Timothy George and Eric F. Mason’s (eds.) Theology in the Service of the Church

I cannot express how very enjoyable and informative I personally found this impressive collection of essays.  Edited by Timothy George and Eric F. Mason,Theology in the Service of the Church is a unique and eclectic collection that will challenge, educate, and inspire the reader.  This Festschrift was presented to Fisher Humphreys on the occasion of his retirement from The Beeson Divinity School,

I felt that the strongest essays in the book were Curtis Freeman’s “Back to the Future of Trinitarianism?”, Steve Harmon’s “Remembering the Ecclesial Future: Why the Church Needs Theology”, Stephen J. Duffy’s “That They May All Be One: The Unity That is Ours and Not Ours”, and especially Ralph Wood’s “Jesus Thrown Everything Off Balance: Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor on the Necessity of Christian Radicalism in the Study of Literature.”

I thought this last essay was tremendous.  I was thrilled to see Wood’s opinion that “the non-Christian writer whose work retains overwhelming, even transformative, power is William Faulkner” (p.210).  I agree 100% and was glad to see that maybe I’m not crazy after all!  (I oftentimes tell my wife that I think Faulkner understood the Church better than most who are actually in the Church.)  Wood’s treatment of Faulkner’s work was very insightful, and his handling of O’Connor’s short story, “The Misfit,” helped me see that troubling little story in a new light.

Freeman’s essay on the Trinity was likewise very helpful and very good.  I thought some of his anecdotal observations about the disappearance of Trinitarian thought from Baptist life were especially interesting and troubling.

Fr. Stephen J. Duffy’s article on ecumenism and unity was fascinating.  Coming from a Catholic perspective, Duffy’s thought was occasionally foreign to me, but this essay was, I thought, one of the most thought-provoking pieces in the book.  I did learn a new term: perennem reformationem (continual reform).  I was also introduced to a concept I had never heard before: namely the existence of Protestant affirmations of the potential for the Bishop of Rome to offer the greatest possibility of ecumenical reform should appropriate reforms be allowed to reshape that office.  I’m not up on ecumenical speech, but this struck me as a frankly odd and virtually impossible idea.

In all, a tremendous collection of essays.  Check it out.

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