The Eschatological Economy: Time and the Hosplitality of God

In The Eschatological Economy, Douglas Knight avoids the defensiveness of much recent theology and presents the Christian faith as a bold challenge to modernity. He takes Kant and Hegel to task for down-playing the significance of the particular, and urges the Church to proclaim God’s eschatological promises to a world increasingly devoid of hope.

Knight begins by discussing the nature of personhood, making extensive use of John Zizioulas’ work on the subject. Then, in the second chapter, he addresses the issue of how a holy community can come into being by a growth in competence that arises out of relationship with God. In the third chapter, he examines the doctrine of the Trinity, arguing that this doctrine is vital for keeping Christians in relationship with Jews, and for pointing to the central role of worship. Chapter four then makes the case for a positive understanding of our creature-hood and for the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

With this groundwork in place, the fifth and sixth chapters then question the view that the West was once religious but is now secular. He says, ‘It is not that the world is becoming secular, but that the world is always secular by definition.’ (p. xx) He then challenges the notion that secularization is about showing there is only one (natural) world whilst religious people claim there are two (the natural and the supernatural). Secularization assumes two worlds: those of nature and those of human action; Christianity, on the other hand sees one world, embracing the natural and supernatural, and this is all God’s creation.

What is especially striking about this book is the extent to which Knight makes his points with reference to Israel as God’s elect people. Personhood is to be understood from the relationship of the Hebrew people to one another under their gracious God. Their holiness comes from their being with this God and from his provision of sacrifices for their sin. And their self-understanding of being creatures of a God who made the heavens and the earth forbids a separation of the sacred from the secular. Christians therefore need to pay serious attention to the Old Testament if they are to faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Knight summarises his own work by identifying three themes: that Christian theology is not only about ideas, but about life; that it is about establishing community; and that it provides a means of saying who people are in a way that is lacking in secular society (pp. xxf). If those are Knight’s goals, this book is a great success. Theology is never allowed to lose its role as a guide to action. It is also seen as a communal endeavour, rather than something left to certain scholars. And it is not afraid of the secular ‘gods’, who seem so powerful and yet lack the ability to answer even the basic question: Who am I?

This book is a challenging read. It is bursting with ideas, many of them fresh or newly stated, and assumes graduate level knowledge of theology; it is, after all, based on a PhD thesis. But the effort is rewarded. Not only does it provide an eloquent response to modernism, it also engages postmodernism, offering many new replies to the challenges they pose, which will be helpful to pastors and apologists as well as to theologians.

Justyn Terry Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA Anglican Theological Review

You can find out more about The Eschatological Economy at or at or at Eerdmans

Deep Church seminars

14th November – Rev Dr Graham Tomlin, St Paul’s Theological Centre

27th February – Rev Dr Steven Croft, Fresh Expressions

21st May – Rev Dr Steve Griffiths, Ridley Hall’s Director of Youth Work

The Church poses a challenge – Williams

The presence of the Church, not as a clamorous interest group but as a community confident of its rootedness in something beyond the merely political, expresses a vision of human dignity and mutual human obligation which, because of its indifference to popular success or official legitimation, poses to every other community a special sort of challenge. ‘Civil society’ is the recognized shorthand description for all those varieties of human association that rest on willing co-operation for the sake of social goods that belong to the whole group, not just to any individual or faction, and which are not created or wholly controlled by state authority. As such, their very existence presupposes persons who are able to take responsibility for themselves and to trust one another in this enterprise. The presence of the Christian community puts to civil society the question of where we look for the foundation of such confidence about responsibility and trustworthiness: does this set of assumptions about humanity rest on a fragile human agreement, on the decision of human beings to behave as if they were responsible, or on something deeper and less contingent, something to which any and every human society is finally answerable?

Archbishop Rowan Williams Faith Communities in a Civil Society

Lambeth research degree

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has announced a new higher degree programme as an expansion of the Archbishop’s Examination in Theology. Applications for PhD and MPhil degrees in Theology will be accepted from early 2008 with the first awards of the new MPhil degrees anticipated in 2012 and Doctorates shortly afterwards. Candidates will be examined to university standards in order to qualify.

Dr Williams said that improving access to higher degree education was a crucial step for the development of the Church’s theological resources:

‘We have never had a greater need or a greater chance to extend the opportunity of higher degree theological education to those who might benefit from it. I’m confident that this scheme can go some way to overcome the barriers of cost, competition and access which stop good candidates being able to pursue this kind of detailed study. The Church as a whole has always needed and encouraged the study of theology at its deepest level and this scheme seeks to extend that possibility to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.’

Anglican Communion News Service

Colin Gunton and the doctrine of God

The sanctified disciplines of the Church represent a far more sophisticated hermeneutics than is available to our secular colleagues. The Church is the communion sanctified by the Spirit for the world, and the saints and teachers are sanctified for the church, and so dedicated to the task of keeping the church distinct from the world – for the world’s sake. The Church must hear its own sanctified teachers, and it must teach what it receives from them. The Church is the mediation, spiritually discerned and received, that the Spirit provides by which we can be brought to Christ. The teaching of Church, its saints and teachers, must be taught for its own sake. It must also be offered to the public arena, and examined and tested there. On occasion the Church can learn some lesson from the world in the gospel that it had neglected. The church needs the university to test its teaching, and the university needs the huge ambition of the Christian doctrine of man in order to raise the ambition of the humanities.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Colin Gunton and the doctrine of God

Mellitus again

We are facing great dangers as a society. An excessive emphasis on the rights of individuals not only dissolves those institutions in which we learn and grow as persons but also paradoxically it entails a huge extension of state surveillance and regulation. Regulation is increasingly necessary as social bonds erode, to order the traffic and prevent collisions among autonomous individuals so sensitive about their rights that they have the tendency to crash into one another like so many billiard balls. The family unit, the oikos, which was once fundamental to the economy, [the two words have a common root] is now largely marginal. We lack any common language of moral decision making and as a result it is difficult to build the stable frameworks in which people can grow and flourish and communicate truth to the next generation.

At such a time, the church must be forever building the city of the living God. This entails initiating individuals into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Mellitus belonged to the community of St Benedict who established new forms of community in the ruins of the antique pagan world. We have a similar task in the neo pagan world.

The future lies with communities, which have re-discovered the structures and the faithfulness, which make for human flourishing. Some of them will emerge from existing parishes; some will be organised in networks. All need to be serious about communicating with one another through the common celebration of the liturgy, the public work which binds us together as a community, as members of Christ and through him participants in the life of the Holy Trinity. It is the liturgy in which Word and Spirit are present, which builds us into a church fit to be a sign of the Kingdom.

The Bishop of London on the feast of St Mellitus, first bishop of London


Philosophy and Liturgy: Ritual, Practice, and Embodied Wisdom

May 20-22, 2008 at Calvin College

This conference brings together leading scholars in philosophy and theology to investigate key themes in worship with the tools of philosophy, with the ultimate goal of informing Christian practice. There is also the reciprocal goal of letting Christian liturgical practice become a fund for philosophical reflection on classic questions and themes.

Christians in Arabia

The Christians present in the United Arab Emirates represent about 35 percent of the population, for a total of more than a million faithful, a majority of them Catholic.

They are all immigrant workers, and many of them, because they live on the outskirts and don’t have easy transportation access to the city, cannot regularly attend the official places of worship. This is the situation of the thousands of Indians who work on the construction sites in Dubai and are housed in the largest village-dormitory in Asia. According to unofficial estimates, this houses a population of about thirty thousand workers. Or there are the immigrants who work in the oil industry, who are cut off in isolated desert villages.

Another case is that of the Filipina housemaids who, because they don’t have enough free time or enough money for transportation, remain bound to the places where they work. In consequence, small prayer groups – which are organized according to language and place of origin and meet in private settings like apartments, dormitories, and storage sheds – have become a very important and widespread form of religious expression for the Catholic communities. These are necessary moments of encounter, but they are also risky because of the rules imposed by the local authorities, who grant freedom of worship only in officially recognized places like the territory’s parishes. In this context, the Charismatic groups from India or the Philippines take on an important role in spearheading initiatives in support of immigrants living in the most difficult conditions. These are often not limited to religious initiatives, but also include services of practical assistance, as in the case of the Legion of Mary mentioned above.

reprinted by Sandro Magister

Covenant communion

Another Anglican forum has just launched

We are a gathering of evangelical and catholic Christians, seeking to renew the center of the Christian tradition in North America and particularly within Anglicanism, acting as a point of balance within the diversity that is Anglicanism in North America. We embrace a historic orthodoxy that is generous in spirit, confident in the contribution evangelical-catholics can make to Anglicanism, and welcoming of the diversity of traditions within North American Christianity.

Covenant Communion