prophetic word was transmitted only in the body of the account. But the 
classical prophets contain both prophetic speeches and prayer forms 
(utterances). The eighth and seventh century prophets were dominated 
by prophetic speeches, and the exihc and post-exilic prophets are 
characterized as a mixture of speeches and prayers (p. 92). 

Westermann's primary interest is in the second of these 
categories: the prophetic speeches. Within this category, Westermann 
further distinguished between judgment speeches directed against 
individuals and those directed against the whole nation, or group within 
the nation (pp. 137f). The judgment against the individual (or JI) was 
an older type which gradually declined in use. After Jeremiah, the JI 
ceased to be used. 

The form of the JI is clearly discernible: introduction, followed 
by accusation, followed by the announcement of judgment (pp. 142- 
163). Westermann illustrates with the example in Amos 7: 16-17, which 
is a JI embedded in an account. The introduction takes many forms and 
is often a component of the narrative in historical examples (and is 
sometimes omitted altogether). It often also contains a summons to 
"hear." So in Amos 7:16a: "Now therefore hear the word of the 

The accusation can be in the form of a question, but is more 
conmionly a simple declaratory sentence in the second person singular 
perfect without introduction and without connectives. So in Amos 
7:16b: "You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach 
against the house of Isaac.'" Westermann felt this judgment speech 
stemmed from the ancient Israehte judicial procedure (p. 146), 










S2 2 



o 2 


O (/5 




















While the accusation may appear suddenly without the introduction, 
the announcement is ahnost always preceded by an introductory "therefore," 
or "therefore thus says the Lord" (lakm ko ^amaryhwh). Westermann further 
makes a distinction between the formula "Thus says Yahweh," which 
introduces the whole speech, and "Therefore thus says Yahweh," which 
introduces the announcement. He concludes that "in the word of God to an 
individual, the announcement is the real word of God" (p. 149). 

The content of ttiis announcement was quite simple in its early form. 
It contained a singular statement of punishment about to befall the person to 
whom the speech is directed. Occasionally this announcement contains a 
contrast motif in which the offense of the party accused is contrasted with the 
fact that he has received many benefits from Yahweh (pp. 155-158). The 
greater part of such announcements are also coimected to the announcement 
of a sign, as in the famous "therefore Yahweh himself will give you a sign" 
Cot, Isaiah 7:14). These signs are related to the announcement and never to 
its reason, the accusation. The need for a sign is when the thing announced 
is only expected to appear later, perhaps years later. The sign is to attest to 
the speech in the immediate context in which it was deUvered (p. 159). These 
JIs were most useful against the king in early IsraeUte history, as in the Amos 

These Judgment speeches against individuals (JI) were further 
developed and adapted by the majority of eighth and seventh century prophets 
into a judgment speech against the nation (JN). In fact, this form was the 
major component of prophetic speech in the written prophets of these 
centuries (pp. 169-176). The prophets broadened the horizon of the JI by 
changing the addressee. The pattern of movement from accusation to 
announcement continued. But now the accusation was directed to a majority, 
a "corporate personahty," and therefore came to contain a larger number of 
transgressions. In fact, the accusation of a JN usually contains two parts, a 
general conceptual form followed by a more developed concrete citation, as 
illustrated by Amos's famous charges in chapters 1 and 2: 

For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four... 
because they have threshed Gilead with 
threshing sledges of iron. (Amos 1:3). 

Interestingly, the accusation in the JN is more frequentiy expressed in the 
third person (as in the Amos example) than in the second person of direct 
address (as in the JI). 


Likewise, the announcement of the JN also has two parts. The first 
part usually contains a first person speech of God who intervenes to take 
action against the addressee. This is followed by the third person 
announcement itself, explaining the results of the divine intervention. This 
announcement often begins with the same introductory "therefore," or 
"therefore thus says Yahweh" used in the JI, as in Micah 2:3-4: 

Therefore thus says Yahweh: 

Now, I am devising against this family an evil 

from which you cannot remove your necks; 

and you shall not walk haughtily, 

for it will be an evil time. 
On that day thev shall take up a taunt song against you... 

Westermann emphasized that the basic form of the prophet judgment- 
speech was used in a large number of "modifications, expansions, and variant 
wordings" (p. 176). The sequence of the two main parts may be 
interchanged, the announcement preceding the accusation, or sometimes the 
messenger formula appears at the beginning of the speech, designating the 
entire speech as the word of God, or one part may occur twice in the same 
speech. These last two modifications are rare in eighth century prophets, but 
fi^uent in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (pp. 176-180). Part of the task of the careful 
exegete is sensitivity to these alterations of the culturally accepted norm for 
prophet speeches. 

The JI, the older form of the prophetic judgment-speech, seldom has 
expansions. On the other hand, the structure of the JN began to relax during 
the eighth cenmry. In Jeremiah, and even more so in Ezekiel, the judgment- 
speech pattern relaxed so much that the original form could hardly be 
recognized among the expansions (pp. 181-189). These expansions can affect 
either the accusation or the announcement. From Jeremiah onwards, the 
prophetic speech was given a framework (introduction, connecting formulae, 
and concluding formulas), which gradually became more and more elaborate. 
This framework multipUed the number of sentences identifying the word of 
the prophet as the word of God. Among scholars working on Jeremiah, these 
frames are usually credited to a deuteronomistic editor. 

Westermann further points out that the prophetic judgment speech has 
many variations in the Old Testament. Besides expansions of the pattern, he 
shows also how the JN may be related to an entirely different hterary form, 
such as the woe-oracle (pp. 189-204). Additionally, hterary patterns from 


several walks of life in ancient Israel were borrowed and used as variant 
formulations of the JN: the legal procedure, the disputation, the parable, the 
lament, etc. 

In Basic Forms . Westermann went significantly beyond Gunkel and 
impacted Old Testament studies for years to come. He concluded the 
"announcement of judgment" was the single, basic form of prophetic speech. 
It could be addressed to individuals or to the nation, in which case it was 
usually preceded by an accusation. The announcement is frequently 
introduced by the messenger formula ("thus says Yahweh") which 
Westermann saw as parallel to messenger speech in the ancient Near East. 
Furthermore, Westermann traced the roots of this judgment speech to ancient 
Israehte legal practice. 

The first volume dealt only with the forms in which judgment was 
announced. The second volume is intended to round off Westermann 's work 
by investigating the prophetic salvation oracles. He believes the oracles of 
salvation in the Old Testament prophets belong to a common and distinctive 
tradition, just as do the oracles against the nations, which are distributed 
widely among the prophets. Westermann concludes that during the exihc and 
postexihc periods there were two groups of salvation oracles which stood in 
contrast to each other and which corresponded to the contrast between 
prophets of salvation and prophets of judgment during the preexihc period. 

Westermann begins by distinguishing between oracles of salvation 
found in collections scattered throughout the prophetic Hterature 
(predominately in Deutero-Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Trito-Isaiah, Micah and 
Zephaniah), and those found in reports of a situation in which an oracle of 
salvation was given. The latter are found only in narratives of Isaiah, 
Jeremiah and perhaps Ezekiel, and are similar to such oracles in the historical 
books (p. 15). These form an early stratum of salvation oracles and date 
from the preexilic period. The author is concerned only with the collections 
of the first category, which is the greatest preponderance of salvation oracles. 

Within this large category (collections), Westermann distinguishes 
between a major group (Group 1) and three secondary groups. In 
characterizing Group 1, Westermann uses "salvation" in two ways. The term 
can refer to an act or a state. An oracle of salvation can describe an act of 
deliverance or a state of well-being, or both together. Westermann 
demonstrates fliat the difference is expressed in the form of the oracles, so that 
form and content can not be separated. So the "proclamation of deUverance" 
has a fixed sequence: distress, cry for help (or lament), the cry is heard, 
deliverance (pp. 16, 43). The "proclamation of a fiiture situation of well- 


being" is Westermann's designation for oracles relating to a state of salvation. 
These oracles constitute an expansion of the basic proclamation of dehverance 
(p. 16). 

This proclamation of future well-being is further subdivided into two 
forms. First, the "proclamation of blessing" can follow one of dehverance 
and announces a time of blessing and prosperity. Second, the "proclamation 
of the restoration" comes into use after the catastrophe of 587 BC. Unlike the 
proclamation of dehverance, these two proclamations of future well-being 
share common motifs without a fixed order of events. 

The three smaller groups of salvation oracles have extensive 
similarities with Group 1 and demonstrate that the oracles of salvation belong 
to one strand of tradition. Oracles of Group 2 customarily supplement other 
texts and are usually short and seldom expanded. They consist of two parts: 
the "proclamation of judgment on the enemy," and the "proclamation of 
dehverance for Judah-Israel" (die so-called "twofold proclamation," p. 195). 
These oracles contain no objective depictions of dehverance or future well- 
being. The oracles of Group 2 place full weight on the destruction of the 

I will break the Assyrian in my land, 

and on my mountains trample him under foot; 

his yoke shall be removed from them, 

and his burden from their shoulders. (Isaiah 14:25) 

Westermann emphasizes the distinction between the way to salvation in 
Groups 1 and 2. The salvation announced for Israel in Group 1 is open to all 
the peoples among the nations. Destruction of the enemy is not a prerequisite 
for Israel's salvation in those oracles. Furthermore, the oracles of Group 1 
do not proclaim a retrieving of poUtical power and influence for Israel (p. 66). 
But Group 2 consists of pohtical oracles and destruction of the enemy is the 
turning point leading to Israel's salvation (p. 196). This is an important 
distinction for Westermann which he presses in his conclusions (see below). 
Westermann states that groups 3 and 4 cannot properly be included 
among the prophetic oracles of salvation. He makes this statement because, 
fliough they are used in the books of prophecy, they find their origins in non- 
prophetic contexts. Group 3, the "conditional oracles of salvation," derived 
from deuteronomistic paraenesis (or the exhortatory style of later 
deuteronorrustic editors), and group 4 stems from a late Wisdom hteratiu-e 
motif (p. 17). 


For Westermann, the oracles of group 3 are the result of the 
deuteronomistic movement which arose during the exile. Editors and authors 
(the so-called deuteronomists) working during the exile moved from 
unconditional prophecies to conditional exhortations (p. 230). This hterary 
form is best attested in Deuteronomy 4, which reveals the meaning and 
intention of deuteronomistic paraenesis (pp. 228-230): "Give heed to the 
statutes and ordinances..., so that you may live to enter and occupy die 
land. . . " (Deuteronomy 4:1). Westermann believes that this structure marks 
the end of preexihc prophecy. After 587 BC, deuteronomistic exhortation 
replaces prophecy. There are examples of the conditional deuteronomistic 
oracles of salvation in the prophetic books, particularly Jeremiah. 

Group 4 consists mostly of a few additions to the texts of prophetic 
books in which the fate of the ungodly is contrasted with that of the godly (p. 
246). While the two-fold proclamations make a pohtical contrast between 
Israel and her enemies, the oracles of group 4 contrast groups within Israel. 

For then I will remove from your midst 

your proudly exultant ones 

and you shall no longer be haughty 

in my holy mountain 
For I will leave in the midst of you 

a people humble and lowly 

(Zephaniah 3: 1 lb-12a) 

Westermann has tabulated the distribution of the various types of 
salvation oracles as follows. The oracles of salvation proper (Group 1) appear 
in 157 texts in the Old Testament prophets. 


35 texts 

Isaiah 1-39 

29 texts 

Minor Prophets 

34 texts 


38 texts 


15 texts 


6 texts 

Group 2 (the twofold proclamation) has 39 texts. Group 3 (conditional 
proclamations of salvation) includes 34 texts, and Group 4 (die pious and the 
wicked), 16 texts (p. 18). 

Like Westermann's previous analysis of judgment speeches, these 


oracles of salvation may be addressed to an individual or to a community. 
Early in the history of the tradition, oracles to individuals were more 
common. But in the writing prophets, these oracles are normally addressed 
to the people of God, as can be seen in Deutero-Isaiah, which is addressed 
exclusively to Israel. After 587 BC and the beginning of the exile, the 
prophetic oracles of salvation are addressed to the "remnant," those who 
survived the catastrophe. 

The prophecies of judgment were basically confined to a narrow 
historical period of Israel's history. The historical parameters of that hterary 
genre are defined by the preaching of Amos and Ezekiel. In contrast, the 
oracles of salvation are found throughout Israel's history. The prehistory of 
this hterary form begins with the promises to the patriarchs and its posthistory 
continues into apocalyptic hteramre. The majority of the oracles of salvation 
are anonymous oracles, which arose in the period between Deutero-Isaiah and 
the closure of the prophetic canon. These anonymous oracles were then 
added, individually or in small collections into the various Old Testament 
prophetic books by editors. Few of these can actually be ascribed to one of 
the prophets of judgment (p. 13). 

In his conclusion, Westermaim emphasized the distinction between 
the oracles of dehverance (group 1) and the two-fold proclamation (group 2). 
The first group contained a new element in salvation oracles, as witoessed by 
Deutero-Isaiah: the absence of any pohtical or military based salvation. 
Those who survived God's judgment in 587 BC are the renmant, and they 
shall be saved through acknowledging and embracing his judgment. Deutero- 
Isaiah perceived that what was "new" about this salvation was that the Creator 
and Lord of the universe entrusted his task of dehverance to the king of a 
foreign nation: "Do not remember the former things..., I am about to do a 
new thing" (43:18-19). Liberation from Babylonian captivity was to be 
accomphshed in a radically new maimer, through the commissioning of Cyrus 
the Persian (45:1). This is an irrevocable contrast with the two-fold 
proclamation, in which salvation for Israel comes about by means of the 
destruction of her enemies. Westermann beheves the contrast "has its 
prehistory in the same contrast between prophets of judgment and the prophets 
of salvation before the fall of the nation, as seen with particular clarity in the 
opposing proclamations of Jeremiah and Hananiah (Jeremiah 28)" (pp. 222- 
223 and 271). 

In the final analysis, Westermann's four types of oracles of Salvation 
are helpful. I would only warn that he makes too fine a distinction between 
salvation oracles before 587 BC and those after the fall of Israel to the 


Babylonians. Though it is undeniable that the proclamation of salvation 
greatly expanded and began to be used widely by exilic and postexilic 
prophets, I believe it is possible the use of such prophecies was more common 
than Westermann allows. He wants to limit their use prior to the exile to the 
early stratum in the narrative portions of Isaiah and Jeremiah (p. 268). But 
such a premise seems arbitrary, and it is not impossible that some of the 
prophetic oracles he has isolated were used earUer. 

I have further reservations about his hard distinction between die 
oracles of Group 1 and Group 2. It is true that some of the oracles of 
salvation were related to military and pohtical dehverance, and this does in 
fact create a contrast with those oracles related to the peaceful intervention of 
God. However, these must surely reflect the changing historical situation. 
Perhaps it could simply be assumed that the intolerance of the Assyrians, 
Babylonians, Syrians, Moabites, Edomites, etc. meant salvation could only be 
defined in terms of mihtary victory over ones enemies. But the tolerant 
policies of the Persians changed all that. The reign of Cyrus made the oracles 
of Group 1 possible because foreign oppression was not the main enemy of 
salvation. In these oracles the focus could now rest on maintenance of the 
nation's relationship to God. 

Some of the pillars of Westermann 's work have crumbled under the 
weight of subsequent investigation (see Tucker's forward to Basic Forms) . 
Few today would be dogmatic about the legal or court setting as the original 
life situation for the judgment prophecies. More importantly, with the rise of 
literary (or liietorical) criticism, most Old Testament scholars today recognize 
that the task of isolating the original oral form of these speeches is a 
thoroughly speculative and hypodietical one. The bold confidence of thirty 
years ago is gone. 

In spite of these caveats about wholesale acceptance of Westermann 's 
approach, his observations have had a permanent effect on the study of the 
prophets, and with good reason! In Basic Forms , he effectively demonstrated 
the function of the prophet as the messenger of Yahweh, which function is 
paralleled by ancient Near Eastern messengers.' In addition, without insisting 
that all prophetic addresses have a monolithic form in one or two categories, 
Westermann demonstrated that most of the forms of prophetic speech have 
sprung from these basic ones: announcement of judgment and proclamation 
of salvation. All in all, his basic observations in the first volume have stood 
(he test of time. The new volume on oracles of salvation, though not without 
minor problems, promises to make similar significant contributions to the 
form critical study of the Old Testament prophets. 



'Translated by H. C. White (Westminster/John Knox, 1991). 

^Translated by K. Crim (Westminster/ John Knox, 1991). 

'However, Westermann's contention that Old Testament prophetic speech 
forms were patterned after ancient Near Eastern messenger speech has not 
gone unchallenged. See W. Eugene March, "Prophecy," in Old Testament 
Form Criticism , edited by John H. Hayes (San Antonio, TX: Trinity Uni- 
versity Press, 1974), pp. 152-154 and 161-162. 

■ ••• 

• ••■ 


Dietrich BonhoeflPer: 
The Violent Pacifist 

by J. Robert Douglass* 

I have always been fascinated by the stories of martyrs. It did 
not surprise me, then, when I became interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
soon after having read his book. The Cost of Discipleship . In addition 
to his martyrdom, I beheve that I became interested in his Ufe because 
of its complexity. One aspect of this complexity is Bonhoeffer' s ethics. 
For example, Bonhoeffer was a self-proclaimed pacifist, even going as 
far as making arrangements to travel to India in order to smdy with 
Gandhi, yet he was executed for his involvement in a conspiracy to 
assassinate Adolf Hitter.' Immediately the question arises, "how does 
a person adhere to these seemingly mutually exclusive ideas?" In 
attempting to answer this question, an understanding of Bonhoeffer's 
ethics is required. In order to estabUsh, at least in some sense, 
Bonhoeffer's ethic, the following will examine Bonhoeffer's theology by 
surveying his writings. 

In order to correctly understand Bonhoeffer's writings, it is 
necessary to consider their context from which they arose. One 
experience that seemed to have a profound effect on Bonhoeffer 
occurred while he was in America smdying at Union Seminary in New 
York. While there, Bonhoeffer was exposed to the black church in 
Harlem.^ This experience greatly affected his understanding of 
oppression. In fact, after remming to Germany, Bonhoeffer was 
convinced that racism would become one of the most critical problems 
for the church.' 

Another incident occurred in Bonhoeffer's Ufe in the early 
1930' s. The circumstances surrounding the event are unclear, but in 
recalling tiie event to a girlftiend, Bonhoeffer wrote, "I suddenly saw as 
self-evident the Christian pacifism that I had recently passionately 
opposed.""* These events are only a few of the examples of the many 
formative experiences that influenced Bonhoeffer's theology and 
subsequently, his ethics. 

Bonhoeffer's first work. Sanctorum Communio . or The 
Communion of Saints , was his dissertation, which he completed in 1927. 
In it, we can observe a clear break with the typical enlightenment 

♦Robert Douglass (M.Div., ATS) is a pastor in western Pennsylvania. 


approach to morality. In addition to this break with the enlightenment, 
some seeds of his later works are present. This is demonstrated by the 
Preface, in which Bonhoeffer wrote. 

The more theologians have considered the significance 
of the sociological category for theology, the more 
clearly the social intention of all the basic Christian 
concepts has emerged. "Person," "primal state," 
"sin," and "revelation" are fully understandable only 
in relation to sociahty.^ 

This idea is foundation to Bonhoeffer' s theology as will be 
discovered later. Bonhoeffer proceeded in the book to propose that a 
community's particular culture is a type of personal character, which 
results in a view of the community as a collective person. Perceiving 
community in these terms naturally assumes a certain degree of ethical 
accountability in that since the individuals comprising a collective person 
are to be ethical, the collective person, itself, ought to be ethical.* In 
discussing the primal state of humanity, Bonhoeffer describes it as a 
state of humanity, Bonhoeffer describes it as a state of giving and love, 
which has been transformed into a state of demanding and selfishness, 
sin is naturally destructive to a conmiunity. This selfishness also "places 
the individual in the utmost loneliness, in a radical separation from God 
and man."' 

Fortunately, sin is not the last word on the subject. Thanks to 
Christ's atoning death, the restoration of humanity is made possible. It 
is the recurring theme of Christ's "vicarious action" that forms the new 
community and holds it together.* Thus, it is Bonhoeffer' s opinion that 
through this new community, Christ exists as the congregation.' 

Having laid some foundation for examining Bonhoeffer's 
understanding of ecclesiology, sociology, and the doctrine of sin, the 
next element of his theology to be noted is his anthropology. This 
anthropology is presented in the work. Act and Being , which he wrote 
in 1930. In the first section of the book, Bonhoeffer critiques the two 
epistemologies that were prevalent: transcendental and ontological 
philosophies. Both of these philosophies preclude any behef in God.'° 
Bonhoeffer avoids the problems of these philosophies with the inclusion 
of the idea of revelation, that God, while is entirely separate from the 
individual, can be known. This move "frees" God from the individual. 


This allows Bonhoeffer to eventually state that "God is not free of man 
but for man."" 

He continues in the book, to examine the implications of God's 
freedom for humanity. Bonhoeffer argues that humanity "in Adam" is 
in bondage to sin, which he previously argued is being in bondage to 
self. On the other hand, humanity "in Christ" is set free from sin and 
self. Therefore, humanity, like God is free to be for others.'^ 

It is important to note at this point that after having finished Act 
and Being . Bonhoeffer came to America to smdy at Union Seminary. 
This is significant because it was while he was in New York that he met 
Jean Lasserre, a French pastor. Lasserre's pacifism greatly influenced 
Bonhoeffer. In addition, it was Lasserre who challenged Bonhoeffer to 
consider the Sermon on the Mount as guidelines for discipleship and not 
merely as a difficult passage of Scripmre." 

The next work to be examined is Bonhoeffer' s Creation and 
Fall , which is a development of his lecmres on creation and sin, which 
he dehvered earlier in the winter of 1932-1933.''' In addition to 
examining the first three chapters of Genesis from a theological 
perspective, he restates his emphasis on the social aspect of Christianity, 
which he had introduced in The Communion of Saints . In true 
Bonhoeffer fashion, Dietrich Bonhoeffer attempted to break with the 
trends of interpretation of his day and pioneer new ground. Instead of 
offering an account of "how" the world came into existence, Bonhoeffer 
attempted to offer a theological interpretation.'^ 

For Bonhoeffer, imago Dei means that humanity has been made 
into live in relation to one another, as maleness and femaleness suggests. 
He also argues, as he did in Act and Being , that since God is free pro 
nobis and since "in man God creates his image on earth," then we must 
live for others.'* Another noteworthy point of Creation and Fall is 
Bonhoeffer' s rejection of the ideas of "orders of creation. " During this 
time in Germany, the concept of "orders of creation" was being 
employed in order to justify allegiance to Hitler. Concerning these 
orders, Bonhoeffer writes, "they are not orders of creation but 
preservation."" The immediate question that arises is "preservation for 
what?" Thus, by this shift, Bonhoeffer moves the argument from 
creation to the eschaton . 

In 1933, Bonhoeffer presented several lectures on Christology. 
While he never wrote a book on the subject, Christ the Center , was 
published utilizing a student's notes from the lectures. It is important to 


examine this material because of its significance for his later theology. 
For Bonhoeffer, the primary issue of the Incarnation is not a question of 
"how" but "who?" After discussing the promise of a Messiah and the 
eventual corruption of the idea by a fallen world, Bonhoeffer explains 
Christ as the concealed center of human history. Furthermore, since for 
Bonhoeffer, Christ exists as the congregation, it is the church that is at 
the center of history, not the state. '^ It is at this point that we can see 
elements of Bonhoeffer's Lutheranism as well as his tendency to think 

It seems clear that his discussion of false Messiahs is a polemic 
against Hider, especially in hght of the fact that Hitler had only recentiy 
become chancellor in January of 1933. Bonhoeffer's approach to the 
subject is also interesting in that he chooses to stress the Messiahship of 
Christ, which is an entirely Jewish idea. It ahnost appears as if 
Bonhoeffer was attempting to remind Christians that to hate Jews is to 
hate Christ and that we are indebted to the Jewish race for giving us 

After discussing the problem of false Messiahs and a false 
church, Bonhoeffer turns to develop a "positive Christology. " In this 
discussion he deals with the humiliation of Christ. This becomes more 
important for his own understanding of being a Christian and for the 
"Christ existing as the congregation." 

Next, we must briefly look at an essay that Bonhoeffer wrote 
in response to Hitler's imposition of laws such as the Aryan Clause, 
which expelled Christian pastors who had Jewish backgrounds. On May 
7, 1933, Bonhoeffer wrote "The Church and the Jewish Question. " This 
document is extremely important for our attempt to answer the original 
question, "what were Bonhoeffer's ethics, and how could he be involved 
in an assassination plot if he was truly a pacifist?" 

In the essay Bonhoeffer articulates three ways that the church 
could relate to the state. These are cogenUy summarized by de Gruchy. 
"First of all, it must remind the state of its responsibihty, that is its 
prophetic task; secondly, it must aid die victims of state action." He 
continues by quoting Bonhoeffer, "but the third possibihty 'is not just to 
bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel 

In the following years, Bonhoeffer began to work more 
extensively with the Confessing Church to the extent of eventually 
running a seminary to train pastors for the Confessing Church. These 


years at Finkenwalde had a significant effect on Bonhoeffer as the next 
work will demonstrate. 

In November of 1937 The Cost of Discipleship was pubUshed 
under the title, Nachfolge . The work, which is an exposition of the 
Sermon on the Mount was the result of lectures that he gave while at 
Finkenwalde, although there is some evidence that he was working on 
the idea as of 1932.^ The German version was divided into two parts. 
The first section explored the idea of discipleship in the gospels, while 
the second traced the idea through Pauline theology.^' It has been 
suggested, and I beheve rightly so, that Bonhoeffer clearly wanted to 
show that following Jesus, the suffering Messiah (die Synoptics) is an 
integral part of believing in and obeying Christ as Lord (Paul). "^ This 
is significant because of the Bonhoeffer' s attempt to correct the Lutheran 
tendency to divorce faith from discipleship. In refiiting this tendency 
Bonhoeffer writes, "only he who beheves is obedient, and only he who 
obeys beheves."" 

In studying The Cost of Discipleship . it is essential to note the 
radical change it imphes ecclesiologically. It is clear from the book that 
Bonhoeffer separates the Church from the world. In fact, Bonhoeffer 
states that "the separation of Church and world is now complete. "^'' This 
separation must not be understood as withdrawal from the world, 
however. The work must be studied in Ught of his experience at 
Finkenwalde. People came to the seminary to study and be encouraged 
only in order to return to the world to minister. This is why Bonhoeffer 
can write. 

To stay in the world with God means simply to hve in 
the rough and tumble of the visible church, to take 
part in its worship and to hve the hfe of discipleship. 
In so doing, we bear testimony to the defeat of the 

In the following years Hider's regime grew increasingly evil. 
Consequenfly, Bonhoeffer's involvement in the resistance movement also 
increased. Furthermore, it was during this time that Bonhoeffer began 
to work on his Ethics . ^^ Prior to examining the Ethics , it is essential to 
realize that the work which Bonhoeffer had intended was not realized. 
In fact, he was working on a draft chapter when he was arrested on 
April 5, 1943." 


Bonhoeffer's discussion of ethics demonstrates a shift in his 
thinking. In the earhest works, he appealed to "orders of preservation" 
as the basis for ethics. This appeal placed the emphasis on ethics in 
eschatology. Ethics , while still concerned with eschatology, differs in 
approach somewhat. It is not that eschatology is no longer important, 
rather in Ethics . Bonhoeffer attempted to articulate ethics for the interim 
between the "then" and the "now."^^ 

In this book, Bonhoeffer defines ethics as "the bold endeavor 
to speak about the way in which the form of Jesus Christ takes form in 
our world. "^' As previously mentioned, Bonhoeffer had proposed his 
"orders of preservation" as a replacement for his "orders of creation" as 
the basis for ethics. With the passing of time, the terms became 
interchangeable; "orders of preservation" eventually became a 
meaningless distinction. In order to substantiate his ethics, and deal widi 
the tension of hving "between the times," Bonhoeffer employs the idea 
of ttie ultimate and penultimate. The ultimate is the Barthian notion that 
the world has been reconciled to God. The penultimate ethics are for 
concrete situations in which the Christian finds himself/herself 

Regarding the penultimate, Bonhoeffer estabUshes these ethics 
on the concepts of mandates. This move away from his earlier notion 
of "orders" signifies a change in emphasis for him. Unlike The Cost of 
Discipleship . in writing Ethics, Bonhoeffer is much less interested in the 
formative aspect of ethics. This is not to say that Bonhoeffer no longer 
views ethics as formational; on the contrary, ethics are always 
formational for Bonhoeffer, in die sense that by being "free for others," 
one is being conformed to Christ's image. The emphasis for Bonhoeffer 
has simply become one of the importance of concrete actions. 

It is somewhat surprising that Bonhoeffer would apparenUy 
back away from his strong dehneation between the world and the church 
as articulated in The Cost of Discipleship . particularly in light of 
Germany's increasing wickedness. This shift occurs, however. It is 
most strongly demonstrated by the balance which Bonhoeffer strives for 
by mcluding both Matthew 12:30 and Mark 9:40. In Bonhoeffer's 
thought, the church must so tighUy define itself, in order to avoid 
corruption by the false church, that it becomes exclusive. Here he 
apphes Matthew 12:30 which states, "he that is not with me is against 
me." On the other hand, there are people outside of the church who are 
doing the Christian's duty, often better than die German Christians. To 


them, Bonhoeffer applies the passage from Mark, "he that is not against 
me is for me." This second group would have included many of 
Bonhoeffer's family, friends and co-conspirators. The significance of 
these ideas is tiiat the distinction between the two kingdoms is becoming 

Perhaps the most interesting point of Bonhoeffer's Ethics is his 
perception of the fundamental question of ethics. According to 
Bonhoeffer, the fundamental question is not a matter of doing the right 
thing or even being the right kind of person. Instead, Bonhoeffer 
believed that the question ought to be, "what is the will of God?"'' 
How, then, does die Christian hve ethically? Two themes from his 
earlier works appear as a possible answer. First, the ethical hfe is a Ufe 
of responsibility. Bonhoeffer defines this as "the total and realistic 
response of man to the claim of God and of our neighbor. "" This works 
itself out by being free for others. 

Second, the sign of responsibihty is deputyship. At the center 
of the idea of deputyship is the concept of vicarious actions." It is only 
by being free for others, even to the point of death, that we are free to 
live. In fact, Bonhoeffer would surely argue that to refuse to risk one's 
own Ufe for another is flight from responsibihty, which violates God's 

In order to understand how Bonhoeffer could have gone from 
his self-proclaimed pacifism to involvement in an assassination plot, it 
is necessary to trace his involvement in the resistance movement. It is 
first important to realize that Bonhoeffer's resistance against the Third 
Reich was not a specific decision but a process. For example, on April 
1, 1933, when Hitler declared a one-day boycott of Jewish businesses, 
Bonhoeffer's ninety year-old grandmother defied a blockade around a 
Jewish owned business in Berlin in protest of the boycott.'^ In addition, 
Bonhoeffer's father, Karl, who was one of Germany's most respected 
psychiatrists believed that Hitler was mentally ill and was incapable of 
leading die nation.'* These instances demonstrate that Bonhoeffer was 
surrounded by people opposed to Hider throughout his hfe. 

Bonhoeffer, himself, was vocal about his opposition to Hitier 
from the beginning. This resulted in the revocation of Dietrich's 
privileges. First he was forbidden to speak pubhcly. Later he was 
forbidden to publish. Eventually, he was not permitted to teach, and 
lastly, he was not allowed to go to Berlin except to visit his parents." 
It should be noted that it was not until die Nazis obtained enough power 


to carry out their program that Bonhoeffer's involvement with the 
resistance movement became clandestine, because it was at that moment 
when what had been only the threat of tyranny became actualized. 

It should not be assumed that even at this moment Bonhoeffer 
merely "threw his hat into the ring. " In order to remain consistent with 
the concept of two kingdoms, many other avenues had to have been 
attempted before he could legitimatize his involvement. First, legal 
nonviolent means of removing Hitler from power must have been 
pursued. This would have required the cooperation of men extremely 
close to Hitler, which was not available. Second, those in pohtically or 
militarily high places could have attempted to stop Hitler. They either 
could not or would not. This left the responsibiUty for stopping this 
dangerous person to others. ^^ 

Even after joining the conspirators, there were several criteria 
that must have been met in order to pursue tyrannicide. First, 
indisputable evidence must exist demonstrating abuse of power or the 
possibihty of "irreparable harm" to the people. Second, as mentioned 
above, those lower or outside of the pohtical hierarchy may only take 
action once those higher in the system have refused to act or have been 
rendered unable to take action. Third, the success of the attempted 
tyrannicide must be reasonably assured. This is an interesting notion, 
for as Rasmussen notes, "for Bonhoeffer, what is involved in creating 
the conditions that reasonably assure success greatly restricts when and 
by whom tyrannicide must be attempted with ethical justification. "" 
Fourth, only the minimal amount of violence necessary to correct the 
abuses of power is allowed. The final condition is that active resistance 
can only be turned to as a last resort."^ 

One possibihty for balancing Bonhoeffer's involvement in the 
conspiracy with his self-proclaimed pacifism is to point to the fact that 
Bonhoeffer's involvement in the plot was completely nonviolent. 
Bonhoeffer simply used his position in the Abwehr, or military counter- 
intelligence, as a means to help Jews escape Germany and to contact the 
Allies in order to find support for the conspiracy."' The basic problem 
with this argument is that it does not take seriously the fact that 
Bonhoeffer clearly understood and agreed with the intentions of his co- 
conspirators. By Bonhoeffer's involvement in the conspiracy, he was 
approving of the use of violence in this situation. 

The next possibility is to argue that tyrannicide is somehow 
different than simple murder. While this is closer to the conspirators' 


position, they did not seek to "whitewash" their actions by stressing 
Hitler's tyranny. The conspirators understood the ethical dilemma of 
employing violence in an attempt to stop the Nazi machine, which was 
fueled by violence. It is at this point that we can see the significance of 
Bonhoeffer's fundamental ethical question. The issue is not whether 
killing Hitler would be good or not; the issue is "is it the will God?" 
For this reason Bonhoeffer can reflect on these events in a poem from 
prison and say that the Nazis had "forced us to sinning.""^ 

The above quaUfications must not diminish die significance that 
Hifler's tyranny had on the conspiracy. It was the tyranny that produced 
what Bonhoeffer would call the "necessita," for the plot. Again, the 
issue is not the righteousness of the action. For this reason, Bonhoeffer 
does not talk about the plan as a "may," in that it is permissible. 
Instead, he refers to it as a "must," produced by God's mandate to be for 
others.'*' It was this "emergency situation" that called for and 
necessitated the conspiracy. 

The last option, which I am sure would appeal to many of my 
Anabaptist friends, is to claim that Bonhoeffer was never really a 
pacifist. This is why until now I have referred to him as a self- 
proclaimed pacifist, because this interpretation is an option. I am 
convinced, however, that this option does not honestly consider the great 
angst that Bonhoeffer clearly experienced in making his decision to be 
involved in the plot. Today, we have httie or no concept as to Ufe in 
Germany in the middle of this cenmry. For Bonhoeffer, the actions 
within which he participated were the only responsible path he could 
have chosen, given the circumstances; there was no other option for his 
understanding of what it meant to be a Christian. 


'Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Harper & Row, 
Pubhshers, 1970), 122. 

'Ibid., 109-110. 


nbid., 155. 


'Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio (London: Collins Publishers, 
1963), 6. 

*John de Gruchy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Christ (London: 
CoUins Publishers, 1988), 5. 

bonhoeffer, 70. 

Me Gruchy, 6. 

'Bonhoeffer, 104. 

'°de Gruchy, 8. 

"Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Act and Being (London: Collins Publishers, 1962), 

'Me Gruchy, 8. 

''Bethge, 112. 

'Me Gruchy, 110. 


'^Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall (London: SCM Press, Ltd., 
1959), 8. 

"Ibid, 91. 

"Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center (New York: Harper & Row, 
1966), 60. 

"Dietrich Bonhoeffer, No Rusty Swords (New York: Harper & Row, 
1965) quoted in John de Gruchy, Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ 
(London: Collins Publishers, 1988), 19-20. 

'Me Gruchy, 25. 



^'Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 
Ltd., 1959; Collier Books, 1963), 69. 

""•Ibid, 212. 
"Ibid, 292. 

"Clifford J. Green, "The Text of Bonhoeffer' s Ethics" in New Studies in 
Bonhoeffer' s Ethics , ed, William J, Peck, (Lewiston, New York: The 
Edwin Mellen Press, 1987), 5. 

"de Gruchy, 30. 

'^James Woelfel, Bonhoeffer' s Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 
1970), 245. 

^'Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York: Macmillan Publishing 
Company, 1965), 88. 

^Woelfel, 245. 

"Robin Lovin, Christian Faith and Public Choices: the Social Ethics of 
Barth. Brunner. and Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 127. 

^'Bonhoeffer, Ethics . 245. 

"Ibid., 195. 

'''After his arrest and eventual imprisonment, Bonhoeffer began to write 
what has come to be known as Letters and Papers from Prison . The work 
contains Bonhoeffer's last writings and is consequendy, worthwhile 
reading. It is also important in examining his tiieology. It will not be 
examined here, however, because it is not helpful in answering our original 
question of how a self-proclaimed pacifist could involve himself in an 
assassination plot. 


"Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Life in Pictures (Philadelphia: 
Fortress Press, 1986), 16. 

"Larry L. Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance 
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972), 136. 

"Bethge, 603. 

"Rasmussen, 136. 

''Ibid., 138. 

^'Ibid., 145. 

"'Robin Lovin, "Biographical Context" in New Studies in Bonhoeffer' s 
Ethics , ed. William J. Peck, (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen 
Press, 1987), 78. 

"•^Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Prison," Union Quarterly Review . March 1946, 
quoted in Larry L. Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and 
Resistance (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972), 127. 

""Rasmussen, 144, 


Bethge, Eberhard. Dietrich Bonhoeffer . New York: Harper & Row, 
Pubhshers, 1970. 

, ed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer . Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986. 

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Sanctorum Communio . London: Collins 
Publishers, 1963. 

. Act and Being . London: Collins Publishers, 1962. 

. Creation and Fall . London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1959. 

. Christ the Center . New York: Harper & Row, 1966. 


. The Cost of Discinleshin . London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1959; 

Collier Books, 1963. 

. Ethics . New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1965. 

. No Rusty Swords . New York: Harper & Row, 1965. Quoted 

in John de Gruchy. Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ . 19-20. 
London: Collins Publishers, 1988. 

. "Prison," Union Quarterly Review, March 1946. Quoted in Larry 

L. Rasmussen. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance . 
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972, 

Green, CUfford J. "The Text of Bonhoeffer's Ethics. " In New Studies 
in Bonhoeffer' s Ethics , ed. William J. Peck, 3-66. Lewiston, 
New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1987. 

de Gruchy, John, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Wimess to Christ . London: 
Collin Publishers, 1988. 

Lovin, Robin. Christian Faith and Public Choices: The Social Ethics of 
Barth. B runner, and Bonhoeffer . Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 

. "Biographical Context" In New Smdies in Bonhoeffer's Ethics , ed, 

William J. Peck, 67-102. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin 
Mellen Press, 1987. 

Rasmussen, Larry L. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance , 
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972. 

Woelfel, James W. Bonhoeffer's Theology . Nashville: Abingdon Press, 

■ •••^..—^•••■i 


The Postmodern Phenomena of New 

Age Spirituality: 

Examples in Popular Literature 

by Mark Bair* 

This paper is an attempt to better understand the new brand of 
spirituahty that is being written about on a popular level today. My concern 
is that we better understand it so tiiat we can both avoid deception in die 
church and communicate the Christian gospel more clearly in the present 
context. I beheve we need updated apologetics rather than update theology 
for the 1990' s, as some have suggested. The first step in improving our 
apologetics is trying to decipher what form the "fortresses raised up against 
flie knowledge of God" are presentiy taking. As Francis Shaeffer said before 
there even was a term "New Age:" 

If a man goes overseas for any length of time we would 
expect him to learn the language of the country to which he 
is going. More than this is needed, however, if he is really 
going to communicate with the people among whom he is 
living. He must learn about another language~that of the 
thought forms of the people to whom he speaks. Only so 
will be have real communication with them. So it is with 
the Christian church. Its responsibihty is not only to hold 
to the basic, scriptural principals of the Christian faith, but 
to communicate these unchanging truths 'into' the 
generation in which it is living. 

Every generation of Christians has the problem of learning 
how to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be 
solved without an understanding of the changing existential 
situation which it faces. If we are to communicate the 
Christian faith effectively, therefore, we must know and 
understand the thought-forms of our own generation. ' 

♦Mark Bair (M.A., ATS) is a pastor for Xenos Christian Fellowship in 
Cincinnati, OH. 


In order to aid the reader in the task of understanding our generation, 
this paper will examine contemporary authors who represent spiritual ideas 
that are counterfeits of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The reader I have in mind 
is the concerned Christian worker who has a general awareness of the so- 
called New Age Movement, but is perhaps unaware of actual proponents of 
these ideas and how they are introducing them. Before I get to those specific 
ideas, I want to look at some introductory and background issues. 

First of all, how should we categorize? While the term "New Age 
Movement" can be helpful for generahzing about a broad set of trends, it can 
also be misleading. For one thing, the term "movement" implies a somewhat 
monolithic ideology and organization. For some it may conjure up the image 
of a pohtical movement. But that would miss its subtlety. However we 
understand the New Age Movement, it is certainly neither a monohthic 
ideology nor a centrally organized entity. As a Time article noted in 
December 1987, it is a shifting kaleidoscope of "beliefs, fads, and rituals." 
For these reasons, it can be hard to generalize about. Russell Chandler 

By and large. New Age is a modem revival of ancient 
religious traditions, along with a potpourri of influences: 
Eastern mysticism, modem philosophy and psychology, 
science and science fiction, and the counterculture of the 
'50s and '60s... Also contributing to the New Age way of 
thinking is Chinese Taoism, which beheves that there is a 
single principal underlying everything (the Tao), Ancient 
Gnosticism and its doctrine of enlighteimient is also an 
influence, as well as strands of Neoplatonism, medieval 
witchcraft, Greek mythology, and Native American 

While I beUeve this observation is tme, it in no way describes any 
one person. All these elements have their adherents, but most people would 
not hold to all of them. For the mainstream American, a lot of items on that 
list would be considered weird. So the problem with the term "New Age" 
is that it tends to bring to mind people like Shirley MacLaine and "gums" like 
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Elizebeth Clare Prophet, and Maharaj Ji. One 
might also think of Krishna, TM, Scientology, EST, Unification Church, and 


Christian Science. And of course all these are dangerous. Undoubtedly they 
have a combined total of millions. 

However, I think that perhaps far more people are coming under a 
more subtle but equally deceptive set of ideas I will refer to as the "New 
Spirituality. " The people who come under its influence would probably think 
of the people and gurus mentioned above as extremists. I see both the larger 
New Age Movement with its bizarre expressions, as well as the New 
Spirituality as inevitable outgrowths of the loss of objectivity and cultural 
authority on Western culture. If any one statement expresses my observation 
it is: if nothing is true, then everything is true. In other words, if nothing is 
true in the objective sense, then anything is possible in the subjective sense. 
Anything can be true for me. Os Guinness observed that "America is moving 
fast from the old idea that everything means something to the new idea that 
nothing means anything."' What he means is nothing means anything to 
everybody. There is no perceived universal truth that applies to all people. 
In his monumental work Dust of Death , Guiimess illustrates what happens 
when real objective truth is lost: 

Early hunters on safari in Africa used to build their fires 
high at night to keep away wild animals. But when the fires 
burned low in the early hours of the morning, the hunters 
would see all around them the approaching outlined shapes 
of animals and a ring of encircling eyes in the darkness. 

As we have witnessed the erosion and breakdown of the 
Christian culture of the west, so we have seen the vacuum 
filled by an upsurge of ideas that would have been 
unthinkable when the fires of Christian culture were high.^ 

The effect of modernity and secularization has not been to rid society 
of religion, but actually to spawn a more religious and superstitious culture. 
How did diis development take place? Let's take a look at the historical 
background to Postmodernism. 

The Shift from Modem to Postmodern 

Increasingly, authors both secular and Christian are referring to our 


times as Postmodern. Not all agree on what it means or if it is an entirely 
positive or negative development. Yet, few would argue that a fundamental 
change in outlook is not impacting the culture at large, including the church. 
Some theologians are even suggesting that the concept of God be changed to 
fit the Postmodern outlook. Let's look at a couple of assessments. 

John Polkinghome calls the intellectual setting today the "Post- 
Enhghtenment World. " He describes the course of intellectual history since 
the Enlightenment: 

The thinkers of the Enhghtenment sought by cold clear 
reason to comprehend an objective world to determinate 
order. They saw themselves as self-sufficient and were 
confident of their powers and human perfectibihty...The 
Enlightenment attitude had done its acid work and many 
people's faith dissolved away. By a curious irony, as the 
nineteenth cenmry came to a close, the method and view of 
the Enhghteimient were themselves beginning to dissolve in 
their turn. We now hve in a post-Enlightenment age. The 
essential character of Enlightenment thinking was to allow 
the clear light of reason to play upon an objective and 
determinate world. Scarcely a feature of that description 
now survives intact. 

At the same time as the human psyche has revealed its 
shadowy and elusive depths, the physical world has denied 
determinate objectivity at its basic roots. Heisenberg tells 
us concerning electrons and other elementary particles that 
if we know what they are doing we do not know where they 
are, and if we know where they are we do not know what 
they are doing. His uncertainty principal proclaims the 
unpicturabiltiy of the quantum world... The world known to 
the twentieth century is a good deal curiouser and more 
shadowy than the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could 
have conceived.^ 

Polkinghome is critical of the wholesale abandonment of reason that 
so many are displaying these days: "Our century has seen a recurrent cult of 


the absurd which is destructive of true reasoning. To acknowledge the limits 
of rationahty, objectivity, and determinism is not to relinquish a belief in 
reason, a respect for reahty or a search for order. "* 

Frederick Bumham notes the results on the certainty of our 

Revelations in twentieth century physics have totally 
undermined the epistemological pride of Victorian science 
and brought the old era to a close. In the post-modem 
world of quantum phenomena, the foundation of reahty is 
elusive and indeterminate. Scientific language can no 
longer be viewed as a set of universal, objective facts, but 
rather as a set of research traditions, which, hke reUgious 
language, is bom out of a particular community of 
inquirers. The cultural hegemony of science has ended. 
The fundamental characteristic of the new postmodern era 
is epistemological relativism.^ 

I beheve that this kind of relativism about what can be known is the 
perfect soil for New Age Spirituahty, as it appears among the radical fringe 
as well as in the more mainstream expressions. Once certainty is lost, 
anything is thinkable. To be shocked by New Age thought is to not 
understand that it flows direcUy from this void of authority and meaning. 
Furthermore, the barren dessert of atheistic materialism that prevailed for the 
first half of this century was hard to hve with. Gene Edward Veith describes 
the revolt against materiahsm: 

The twentieth century saw a new worldview, one which 
accepted the bleak facts of materialism, while offering 
meaning for the individual. This worldview is 
existentialism. According to existentialism, there is no 
inherent meaning or purpose in life. The objective real is 
absurd, void of any human significance. Meaning is not to 
be discovered in the objective world; rather meaning is a 
purely human phenomena. While there is no readymade 
meaning in hfe, individuals can create meaning for 
themselves. This meaning, however, has no validity for 


anyone else. No one can provide a meaning for anyone 
else. Everyone must create their own meaning, but it must 
remain private, personal, and unconnected to any sort of 
objective truth ...Existentiahsm, then provides the rationale 
for contemporary relativism. ReUgion becomes a purely 
private affair, which cannot be "imposed. " The content of 
one's meaning makes no difference, only the personal 

Today, existentiahsm is no longer the province of the 
avante garde French novelists in cafes. It is entered 
popular culmre. It has become the philosophy of soap 
operas and talk shows. Its tenants shape pohtical discourse 
and are transforming the legal system. Existentialism is the 
philosophical basis for Post-modernism.* 

There are many existentialists today who have never heard of the 
term. They just hve it out. Lesslie Newbigin shares Peter Berger's asmte 
observation about the social outcome of existentialism in contemporary hfe: 

...the distinctive fact about the Modem West from all pre- 
modem culmres is that there is no generally acknowledged 
"plausibihty structure, " the acceptance of which is taken for 
granted without argument, and dissent from which is 
regarded as heresy. A "plausibihty structure" is a social 
structure of ideas and practices which creates the conditions 
which determine whether a belief is plausible. To hold 
beliefs outside this plausibihty structure is to be a heretic in 
the original sense of the word haeresis, that is to say, one 
who makes his own decisions. 

In pre-modem cultures there is a stable plausibility structure 
and only the rare individual questions it. It is just "how 
things are and have always been. " In modem societies, by 
contrast, we are required to make our own decisions, for 
there is no accepted plausibihty stmcture. Each one has to 
have faith of his own. We are all required, in the original 


sense, to be heretics.' 

It is in a real sense then, that everyone is "in their own world." At 
least their own intellectual world. Postmodern spirituality then is a spirituahty 
without truth. Like a cafeteria with its array of "choices" the New Spirituahty 
is chosen on aesthetic grounds. Veith notes the contrast between a modem 
and a postmodern outlook, with its resulting spiritual consequences: 

Modernists did not beheve the bible is true. Postmodernists 
have cast out the category of truth altogether. In doing so, 
they have opened up a Pandora's box of New Age religions, 
syncretism, and moral chaos. '° 

Thinking Broadly 

Before we look at examples of the New Spirituahty, I want to paint 
the big picture of the larger New Age phenomena. Most of what we will see 
is rooted in a pantheistic" framework. However, as James Sire perceives. 
New Age diought shares in at least three world views: 

'Uke naturalism. New Age thought denies the existence of 
a transcendent God. There is no Lord of the Universe 
unless it be each of us. . .It also borrows from naturahsm the 
hope of evolutionary change. We are poised on the brink 
of a new being... Like both theism and naturalism, and 
unlike Eastern pantheistic monism, the New Age places 
great value on the individual person...'^ 

Yet the New Age shares with the East in its mystical experience 
orientation, which rejects reason as a guide to ultimate reahty. Sire also sees 
in New Age thinking some animistic strands.'^ Animism is the orientation of 
die so-called "primal" or pagan rehgions, which see the universe as inhabited 
by countless spiritual beings. These spirits range from vicious to kind. To 
get by, people have to placate the evil spirits and woo the good spirits. To 
our aid come the witch doctors and shamans who attempt to control the spirit 
world. I would not be surprised if, in the coming years, animism becomes the 
dominant way of thought in the New Age Movement. I say so because 


pantheism is too abstract for the average person. In addition, human beings 
are incurably reUgious, preferring ritual's concreteness to the abstractions of 
philosophy. So, New Age thought is a loose worldview with roots in three 
other worldviews—Naturahsm, Pantheism, Animism. The vocabulary of 
Christian theism is often borrowed and reinterpreted. Groothuis gives us a 
broad conceptual framework for understanding much of die New Spirituality. 
His chart will help us navigate our way through the mist of die New 
Spirituahty without wrecking our boat on the shoals. 

As is evident from the chart on the following pages, the New Age 
concept of God is essentially pantheistic. While borrowing heavily from 
Christian vocabulary, "God" tends to be portrayed as an impersonal force or 
energy. "But," as Chandler notes, "the God of the New Age is nobody 
special. He~or rather, it~is everything. There is nothing that isn 't God. "'" 
To give it all the feel of a "hip" Christianity, Jesus can be fit in this scenario. 
Chandler says, "He is one of the enlightened masters who was conscious of 
his divinity. Not that he was unique, he just saw what was true of all of us. 
Humanity's problem is that problem is that we lack the perception of 
ourselves as God. "'^ Let's turn to some of today's popular spiritual writers, 
the prophets and priestesses of die present darkness. 

Popular Spokesperson 

The authors here represent die "diffuse sentiment" we could call die 
New Spirituality. What they teach is appealing to many people because it says 
what we want to hear. Veidi says of postmodern spirituality: 

Today religion is not seen as a set of beliefs about what is 
real and what is not. Radier, reUgion is a preference, a 
choice. We believe in what we like. We believe in what 
we want.'* 

The people I chose as representatives of the New Spirituality are 
fairly maiastream. They are all best-selling audiors and I found their books 
outside the New Age section of the bookstore and die Public Library. Unlike 
Shirley MacLaine, who is snickered at by many, diese authors command 
respect by many in die medical and scientific communities. 





























































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M. Scott Peck, M.D. 

Peck is a Harvard-educated psychotherapist whose book, The Road 
Less Traveled , has been on the New York Times best-seller hst for over ten 
years. It was holding #2 on the paperback hst as of May 8, 1994. More than 
a few people I have talked to were confused as to whether Peck was writing 
from a Qiristian position. Some assumed that he was because his books are 
sold in some Christian bookstores. For this reason, I will quote somewhat 
extensively from Peck. What emerges from a careful reading is not Biblical 

hi the introduction to A Road Less Traveled . Peck says he makes "no 
distinction between the mind and the spirit, and therefore no distinction 
between the process of achieving spiritual growth and mental growth. " To 
Peck, "They are one and the same."'^ While from a Bibhcal perspective we 
would expect spiritual growth to produce mental growth, mental growth could 
take place without anything positively spiritual resulting. As Paul said to 
Timothy, some people are "always learning but never coming to a knowledge 
of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7). The human mind is not God's Spirit. The sinful 
mind is hostile to God and does not submit to the law of God (Rom. 8:7). 

Peck believes that most people suffer from a tendency 'to define 
religion too narrowly. " What he means by that is people who would criticize 
non-Christian rehgions like Buddhism or Unitarianism. We should not, 
according to Peck view religion as "something monolithic." His path of 
spiritual growth is described: 

We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by 
actively seeking the threatening and the unfamiliar, by 
deliberately challenging the validity of what we have 
previously been taught and hold dear. The path of holiness 
hes through questioning everything [italics his]... We begin 
by replacing the religion of our parents with the rehgion of 
science. We must rebel against and reject the religion of 
our parents, for inevitably their world view will be 
narrower than that which we are capable, if we take full 
advantage of our personal experience, including our adult 
experience and the experience of an additional generation of 
human history. There is no such thing as hand-me-down 


religion. To be vital, our religion must be a wholly 
personal one, forged entirely through the fire of questioning 
and doubting in the crucible of our own experience of 

While it certainly is true that each person has to come to their own 
conclusion about the truth and they must internalize their own convictions, 
this process builds on certain sources of information and traditions that are 
external to the person (rehgious writings, human authorities, peer pressures, 
etc.). Some presuppositions or "givens" must be chosen. Even Peck's idea 
of questioning everything is a presupposition namely that not questioning 
everything is a weakness or barrier to truth. Peck seems to think we can 
perform demolition on all traditional sources to truth (which would include the 
Bible) and still have something left to build with. He also assumes fliat one's 
parent's rehgious views are "inevitably narrower." This idea assumes that 
each generation improves in its insight, which is part of Peck's evolutionary 

In Scripture, this is simply not the case. In 2 Tim. 1:5, Paul says, 
"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first hved in your 
grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, now hves 
in you also." In 3:14, 15 he is further told, "continue in what you learned, 
knowing from who you have learned it, and how from infancy you have 
known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation. . . " 
Timothy did not have to go out and find a different reUgion than his parents 
or his parents' parents. To be sure, a parent's faith is not passed on 
automatically, but it can be explained. A son or daughter can be persuaded 
of the truthfulness of his/her parents' worldview. It seems to me that Peck is 
advocating the kind of deconstruction of authority that made the 
counterculture of the sixties so tumultuous. All we have left after this 
demolition is "truth in one's own head." 

As we go beyond the rehgion of our parents and then beyond the 
religion of science, we come to own our fresh idea of God: 

The God that comes before skepticism may bear Uttle 
resemblance to the God that comes after. As I mentioned 
at the beginning of this section, there is no single monohfliic 
religion. There are many rehgions, and perhaps many 


levels to belief. Some religions may be unhealthy for some 
people; others may be healthy.^ 

That it "bears little resemblance" is an understatement. What a tragic 
description of what happens to a naive Christian who becomes "captured by 
philosophy and empty deception" (Col. 2:8). If Peck's denial of a "single 
monolithic religion" is not a direct swipe at Christianity, I don't know what 
is. It seems that Peck has a pragmatic criteria of truth. If it "works," i.e. if 
it is "healthy", that's what matters. 

The God that comes after skepticism for Peck is a pantheistic "deity. " 
He packages his version of pantheism as a bold idea for the inner directed 

Why does God want us to grow? What is it that God wants 
of us?... For no matter how much we may like to pussyfoot 
around it, all of us who postulate a loving God and really 
think about it, eventually come to a single terrifying idea: 
God wants us to become Himself (or Herself or Itself). We 
are growing toward godhood. God is the goal of evolution. 
It is God who is the source of the evolutionary force and 
God who is the destination ...It is the single most 
demanding idea in the history of mankind. . .It is one things 
to beheve in a nice old God who will take good care of us 
from a lofty position of power which we ourselves could 
never attain. It is quite another to beheve in a God who has 
it in mind for us precisely that we should attain His 
position. His power, His wisdom. His identity.^' 

Peck tries to make the world's oldest and easiest form of spirituahty 
sound difficult and challenging, while painting the surrender of our proud 
autonomy as childish dependence. Our problem, according to Peck, is that 
we shy away from becoming God. Most people are too lazy and passive to 
seek godhood. He goes on to say: 

Were we to beheve it possible for man to become God, this 
belief by its very nature would place upon us an obhgation 
to attain the possible. But we don't want this obhgation, we 


don't want to have to work fliat hard. We don't want God's 
responsibility. As long as we can believe that godhood is 
an impossible attainment for ourselves, we don't have to 
worry about our spiritual growth; we don't have to push 
ourselves to higher and higher levels of consciousness and 
loving activity, we can just relax and be human. ^ 

Only a lazy wimp would not want to be God! So it will have to be 
the few and the proud who are willing to take on this noble task of sacrifice. 
The "hard work" that Peck says we are too lazy to do is to listen to the god 

In debating the wisdom of a proposed course of action, 
human beings routinely fail to obtain God's side of the 
issue. They fail to consult the God within them, the 
knowledge of rightness which inherently resides in the 
minds of all mankind. We make this failure because we are 

Lest we be still unconvinced of Peck's pantheism, note how he 
explains the evolution of consciousness: 

I know of no hypothesis as satisfactory as the postulation of 
a God who is intimately associated with us~so intimately 
that He is part of us. If you want to know the closet place 
to look for grace, it is within your self. If you desire 
wisdom greater than you own, you can find it inside you. 
What this suggests is that the interface between man and 
God is at least in part the interface between our unconscious 
and our conscious. To put it plainly, our unconscious is 
God. God wifliin us. We were part of God all the time. 
God has been with us all along, is now, and always with 

When all is said and done. Peck's version of spirituaUty is a rehash 
of eastern pantheism vnih a Western individualistic flavor. He does not paint 
the image of absorption into God. Rather, God is absorbed into you. The 


human individual retains herself. Much of the book preaches a "pick yourself 
up from your own bootstraps" mentahty with the ear-tickling "psycho- 
spiritual" theology that was cited above. 

Deepak Chopra 

If Peck is the therapeutic high priest of the new spirituahty, Deepak 
Qiopra is the "surgeon general" of alternative healing. Chopra is also a best- 
selling author (he has written fourteen books) and physician. He was bom 
and raised in India, but now hves and works in the Boston area. He 
established the American Association of Ayurvedic (a branch of Hinduism) 
Medicine. In 1992 he was appointed to the National Institutes of Health and 
hoc panel on alternative medicine. Chopra is truly a modem gum, combining 
most skillfully the ideas of the East and the West—Hinduism and science, 
materialism and spiritualism. He has been written about in Money , People 
Weekly , and Psychology Today , as well as having had articles published by 
The Joumal of American Medical Association . Money called Chopra a 
"financial spiritualist."" While Hare Krishnas and the Gum Maharaj Ji may 
frighten off most westemers, Chopra appeals directly to what we want most 
in America: health and wealth. His book Creating Affluence is a daily 
reader on how to get rich by changing your perception of reahty. Chopra 
advises that its contents be "metabohzed" in the consciousness of the reader 
by reading it over and over. He holds out a bold promise: 

All of material creation, everything that we can see, hear, 
taste, or smell is made from the same stuff and comes from 
ttie same source. Experiential knowledge of this fact gives 
us the abihty to fulfill any desire we have, acquire any 
material object we want, and experience happiness to any 
extent we aspire. 

Before we go into these principals, I would like to discuss 
what science, and particularly physics, has to say about the 
nature of the universe we hve in... According to quantum 
field theorists, all material things—whether they are 
automobiles, human bodies, or dollar bills-are made up of 
atoms. These atoms are made up of subatomic particles 


which, in turn, are flucmations of energy and information 
in huge void of energy and information... the basic 
conclusion of quantum field theorists is that the raw 
material of the world is non-material; the essential stuff of 
the universe is non-stuff... And this is the overthrow of the 
superstition of materiahsm.^* 

Like many of the proponents of the new spirituaUty, Chopra wants 
to ground his views in science. The highly disputed field of quantum physics 
is a favorite "proor for pantheism by many today. This is a big change from 
some of the earlier pantheistic prophets who were anti-science. Chopra shows 
great cleverness as he smuggles in ancient Hindu panflieism in the guise of 
science and economic strategy. Not only can we be wealthy witii a change of 
perception, but we can also be healthy-even immortal if we learn how to 
think right, hi his very popular Ageless Body. Timeless Mind: The Quantum 
Alternative to Growing Old . Chopra avoids subtlety altogether. He 
inmiediately sets out to break our confidence in conventional reason, the 
western way of perceiving reahty: 

I would like you to join me on a journey of discovery. We 
will explore a place where the rules of everyday existence 
do not apply. These rules exphcitly state diat to grow old, 
become frail, and die is the ultimate destiny of 
all... However, I want you to suspend your assumptions 
about what we call reality so that we can become pioneers 
in a land where youthful vigor, renewal, joy, fiilfilhnent 
and timelessness are the common experience of everyday 
life, where old age, senility, infirmity and death do not exist 
and are not even entertained as a possibihty. 

If there is such a place, what is preventing us from going 
there? It is our conditioning, our current collective 
world view that we were taught by our parents, teachers, 
and society. This way of seeing things—the old paradigm- 
has been aptly called "the hypnosis of social conditioning," 
an induced fiction in which we have collectively agreed to 


Like most pantheisms, Chopra's claims that what our senses tell us 
is inadequate and often deceptive. Chopra goes on to ask us to discard 
conventional western assumptions in favor of a "new paradigm." I have 
included his assumptions verbatim because they so capture the essence of New 
Age pantheism. 

...In order to create the experience of ageless body and 
timeless mind, which is the promise of this book, you must 
discard ten assumptions about who you are and what the 
true nature of body and mind is. These assumptions are the 
bedrock of our shared worldview. They are: 



1 . There is an objective world 
independent of the observer, & 
our bodies are an aspect of this 
objective world. 

1. The physical world, including 
our bodies, is a response of the 
observer. We create our bodies as 
we create the experience of our 

2. The body is composed of 
clumps of matter separated from 
one another in time & space. 


2. In their essential state, our 
bodies are composed of energy & 
information, not soUd matter. This 
energy & information is an out- 
cropping of infinite fields of 
energy & information sparming the 

3. Mind & body are independent 
from each other. 

3. The mind & body are 
inseparably one. 

4. Materialism is primary, 
consciousness is secondary. In 
other words, we are physical 
machines that learned to think. 

4. The bio-chemistry of the body; 
is a product of awareness. Beliefs, 
thoughts & emotions create the 
chemical reactions that uphold Ufe 
in every cell. 


5. Human awareness can be 
completely explained as a product 
of bio-chemistry. 

5. Perception appears to be 
automatic, but is in fact learned. 
The world you Uve in, including 
the experience of your body, is 
completely dictated by how you 
learned to perceive it. If you 
change your perception, you 
change the experience of your 
body & your world. 

6. As individuals, we are 
disconnected, self contained 

6. Impulses of intelligence create 
your body in new forms every 

7. Our perception of the word is 
automatic & gives us an accurate 
picture of the way things really 

7. Although each person seems 
separate & independent, all of us 
are connected to patterns of 
intelligence that govern the whole 
cosmos. Our bodies are part of a 
universal body, our minds an as- 
pect of a universal mind. 

8. Our true nature is totally 
defined by the body, ego, & 
personality. We are wisps of 
memories & desires enclosed in 
flesh & bones. 

8. Time does not exist as an 
absolute, but only eternity. What 
we call linear time is a reflection 
of how we perceive change. If we 
could perceive the changeless, 
time would cease to exist as we 
know it. We can learn to start 
metabolizing non-change, eternity, 
the absolute. By doing that, we 
will be ready to create the physio- 
logy of immortahty. 

9. Time exists as an absolute, & 
we are captives of that absolute. 
No one escapes the ravages of 

9. Each of us inhabits a reahty 
lying beyond all change. 


10. Suffering is necessary—it is 
part of reality. We are inevitable 
victims of sickness, aging and 

10. We are not victims of aging, 
sickness & death. These are part 
of the scenery, not the seer, who 
is immune to any form of change. 
The seer is the spirit, the expres- 
sion of eternal being. 

Now that's a heavy assault! And he does it, not in an appendix 
buried at the end of the book, but right at the beginning! Apparently that is 
not scaring readers off. Notice how Chopra has said the same things diat 
eastern rehgion has taught without it sounding religious. The word "god" is 
not used at all in this chart. 

No wonder Chandler views the area of holistic health as perhaps the 
major carrier of the New Age: "The market for the products, as well as the 
techniques of chiropractic and massage, is likely to endure and grow as more 
and more Americans become concerned about self-care, wellness, and ever- 
rising costs of professional health systems."^* 

Marianne Williamson 

Another avenue of expose to the new spirituality is the recovery 
movement. Marianne Williamson's experience mirrors that of many other 
baby-boomers who grew up with a sense of estrangement from their parents' 
traditional values and religion. Her book A Return to Love reached ffl on the 
best-seller hst in 1993. This title is stocked not in the New Age section, but 
in psychology /self improvement. Through her lectures and writing, 
Williamson has popularized the ultra New Age A Course in Miracles , a kind 
of pantheistic "bible," which Opra Winfrey has praised on her show. 

Like many who teach concepts of New Spirituality, Williamson 
believes we need a higher form of "consciousness or knowledge" that is 
different from cognitive understanding: 

"Love isn't seen with the physical eyes or heard with the 
physical ears. The physical senses don't perceive it; it's 
perceived through a different kind of vision... Regardless of 
what it's called, love requires a different kind of "seeing" 


than we are used to~a different kind of knowing or 
thinking. Love is the intuitive knowledge of our hearts. . "^' 

Like Chopra, WiUiamson wants to bypass the hmits of logic and 
linear thinking. For her, God is defined as "the love within us.. He is the 
energy, the thought of unconditional love. He cannot think with anger or 
judgment."'" This is one of the features of the New Spirituahty~an 
impersonal god with the personal characteristic of love. It is hard to see how 
a "being" that is not distinct from yourself can love you. Yet, the comforting 
thing for so many is that the "God" of the new spirituahty has no wrath and 
does not punish. All of such negative thoughts are seen as human projections. 
As for negative or hostile human emotions, they are simply explained away 
rather being explained by her system: 

Anything that isn't love is an illusion... When we think with 
love we are hterally co-creating with God. And when we 
are not thinking with love—since only love is real—then 
we're actually not thinking at all. We're hallucinating. . .sin 
is defined as 'loveless perception '...Love in your mind 
produces love in your hfe. This is the meaning of Heaven. 
Fear in your mind produces fear in your hfe. This is the 
meaning of Hell." 

Like all pantheistic notions, this one has no way to explain why there is evil 
and suffering in the world. Simply passing it off as a problem of perception 
only imphcates God as a lousy creator, since there is no Fall to explain how 
this problem began in the first place. For Williamson, our real problem is not 
sin in the sense of evil or depravity, hnifear. Here we have one more version 
of "we're basically good people who are sad and hurt. " Or as someone said, 
"Hurt people hurt people. " It is no doubt true that unresolved pain is usually 
taken out on others. However, that does not have explanatory power 
concerning the cause of all evil behavior. 

WiUiamson tries to align herself with Jesus: 

The concept of a divine, or 'Christ' mind, is the idea that, 
at our core, we are not just identical, but actually the same 
being. 'There is only one begotten Son' doesn't mean that 


someone else was it, and we're not. It means we're all it. 
There is only one of us here... The word Christ is a 
psychological term ...Qirist refers to the conmion thread of 
divine love that is the core and essence of every human 

Williamson's pantheism and syncretism show themselves most 
strongly here. The exclusive claim for Jesus is turned into a basis of a 
universally inclusive plurahsm. I find it hard to shake off die question, "why 
do so many people who have love at their core seem to bear the fruit of hatred 
and violence?" What is die source of human problems? It is amazing how 
many books get pubhshed that are simply expanding on the Beaties' song. All 
You Need is Love. It is a great idea, but in the twenty-seven years since that 
song hit the airwaves, no one has been able to make it work apart from Jesus 

Betty Jean Eadie 

Eadie's book. Embraced by the Light was at #1 for die week of May 
8. She makes no attempt to be scientific, but the book is representative of 
what many Americans are willing to believe. As I read the book, it became 
obvious why this book is so popular. It affirms virtually everything the 
average American would want to hear, while having not a shred of material 
that would offend. If ever there was a book diat could be the spiritual 
undergirding for political correcmess, this is it. What is the basis of its 
legitimacy? The experience of being temporarily dead, of course. Eadie 
claims to have had an encounter widi angels and Jesus himself while her 
physical body lay dead in a hospital room. She describes her experience in 
vivid imagery: 

I felt a surge of energy. . .and my spirit was suddenly drawn 
out dirough my chest and pulled upward, as if by a giant 
magnet... I was above die bed, hovering near the 
ceiling... My new body was weighdess and extremely 
mobile... Before I could move, diree men suddenly appeared 
at my side... A kind of glow emanated from them... I sensed 
in them great spirituahty, knowledge, and wisdom...! began 


to think of them as monks-mostly because of the robes~and 
/ knew I could trust them... Th^y had been with me for 
"eternities", they said... The fact of pre-earth Ufe 
crystallized in my mind..." 

Notice that Eadie perceived things non-cognitively. Like others we 
have seen, she places a premium on this "higher mode" of understanding. 
The imphcation is that if something is really important or true it will have to 
come to you by bypassing your mind. Notice also her basis for trusting the 
spirit beings. She "sensed" it. It was not by evaluating the content of their 
claims. I shiver as I recall Paul's warning to the Galatians, "if we or even an 
angel from heaven proclaims a gospel contrary let them be accursed" (Gal. 
1:8). The beauty of their being tells us nothing about whether they are 
benevolent or malevolent spirits (2 Cor. 11:14). Eadie 's Mormon leanings 
stand out as well with her claim to have an eternal spirit that had known these 
beings from before her entrance into her mortal body ("pre-earth Ufe"). she 
goes on to describe some more non-verbal intuitive communication: 

They somehow communicated 2i feeling of peace and told 
me not to worry, that everything would be all right. As this 
feeling came in me, I sensed their deep love and concern. 
These feelings and other thoughts were communicated to 
me from spirit to spirit—from intelligence to intelligence. 
At first, I thought they were using their mouths, but this 
was because I was used to people "speaking." They 
communicated much more rapidly and completely, in a 
manner they referred to as "pure knowledge. " The closet 
word we have in Enghsh to define it is telepathy, but even 
that does not describe the full process. I felt their emotions 
and intents. I felt their love. I experienced their feelings. ^* 
[emphasis mine] 

Eadie displays the frightening faith in the authority of feelings that 
has so engulfed our culture. If you feel love, how could it be questioned? 
Like Deepak Chopra, Eadie also has her own version of creating your own 
reality. She beUeves that "Simply by thinking positive thoughts and speaking 
positive words we attract positive energy... We can create our own 


surroundings by the thoughts we think..." Then, in an incredible example of 
reahty turned on its head she says, "I understood that hfe is hved most fully 
in the imagination—that, ironically, imagination is the key to reality. "^^ One 
may wonder, was her near death experience imagination or reality? In 
another example of her distrust of reason she shares her interpretation of 2 
Cor. 5:7: 

We are to live by faith, not by sight. Sight is involved with 
the cognitive, the analytical mind. It rationalizes and 
justifies. Faith is governed by the spirit. The spirit is 
emotional, accepting, and intemahzes... the spirit is 
mystery to most people. I saw that it functions, generally, 
witiiout the mind even being aware of it." 


As she goes on describing her experience, Eadie reveals a pantheistic 

As I approached it [the light] , I saw the figure of a man 
standing in it... I felt his Ught blending in to mine, hterally, 
and I felt my hght being drawn to his... It is hard to tell 
where one hght ends and the other begins; they just become 
one light... As our hghts merged, I felt as if I had stepped 
into his countenance, and I felt an utter explosion of love." 

In an even more disturbing example of contentless, experience- 
centered religion, she recounts: 

As I approached the water, I noticed a rose near me that 
seemed to stand out from the other flowers... It was gently 
swaying to faint music, and singing praises to the Lord with 
sweet tones of its own. I reahzed I could actually see it 
growing... I wanted to experience its hfe, to step into it and 
feel its spirit. As this thought came to me, I seemed to be 
able to see down into it... But it was much more than a 
visual experience. I felt the rose's presence around me, as 
if I were actually inside the flower. I experienced it as if I 


were the flower... My joy was absolutely full again! I felt 
God in the plant, in me, his love pouring into us. We were 
all one! I will never forget the rose that I was.'* 

Eadie even was "informed" in heaven about the abortion issue. 
Notice how it attempts to placate both sides of die batde: 

I learned that spirits can choose to enter their mother's body 
at any stage of her pregnancy. Once there, they 
immediately begin experiencing mortahty. Abortion, I was 
told, is contrary to that which is natural. The spirit coming 
into the body feels a sense of rejection and sorrow. . . But the 
spirit also feels compassion for its mother, knowing that she 
made a decision based on the knowledge she had.'' 

The popularity of Eadie 's book is a chilling example of the epistemological 
relativism discussed earlier. If notiiing is true, then everything is true. At the 
end of the book, Eadie says she feels no need to give evidence for the tale. 
The authority is in the experience. If Eadie is believable, who will be branded 
a heretic? 

A Christian response to the New Spirituality is desperately needed 
in our day. People are naively falling prey to the promises of these false 
prophets. A strategy for discipleship and apologetics for the 1990's is beyond 
the scope of this writing. My desire here was simply to acquaint the Christian 
reader with the various "roach hotels" of the New SpirituaUty so that s/he 
would be moved to be a better herald of the truth and shepherd of the flock. 
Sire captures the insidious nature of New Age deception: 

The danger of self deception, the certainty of self deception 
is the great weakness. No theist or naturaUst~no one at all- 
-can deny the "experience" of perceiving oneself to be a 
god, a spirit, a devil or a cockroach. For many people give 
such reports. But as long as self is king, so long as 
imagination is presupposed to be reaUty, so long as seeing 
is being, the imagining, seeing self remains securely locked 
in its private universe—the only one there is. So long as the 
self likes what it imagines and is truly in control of what it 


imagines, others on the "outside" have nothing to offer."^ 

My plea to the reader is not to shrink from the challenge of bringing 
these deeply deceived men and women of our day to the kingdom the hving 
God. We cannot afford to let laughter, contempt or fear be our apologetic. 


'Francis A. Shaeffer, Escape from Reason . (Downers Grove, IL: Inter 
Varsity, 1968) 7. 

Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1991, 1993)43,45. 

'Os Guinness, The American Hour (New York: Free Press, 1993) 70. 

"Ibid., The Dust of Death (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994) 276. 

*John Polkinghome, One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986) p. 4,5. 


'Frederick B. Bumham, ed.. Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a 
Pluralist World (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989) ix, x. 

^Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to 
Contemporary Thought and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994) 37, 

'Lesslie Newbigin, "Can the West be Converted?" International Bulletin of 
Missionary Research January 1987, 2. 

'°Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times . 193. 


"Geisler and Clark say this about pantheism: ''Pantheism etymologically 
means 'All is God. ' The word was first used by John Toland, an Irish deist, 
in 1705. The world view is based on key idea that all of reaUty is one. (This 
is called 'monism'.) Anything real is interrelated with everything else that is 
real. There may be forms or levels of reality, but in the final analysis, all 
reality is unified ontologically, that is, in its being. No qualitative distinctions 
can differentiate real things. There is no definite contrast between an eternal 
Creator and a temporal creamre. The ultimate reahty, God, alone is real. 
Insofer as you and I are real, you and I are part of God. " Norman L. Geisler 
and David C. Clark, Apologetics in the New Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 
Book House, 1990) 8. The authors go on to discuss ^ve different variations 
of pantheism. It is important to keep in mind that, while pantheism can be 
generalized about, it has quite diverse expressions around the world. There 
is not one simple form of "eastern thought. " 

'^James Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity 
Press, 1988) 165, 166. 

'^bid., 166. 

'"•Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age . 29. 

''Ibid., 34. 

'^Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times . 193. 

'* Adapted from Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers 
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986) 167. 

'*M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Touchstone Books, 
1978) 11. 

"Ibid., 194. 

2°Ibid., 224. 

"Ibid., 269, 270. 


^Ibid., 270. 

^'Ibid., 273. 


"Elizabeth MacDonald, Money Newsline, Money December 1993, 20. 

^*Deepak Chopra, Creating Affluence: Wealth Consciousness in the Field of 
All Possibilities (San Rafael, CA: New World Library, 1993) 18, 19. 

"Deepak Chopra, Ageless Body. Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative 
to Growing Old (New York: Harmony Books, 1993) 3. 

Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1991, 1993) 158. 

^'Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principals of 
A COURSE IN MIRACLES (New York: HarperCollins, 1992) xix. 

^'Ibid., 17, 18. 



"Betty J. Eadie, Embraced by the Light (Placerville, CA: Gold Leaf Press, 

"Ibid., 32. 

"Ibid., 58, 59. 

"Ibid., 65, 66. 

"Ibid., 41. 


'%!(!., 80, 81. 
''Ibid., 95. 

'^James Sire, The Universe Next Door . 171. 


Bumham, Frederick B., Ed. Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a 
Pluralist World . San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989. 

Chandler, Russell. Understanding the New Age . Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1991, 1993. 

Chopra, Deepak, M.D. Creating Affluence: Wealth Consciousness in the 
Field of All Possibilities . San Rafael, CA: New World Library, 

. Ageless Body. Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing 

Old . New York: Harmony Books, 1993. 

Clark, David K. and Geisler, Norman L. Apologetics in the New Age . 
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990. 

Eadie, Betty J. Embraced by the Light . Placerville, CA: Gold Leaf Press, 

Groothuis, Douglas. Unmasking the New Age . Downers Grove, IL: 
InterVarsity Press, 1986. 

Guinness, Os. The American Hour . New York: Free Press, 1993. 

Peck, M. Scott. The Road Less Traveled . New York: Touchstone Books, 

Polkinghome, John. One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology . 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986. 


Sire, James. The Universe Next Door . Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity 
Press, 1988. 

Veith, Gene Edward. Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contem- 
porarv Thought and Culture . Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994. 

Williamson, Marianne. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principals of 
A COURSE IN MIRACLES . New York: Harper CoUins, 1992. 

■ ••• 

• ••■ 


Liberation Theology: Fossil or Force? 

A Review Article 
by Dr. Howard Summers* 


Is liberation theology aUve and well or has its death-knell sounded? 
Judging from the attitudes of some first- world theologians, the answer would 
seemingly be that hberation theology was but a passing fad. Judging, 
however, from the number of books on liberation theology emanating from 
both the third and first-worlds this hardly seems to be the case and, if the 
demise of hberation theology is at hand, someone has forgotten to tell the 
numerous writers who continue to pubhsh prohfically on the subject. ' Some- 
how only those who have experienced Ufe in such places as (hefavellas of 
Latin America or the violence-plagued townships of South Afiica appear to 
have any idea of what hberation theology is all about. Certainly those 
liberation theologians hving in poor communities continue their work with no 
apparent waning of commitment. 

Still in its infancy, hberation theology may have taken wrong 
directions in both methodology and content which need to be corrected but, 
while it is still too early to calculate its influence (How long did it take before 
the Reformation got that label?) it has undoubtedly contributed to pohtical 
change in certain countries,^ 

Although both the HOW and WHAT of liberation theology may have 
to be careftilly re-thought if genuine liberation (in all its dimensions) is to be 
achieved, hberation theology remains a challenge to every sincere Christian. 
Poverty, hunger, oppression, disease and death continue to haunt our world. 
What is the Christian response to be? Is the church to contribute toward the 
estabhshment of a new world order bringing liberation to all humankind? Are 
there people (hopefully Christians among them) who, in the words of 
Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, "still have a spark of humanity left for 
considering the problems of the nuUions and nuUions of poor persons, of 
international justice, of the fiiture for the wretched of the earth"?' Conmaitted 
Christians have a choice: either to stand in solidarity with the poor and to 

*Dr. Summers (Ph.D., University of the Witwaterstrand), Senior Lecturer in 
Religious Studies, University of the Witwaterstrand, Johannesburg, South 
Africa, is a speciahst in hberation theology. 


work with them for their Uberation or to forget them completely, denying 
dieir existence. Liberation theology, warts and all, remains the greatest chal- 
lenge to churches in the first-world. It is far from "fossilized" and remains 
a potent force for genuine democratic change. 

The following review of eight books (selected at random) may help 
readers to clarify their stance towards hberation theology. The sequence 
followed will, hopefully, guide those readers totally unfamiliar with the 
concerns of hberation theology to gain a general understanding of the topic 
before some of the more speciahsed areas are dealt with."* The books also 
provide good examples of the diverse forms that Uberation theology takes and 
they also illustrate the point that Uberation theology is not solely a Latin 
America phenomenon. 

South Africa is presentiy a testing ground for both Uberation and 
liberation theology. With a combination of first, second and third-world 
interests vying for power in the country, the final outcome is more than of 
passing academic interest to all South Africans.* Being a South African, the 
reviewer has assessed these books against this background - although this is 
not stated explicitly in the reviews. 

C. Rowland and M. Comer 
Liberating Exegesis: The Challenge of 
Liberation Theologv to Biblical Studies . 
Louis viUe: Westminster/ John Knox Press 
1989, 205 pp. 

This book is worthy of careful study, and is strongly recommended 
as an introduction to Uberation theology. As the title impUes, the book, 
comprising five chapters, analyses die impact of Uberation theology on 
(western) Biblical Studies. 

1) "Sampling Uberation exegesis." Using a selection of Jesus' 
parables, Rowland and Comer give practical examples of the way Uberation 
theologians interpret the Bible and they penetrate quickly to the core of 
Uberation hermeneutics. The authors show how Uberation theologians accept 
the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation but take it further, 
stressing not only the context of the original writers but also the context of the 
modem-day reader. Towards the end of the chapter the real concem of the 


book is introduced, viz, an attempt to find a liberation theology for the first 
world, more particularly Britain. 

2) "The foundation and form of liberation exegesis." This chapter 
provides a theoretical outline of the methods used by hberation theologians to 
interpret the Bible. Liberation dieology is, according to its founding father, 
Gustavo Gutierrez, a "new way to do theology".* It is new in that the "poor" 
become the hermeneutical key and, consequently, they become the "focal 
point of theology" as the authors point out (p44). A quotation from the text 
summarises this point of departure: 

At the heart of the theology of hberation is the twofold 
belief ttiat in the experience of oppression, poverty, hunger 
and death, God is speaking to all people today and that 
God's presence among the millions unknown and unloved 
by humanity but blessed in the eyes of God is confirmed by 
the witness of the Christian tradition, particularly the 
Scriptures themselves. (p43) 

The importance of the Christian Base Communities in Latin 
American in providing this hermeneutical key is explained. These small 
groups which meet to study the Bible under specific socio-political conditions 
have largely been responsible for the emergence of hberation theology. It is 
from these groups, where a "hstening to the poor" takes place diat most 
academic hberation theologians draw their inspiration. 

A closer scrutiny of the methods employed by hberation tiieologians 
follows in die second part of this chapter. Clodovis Boff s work is selected 
as an example of a hberation hermeneutic. Boff s differentiation between 
"correspondence of terms" and the more acceptable "correspondence of re- 
lationships" is analyzed. The former applies when the biblical narratives are 
used analogously as the events and characters of first-century Palestine are 
considered to have a direct modem-day apphcation. The latter refers to the 
intention of the original writers and outlines how this intention has been 
interpreted traditionally by the church. Despite what critics say about this 
hermeneutical method, Boff maintains that this approach is similar to that used 
by the bibhcal writers themselves (p64) and is not a case of manipulating die 
text—something of which hberation theologians are often accused. 

3) "Exploring the implications of liberation exegesis in a first world 


context. 1: The Political Gospel." In the first part of this chapter the idea 
that Jesus was a pohtical revolutionary is investigated and from there the 
authors move on to a (excellent) summary of the materiaUst analysis of the 
book of Mark as provided by Ferdinand Belo. What is lacking at this point, 
however, is a clear link between the first two chapters where predominantly 
Latin American Uberation theology is dealt with to a smdy where these self- 
same writers are hardly mentioned. Although the authors are analyzing 
"liberation theology's" emphasis on the historical Jesus as well as the 
significance of the Book of Revelation, they do not adequately show the 
connection between Latin American hberation theology and Belo's materiaUst 
analysis. No mention is made of which hberation theologians use a materiahst 
analysis, nor is a clear indication given as to how materiahst analysis affects 
hberation theology. Suddenly, however, a remm is made to "hberation 
theology" (presumably Latin American) when Rowland and Comer begin to 
speak generally about what "hberation theology" does or beheves. No 
distinction is made between the different types of hberation theology (for there 
are many) which supposedly support these generahzations. 

The last part of this chapter investigates the relationship between 
History and Eschatology (as a prelude to the next chapter where the book of 
Revelation is dealt with). The writings of Cardinal Ratzinger (considered by 
many to be enemy number one of liberation theology) are briefly considered 
and some of his criticisms of Uberation theology, particularly those relating 
to the how and where of building God's kingdom, are analyzed. The chapter 
ends with an examination of the themes of chiliasm and eschatological 

4) "Exploring the implications of liberation exegesis in a first world 
context. 2: The Challenge of the Book of Revelation. " The emphasis in this 
chapter is on the way the book of Revelation is used by oppressed groups. A 
link is made between the book of Revelation and the "hermeneutics of 
suspicion" (Habermas) characteristic of the work of liberation theologians. 
The way the Apocalypse evokes the "subversive memory" and the "power of 
the past to dismrb" (Adomo) is pointed out and the relevance of these 
concepts for liberation theology outlined. 

5) "Liberation theology in a first world context. " The focal point of 
the book is reached when, in this last chapter, an attempt is made to point out 
flie need for a first-world Uberation theology with Christians being challenged 
to work for the removal of world poverty. The issue of first-world guilt for 


third-world poverty is discussed, for example, "Britain's involvement in the 
oppression of the Brazilian poor" (pl58). The point is also made that 
Christian charity and aid will never solve the problems of third-world debt 
because far more money flows into the coffers of first-world nations by way 
of debt repayments made by countries of the third-world than is paid out by 
first-world countries in aid. The challenge is also extended to the Church of 
England for failing to take a stand against deteriorating social conditions in 
Britain. The authors maintain that there is an absence of a thorough social 
analysis of Britain as was undertaken in South Africa with the pubhcation of 
The Kairos Document .^ 

When evaluating this book credit has to be given to the authors for 
looking at the problems of world poverty and stating the need for the 
establishment of a new world economic order. While most people are aware, 
however, that the present state of (economic) affairs is unsatisfactory, finding 
alternatives is not so easy and, while one admires the Christian concern 
expressed by the authors, the solutions provided tend to be unreahstic and 
naive. One is forced, therefore, to question many statements made in this 
chapter. For example: 

i) Superficially one can sympathize with the issue of Britain's 
oppressive role in Brazil's economy but the problem of poverty is far more 
complex than the authors suggest. If Britain is responsible for Brazil's debt 
is she also responsible for the situation in Somalia or Bosnia? No analysis is 
made of WHY the poor are poor. While it is easy to blame the West, That- 
cher, Apartheid, etc. what about corruption, over-population, the "patron" 
syndrome, maladministration, cultural factors, etc.? Although the authors 
want a social analysis to be done they, themselves, do not undertake such an 
analysis and, consequently, their arguments are unconvincing. No evaluation 
is made of Marxist economic pohcy and nothing said about the economic 
miracles achieved by countries in the East or (more on the topic) the economic 
turnabout accomphshed by Mexico, Chile and Argentina. As stated earlier, 
so much depends on HOW hberation should be achieved. 

ii) Although hberation theologians maintain that poverty is not 
glamorized in their writings but, on the contrary, is seen as something evil 
(p47) it is hard to escape the feeling that this is the case with some 
liberationists~as well as with Rowland and Comer. Serious thought must, 
however, be given to this "hermeneutical key" for the illogicahty of this 
stance is obvious. If God is to be found (only?) among the poor, the aim of 


each and every Christian should then be to dispense with all material 
possessions and hve as the poor. For, if there is no poverty, where is God? 
Why hberate the poor if this is where God is to be found? A serious exam- 
ination must be undertaken of the effect this "hermeneutical key" has on the 
methodology employed by hberation theologians. 

iii) The authors will have to make a far stronger case for the 
necessity of establishing a first- wo rid liberation theology. Why is liberation 
theology needed in the first-world when these societies are the ones to which 
most of the third-world aspire, as is evidenced by the influx of third-world 
immigrants to first- world countries? As stated above, it is simpUstic to state 
that the first-world grew rich at the expense of the third-world without pro- 
viding a thorough substantiation as to why this is so. 

iv) A status is conferred on The Kairos Document which not even the 
writers of that document grant to it. Was it really a grassroots creation? 
Rowland and Comer uncritically accept it without even questioning how some 
of the signatories regard the document today or what effect it has had on the 
hberation process in South Africa. 

Despite these criticisms the book is well worth reading as it launches 
the reader into the heart of liberation theology. The authors achieve what they 
set out to do for one is left with the clear impression that a clinical, detached 
study of the Bible will never again be acceptable. Rowland and Comer have 
shown how the concern of hberation theologians with "the poor" has virtually 
ensured that not only is there a "new" way to do theology but there is also 
now a "new" way to do Bibhcal Studies! 

R. S. Sugirtharaja, ed. 

Voices From the Margin: 

Interpreting the Bible in the Third World 

Mary knoll, Orbis 

1991,444 pp. 

This is a book of contextual theology with contributors coming from 
such diverse places as Korea, Israel and Pakistan-proof that liberation 
theology is not confined to Latin America but that it's concerns are universal. 
As the title implies, this book is comprised of a selection of v^ritings from the 
"third-world", a term which refers not only to countries of the third-world but 


any "people who face harassment and exploitation wherever they are" (p3). 
Consequently writers from minority groups (Afro-Americans, Native- 
Americans, women, et al.) found in the first-world are also included. The 
editor states: 

The essays assembled here are representative examples of 
the hermeneutical trek of a people attempting to make sense 
of their faith and their scriptural text in the hght of their 
context... What these essays demonstrate is that all bibhcal 
interpretations are contextual and arise out of Ufe 
experience . . . (p434) 

While some of the writers are well-known Uberation theologians, 
others are not and the editor's aim in giving these third-world writers the 
opportunity to express themselves is twofold. FirsUy, he wants to draw 
attention to those on the periphery of society and secondly he wants to give 
third-world theologians the chance to have their say as this is often denied 
them because they are not taken seriously by western academics (ppl-2). 

This book also deals with the question of hermeneutics~how the 
Bible is to be interpreted in situations of poverty and oppression. According 
to the editor, Euro-Americans do not have all the answers regarding bibhcal 
interpretation yet, for those willing to hsten to the voices of the marginaUsed, 
a wealth of new insights and ideas are waiting. The book is divided into five 

Part one entitled: "Use of the Bible: Methods, Principles and 
Issues" challenges the starting point of western theology. Third-world writers 
explain how the Bible is interpreted in their particular contexts. Much of this 
chapter is similar to the first part of Rowland and Comer and, in fact, 
Clodovis Boff s article relating to "correspondence of terms" and "corre- 
spondence of relationships" forms the opening chapter. 

Part two entiUed, "Re-use of the Bible: Examples of Hermeneutical 
Explorations" continues the theme but more insight is provided into the 
particularity of contextual interpretation. For example, Itumeleng Mosala, the 
South African black theologian, provides a materialist reading of the book of 
Micah (note the discussion on Ferdinand Belo in Rowland and Comer) which 
he sees leading to an authentic black theology of hberation. Mosala has 
another chapter in the first part of the book and when the two are read in 


conjunction, one discovers Mosala's rejection of much of "orthodox" black 
theology and his insistence that: "Black Theology for its part will have to 
discover black working-class and poor peasant culture in order to find for 
itself a materialist hermeneutical starting point" (p59). 

Part three examines one of the major biblical themes appropriated by 
hberation theology, viz. the Exodus.* EntiUed, "The Exodus: One Theme, 
Many Perspectives" the liberation of the Israehtes from Egyptian slavery is 
seen as a model for third- world liberation today. A weak, oppressed people 
who cried out to God for deUverance was hberated from the chains of 
oppression. Two dissenting voices are raised against this model, however. 
The one by a Palestinian Uving in Israel, the other by a Native-American. In 
their present contexts both would see themselves as victims of "biblical 
conquest". The former writes, "...the Bible appears to offer to the Pale- 
stinians slavery rather than freedom, injustice rather than justice, and death 
to their national and political Ufe. . . " (p28 1) while the latter states: "I read the 
Exodus stories with Canaanite eyes" (p289). 

Part four, "One Reahty, Many Texts: Examples of Multi-faith 
Hermeneutics" deals with problems encountered in tiiose countries where 
Christians are a minority. The two major issues are economic poverty and 
religious plurahsm. The approach to hberation in situations where 
Christianity is not the dominant religion requires entering into dialogue with 
other rehgions and discovering where Christian and non-Christian views on 
hberation coincide.' 

Part five, although a very short section, is extremely important. 
Entitled, "People as Exegetes" it is the actual texts of discussions held by 
various Christian conmiunities in the third- world. Here, readers who have 
never had the opportunity of meeting, for example, with members of a 
Christian Base Community are able to gain insight into the workings of these 

A handy resource, this book should be on the shelves of every 
theological library. A word of warning, however! Reading the short excerpts 
provided by the different writers sends one off in haste to read the original 
(and lengthier) works from which the contributions are taken. 


R. Munoz 

The God of Christians 

Mary knoll: Orbis 

1990, 192 pp. 

Translated from the Spanish by Paul Bums. 

This book is a superb introduction to theology done in terms of an 
"option for the poor". A Chilean theologian, Munoz spells out in Section I 
what a "new" way of doing theology means to people living in a context of 
poverty and political oppression when he penetrates to the heart of hberation 
theology by wrestUng with the "new" concept of God—one who sides with the 
poor and oppressed. Munoz' s commitment to the poor and his concern for 
ttieir liberation come out forcibly in his writings for he writes from a situation 
of sohdarity with the third-world poor who are getting poorer and, 
consequently, are close to despair. 

One ray of hope in this depressing scenario, according to Munoz, is 
that more and more poor people are finding hope in the church, in this case 
the Roman Catholic Church. It is in the Christian Base Communities, 
however, rather than the mainline church where this hope is to be found. The 
importance of these communities is stressed for this is where the "collective 
memory" of the people is found. Poor Christians (and sometimes non- 
Christians) study the Bible IN COMMUNITY and learn of a God who is FOR 
the poor and oppressed, and AGAINST the practices of the rich and powerful. 
But this creates a dilemma: Which is the true God? The one revealed in 
Jesus Christ who is with die poor in their daily struggles or the "god" who is 
used by military dictators and the powerful of this world to legitimize their 
oppression and exploitation. One of these is the true God and one an idol. 
Careful study of the Bible IN COMMUNITY reveals a concept of a God who 
sides with die poor and oppressed and who is with diem in their struggle, 
willing the end of poverty and the liberation of die oppressed. Consequendy, 
God is seen as working dirough these Christian Base Communities which, Uke 
the biblical community, are on a journey of faith. God is seen as the liberator 
working through the oppressed themselves for a just and righteous society. 

In Section II, Munoz attempts to relate diis new concept of God to 
the present experience of the poor and the changing circumstances of hfe in 
which people now find themselves. This is a serious attempt to discover how 
Christian feith, seen in terms of a God who sides with the poor, is relevant to 


the lives of poor people, particularly the young. Munoz sees the challenge 
being how to, "bridge these gaps between our image of God, the Bible, and 
our Uves" (p80). 

Section III is an attempt to re-read both Old and New Testaments in 
die Ught of this "new" understanding of the concept of God who exercises an 
"option for the poor." This section is more academic in that it rehes to a 
greater degree on scholarly works than the previous two sections but whether 
this section is necessary for the overall message of the book is debatable. The 
first two sections contain a richness which is lacking in this last section where 
the scholarly contribution is somewhat dated. This should not, however, 
detract from a book which deserves serious smdy. It is indispensable for 
someone wanting to understand what doing theology in a "new" way means. 

R. ShauU 

The Reformation and Liberation Theology 
Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 
1991, 136 pp. 

Writing in his usual lucid style, ShauU challenges first-world 
Christians to find ways not only of transforming their churches but society as 
well. He considers present-day, first-world protestant churches (hereafter 
referred to as the church) in a state of decay. Locked into "privilege and 
power" they have become zones of comfort and security and are, 
consequently, unable to respond to the enormous challenges facing them and, 
therefore, unable to help transform society. (pp22,89). 

The church has lost its way in a secular world and forgotten the rich 
heritage of its "reformation" origins which led to such effective renewal of the 
church at the time. Just as church was "reinvented" in the sixteenth century 
so it must be "reinvented" today, not simply for the sake of the church but in 
order to transform society. How is this to be done? The answer, according 
to Shaull, is to be found in mming back to the tiieological resources provided 
by the Reformation and to discover how the Reformation can provide the 
church with the tools needed to renew it today. In other words, a "New" 
Reformation has to be sought! 

Signs of this "New Reformation are already present in the hberation 
theology emanating from the Christian Base Communities of Latin America. 


According to Shaull, these communities are considered models for church 
renewal, models which will enable the church to be reinvented, thereby 
facihtating its task of helping to transform society (pp68,95). Shaull 
envisages the Reformation heritage being able to provide theological 
guidelines for the Christian Base Conmiunities. The aim of the book, 
therefore, is an attempt: 

" a dialogue with the Reformation from the perspective 
of hberation theology in order to propose an approach and 
a project which I beheve should be taken up not only by 
scholars but also by communities of faith, especially those 
closely identified with die struggle of marginal and 
oppressed people" (pi 8). 

In attempting to show the relevance of the Reformation for the 
"New" Reformation, Shaull draws on the teachings of Luther, Calvin and the 
Anabaptists. The four themes which are relevant to church renewal today are: 
i) Luther's doctrine of justification by faith, ii) Access to the Bible for 
everyone, iii) The church always being open to self-reform as well as being 
able to transform society on account of the "protestant principle" i.e. "the 
desacralization of all human achievements, institutions and structures" (p78). 
iv) The Anabaptist teaching on the separation of church and state. 

In ShauU's view there is a similarity between the conditions which 
brought about the Reformation and tfiose existing today in the third-world 
which have led to the emergence of hberation theology. Both eras are 
characterized by the insecurity of life and a dominating and oppressive 
church. The Reformation was thus a hberating experience. Although Shaull 
admits that it was not a pohtical but a spiritual liberation, the Reformation, 
nevertheless, became a movement for social transformation because the 
reformers relativised all secular authority on the basis of "the protestant 

Shaull outlines the contribution made by the Anabaptists to the 
Reformation and its relevance for church renewal today. For the Anabaptists 
a study of the Bible IN COMMUNITY (predominandy a poor one) lead to 
radical discipleship. The same holds true for the Christian Base Communities 
and, consequenUy, radical discipleship must characterise any attempt at 
church renewal today. The Scriptures must be re-read by the church of the 


rich without "ideological blinkers" (p77) and these churches must learn how 
to listen to the Word IN COMMUNITY and not impose a first-world in- 
terpretation on the Bible~if they are to be renewed. 

Christians in the first-world are, therefore, challenged to become 
involved in the struggle for justice (pi 00). The church has to hold fast to the 
vision of a transformed society (pi 03) and operate in a similar way to the 
Christian Base Communities of Latin America (p 101) by siding with the poor 
and oppressed and working for justice and an egahtarian society. The book 
is more of a challenge to Christians to work out ways of transforming society 
than a blueprint as to how this should be done. ShauU stresses the need for 
a balance between social commitment and spirituahty for only in this way can 
the church be reinvented! 

Although Shaull appears to uncritically accept much of hberation 
theology, his challenge is well taken and the book deserves careful reading. 
Although some knowledge of liberation theology would be required for a 
proper understanding of the book, it is written in a way that any lay person 
could follow. 

J. and S. Ronsvalle • 

The Poor Have Faces: 

Loving Your Neighbour in the 21st Cenmrv 

Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 

1993, 156 pp. 

This book, too, is a challenge to first- world Christians, particularly 
those domiciled in the USA. While both "spiritual" good news and "social" 
good news are envisaged, the book is concerned mainly with the latter for the 
Ronsvalles claim to have found a way to solve the problem of world poverty. 
Their theory is that on account of the incredible amount of technology 
available as well as the excessive wealth of a great number of Christians in 
first-world countries, it should be a matter of ease to solve the problem of 
poverty in die third- world if Christians would increase their giving, however 

The authors suggest that the USA be divided into regions with each 
region being responsible for a different segment of the third-world. This 
entails "yoking"-first- and third- worlds being "yoked" together. First-world 


Christians would, consequently, be given a greater sense of involvement with 
one particular area of the third-world rather than being "overwhelmed" by the 
incomprehensiveness of world poverty. Involvement in one small area would 
also prevent the duplication of resources which is often the case at present. 

The authors, who by choice live amongst the poor, stress the fact that 
it is not only money which is necessary but the idea of partnership is 
important. "Yoking" entails entering into a "co-operative partnership" with 
the underprivileged whether they be Brazilians, Chinese or poorer members 
of one's own society. Thus "the poor" are not seen as statistics but become 
people who "have faces". 

Partnership, however, involves servanthood. Consequently, the 
authors are aware of the danger of imposing ideas on the poor and the need 
for indigenous people themselves to suggest where help can be given. So, for 
example, the Chinese church needs to be a Chinese phenomenon. Stress must 
be placed on the need for long-term development and a guarding at all times 
against dependency and the patron mentahty (p51). 

Despite the authors being aware of this need for long-term solutions, 
however, the message of the book seems to be "charity" for the book 
oversimplifies the problem of poverty. Too much time is spent on describing 
conditions and the way of life in China and no in-depth social analysis made 
of the reasons for world poverty and long-term solutions to the problem. 
Questions such as: Why is America a rich country? Why is there poverty in 
the world? Why do people not want to improve their quahty of Ufe? Why is 
there a "lack of pohtical will" to remove poverty (the authors are aware of 
this)? Most importandy: What guarantees can be given that conditions will 
continue to improve once first-world expertise and cash are no longer 
available? It is essential diat answers to these questions be carefully thought 
through for it is not enough to accept that indigenous people will know how 
to solve their own problems. 

Liberation theology provides a much greater awareness of third- 
world problems and seeks to get people to take responsibihty for their own 
lives and in so doing to change the structures on which an unjust society is 
built. While it may be necessary to have charity as a short-term solution, 
liberation theology seeks to remove those structures which makes charity 
necessary in the first place. 

However admirable the intention of the authors, the book cannot 
reahstically be seen as an attempt to solve the problems of third-world 


poverty. A scheme of this kind may well strengthen the discipleship of 
American Christians but it is exactly the kind of "Christian charity" attacked 
by Rowland and Comer—and with good reason! If individual Christians wish 
to contribute effectively to the long-term solutions of the problem of poverty 
and truly wish to "love their neighbours" the answers provided by the 
Ronsvalles will not be much help. 

D. Cohn-Sherbok, ed. 

World Religions and Human Liberation 

Mary knoll: Orbis 

1992, 143 pp. 

This book examines the extent to which non-Christian religions have 
estabhshed a "liberation theology". According to the editor, Cohn-Sherbok, 
"...Uberation theology has evoked httie formal response from the world 

After an outline of hberation theology and the challenge it poses to 
the world rehgions written by Deane Ferme, the book has chapters on 
Judaism (Cohn-Sherbok), Islam (Muhammed Mashuq ibn Ally), Hinduism 
(Sebastian Painadath), Buddhism (Sulak Sivaraksa), African Traditional Re- 
ligion and African Theology (Josiah U. Young III). Jon Sobrino contributes 
a chapter on "Eastern Rehgions and Liberation" with the final chapter by 
William Burrows, entitled "Commensurabihty and Ambiguity." Owing to 
constraints of space, only the chapters by Ferme, Cohn-Sherbok and 
Painadath will be discussed. 

Dean Ferme, in the chapter entitled "Third- World Liberation 
Theology", is concerned to show that hberation theology is found throughout 
the third-world and is not simply a Latin-American phenomenon. It is also 
not a "mononhthic movement" but contains many different strands all, 
nevertheless, going under the name of hberation theology. 

Ferme provides an overview of hberation theology under the 
following headings: 1) A preferential option for the poor. 2) Basic Christian 
(human) Communities. 3) The challenge of indigenization. 4) A new 
methodology. 5) Sin and evil as both personal and systemic. 6) God as hber- 
ator. 7) Christ as hberator of the human condition. 8) Justice and 


In explaining each of these points, Fenne draws from a wide range 
of hberation theologians from Asia, Africa, and, of course, Latin America. 
Feminist theology is entirely ignored, however. 

Ferme sees hberation theology as a challenge, not only to 
Christianity, but to other rehgions as well. "Are these religions willing to 
show a 'a preferential option for the poor'?" he asks (pl9). Anotiier question 
posed by Ferme (but not answered) is one that, nevertheless, deserves serious 
attention: "Can the struggle for justice and belief in God come to mean one 
and the same diing?" (pi 9). 

Cohn-Sherbok, in the chapter entitied "Judaism and Liberation 
Theology" sees scope for co-operation between the two. Although Jews 
cannot accept either the messianic claims of Jesus or the basic Christian belief 
that Jesus was God incarnate, nevertheless, the issue here is Jewish-Christian 
praxis rather than the usual Jewish-Christian dialogue. Although Cohn- 
Sherbok sees liberation theologians as orthodox Christian believers, 
nevertheless, it is hberation' s theology's emphasis on "orthopraxis" rather 
than "orthodoxy" which opens the way for liberation theology and Judaism to 
co-operate. He says: 

Deeds of goodness rather than dogma take precedence; in 
this, Jews and Christian hberation theologians are united in 
their quest for the total elimination of human wickedness 

Cohn-Sherbok forwards three reasons why "orthopraxis" can be 
accepted by Jews. 

1) Liberation theology's rejection of abstract theorising about Christ 
and its insistence that the "historical Jesus should be the starting point for 
Christological reflection" (p24). Leaving aside the Christ of faith and seeing 
Jesus in the context of his Jewish background allows Jews to see the closeness 
of Jesus ' preaching to the teaching of the Old Testament and to see Jesus 
standing in die prophetic tradition. 

2) Jews can also relate to liberation theology's concept of the 
Kingdom of God where the Kingdom is not "spirituahsed" into an ideal 
hereafter but where human effort (most notably the seeking for justice) 
contributes to the Kingdom. Judaism can relate to this for "...Jews have 
steadfastly adhered to the behef that God is a supreme ruler who calls people 


to join him in bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth" (p27). 

3) The Exodus. For hberation theologians, the Exodus is not just an 
event in the life of Israel but the "hberation" paradigm par excellence. Cohn- 
Sherbok points out the on-going importance of the Passover for Judaism 
emphasising how, in modem Judaism, the Passover festival, for example, is 
spoken about in terms of "liberty, redemption, and freedom" (p31). 

The areas where Jewish-Christian orthopraxis can be implemented 
are hsted by Cohn-Sherbok as the following: i) The construction of a more 
egahtarian society, ii) The "poor" being the starting point for theological 
reflection. The poor are those of the third-world and the enclaves of poverty 
(mostly inner-city) found in the first- world, iii) Unemployment, iv) The 
plight of women, v) Ecology. 

On account of the progress made elsewhere in Jewish-Christian 
dialogue, this chapter is probably the most important one in the book for the 
majority of Christians but it does have some drawbacks. For example, Cohn- 
Sherbok doesn't make it clear whether Judaism will ever estabhsh its own 
brand of liberation theology; or whether Judaism will simply continue to co- 
operate with Christian aims and projects. Then, too, Cohn-Sherbok makes 
two points which are highly contentious: 1) He considers the aim of hberation 
theology as: "...the adoption of socialist principles and pohcies" (p33). 
Admittedly, hberation theology is anti-capitalistic but one has to tread warily 
before tying it to either socialist (or Marxist) programmes, especially when 
these terms are not defined. Ferme, already refuted this notion by stating: 
"...But the condemnation of the excesses of capitalism does not put hberation 
theologians necessarily on the sociahst bandwagon" (pll). 2) Similarly, 
Cohn-Sherbok hints at liberation theologians desiring violent revolution to 
change society. This, too, is answered by Ferme when he states, "...this 
writer knows of no liberation theologians who at the present time advocate 
physical violence" (pl3). 

Hinduism is often conceived as a religion with a one-sided 
concentration on individual salvation. In the chapter entitled, "Mukti, the 
Hindu notion of hberation", Painadath, the writer, agrees with this view to a 
certain extent but claims that during the last two hundred years the latent 
social teachings contained in the Hindu scriptures have been uncovered and 
presenfly, "Hindu leaders have been paying special attention to revitahsing the 
social dimension of the process of liberation" (p75). 

Painadadi points out that Mukti, defined as, "both the experience of 


partial liberation on this earth and the state of ultimate liberation in the Divine 
Ufe" (p64), is not simply political liberation but is hberation which is total and 
holistic (p74). As such Mukti comprises three elements: i) Jnana - meditation 
which leads to a hohstic perception of reahty. ii) Bhakti - loving surrender 
to the divine, iii) Karma - transformative action in the world. (pp66-68) 

These elements of classic Indian spirituahty are brought together in 
the Gita under the concept of "dharma" which the writer links with the 
process of hberation. Dharma ("the state of being held together") has 
personal and social dimensions. At individual level it means, "bodily healtii, 
psychic balance, and spiritual reahsation", while at societal level it means, 
"justice, love, and harmony" (p70). Dharma, then, "is that which makes for 
social coherence" (p71). Personal hberation and social hberation are, 
therefore, inextricably linked for only a hberated individual can help to 
liberate society and, conversely, only as a society is liberated will individuals 
find true hberation. 

While historically Hinduism may have been a rehgion which 
concentrated solely on individual salvation, in an age where the welfare of 
people is assuming greater importance, Hinduism has, the author claims, the 
resources to help milhons of people achieve genuine liberation. 

B. Bujo 

African Theology in its Social Context 

Mary knoll: Orbis 

1992, 143 pp. 

Trans, from the German by John O' Donahue 

This is one of the best books to emerge on African Theology in 
recent years. A professor of philosophy at Friebourg and a Roman Cathohc 
priest, Bujo is a gifted academic who is in the unique position of being 
thoroughly familiar with both European and African cultures. 

One of the most positive aspects of this book is that Bujo does not 
"romanticise" the present situation in Africa. He is critical of the Roman 
Catholic Church (including some of its missionaries) as well as corrupt 
African pohticians. But Bujo is equally willing to praise. Priests who side 
with the poor and oppressed, missionaries who are not patronising in their 
attitude, and African politicians who promote the welfare of Africa above 


their own interests are commended. 

According to Bujo, most things "African", including culture and 
traditional religion have generally been despised (pp9, 49). Africans have had 
to change cultures in order to be accepted as Christians (pU) while in colonial 
times European churches combined with the state to wreck African society 
(p43). African rehgion was attacked, especially the aspects of ancestor ven- 
eration and polygamy (p41) and potential Christian converts were required to 
turn their backs on their society (p45). Consequently, Christianity in Africa 
remains an "imported" rehgion which has never been fiilly integrated into 
African behef systems. It is clear from what Bujo says that Christianity has 
not taken root in Africa despite a