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Review of Crucible, Theology and Studies in Christian Ethics

Written 05 August 2011

Studies in Christian Ethics
Volume 24 Number 1 London: SAGE February 2011

The subtitle to this edition is “Theological Reflections on Climate Change”, and all six articles are focused on offering Christian and theological perspectives to aid ongoing action and discussion. Celia Deane-Drummond urges the adoption of collective conscience or consciousness to enable human flourishing. Timothy Gorringe argues for the building of arks, yet with the widest possible parameters, as appropriate response to threatened global catastrophe; by ark he means networks of communities energised practically, ethically and spiritually after the model of Noah’s ark in Genesis 7-8. Michael Northcott critiques the current “liberal” control over international commitments to tackle global warming and pleads for the use of the communion of saints as the model for cohesive and corporate action, which refuses to perpetuate the damaging disparities between rich and poor. Peter Scott suggests that the term “theological materialism” will help Christians to set matter in proper perspective as gift of God rather than either inferior to spirit or the sum of all that is. Cathriona Russell sets justice, solidarity and subsidiarity at the heart of debates about how to address the planet’s ecological challenges, and she sees in these three qualities the possibility of effective action which is denied in both of the alternative approaches (optimism and pessimism). Byron Smith explores in particular the reality of human anxiety and, using von Balthasar’s paper on The Christian and Anxiety (1952), finds the solution to anxiety in Christ’s facing it down in Gerthsemane and on the cross; the resurrection does not cancel out anxiety or death but makes it possible for us to address climate change, as other difficulties, with a measure of hope and trust rather than fear or apathy.


Crucible – April to June 2011 Norwich: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd 2011

This edition is dedicated the work of issues about Prison Chaplaincy and Justice in criminal contexts. The first two articles address grief and bereavement, focussing on how chaplains help staff after a self-inflicted death in the prison and how they help prisoners to cope with the death of loved ones during their sentence. The third article considers the value of faith communities in helping prisoners desist further criminal activity on leaving prison. The fourth, by a former Governor of Grendon (a Therapeutic prison), sets out the Christian but also the secular case for restorative justice to replace the current default of retributive justice. All four pieces are well written and explore key issues for those who have contact with or concerns about prison life and how the churches may enable staff and inmates look towards enabling prisoners to create and sustain worthwhile lives both in prison and after release.





Theology
Volume CXIV No 2 March/April 2011 London: SPCK

There is an evocative editorial on music and theology, with particular reference to Bach’s St Matthew Passion, followed by four very readable articles on a variety of issues. Richard Briggs, of Cranmer Hall, urges that Scriptural studies need to broadly focused, so that historical perspectives, while retained, do not become the sole focus of enquiry. Kenneth Stevenson challenges the use of management-speak in the Episcopacy in the light of insights from four Early Church Fathers. John Kennedy compares the attitudes towards violence of two late medieval philosophers: Muhammad ibn Khaldun and Nicolo Macchiavelli. John Williams presses for the argument for a more nuanced engagement with the range of cultural changes in process than is often the case in the churches’ responses to society’s alleged adoption of secularisation.


Studies in Christian Ethics
Volume 24 Number 2 London: SAGE May 2011

The seven main articles in this edition are dedicated to the exploration of forgiveness in the public domain and after trauma or atrocity. This is timely, given occasional calls for public expressions of repentance for events in the past, notably the Crusades of 1000 years ago and more recently acts of child abuse perpetrated by church office holders. The articles range over a variety of contexts, but Apartheid South Africa, a divided Ireland and the aftermaths of Nazi and Stasi-run Germany are prominent illustrations of both the painfully difficult process of learning from the past and the complexities in using Judeo-Christian and Muslim concepts of forgiveness. They have affected my own thinking drastically, in challenging the ease with which I have encouraged congregations and students to register that forgiveness precedes repentance. I haven’t quite let go of that fundamental belief, but the articles have shown me that unless there is a measure of repentance, in terms of a change of direction, by perpetrators of offences any public proclamation is likely to be perceived to be either shallow or even offensive. Most of the articles suggest that the term forgiveness is probably inappropriate in the public domain, particularly within a couple of generations of the atrocities being referred to, because suspicions of personal or political gain abound and are likely to impede the trust which is essential to re-founding human relationships. Better, most of the writers urge, is to think in terms of grace, compassion, reconciliation, which do not involve either the forgiver or the forgiven in a false pact but hold before both the shame of the event and the possibility of accommodation to a new world order. This collection of articles will be essential reading for those who find addressing either personal or global abuse distressing or difficult. The articles are accessible, rooted in human experience and struggle, and they exploit well the possibilities evoked by narratives of human pain, courage and reflection. READ THEM!


Reviewed By Richard Bryant

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