Blowers, “Maximus the Confessor”

9780199673957Here is a new paperback from Oxford about a Christian saint and theologian famous for resisting the power of the state: Maximus the Confessor: Jesus Christ and the Transfiguration of the World, by church historian Paul M. Blowers (Emmanuel Christian Seminary). Maximus, who began his career as a high imperial official, was important during the Monothelite Controversy of the seventh century. The details of that abstruse theological and political debate are not important, at least to most Christians today, but Monotheletism was an imperial attempt to reconcile Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian Christians. Like all such attempts, it failed, largely because of intransigence on both sides. Maximus strongly adhered to the pro-Chalcedonian position and counseled against compromise, which landed him in trouble with the emperor, who had him tortured and exiled for heresy. Shortly after his death, though, Maximus’s position prevailed within the empire, and he was named a saint. Personally, I regard Maximus’s inflexibility, and those of his counterparts on the other side, with some regret. The theological differences between Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian Christians are narrow and should not be so difficult to resolve; that we have not been able to do so across centuries is a continuing scandal. But one has to admire Maximus’s integrity in resisting the state, even at the cost of harrowing physical pain. The authorities cut out his tongue and amputated his writing hand so that he could no longer spread his views. The description of the book from the publisher’s website follows:

This study contextualizes the achievement of a strategically crucial figure in Byzantium’s turbulent seventh century, the monk and theologian Maximus the Confessor (580-662). Building on newer biographical research and a growing international body of scholarship, as well as on fresh examination of his diverse literary corpus, Paul Blowers develops a profile integrating the two principal initiatives of Maximus’s career: first, his reinterpretation of the christocentric economy of creation and salvation as a framework for expounding the spiritual and ascetical life of monastic and non-monastic Christians; and second, his intensifying public involvement in the last phase of the ancient christological debates, the monothelete controversy, wherein Maximus helped lead an East-West coalition against Byzantine imperial attempts doctrinally to limit Jesus Christ to a single (divine) activity and will devoid of properly human volition. Blowers identifies what he terms Maximus’s “cosmo-politeian” worldview, a contemplative and ascetical vision of the participation of all created beings in the novel politeia, or reordered existence, inaugurated by Christ’s “new theandric energy”. Maximus ultimately insinuated his teaching on the christoformity and cruciformity of the human vocation with his rigorous explication of the precise constitution of Christ’s own composite person. In outlining this cosmo-politeian theory, Blowers additionally sets forth a “theo-dramatic” reading of Maximus, inspired by Hans Urs von Balthasar, which depicts the motion of creation and history according to the christocentric “plot” or interplay of divine and creaturely freedoms. Blowers also amplifies how Maximus’s cumulative achievement challenged imperial ideology in the seventh century—the repercussions of which cost him his life-and how it generated multiple recontextualizations in the later history of theology.

Tuininga, “Calvin’s Political Theology”

9781107171435Christian political theology is always characterized by a dualism between church and state–a dualism which, of course, is found in the Gospels themselves. In late antiquity, Pope Gelasius famously wrote of “two powers,” church and state (somehow, the reference is always to “two swords,” though Gelasius didn’t actually use that phrase); much later, the classical Reformers spoke of “two kingdoms.” A new book from Cambridge, Calvin’s Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church: Christ’s Two Kingdoms, explores the Calvinist version of the two-kingdoms doctrine which, obviously, had a huge influence in colonial New England and, through colonial New England, America itself. The author is Matthew J. Tuininga of Calvin Theological Seminary. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

In Calvin’s Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church, Matthew J. Tuininga explores a little appreciated dimension of John Calvin’s political thought, his two kingdoms theology, as a model for constructive Christian participation in liberal society. Widely misunderstood as a proto-political culture warrior, due in part to his often misinterpreted role in controversies over predestination and the heretic Servetus, Calvin articulated a thoughtful approach to public life rooted in his understanding of the gospel and its teaching concerning the kingdom of God. He staked his ministry in Geneva on his commitment to keeping the church distinct from the state, abandoning simplistic approaches that placed one above the other, while rejecting the temptations of sectarianism or separatism. This revealing analysis of Calvin’s vision offers timely guidance for Christians seeking a mode of faithful, respectful public engagement in democratic, pluralistic communities today.

O’Malley, “Vatican I”

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As an Orthodox Christian who directs a law and religion center at a Catholic University, I often feel like I am on the inside, looking in. That is certainly how I have felt over the past few weeks, as Catholic commentators have argued emotionally over a recent First Things piece defending Pope Pius IX’s actions in the nineteenth-century Edgardo Mortara case, in the which the Papal States seized and raised a Jewish boy who had been baptized without his parents’ knowledge, on the ground that baptism had rendered the child a Catholic and the Church had an obligation to give him a Catholic upbringing.

The First Things piece has sparked a debate on the proper relationship of church and state in Catholicism. To my mind, that debate is quite beside the point. The Mortara case has little to do with a proper theory of church-state relations. One could be an integralist (there’s a word I didn’t know until a few weeks ago) and argue for a close connection between church and state, even for a subordination of state to church, and still not endorse what happened in the Mortara case. Put differently, one need not be an Americanist (another word I didn’t know until fairly recently) to see the seizure of the child and Pius’s refusal to return him to his parents–“Non Possumus”–as an abuse. It’s not the relationship of church and state in nineteenth-century Bologna that offends; it’s the use of a surreptitious baptism to justify removing a child from his family. It’s bewildering that someone would revive the controversy and seek to defend that action today.

I say all this as preface to a forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, by Georgetown Professor John W. O’Malley. The book addresses the context of the council, which Pius himself summoned and which made maximal claims about papal authority, precisely as the pope’s temporal authority was coming to an end. Here’s a description of the book from the publisher’s website:

The enduring influence of the Catholic Church has many sources—its spiritual and intellectual appeal, missionary achievements, wealth, diplomatic effectiveness, and stable hierarchy. But in the first half of the nineteenth century, the foundations upon which the church had rested for centuries were shaken. In the eyes of many thoughtful people, liberalism in the guise of liberty, equality, and fraternity was the quintessence of the evils that shook those foundations. At the Vatican Council of 1869–1870, the church made a dramatic effort to set things right by defining the doctrine of papal infallibility.

In Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, John W. O’Malley draws us into the bitter controversies over papal infallibility that at one point seemed destined to rend the church in two. Archbishop Henry Manning was the principal driving force for the definition, and Lord Acton was his brilliant counterpart on the other side. But they shrink in significance alongside Pope Pius IX, whose zeal for the definition was so notable that it raised questions about the very legitimacy of the council. Entering the fray were politicians such as Gladstone and Bismarck. The growing tension in the council played out within the larger drama of the seizure of the Papal States by Italian forces and its seemingly inevitable consequence, the conquest of Rome itself.

Largely as a result of the council and its aftermath, the Catholic Church became more pope-centered than ever before. In the terminology of the period, it became ultramontane.

Johnson et al., “Ekklesia”

9780226545585In popular discourse, the American Framers had one of two, mutually-exclusive positions on church-state relations: Either the Framers were Deists who believed that church and state must be completely separate, or the Framers were proto-Evangelicals who thought of America as a Christian nation. In fact, the record is murkier. From the beginning, the two views of church-state relations have existed together in a productive tension, with neither side completely dominating the other. Many of our bitter fights today, in fact, arise because each side is trying to eliminate the other, rather than adjusting and figuring out a way to get along. At least that’s how it seems to me.

A new anthropological study from the University of Chicago Press, Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State, discusses the tensions surrounding church and state in the New World, addressing not only the United States but Latin America and Canada as well. The authors are Paul Christopher Johnson, Pamela E. Klassen, and Winnifred Sullivan. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State offers a New World rejoinder to the largely Europe-centered academic discourse on church and state. In contrast to what is often assumed, in the Americas the relationship between church and state has not been one of freedom or separation but one of unstable and adaptable collusion. Ekklesia sees in the settler states of North and South America alternative patterns of conjoined religious and political power, patterns resulting from the undertow of other gods, other peoples, and other claims to sovereignty. These local challenges have led to a continuously contested attempt to realize a church-minded state, a state-minded church, and the systems that develop in their concert. The shifting borders of their separation and the episodic conjoining of church and state took new forms in both theory and practice.

The first of a closely linked trio of essays is by Paul Johnson, and offers a new interpretation of the Brazilian community gathered at Canudos and its massacre in 1896–97, carried out as a joint church-state mission and spectacle. In the second essay, Pamela Klassen argues that the colonial church-state relationship of Canada came into being through local and national practices that emerged as Indigenous nations responded to and resisted becoming “possessions” of colonial British America. Finally, Winnifred Sullivan’s essay begins with reflection on the increased effort within the United States to ban Bibles and scriptural references from death penalty courtrooms and jury rooms; she follows with a consideration of the political theological pressure thereby placed on the jury that decides between life and death. Through these three inquiries, Ekklesia takes up the familiar topos of “church and state” in order to render it strange.

Jones, “The Templars”

9780525428305Why waste your time reading tripe like The DaVinci Code when real history is so much more interesting? Here, from Penguin Random House, is a new history of the Knights Templar, The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors, by historian Dan Jones. The Templars were a Catholic lay order that fought in the Crusades and, incidentally, established an early global financial network. Eventually they ran afoul of the French monarchy, which pressured the papacy to dissolve them–see, there’s even a church-state angle. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

An instant international bestseller, this major new history of the knights Templar by the bestselling author of The Plantagenets is “another triumphant tale from a historian who writes as addictively as any page-turning novelist.” –The Guardian

Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights of Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since. But who were they really and what actually happened?

In this groundbreaking narrative history, the bestselling author of The Plantagenets tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and depravity have so often been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. They were experts at channeling money across borders. They established the medieval world’s first global bank and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests.

Then in 1307 the Templars fell foul of a vindictive King of France, whose lawyers built a meticulous case against them. On Friday October 13, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and publicly humiliated. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.

 

“Into All the World” (Nobbs & Harding, eds.)

Most legal scholarship on church-and-state focuses on the here and now. Occasionally, legal scholars focus on the history of church-state relations, but rarely further back than the post-Reformation settlement in the West. (Harold Berman was a notable exception). But the relationship between the Christian Church and the state goes back millennia. Here is a new book from Eerdmans which, among other topics, addresses the relationship between Christians and the Roman Empire in the apostolic and sub-apostolic eras, Into All the World: Emergent Christianity in Its Jewish and Greco-Roman Context, edited by Australian scholars Alanna Nobbs (Macquarie University) and Mark Harding (Australian College of Theology). The description from the publisher’s website follows:

9780802875150.jpgInto All the World—the third volume from editors Mark Harding and Alanna Nobbs on the content and social setting of the New Testament—brings together a team of eminent Australian scholars in ancient history, New Testament, and the early church to take the story of Christianity into the Jewish and Greco- Roman world of the first century.

In thirteen chapters, the contributors discuss all the post- Pauline New Testament writings, devoting attention to both their content and their context. They examine the impact of the growth of the church on both Jews and Gentiles, exploring issues such as the diaspora, minorities, the Book of Acts, and the Fourth Gospel. The book then proceeds to a discussion of the impact of Christianity on the Roman state, including consideration of the book of Revelation and the imperial cult. A final chapter investigates how the church was perceived by Clement of Rome at the end of the first century.

“Great Christian Jurists in English History” (Helmholz & Hill, eds.)

In May, the Cambridge University Press will release “Great Christian Jurists in English History,” edited by Mark Hill (FTB Chambers) and R. H. Helmholz (University of Chicago).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Great Christian Jurists series comprises a library of national volumes of detailed biographies of leading jurists, judges and practitioners, assessing the impact of their 9781107190559Christian faith on the professional output of the individuals studied. Little has previously been written about the faith of the great judges who framed and developed the English common law over centuries, but this unique volume explores how their beliefs were reflected in their judicial functions. This comparative study, embracing ten centuries of English law, draws some remarkable conclusions as to how Christianity shaped the views of lawyers and judges. Adopting a long historical perspective, this volume also explores the lives of judges whose practice in or conception of law helped to shape the Church, its law or the articulation of its doctrine.

“A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism?” (Philpott & Anderson, eds.)

In June, the University of Notre Dame Press will release “A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? Perspectives from The Review of Politics,” edited by Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame) and Ryan T. Anderson is (Heritage Foundation).  The publisher’s description follows:

This volume is the third in the “Perspectives from The Review of Politics” series, following The Crisis of Modern Times, edited by A. James McAdams (2007), andWar, p03317Peace, and International Political Realism, edited by Keir Lieber (2009). InA Liberalism Safe for Catholicism?, editors Daniel Philpott and Ryan Anderson chronicle the relationship between the Catholic Church and American liberalism as told through twenty-seven essays selected from the history of the Review of Politics, dating back to the journal’s founding in 1939. The primary subject addressed in these essays is the development of a Catholic political liberalism in response to the democratic environment of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Works by Jacques Maritain, Heinrich Rommen, and Yves R. Simon forge the case for the compatibility of Catholicism and American liberal institutions, including the civic right of religious freedom. The conversation continues through recent decades, when a number of Catholic philosophers called into question the partnership between Christianity and American liberalism and were debated by others who rejoined with a strenuous defense of the partnership. The book also covers a wide range of other topics, including democracy, free market economics, the common good, human rights, international politics, and the thought of John Henry Newman, John Courtney Murray, and Alasdair MacIntyre, as well as some of the most prominent Catholic thinkers of the last century, among them John Finnis, Michael Novak, and William T. Cavanaugh. This book will be of special interest to students and scholars of political science, journalists and policymakers, church leaders, and everyday Catholics trying to make sense of Christianity in modern society.

Murray & Feeney, “Church, state and social science in Ireland”

In December, the Manchester University Press released “Church, state and social science in Ireland:Knowledge institutions and the rebalancing of power, 1937–73,” by Peter Murray (Maynooth University) and Maria Feeney (Maynooth University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The immense power the Catholic Church once wielded in Ireland has considerably diminished over the last fifty years. During the same period the Irish state has 9781526100788pursued new economic and social development goals by wooing foreign investors and throwing the state’s lot in with an ever-widening European integration project. How a less powerful church and a more assertive state related to one another during the key third quarter of the twentieth century is the subject of this book. Drawing on newly available material, it looks at how social science, which had been a church monopoly, was taken over and bent to new purposes by politicians and civil servants. This case study casts new light on wider processes of change, and the story features a strong and somewhat surprising cast of characters ranging from Sean Lemass and T.K. Whitaker to Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and Father Denis Fahey.

 

Burgess, “Holy Rus'”

In February, Yale University Press will release Holy Rus’: The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia by John P. Burgess (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:

new-rusA fascinating, vivid, and on-the-ground account of Russian Orthodoxy’s resurgence

A bold experiment is taking place in Russia. After a century of being scarred by militant, atheistic communism, the Orthodox Church has become Russia’s largest and most significant nongovernmental organization. As it has returned to life, it has pursued a vision of reclaiming Holy Rus’: that historical yet mythical homeland of the eastern Slavic peoples; a foretaste of the perfect justice, peace, harmony, and beauty for which religious believers long; and the glimpse of heaven on earth that persuaded Prince Vladimir to accept Orthodox baptism in Crimea in A.D. 988.

Through groundbreaking initiatives in religious education, social ministry, historical commemoration, and parish life, the Orthodox Church is seeking to shape a new, post-communist national identity for Russia. In this eye-opening and evocative book, John Burgess examines Russian Orthodoxy’s resurgence from a grassroots level, providing Western readers with an enlightening, inside look at the new Russia.

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