"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Maximus the Confessor on Scripture's Difficulties

As I have often noted on here, there are several figures around whom explosions of new publications have been found in the last two decades, and St Maximus the Confessor is certainly one of them.

Along comes a new book that Christopher Keller kindly drew to my attention, published in the longstanding and prestigious Fathers of the Church series from Catholic University of America Press: On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios, trans. Fr. Maximos Constans (2018), 592pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Maximos the Confessor (ca. 580-662) is now widely recognized as one of the greatest theological thinkers, not simply in the entire canon of Greek patristic literature, but in the Christian tradition as a whole. A peripatetic monk and prolific writer, his penetrating theological vision found expression in an unparalleled synthesis of biblical exegesis, ascetic spirituality, patristic theology, and Greek philosophy, which is as remarkable for its conceptual sophistication as for its labyrinthine style of composition. On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture, presented here for the first time in a complete English translation (including the 465 scholia), contains Maximos's virtuosic theological interpretations of sixty-five difficult passages from the Old and New Testaments. Because of its great length, along with its linguistic and conceptual difficulty, the work as a whole has been largely neglected. Yet alongside the Ambigua to John, On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios deserves to be ranked as the Confessor's greatest work and one of the most important patristic treatises on the interpretation of Scripture, combining the interconnected traditions of monastic devotion to the Bible, the biblical exegesis of Origen, the sophisticated symbolic theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, and the rich spiritual anthropology of Greek Christian asceticism inspired by the Cappadocian Fathers.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Papal Power

I have of course had a long-standing interest in the question of papal power, having written a book about it in light of Orthodox ecclesiology and ecumenism.

Not long ago I gave extended discussion to these themes in the context of Steven Ogden's book The Church, Authority, and Foucault: Imagining the Church as an Open Space of Freedom.

And this interest is not mine alone, as my interview last year with Cyril Hovorun about his fascinating and important new book, The Structures of the Church, also shows. 

So I rather expected to be able to think further about these vital and perpetually controverted issues when the publisher sent me a copy of Paul Collins' new book, Absolute Power: How the Pope Became the Most Influential Man in the World (Public Affairs, 2018), 384pp. The author is an ex-priest in Australia. 

Whatever this book is, it is not a serious work of ecclesiology or anything else--"high journalism" perhaps, but not theology, still less any kind of sophisticated analysis. It's not badly written, but its tendentiousness is relentless. It never treats the question of power in any serious way; indeed the theme gets lost until the last 3-4 pages when a few comments are hastily cobbled together, saying nothing that others have not said for decades. 

Thus the book really is is just another history of the papacy, recreated in the image and likeness of a particular type of Catholic of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. You won't be led terribly astray from the standard narrative, though if you want something with far more sober and sophisticated scholarly analysis then I see no reason here to deviate from my long-standing belief that Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners is the best one-volume history of the papacy.

As a story of the papacy, Collins's book is entirely standard and wholly unoriginal for this genre: the papacy is one long continuous power-grab by self-aggrandizing men. In the modern period, all the predictable villains come out--expecially the Piuses (IX-XII), and John Paul II--until, of course, the magical hero Francis emerges, at which point the book supplies its own Greek chorus, half of which offers adulation and hymn-singing to and about this man while the other half is chanting psalms of imprecation against his enemies, among whom are to be found any critics of Amoris Laetitia (or really anything else besides):
 "What is really happening here is a battle for the heart and soul of Catholicism. The sheer decency and openness of  Francis have restored the fortunes and reputation of the papacy in the wider world after the overbearing John Paul and the maladroit Benedict" (302).

Friday, May 18, 2018

Deification Then and Now

As I have had many occasions to note over the last 15 years, deification/divinization/theosis has become hugely popular with many Western authors "rediscovering" it, or otherwise acting as though this is some new thing--new, that is, once it has been stripped of its supposedly suspicious "Eastern" understandings. Protestant and Catholic authors alike have been in on this for some time now, as many books and collections noted on here will make abundantly clear.

This high level of interest shows no signs of declining soon based on books published in the last year or so, and another collection to be released next month: Mystical Doctrines of Deification; Case Studies in the Christian Tradition, eds. John Arblaster, Rob Faesen (Routledge, 2018), 230 pages.

About this collection the publisher tells us this:
The notion of the deification of the human person (theosis, theopoièsis, deificatio) was one of the most fundamental themes of Christian theology in its first centuries, especially in the Greek world. It is often assumed that this theme was exclusively developed in Eastern theology after the patristic period, and thus its presence in the theology of the Latin West is generally overlooked. The aim of this collection is to explore some Patristic articulations of the doctrine in both the East and West, but also to highlight its enduring presence in the Western tradition and its relevance for contemporary thought.
The collection thus brings together a number of capita selecta that focus on the development of theosis through the ages until the Early Modern Period. It is unique, not only in emphasising the role of theosis in the West, but also in bringing to the fore a number of little-known authors and texts, and analysing their theology from a variety of fresh perspectives. Thus, mystical theology in the West is shown to have profound connections with similar concerns in the East and with the common patristic sources. By tying these traditions together, this volume brings new insight to one of mysticism’s key concerns. As such, it will be of significant interest to scholars of religious studies, mysticism, theology and the history of religion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Visible God of our Fathers

To do anything in patristics today is to come across the name of the Jesuit scholar Brian Daley, whom I have met at least twice, always finding him to be a very gracious and unassuming man. His scholarship has been widely respected for years now, and recognized, inter alia, by the Ratzinger Prize several years ago. His scholarship has also been valuable in advancing the cause of Orthodox-Catholic unity, which he has served faithfully for many years now in the official North American dialogue.

He has a new book out: God Visible: Patristic Christology Reconsidered (Oxford UP, 2018), 317pp. The book is based in part on lectures Daley gave in 2002 at the Jesuit Campion Hall in Oxford on the occasion of the Martin d'Arcy Memorial Lectures. (D'Arcy was himself a Jesuit who instructed and received Evelyn Waugh into the Church.)

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
God Visible: Patristic Christology Reconsidered considers the early development and reception of what is today the most widely professed Christian conception of Christ. The development of this doctrine admits of wide variations in expression and understanding, varying emphases in interpretation that are as striking in authors of the first millennium as they are among modern writers. The seven early ecumenical councils and their dogmatic formulations are crucial way-stations in defining the shape of this study. Brian E. Daley argues that the scope of previous enquiries, which focused on the declaration of the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 that Christ was one Person in two natures, the Divine of the same substance as the Father, and the human of the same substance as us, now seems excessively narrow and distorts our understanding. Daley sets aside the Chalcedonian formula and instead considers what some major Church Fathers--from Irenaeus to John Damascene--say about the person of Christ.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The End of the Endless Great War

Almost five years ago now, I noted that we were gearing up for the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, which was already in 2013 occasioning a steady publication of new books, which only accelerated in the following year. For general histories, see the link at the top. For a specifically theological analysis of the war, I noted here Philip Jenkins' surprising, almost shocking, book on the war as a holy war.

And now, as this interesting photo array at The Atlantic reminds me, we are coming upon the centenary of the end of the war. 

The war may have ended nearly a century ago now, but as the always-fascinating Cambridge historian David Reynolds has shown, that war has had very long shadows. Eastern Christians are aware of that only too well, living in the aftermath of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and its genocides against Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christians.

As we come to the centenary of the end of the war, and then to the abysmal legacy of the peace conference afterwards, I draw your attention once more to a splendid book by the Anglo-Canadian historian (and great grand-daughter of David Lloyd George) Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World. 

This book tells a complicated story with great insight and panache. She allows the major characters--especially Clemenceau, George, and Wilson--to come alive alongside an equally fascinating set of other leaders in Paris--e.g., the Greek prime minister Venizelos, various minor Romanian royals, and others. And the sarcastic comments made by Clemenceau against George and Wilson are revealing and hilarious in about equal measure--and far from undeserved. It is a fascinating history sure to delight.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Old Believers in Imperial Russia

In 2008, Roy Robson published Old Believers in Modern Russia. This was followed, in 2011, by R.O. Crummey's Old Believers in a Changing World. Crummey had, in 1970, published another work looking at the role of apocalyptic in the life of the Old Believers.  

Now, in 2018, we have what appears to be a fresh take written by Peter De Simone and set to appear this July: The Old Believers in Imperial Russia: Oppression, Opportunism and Religious Identity in Tsarist Moscow (I.B. Tauris, 2018), 272pp.

About this book we are told:
"Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth."
So spoke Russian monk Hegumen Filofei of Pskov in 1510, proclaiming Muscovite Russia as heirs to the legacy of the Roman Empire following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire. The so-called "Third Rome Doctrine" spurred the creation of the Russian Orthodox Church, although just a century later a further schism occurred, with the Old Believers (or "Old Ritualists") challenging Patriarch Nikon's liturgical and ritualistic reforms and laying their own claim to the mantle of Roman legacy.
While scholars have commonly painted the subsequent history of the Old Believers as one of survival in the face of persistent persecution at the hands of both tsarist and church authorities, Peter De Simone here offers a more nuanced picture. Based on research into extensive, yet mostly unknown, archival materials in Moscow, he shows the Old Believers as versatile and opportunistic, and demonstrates that they actively engaged with, and even challenged, the very notion of the spiritual and ideological place of Moscow in Imperial Russia.
Ranging in scope from Peter the Great to Lenin, this book is essential for all scholars of Russian and Orthodox Church history.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Desire Giveth and Desire Taketh Away

I once had a professor, whose lovely temperament I knew to be immune to be temptations to sadism, nonetheless try to get me to read Lonergan. And then when I got hired at the University of Saint Francis, my predecessor as departmental chairman, David Fleischacker, was another Lonerganian who suggested we read Method in Theology together. At no point have I ever been able to see what the attraction of Lonergan is: having to read him feels like a forced march through a sweltering and tangled jungle. As I've long thought, for a Canadian he writes like a Teuton--prolix, leaden, and lethal. Those who are into Lonergan seem to be all in; and for the rest of us, his attractions remain recondite. But that could be just me.

Nevertheless, I am genuinely looking forward to reading a new book that draws on Lonergan to treat a topic I am increasingly preoccupied with, viz., desire (as I've noted in talking about Freud, and more recently Sarah Coakley's work). The new work is Randall S. Rosenberg's, The Givenness of Desire: Concrete Subjectivity and the Natural Desire to See God (University of Toronto Press, 2018), 288pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
In The Givenness of Desire, Randall S. Rosenberg examines the human desire for God through the lens of Lonergan’s "concrete subjectivity." Rosenberg engages and integrates two major scholarly developments: the tension between Neo-Thomists and scholars of Henri de Lubac over our natural desire to see God and the theological appropriation of the mimetic theory of René Girard, with an emphasis on the saints as models of desire. With Lonergan as an integrating thread, the author engages a variety of thinkers, including Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jean-Luc Marion, René Girard, James Alison, Lawrence Feingold, and John Milbank, among others. The theme of concrete subjectivity helps to resist the tendency of equating too easily the natural desire for being with the natural desire for God without at the same time acknowledging the widespread distortion of desire found in the consumer culture that infects contemporary life. The Givenness of Desire investigates our paradoxical desire for God that is rooted in both the natural and supernatural.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Byzantine Concepts of Personhood and Individuality

It has been said for a while now that the major theological questions of our time will be anthropological in nature. Much of the career and writings of John Zizioulas have been devoted to trying to address such questions, but now a new generation of younger scholars is arising to meet some of the same challenges. Collected into a book just released are a number of those scholarly writings: Personhood in the Byzantine Christian Tradition: Early, Medieval, and Modern Perspectives, eds. Alexis Torrance, Symeon Paschalidis (Routledge, 2018), 248 pages

About this collection the publisher tells us:
Bringing together international scholars from across a range of linked disciplines (theology, history, Byzantine studies and philosophy) to examine the concept of the person in the Greek Christian East, Personhood in the Byzantine Christian Tradition stretches in its scope from the New Testament to contemporary debates surrounding personhood in Eastern Orthodoxy. Contributions explore various dimensions of the issue in specific historical contexts that have not hitherto received the scholarly attention they deserve. The volume thus brings forward an important debate over the roots of contemporary notions of personhood and will provide a key stimulus to further work in this area.
Earlier this year, a paperback edition of another book edited by Torrance and Johannes Zachhuber was released: Individuality in Late Antiquity (Routledge, 2018), 204pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Late antiquity is increasingly recognised as a period of important cultural transformation. One of its crucial aspects is the emergence of a new awareness of human individuality. In this book an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars documents and analyses this development. Authors assess the influence of seminal thinkers, including the Gnostics, Plotinus, and Augustine, but also of cultural and religious practices such as astrology and monasticism, as well as, more generally, the role played by intellectual disciplines such as grammar and Christian theology. Broad in both theme and scope, the volume serves as a comprehensive introduction to late antique understandings of human individuality.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Meaning and Melancholia

Christopher Bollas is a prolific writer and one of the most important psychoanalytic theorists alive today. I have previously mentioned a number of his books, and recently received and read his newest: Meaning and Melancholia: Life in an Age of Bewilderment (Routledge, 2018), 174pp. I had high hopes for this book, but they were only partially met.

The title, of course, instantly calls to mind one of Freud's wartime essays, "Mourning and Melancholia" (The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV: 237-258). (This Penguin edition gives you that essay and a number of related works.)
I have been thinking about that essay and drawing on its important insights for some time in a number of lectures I gave on the underlying psychology of ISIS propaganda about Eastern Christianity and the Crusades.

Like many of Bollas' books, and not unlike the analytic process itself, Meaning and Melancholia is written in a diffuse style loosely stitching together a number of themes under an overarching narrative. As the publisher tells us: 
Meaning and Melancholia: Life in the Age of Bewilderment sees Christopher Bollas apply his creative and innovative psychoanalytic thinking to various contemporary social, cultural and political themes.
This book offers an incisive exploration of powerful trends within, and between, nations in the West over the past two hundred years. The author traces shifts in psychological forces and ‘frames of mind’, that have resulted in a crucial ‘intellectual climate change’. He contends that recent decades have seen rapid and significant transformations in how we define our ‘selves’, as a new emphasis on instant connectedness has come to replace reflectiveness and introspection.
Bollas argues that this trend has culminated in the current rise of psychophobia; a fear of the mind and a rejection of depth psychologies that has paved the way for what he sees as hate based solutions to world problems, such as the victory of Trump in America and Brexit in the United Kingdom. He maintains that, if we are to counter the threat to democracy posed by these changes and refind a more balanced concept of the self within society, we must put psychological insight at the heart of a new kind of analysis of culture and society.
This remarkable, thought-provoking book will appeal to anyone interested in politics, social policy and cultural studies, and in the gaining of insight into the ongoing challenges faced by the Western democracies and the global community.
In this short book, Bollas imitates Freud in some ways insofar as he engages in broad cultural analysis of many themes of our time, especially certain developments in both technology and politics. But this is no mere restating or updating of Freud but instead clearly a book of our time. The impetus for it, he tells us, comes largely from the election of Trump in the US, the rise of Marie Le Pen in France, and the Brexit vote and ongoing discontent in the United Kingdom. But this is not a partisan book that discusses policies so much as it looks at the history of the past century to detect certain underlying psychological themes, including, he begins by claiming, unfinished mourning from the Great War, which introduced a massive splitting into the Western psyche from which it has not recovered.

The book spends more time than I wanted on the causes and effects of current American politics, and not enough time on the changes wrought by technology. But what links the two, Bollas says in a number of ways, is a preference for simplicity, homogeneity, and the deliberate destruction of complexity: "in the age of bewilderment, there was peace to be found in ridding the mind of unwanted complexity" (77). Such eliminations are widespread: today's politics preys on that anti-complexity; today's globalized capitalism demands it; and even today's therapists and psychologists go along with it, offering almost instant ready-made courses of action to "fix" one's life rather than (as a psychoanalyst would) encouraging one to reflect on it at length in all its messiness, perhaps coming later to a new course of action--or perhaps not bothering to do so but instead, as Adam Phillips might say, coming to be content not to know without being thereby frustrated.

When he does focus on technological change--especially what it means to live our life tethered to phones and tablets, and broadcasting bits and pieces of that fragmented, homogenized life on social media--Bollas provides this very apt summary of the problems of social media, as anyone who ever bothers to read the comments on any website about any topic soon realizes: "Aspects of the way we communicate and think in the twenty-first century can be seen as forms of psychic flight from the overwhelming weight of inheriting a world shattered by dumb thoughtlessness."

In the end, Bollas says that the chaos and unmourned losses unleashed by the Great War have fed into an age of bewilderment which is only getting worse, and we have not recognized or admitted this--to our peril:
With the loss of a sense of meaning--the feeling that our lives can make a contribution--mourning has turned into melancholia. When we are melancholic we are angry over the losses we have suffered, and we unconsciously blame that which has apparently left us. We now feel abandoned by the humanist predicates of Western culture and the network of belief systems that seemed to offer a progressive vision of humanity, and we have turned our rage against social efficacy itself (127).

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Robert Murray's Eternally Memorable Syriac Scholarship

John Flannery of Heythrop College in the University of London e-mailed me to let me know of Robert Murray's death. A brief obituary from the Society of Jesus in the United Kingdom is here.

He was one of those pioneering and incredibly talented Jesuit scholars who did so much work to advance our understanding of the Christian East. He was an early pioneer especially of the revival of studies into Syriac Christianity, which now has a number of prominent young scholars, some of the noted and interviewed on here over the years.

Perhaps his best known book, which I have long had on my shelves, is Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition. 

An earlier work, published in 1992 and reprinted more recently by the invaluable Gorgias Press, has language that all those of us involved with the World Council of Churches in the 1990s will immediately recognize:  The Cosmic Covenant: Biblical Themes of Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation. 

His funeral Mass was to have been today in the Jesuit church in Farm Street in London (which I have fond memories of visiting very briefly in 1997). Eternal memory!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Christians and Class Warfare

If you listened, in the aftermath of the Florida school massacre, to that moral cretin heading up the NRA, he fatuously claimed that there was a "God-given" right to bear arms. Even a cursory review of Catholic social teaching, which has reflected in very considerable detail on human rights since 1948, would show that there is no such right theologically understood. And if you listen to the great moral philosopher and intellectual historian Alasdair MacIntyre, you would know from his historical review that the very concept of rights is an entirely human invention dating no earlier than the year 1400. As a result, people like LaPierre resort to uttering rubbish fit only for the splendid riposte of MacIntyre: “there are no such rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns” (After Virtue).

One of MacIntyre's great influences was the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe. Indeed, in the acknowledgements to Whose Justice? Which Rationality, the successor book to After Virtue (and part of the so-called trilogy along with Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry), MacIntyre pointedly and rather fulsomely acknowledges how much he owes McCabe more than anyone for the latter's critical responses to After Virtue.

I have previously reflected on some of McCabe's writings on here in conversation with other thinkers who come out of and are shaped by the post-war British left, including Adam Phillips and Christopher Bollas.

But the work of McCabe's that bears on this debate in some ways, and which is perhaps the most challenging thing he wrote, is his 1980 essay "The Class Struggle and Christian Love," reprinted in God Matters.

The language of "class struggle" is of course more familiar to Eastern, especially Slavic, Christians than to anyone else due to the Russian Revolution. Some, especially Americans, may be inclined smugly to dismiss this language as a relic of losers in the Cold War. But as others have argued very recently, that language cannot be abandoned quite so facilely if one hopes to bring about any real political and economic change.

McCabe was writing when the Cold War was at its height, having been deeply influenced by Marxism, as was his close friend Terry Eagleton, a man of the British Catholic left whose books Why Marx Was Right and The Gatekeeper: A Memoir are rollicking good reads. 

In his essay "The Class Struggle and Christian Love," McCabe begins by stating that "the class struggle is the revolution--not just a means toward it, but the thing itself"(182).  He immediately notes that many, perhaps most, Christians will reject this notion of class struggle as incompatible with the gospel--and in doing so find themselves in bed with those who agree with them, viz., Joseph Stalin, Margaret Thatcher, and the International Marxist Group.

But, later in the essay, McCabe will more stoutly insist that Christian participation in the class struggle is in fact required by the dominical call to love our neighbor, and that such struggle and such love may sometimes be found in "circumstances in which even violence itself--by which I mean killing people--is not only compatible with Christian love but demanded by it" (185). 

Later still, he wants to unpack, just a little bit, what this notion of "class struggle" entails. It is not, he begins, just a variant on English class snobbery; it is not about simple conflict between haves and have-nots; and it is not differences of wealth that cause class conflict, but "class differences that cause differences of wealth" (188).

In mentioning all this, McCabe along the way notes that the gospels say nothing of course about these issues, though they say plenty about the dire perils posed by riches and the neglect of the poor. But the gospels are silent on any notion "that everyone has to have equal shares of wealth" (189). And if we think class conflict is about envious maneuvering to establish total equality with everyone having the same share, we are mistaken. Equally mistaken are we if we think we are not somehow already involved in a struggle, and have been for a very long time. Finally, we delude ourselves if we think there is a position of neutrality somewhere here: those who are neutral, he says, are inevitably on the side of "the class in power" (192). Christians cannot be neutral, he insists, but must fight against the class conflict and war.

What is that conflict and war based upon? Here, McCabe's Marxism is most clearly on display: in capitalism the fundamental divide, and so the fundamental factor in class conflict, is over surplus value created by workers (beyond what they need strictly for subsistence) which is appropriated by capitalists to enrich themselves and extend their own power in defense of their interests against others. The system of capitalism has at its heart an "intrinsic" need for class conflict (190).

There is, then, "human antagonism" at the heart of capitalism (192). That antagonism sometimes breaks out in open shooting wars in which the state goes to battle on behalf of the ruling classes to preserve them in power. Can Christians join in? Can Christians be involved in a class struggle up to and including the use of violence? Or is it the case that this antagonism at the heart of capitalist-driven class conflict means that it will forever be opposed to and by Christianity properly lived and understood?

Is Christianity, in other words, always going to be opposed to capitalism insofar as the former claims against the latter the possibility (however poorly embodied) that conflict can be overcome, that conflict is not inevitable, that we can live together in love? McCabe certainly thinks so: "Christianity is deeply subversive of capitalism precisely because it announces the improbable possibility that men might live together without war; neither by domination nor by antagonism but by unity in love" (193).

Christianity must therefore fight the class war because it is ipso facto fighting capitalism and its antagonism which is most precisely opposed to the universal call to love. But does the Christian fighting that war have to use violence or have the right to do so--or must it be forsworn? McCabe, as is his wont, calmly and carefully considers the arguments of his opponents while advancing his own. And so he picks up the Christian concern that any idea of a class struggle somehow requires violence, which no Christian can support. But does it? Does the idea of a class struggle inevitably mean a violent or armed struggle? McCabe says no: "It is perfectly possible to believe passionately in the importance of the class struggle and to renounce all political violence" (183).

He goes on to argue that there is no incompatibility in working, as a Christian, for the just overthrow of the ruling class while forswearing the killing of that class.

But leave aside such principles: there are much more pragmatic considerations to forswearing killing. McCabe notes that any time you go up against the modern state, it is bound to win. You can recruit a few starry-eyed idealists to your cause--the IRA, say, or ISIS--but the other side will always have more men under arms and better arms, and thus will always defeat you. The ruling class, then, is much better at killing on a much larger scale than any of its opponents can ever hope to do.

Here McCabe quotes General Patton's aphorism that you don't win wars by getting young men to die for your country, but by convincing the other men to die for their country--a neat twist to this having been pulled off by the Americans and British in the Second World War, where the Soviet Union lost far more men than their erstwhile allies, and they all knew it but tried to avoid talking about it. In reading The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James 1932-1943 last year, I came across the suspicion expressed again and again by the Soviet ambassador, Ivan Maisky, along with his boss Molotov, and his boss Stalin, that the refusal of a second front in Europe until mid-1944, while not without certain technical considerations, was also secretly motivated by a desire to bleed Russia white. The British of course denied this at all times, and not totally insincerely, it seems to me; but at the same time we cannot forget that a scant 20 years before the British regarded the Bolsheviks as terrible enemies to be wiped off the earth.

And, in fact, much of this is born out later on. As David Reynolds' deeply fascinating book In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War showed, the British premier was certainly aware of the fact that the Russian losses were on a scale never seen or matched in the West, which is why Churchill's chapters on the war in Russia are among the shortest, least attentive, and poorly researched of his entire six-volume memoirs of the war. E.g., lavish attention is given to British battles in North Africa while Stalingrad gets only the barest treatment; Churchill also withheld certain criticisms of Eisenhower as the latter was elected when the former was finishing his last volume in the early 1950s. Seldom has the writing of "history" been so transparently tendentious and subordinate to the political moment.

But back to McCabe. who continues to note that there are other pragmatic but in fact powerful reasons to forswear violence: it takes you away from spending time and energy on the one thing that might dislodge the ruling class from power, that is, exposing its carefully concealed lie that preservation of its power is necessary for the preservation of the peace and prosperity of those further down the social hierarchy. For the moment, McCabe says, Christians doing this are doing the best they can, and are not mistaken in seeing what they see and doing what they do. Conditions are not yet in place for them to be called upon to do more. Capitalism, he says, has not yet reached that stage of crisis where Christians might be called on to undertake violent actions.

And here's where the essay starts to raise difficulties at least for me when he says that "I think...that the pacifist is mistaken in supposing that violence is always incompatible with the Christian demand that we love our neighbor" (185). I suppose my difficulty comes in part from having first read Stanley Hauerwas in the early 1990s when I was beginning to take theology seriously. His repeated arguments in favour of pacifism have never really left me. On this score, see, inter alia, his early The Peaceable Kingdom; see also his memorable essay "The Non-Violent Terrorist: In Defense of Christian Fanaticism" in Sanctify Them in the Truth; and then see some of his more recent works after September 11th, including War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity.

Though I don't know how pacifism works out in practice, it seems to me in theory, that is, in theology, to be true that Christians should forswear violence, for the use of violence seems to me to be a theological mistake in the strict sense: that is, God in Christ has kenotically abandoned the path of violence when, as the gospels make plain, He easily could have summoned legions of angels to destroy His enemies....but did not.

My difficulty with McCabe's claim is lessened, briefly, towards the end of his essay. For he turns to the practical question of how a Christian must fight the class war, and here he issues some strong counsels: "In the first place be meek" because nobody likes a loud-mouthed, ungracious bully-boy advancing a cause; such behavior is counter-productive. Second and further, be "loving, kind, gentle, calm, unprovoked to anger." Real revolutionaries, he says, are all these things and just to that extent "they are extremely dangerous" to the lies and liars of capitalism who view conflict as inevitable, as something one must be well armed against and willing to kill over. In addition, "we should not lose our sense of humour" and become tedious and unpleasant scolds.

But just when you think McCabe might left you off easy, he comes back to say "We still need though to face the question of revolutionary violence" (196). Here he notes with his usual self-critical bluntness that no churchmen have the right to demand nonviolence when "their cathedrals are stuffed with the regimental flags and monuments to colonial wars. The Christian Church, with minor exceptions, has been solidly on the side of violence for centuries" as long as it has supported the status quo and the right class. The Church's opposition to violence begins "only when the poor catch on to violence."

Nevertheless, it is not the case, he concedes, that the Church has always and everywhere been only on the side of violence in promotion of selected interests. The Church has not quite lost total credibility insofar as it has tried to maintain a call for justice, however poorly realized. And that call sometimes requires the use of violence. In doing so, we may not think it terribly loving to kill certain people--the love may not, he says, be very "perspicuous"--but we cannot conclude that such actions, sinful though they are, are totally lacking in love. They are motivated by love for the innocent who are suffering injustice. To that extent, then, we may describe violence not as intrinsically wrong but as at least partially loving.

Here McCabe knows his Christian history in ways that almost all of us today have forgotten. Here I was reminded of something Phillip Jenkins documents in hair-raising detail from just a century ago, and Jonathan-Riley Smith documents for at least ten centuries before that: the Christian tradition, until the aftermath of the First and then Second World Wars, never saw violence as intrinsically wrong and always to be avoided. That perspective, it seems to me, is a purely post-1945 development aided, in part, by popes going to the UN in New York to pound the podium and (ahem) pontificate "War no more!" Until those developments, the Christian tradition for the overwhelming part of its history did not presuppose that violence was ruled out of course with prejudice. Rather, it evaluated the use of violence based on broader moral considerations, including righting injustice and protecting the innocent.Thus it gave us the just war tradition, which tradition McCabe invokes here by saying that "the only just war is the class war, the struggle of the working class against the exploiters. No war is just except insofar as it is part of this struggle" (197).

Having said that, however, he immediately returns to his earlier point to reiterate that "violence can have very little part in the class struggle as such" right now given current conditions (197), not least the overwhelming preponderance of force on the side of the ruling class.

Finally, in his closing paragraphs, McCabe almost anticipates what I said above about it being a theological mistake to condone violence because Christ forswore its use: "we cannot imagine Jesus taking part in such violence; he was wholly and entirely a perspicuous example of what love means; he was and is the presence of the Kingdom itself; we, however, are only on the road towards it" (197).

That road is rooted in the present but already concluded in the future. As a result, we can see with two sets of eyes: the injustice of the present, but its destruction and forgiveness in the future. As a result, Christians cannot hate anybody, even those who exploit the poor or inflict other injustices. The Christian engaged in class warfare can only do so once he understands that "hatred is impossible" and that even one's class enemies are those for whom Christ also died.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Theodore the Studite on Icons

It's been almost 40 years since St. Vladimir's Seminary Press published a translation of St. Theodore the Studite's On the Holy Icons. Apart from that, the only other work came out in 2015: another translation of his Writings on Iconoclasm.

But what we have not had until now has been a wide-ranging historical context in which to consider him and this work of his. That lacuna will be remedied in July with the publication of St Theodore the Studite's Defence of the Icons:Theology and Philosophy in Ninth-Century Byzantium by Torstein Theodor Tollefsen (Oxford UP, 2018), 208pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:

St Theodore the Studite's Defence of the Icons provides an investigation of the icon-theology of St Theodore the Studite, mainly as it is presented in his three refutations of the iconoclasts, the Antirrhetici tres adversus iconomachos. Torstein Theodor Tollefsen explores Theodore's 'philosophy of images', namely his doctrine of images and his arguments that justify the legitimacy of images in general and of Christ in particular. Tollefsen offers a historical, theological, and philosophical exploration of Theodore's doctrine of images and his arguments justifying the legitimacy of images and of Christ. In addition to the main elements of Theodore's defence of the icon, like the Christological issue, the relation between image and prototype, the question of veneration, his explanation of why we may say of an image that 'this is Christ', and his innovative thinking on the representative character of the icon, the book has an introduction that places Theodore in the history of Byzantine philosophy: He has some knowledge of traditional logical topics and is able to utilize argumentative forms in countering his iconoclast opponents. The volume also provides an appendix which shows that the making of images is somehow natural given the character of Christianity as a religion.

Friday, April 27, 2018


Having written for several of them now, I always pay attention when Oxford University Press tells me of a forthcoming new volume in its various series of handbooks. In August of this year we shall be treated to one such that I'm greatly looking forward to reading: The Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology, ed. Paul Avis (OUP, 2018), 712pp.

About this hefty collection, in which, as you'll see below, there are significant Orthodox contributions, the publisher tells us:

The Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology is a unique scholarly resource for the study of the Christian Church as we find it in the Bible, in history and today. As the scholarly study of how we understand the Christian Church's identity and mission, ecclesiology is at the centre of today's theological research, reflection, and debate. Ecclesiology is the theological driver of the ecumenical movement. The main focus of the intense ecumenical engagement and dialogue of the past half-century has been ecclesiological and this is the area where the most intractable differences remain to be tackled Ecclesiology investigates the Church's manifold self-understanding in relation to a number of areas: the origins, structures, authority, doctrine, ministry, sacraments, unity, diversity, and mission of the Church, including its relation to the state and to society and culture. The sources of ecclesiological reflection are the Bible (interpreted in the light of scholarly research), Church history and the wealth of the Christian theological tradition, together with the information and insights that emerge from other relevant academic disciplines. This Handbook considers the biblical resources, historical development, and contemporary initiatives in ecclesiology. It offers invaluable and comprehensive guide to understanding the Church.
The table of contents:

1. Introduction to Ecclesiology, Paul Avis
Part I: Biblical Foundations
2. The Ecclesiology of Israel's Scriptures, R. W. L. Moberly
3. The Church in the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, Loveday Alexander
4. The Johannine vision of the Church, Andrew T. Lincoln
5. The Shape of the Pauline Churches, Edward Adams
6. The Church in the General Epistles, Gerald O'Collins, SJ
Part II: Resources from the Tradition
7. Early Ecclesiology in the West, Mark Edwards
8. The Eastern Orthodox Tradition, Andrew Louth
9. Medieval Ecclesiology and the Conciliar Movement, Norman Tanner, SJ
10. The Church in the Magisterial Reformers, Dorothea Wendebourg
11. Anglican Ecclesiology, Paul Avis
12. Roman Catholic Ecclesiology from the Council of Trent to Vatican II and Beyond, Ormond Rush
13. Baptist Concepts of the Church and their Antecedents, Paul S. Fiddes
14. Methodism and the Church, David M. Chapman
15. Pentecostal Ecclesiologies, Amos Yong
Part III: Major Modern Ecclesiologists
16. Karl Barth, Kimlyn J. Bender
17. Yves Congar, Gabriel Flynn
18. Henri de Lubac, Gabriel Flynn
19. Karl Rahner, Richard Lennan
20. Joseph Ratzinger, Theodor Dieter
21. John Zizioulas, Paul McPartlan
22. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Friedericke Nussel
23. Rowan Williams, Mike Higton
Part IV: Contemporary Movements in Ecclesiology
24. Feminist Critiques, Visions, and Models of the Church, Elaine Graham
5. Social Science and Ideological Critiques of Ecclesiology, Neil Ormerod
26. Liberationist Ecclesiologies with Special Reference to Latin America, Michelle A. Gonzalez
27. Asian Ecclesiologies, Simon Chan
27. African Ecclesiologies, Stan Chu Ilo

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tradition and Transformation in Christian Iconography

This August will see the advent of a book by a scholar whose previous work on iconography, Icons in Time, Persons in Eternity: Orthodox Theology and the Aesthetics of the Christian Image, remains one of the most intellectually challenging and wide-ranging studies to appear in decades.

If C.A. Tsakiridou's forthcoming book Tradition and Transformation in Christian Art: the Transcultural Icon (Routledge, 2018), is as good as her previous one, then we shall be fortunate indeed. I am very much looking forward to this and will have more to say after I see the book in print.

About this 240-page study, the publisher tells us this:

 Tradition and Transformation in Christian Art approaches tradition and transculturality in religious art from an Orthodox perspective that defines tradition as a dynamic field of exchanges and synergies between iconographic types and their variants. Relying on a new ontology of iconographic types, it explores one of the most significant ascetical and eschatological Christian images, the King of Glory (Man of Sorrows). This icon of the dead-living Christ originated in Byzantium, migrated west, and was promoted in the New World by Franciscan and Dominican missions. Themes include tensions between Byzantine and Latin spiritualities of penance and salvation, the participation of the body and gender in deification, and the theological plasticity of the Christian imaginary. Primitivist tendencies in Christian eschatology and modernism place avant-garde interest in New Mexican santos and Greek icons in tradition.

Monday, April 23, 2018

God, Sex, and the Desiring Self's Repetitive Liturgics

The recent news that the venerable Norris-Hulse professorship of divinity in the University of Cambridge is passing from Sarah Coakley to Catherine Pickstock is as good an occasion as any to draw attention to some of the works of both of these extraordinarily luminous women, and to record some longer and long-overdue thoughts about Coakley's God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay 'On the Trinity' (Cambridge UP, 2013).

In 1997 Pickstock's doctoral dissertation was published as After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy. It rightly attracted a good deal of attention, both for its own rather stunning argumentation but also because its author was involved with John Milbank and the Radical Orthodoxy crowd, even to the point of the two of them editing a book Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology. I devoured both books within weeks of publication, and contacted both Pickstock and Milbank (during his brief stint at the University of Virginia) about doctoral work with them.

That RO movement attracts far less attention today than it did twenty, and even ten, years ago. But Pickstock's After Writing nonetheless was, and remains, the most far-reaching and intellectually sophisticated critical analysis of the problems of liturgical reform at and after Vatican II. I have always maintained that her central point, about the abolition of structural repetition (treated also in a different fashion in a later book: Repetition and Identity) based on a suspect modern notion of linear time is the most damning criticism made against the reforms in the Latin Church which influenced, in turn, similar reforms in Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and elsewhere. I have yet to see anyone address this criticism in any serious way. To my mind this attempt at abolishing repetition is the greatest weakness of Western liturgics, as I argued at length elsewhere more than fifteen years ago now.

Let me turn now to Coakley, who did me the honour last July of being respondent to my paper at a conference at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota on reception history. She was as gracious an interlocutor as she is learned and it was a delight to converse with her.

This book of hers, God, Sexuality, and the Self, is the first of a projected four-volume systematics. Eastern Christians who might at this point be getting ready to pounce with objections to this method ("systematics" is not Eastern!) or to its author (she's Anglican! and she claims to be a priest!! who's influenced by feminism!!!) need to sit down and be quiet. She's grappling with questions that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are grappling with in the same cultural context. And she's doing so in a way and via a method perfectly orthodox: by looking to see what the Fathers especially have to say, and how they can point us forward beyond the impasse of capitulating to the culture on all matters sexual, on the one hand, or merely repeating traditionalist slogans on the other while hoping these questions somehow go away.

She lays out in the introduction some of her major interlocutors: of the ancients, Plato, Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Augustine, and Ps-Dionysius (about whom see this co-edited work of Coakley); of the moderns, she begins with Freud and the question of desire, arguing that "desire is more fundamental than 'sex'" (10). For God (unlike for us), desire indicates no lack, but instead is the "longing love" God has for His creation to flourish in the fullness of life within the Godhead. It is this treatment of desire that is, to my mind, the most central and compelling part of her book.

At the outset Coakley is positioning herself by noting that desire for God is ultimately what is missing in contemporary "secular" discussions about sexual desire, sexual orientation, and sexual differentiation ("gender"). What Christianity, especially that informed by both Platonic and patristic sources, brings to the discussion, as she has argued in another book, is an emphasis on asceticism which, together with prayer "too deep for words" allows us to purify that desire and to be purified of any illusions we may have about God. Indeed, this focus on prayer is a central and distinctive feature of Coakley's work as she pushes back, rightly, against the tendency to treat theology purely as an intellectual endeavor: "theology in its proper sense is always in via as practitional" (45).

This emphasis on practice is not a means of escape either from hard metaphysical thinking, or the perhaps even harder task of working against injustice in the world. It is only in prayer and especially silence that we can hear the voices of those who are suffering and are marginalized--voices which, Coakley says, are often drowned out by our own high-minded calls to alleviate that suffering without first allowing the sufferers themselves to speak in their own terms.

As she continues to circle closer into her focus on desire, Coakley argues that "desire is also more fundamental than gender, and that the key to the secular riddle of gender can lie only in its connection to the doctrine of the trinitarian God" (52), a point I am very glad to hear someone else making. I attempted to make it several years ago in debates about same-sex relations in a theological context, saying that ultimately arguments from "authority" or "tradition" cut very little ice today even with people inside the Church; the only serious argument must centre on the nature of the triune God.

Coakley here introduces--with promise of more to come--her very sensitive and careful discussion of the 'threeness' of God and the 'twoness' of human gender, saying that hers "is a theory about gender's mysterious and plastic openness to divine transfiguration" (58). All the Christians currently freaking out about "transgenderism" would do well to think on Coakley for a while and the tradition she draws on. Any time you posit that the human person, divided into male and female, is created in the image of the undivided and sexless Trinity you are going to have very serious and difficult questions about the meaning of sexual differentiation vis-à-vis the Trinity.

Questions of transgenderism and sexuality invite contributions from sociology, psychology, gender studies, and other fields, and Coakley's book is especially helpful in laying out nine guidelines (pp.88-92) for such conversations as part of her project of théologie totale. The graciousness with which she engages these questions, and the honesty of her work, comes throughout the book, and is summed up again at the very end, where she notes that "the contemplative is the one who is forced to acknowledge the 'messy entanglement' of sexual desire and the desire for God" (340). Contemplation, with asceticism, also re-orders the passions, changes and purifies our desire for God, offers a safeguard against illusions and idols: "the hermeneutics of suspicion never comes to an end" (343). 

For these and many other insights in this densely argued, but carefully and clearly written, work, let all the people say: Deo gratias. And let us keep watch for the next volumes in her work.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Christos Yannaras

There are certain names, by the force of their prose and the number of their books, which cannot be overlooked today, and Christos Yannaras is certainly in that category. I have used his books in classes for more than a decade now, and read some others. In the former category I have regularly assigned his Freedom of Morality.

That book seems emblematic of Yannaras in some ways--blustery and sprawling, desperately in need of an editor, prone to wild exaggerations and polemical tangents (especially about tiresome Orthodox bugbears such as "scholasticism" and "pietism"), and not a little bit idealistic. Still it contains some crucial insights well worth thinking about in depth.

It is a facile temptation, devoutly to be avoided, to write Yannaras off as one more anti-Western Orthodox crank, of whom there seem to be not a few today. But Yannaras can indulge in those kinds of polemics (perhaps nowhere at greater length than in Orthodoxy and the West: Hellenic Self-Identity in the Modern Age) and still be worth your time because--unlike almost all other anti-Western Orthodox--he regularly turns the criticism back on Orthodoxy itself in welcome ways, as he does in this book in particular. This capacity for self-criticism, as I noted here, became obvious and welcome in 2011 when he gave a commencement address at Holy Cross in Brookline denouncing Orthodox zealots with their individualism, their idolization, their fundamentalism, and their fanaticism masquerading as Orthodox but in fact deeply modern and deeply Western.

Among his other books which I have read, and in some cases reviewed elsewhere, I'd draw attention to The Enigma of Evil. I'm not entirely convinced by its arguments, but again it raises some good questions (in between the usual shots at the West).

And I am just about to begin reading his Against Religion: the Alienation of the Ecclesial Event. It promises to be of interest in my own current work on Freud and theology, some of it discussed here where Yannaras's ideas on psychoanalysis (especially its Lacanian variant) were also noted and welcomed. In his essay on Lacan, Yannaras is a model of open learning, of "despoiling the Egyptians" that the Fathers so often practiced and recommended--but which few on-line apologists today seem to do.

There are many other books that could be mentioned, but the point of this entry is to draw your attention to a new book, and a forthcoming one later this year.

The new book is Metaphysics as a Personal Adventure, trans. Norman Russell (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2017), 212pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Christos Yannaras is a philosopher, theologian, and political thinker widely regarded as one of the most important Orthodox thinkers of the twentieth century. He sees theology along with philosophy not as an academic enterprise, but as a serious approach to reality in all the dimensions vital to life today. A controversial figure, he castigates much of what passes for Christianity in the East as well as in the West, calling it a religionization of faith. In this book he responds to searching questions concerning his work, setting his thinking as a whole in an integrated vision of knowledge, truth, relationship, and salvation.
And then, set for release in August of this year is a forthcoming study: Christos Yannaras: Philosophy, Theology, Culture By Andreas Andreopoulos (Routledge, 2018), 243pp.

About this forthcoming work Routledge tells us the following:
Christos Yannaras is one of the most significant Orthodox theologians of recent times. His work engages not only with issues of philosophy and theology, but also takes in wider questions of culture and politics. With contributions from established and new scholars this collection considers the four main strands of Yannaras’ work - philosophy, theology, ethics and culture - and reflects on the ways in which Yannaras has engaged and influenced thought across these fields. Christos Yannaras provides a foreword.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

North African and West Asian Christianity (I)

The University of Edinburgh Press sent me a copy of a hefty and impressive new collection slated for publication this summer: Christianity in North Africa and West Asia, eds. Kenneth R. Ross, Mariz Tadros, and  Todd M. Johnson (UEP, 2018), 576pp. As I make my way through it, I'll post some more thoughts. As you'll see below, Chalcedonian, Oriental, Arabic, Coptic and other Eastern Christian groups are well represented.

The publisher's rather short and vague blurb doesn't do justice to the riches contained here:
This comprehensive reference volume covers every country in North Africa and West Asia, offering reliable demographic information and original interpretative essays by indigenous scholars and practitioners. It maps patterns of growth and decline, assesses major traditions and movements, analyses key themes and examines current trends.
But the table of contents gives us more details:

A Demographic Profile of Christianity in North Africa and West Asia, Gina A. Zurlo
Christianity in North Africa and West Asia, Mariz Tadros

Morocco and Western Sahara, Jack Wald
Algeria and Tunisia, Katia Boissevain
Libya, Akram HabibSudan, John Eibner 
Egypt, Samuel Tadros
Cyprus, Anastasia Yiangou
Turkey, Hratch Tchilingirian and Ed Alden
Syria, Razek Siriani
Lebanon, Charles Chartouni
Israel, David NeuhausPalestine, Bernard Sabella
Jordan, Paulo Maggiolini and Iyad TwalIraq, Herman Teule
The Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, Hrayr Jebejian
Armenia, Hratch Tchilingirian
Georgia and Azerbaijan, Silvia Serrano 

Major Christian Traditions
Anglicans, Yazid Said
Independents, Duane Alex Miller
Eastern Orthodox, George Tamer
Oriental Orthodox, Aho Shemunkasho
Protestants, Mitri Raheb
Catholics, Anthony O’Mahony
Evangelicals, Wafik Wahba
Pentecostals/Charismatics, Eric Newberg

Key Themes
Faith and Culture, Elizabeth Monier
Worship and Spirituality, Rima Nasrallah
Theology, George Sabra
Social and Political Context, Mark Farha
Mission and Evangelism, Heather Sharkey
Gender, Donna Rizk
Religious Freedom, Ewelina Ochab
Inter-religious Relations, Najib George Awad
Monastic Movements and Spirituality, Anna Poujeau
Ecclesiology, Gabriel Hachem
Christian Media, Sara Afshari
Displaced Populations, Kristian Girling

The Future of Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, Mariz Tadros

Christianity by Country
Methodology and Sources of Christian and Religious Affiliation, Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Russian Orthodoxy and Russian Islam

In my courses on Eastern Christian encounters with Islam, we look at Russia, both because it is fascinating in itself (not least as the largest Orthodox country in the world), but also because the picture is of course very different from the Middle East and elsewhere, and rather complicates facile narratives of one type or another about Islam today.

Next month we will have the release of a new scholarly collection that looks very interesting: Russia's Islam and Orthodoxy beyond the InstitutionsLanguages of Conversion, Competition and Convergence, eds. Alfrid K. Bustanov and Michael Kemper (Routledge, 2018), 120 pp.

About this book the publisher gives us the following blurb and table of contents:
Islam and the Orthodox Church in contemporary Russia are usually studied in isolation from each other, and each in relation to the Kremlin; the latter demands the development of a home-grown and patriotic ‘religious traditionalism, as a bulwark against subversive ‘non-traditional’ imports. This volume breaks new ground by focusing on charismatic missionaries from both religions who bypass the hierarchies of their respective faith organizations and challenge the ‘traditionalism’ paradigm from within Russia's many religious traditions, and who give new meanings to the well-known catchwords of Russia's identity discourse.
The Moscow priest Daniil Sysoev confronted the Russian Orthodox Church with ‘Uranopolitism’, a spiritual vision that defies patriotism and nationalism; the media-savvy Geidar Dzhemal projected an ‘Islamic Eurasianism’ and a world revolution for which Russia's Muslims would provide the vanguard; and the Islamic terrorist Said Buriatskii found respect among left- and right-wing Russians through his Islamic adaptation of Lev Gumilev's ‘passionarity’ paradigm. On the other side, Russian experts and journalists who propagate the official paradigm of Russia's ‘traditional Islam’ argue from either Orthodox or secularist perspectives, and fail to give content to the concept. This allows even moderate Salafis to argue that their creed is Russia's real ‘traditionalist’ Islam. This book was originally published as a special issue of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.

1. Russia’s Islam and Orthodoxy beyond the Institutions: Languages of Conversion, Competition and Convergence Alfrid K. Bustanov and Michael Kemper

2. Nationalism and Religion in the Discourse of Russia’s ‘Critical Experts of Islam’ Kristina Kovalskaya

3. Daniil Sysoev: Mission and Martyrdom Gulnaz Sibgatullina

4. The Language of Moderate Salafism in Eastern Tatarstan Alfrid K. Bustanov

5. Jihad as Passionarity: Said Buriatskii and Lev Gumilev Danis Garaev

6. Between Salafism and Eurasianism: Geidar Dzhemal and the Global Islamic Revolution in Russia Gulnaz Sibgatullina and Michael Kemper
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