News, VOLUME 11

Ten Theology Books to Watch For – Nov. 2018

Here are a some excellent theology* books that will be released this month:

* broadly interpreted, including ethics, church history, biblical studies, and other areas that intersect with theology

See a book here that you’d like to review for us?
Contact us, and we’ll talk about the possibility of a review.

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[easyazon_link identifier=”0190678240″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity[/easyazon_link] 

M. Lindsay Kaplan

Oxford UP

 

In Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity, M. Lindsay Kaplan expands the study of the history of racism through an analysis of the Christian concept of Jewish hereditary inferiority. Imagined as a figural slavery, this idea anticipates modern racial ideologies in creating a status of permanent, inherent subordination. Unlike other studies of early forms of racism, this book places theological discourses at the center of its analysis. It traces an intellectual history of the Christian doctrine of servitus Judaeorum, or Jewish enslavement, imposed as punishment for the crucifixion. This concept of hereditary inferiority, formulated in patristic and medieval exegesis through the figures of Cain, Ham, and Hagar, enters into canon law to enforce the spiritual, social, and economic subordination of Jews to Christians. Characterized as perpetual servitude, this status shapes the construction of Jews not only in canon law, but in medicine, natural philosophy, and visual art.

By focusing on inferiority as a category of analysis, Kaplan sharpens our understanding of contemporary racism as well as its historical development. The damaging power of racism lies in the ascription of inferiority to a set of traits and not in bodily or cultural difference alone; in the medieval context, theological authority affirms discriminatory hierarchies as a reflection of divine will.

Medieval theological discourses created a racial rationale of Jewish hereditary inferiority that also served to justify the servile status of Muslims and Africans. Kaplan’s discussion of this history uncovers the ways in which racism circulated in pre-modernity and continues to do so in contemporary white supremacist discourses that similarly seek to subordinate these groups.



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[easyazon_link identifier=”0268104530″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]René Girard and the Nonviolent God[/easyazon_link] 

Scott Cowdell

U of Notre Dame Press

In his latest book on the ground-breaking work of René Girard (1923–2015), Scott Cowdell sets out a new perspective on mimetic theory and theology: he develops the proposed connection between Girardian thought and theological dramatic theory in new directions, engaging with issues of evolutionary suffering and divine providence, inclusive Christian uniqueness, God’s judgment, nonviolent atonement, and the spiritual life. Cowdell reveals a powerful, illuminating, and life-enhancing synergy between mimetic theory and Christianity at its best.

 

With religion widely seen as increasingly violent and intransigent, the true Christian emphasis on divine solidarity, mercy, and healing is in danger of being lost. René Girard provides a countervailing voice. He emerges from Cowdell’s study not only as a necessary dialogue partner for theology today, but as a global prophet offering hope and challenge in equal measure.

 

René Girard was a Catholic cultural theorist whose mimetic theory achieved a powerful symbiosis of social science with scripture and theology, yielding a unique perspective on humanity’s origins, violent history, and future prospects. Cowdell maps this synergy, revealing theological themes present from Girard’s earliest writings to the latest, less-familiar publications. He resolves a number of theological challenges to Girard’s work, engaging mimetic theory in fruitful dialogue with key themes, movements, and thinkers in theology today.

Bringing a distinctive Anglican voice to a largely Catholic debate, Cowdell gives an orthodox theological account of Girard’s intellectual achievement, bearing witness to Christianity’s nonviolent God. This book will be of great interest to theologians, seminarians and clergy of all traditions, Girardians, and Christian peace activists.

 

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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com


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