arts, books, other reviews

 

art

WILLIAM POWELL FRITH PAINTING THE VICTORIAN AGE

Guildhall Art Gallery, London

Till 4 March, 2-50

William Powell Frith (1819-1909) was a hugely successful Victorian artist, and the exhibition at the Guildhall Gallery is full of paintings that will be familiar to many people. His lively and meticulous paintings of Ramsgate Sands, the Railway Station and Derby Day, all of which are in this exhibition, were sensations at the time, and had to be protected by police and crowd barriers when they were first exhibited. They show complex and beautifully constructed crowd scenes, full of incident with little independent narratives throughout the paintings. Their print runs ran into thousands and made the printers and Frith wealthy men.

Frith said of himself in his popular autobiography, T know very well that I never was, nor under any circumstances could have become, a great artist, but I am a very successful one.'

 

In one sense he was right, in that he does not address great problems and issues in his paintings, confining himself to what he can do well, but it would be a mistake to see him as a successful and accomplished genre painter and nothing more. He had a beautiful technique, he took immense care in depicting the people he painted, everyone being drawn from life, off the streets, friends, employees, models, and he was a man with a clear eye and a passionate interest in his fellow human beings. He saw Victorian society clearly, and though his poor people are usually quite well-fed and cheerful, he paints strong contrasts of clothing and circumstances between the rich and poor, privileged and destitute.

Frith was a great admirer of Charles Dickens and illustrated some of his books. His portrait of Dickens was painted when the author was at the height of his popularity, and shows him as a man at the pinnacle of his achievements, with no echo of the sad and chaotic state of his private life at the time. Frith also illustrated Sterne and Shakespeare, among other authors.

He was also a great admirer of Hogarth, regarded by many as the father of English painting. He painted two sequences of moral paintings in the style of Hogarth - The Road to Ruin, showing the downfall of the fortunate and rich young man, and The Race for Wealth, describing the rise and fall of a financial fraudster. They were both reproduced in popular print

equences. The paintings, the prints and the preliminary drawings in black and white chalk are all in the exhibition.

The sketches give a clear idea of Friths lively and informal drawing style, and sometimes seem to have a greater vivacity and directness than the subsequent pictures and prints. He also planned a series - Times of Day - as Hogarth had done. These only exist in preliminary studies and were never completed. Queen Victorias commission to paint the marriage of the Prince of Wales meant that they were postponed and ultimately abandoned. The immense painting of the Royal Wedding shows only too clearly how boring and uncongenial a task Frith found it.

There is much to enjoy in this quite large exhibition - beautiful painting, and a wonderfully detailed view of Victorian day-to-day life painted by an artist who clearly found it all interesting, absorbing, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing, and portrayed it all with an unpatronizing affection that makes him something more than just a successful painter.

 

Anne Gardom

 

books

TUFTON TRACTS

SCM-Canterbury; 3-50 each

Authority: Who Says So?
Edwin Barnes

The Prayer Book and Ordination
Anthony Kilmister

Catholic or Protestant
Arthur Middleton

Here come new Tractarians for our times. It has always been in times of crisis that champions have been raised up to defend the faith against error, and in these three writers, swashbucklers all, the sword is raised once again to put heresy to flight. It is very much to be hoped that these new pamphlets will find their way into the tract cases and bookstalls of parishes up and down the land, and that clergy and laity alike will take their teaching to heart in these next few critical years for Anglican orthodoxy. Devotees of the Book of Common Prayer are not necessarily allies in the struggle to maintain the faith: sometimes, love of the Prayer Book can be about 'language,' 'cadence' and a theological manner, or tone of voice, rather than doctrine. Anthony Kilmister is careful to stress that he is writing in a purely personal capacity. He guides the reader, however, with consummate authority around what it really means to uphold the teaching of the BCR The Prayer Book holds unequivocally (argues Kilmister) that the Church of England is no mere sect, but part of the Church Universal, requiring (and, until recently, exhibiting) a ministry which is capable of being universally recognized. Kilmister writes with passion about the doctrine of reception, and the grievous wrong which would be done to loyal orthodox Anglicans if they were forced to choose whether to submit to an innovation proven neither in the Scriptures nor the Tradition, or to leave the Church of their birth and baptism. He questions, robustly, whether the vocation of many ordained women is truly to the sacred priesthood as the Church has always understood it. He confronts, bluntly, the problem of male priests ordained by female bishops in a future Church of England which has embraced further innovation. There are only two solutions to the problem: the advocates for change must desist and 'pull back from the brink' - or there must be a new province. Anything less, suggests Kilmister, in a memorable phrase, would be 'about as much use as a lump of pickled pork is to a rabbi.'

Edwin Barnes poses the question 'Who decides?' or rather 'Who interprets?' The Church of England lives with the consequences of a Reformation settlement which replaced the authority of the Church of Rome and the Pope with that of the King. But the authority of the monarch has become that of the Crown-in-Parlia-ment, and that of the Crown-in-Parlia-ment, in ecclesiastical affairs, the General Synod and its attendant committee culture and quasi-parliamentary, 'democratic' and adversarial procedures. Therein lies the problem. Barnes analyses the deleterious consequences of the doctrine of'provincial autonomy,' and provides a helpful summary of the ARCIC statement, The Gift of Authority. Authority is no longer something which can simply be imposed; it is given, as much as by those who receive the exercise of authority, as those who minister it. This is the reality of present Anglican polity, no matter how much diocesan bishops may 'huff and puff.'

Arthur Middleton (it comes as no surprise) writes with wide reference both to the Fathers of the undivided Church and to the Anglican divines. He does so both to demonstrate the catholicity of the Church of England, and to illustrate what that Catholic identity entails in every age, including the present one. Not everyone will share his confidence in a 'non-papal Catholicism,' and an appeal to common ground with the Old Catholic churches is something of a two-edged sword. But that is incidental. At the heart of Middle-ton's pamphlet, amply justified through the evidence which his wholesale familiarity with, and immersion in, the primary sources allows him to deploy, is the claim that the catholicity of Anglicanism is guaranteed by her participation in 'the continuity of the universal Church:' a continuity which unilateral innovation in the matter of Holy Order severely imperils. What is impressive about Middleton's work is not just the learning which is on display, but the spiritual depth which holds the whole thing together - a spiritual depth which often emerges as a real anguish at the direction being taken by the church which the author loves. Middleton's defence of orthodoxy, and his rejection of the caricature of'fundamentalism,' is a poignant and a moving one:

If to explain ourselves we need to use labels, we are 'liberal conservatives' liberal in its classical sense of liberality, a generosity of spirit combined with openness in the search for truth, rather than the accommodating mind of the contemporary liberal... Our search for truth is from within a living not an abstract tradition...and we cannot accept as 'truth' anything that is in plain contradiction to this.

And so say all of us.

Mark Moore

 

CORPUS MYSTICUM

The Eucharist and the Church in the Middle Ages

Henri Cardinal de Lubac sj

Translated by Gemma Simmonds cj with Richard Price

Edited by Laurence Paul Hemming and Susan Frank Parsons

SCM Press, 334pp, pbk

0 334 02994 5, 30

 

No student of Roman Catholic theology in the twentieth century can ignore de Lubac. Hans Urs von Balthasar described him as 'a young David, come onto the field against the Goliath of modern rationalization and reduction to logic of the Christian mystery' Joseph Ratzinger (who with Balthasar and de Lubac formed the hub of the Communio school of the 1960s) called his Christ and the Common Destiny of Man 'an essential milestone on my theological journey' John Paul II, who gave him the Cardinal's hat in 1983, found in his writing a truly Catholic theology at once traditional, progressive and life-giving.

To de Lubac do we owe the robust insistence that there never has been Christianity without the Church: that, in other words, the Church is not ancillary to the Gospel, or a means of communicating the Gospel message, but is the Gospel, indivisible and inseparable from it. The Church, in turn, is inseparable from her ministry: and the sacred function of the priesthood is entirely without earthly counterpart. And the Church is Mother: de Lubac is one of the great exponents of the controlling metaphor of the mater ecclesia. As Fergus Kerr has recently observed, for de Lubac, the 'inmost nature and destiny of the Church' is most thoroughly realized through exuberant nuptial symbolism.' And where Church is Mother, the bishop is father: father of the soul of the individual Christian, father of the church entrusted to his care.

If de Lubac is most commonly studied today for his ecclesiology, then it was in the more pristine field of philosophical theology that he provoked controversy in his own lifetime. Specifically, de Lubac opposed the prevailing neo-Thom-ist orthodoxy which held that there could be a hypothetical natural end or telos for humanity in the absence of grace. In other words, de Lubac argued, against the neo-Thomists, that there is no such thing, for humanity, as 'pure nature,' but rather that it is peculiar to the human soul to realize the full splendour of grace given to it: there is implanted in the human soul a natural desire for God, and anything (as he wrote in his Paradoxes) which takes a human being away from God is therefore by way of fantasy.

Conservatives (if that is the right word) perceived in de Lubac's thinking a threat to the gratuity of divine grace. But the lasting achievement of de Lubac's challenge to a particular reading of St Thomas (he certainly had no hostility to the work of the angelic Doctor himself) was to guarantee the sense of the sacred not as a foreign, invading force in a fundamentally mundane and secular world, but rather as intimately related to the order of creation. And it is after de Lubac that a theological consensus begins to build that anthropology and ecclesiology are each fully intelligible only in the light of the other: -a sine quo non of the magisterial teaching of John Paul II.

SCM Press are to be congratulated on the production of this first publication in English of Corpus Mysticum, de Lubac's magnum opus on eucharistic theology. The book is an analysis (in sum) of that process - a process which de Lubac deprecates - whereby the term mystical body ceased to be applied to the eucharistic presence of Christ, and became transplanted to denote the institutional church instead. This process gives birth to Christian rationalism and to the defeat of Mystery by the dead-eningly logical and excessively cerebral; Anselm and Abelard are named as particular culprits, indicating that the opposition between continental and Anglo-Saxon philosophy can be traced back for a millennium.

The translators do not (surely, correctly) attempt to tidy up, flatten out or otherwise regularize the sprawling and omnivorous style of the original: and it must frankly be admitted that it will only be specialists in the field who will read the whole thing from cover to cover. But in adding to the library of texts by de Lubac now readily available in English, all connected with this project deserve our wholehearted thanks and appreciation.

In their Preface, the editors open up a fascinating topic for discussion. The eucharistic community, they note, is now a community which has chosen to be there' (consciously making a choice both for something and against something else), rather than being the community which has been chosen by God - the community which they call, 'the body proper.' As Roman Catholics in the British Isles find their common life reinvigorated by new waves of immigration, and the creation thereby of enlarged and ever more international congregations, the paradox of an Anglo-Catholicism which (even given its history) faces one possible future in which it is defined entirely by negatives (no women priests; not Roman) looks ever more fraught with danger.

Jonathan Baker

 

THE NEW FACES OF CHRISTIANITY

Believing the Bible in the Global South Philip Jenkins OUP, 193pp, hbk 978-0195300659, 16-99

Following his earlier work The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins from Penn State University provides a helpful survey for those wanting to discover the reality of Two-Thirds World Christianity.

 

Twenty years ago, the academic world discovered that the missionaries of the nineteenth century and their records were a major resource for understanding the beginnings of globalization, the spread of Western civilization and communication as a global network. This discovery took place about fifty years after this movement reached its height.

Now Christianity outside the West is being discovered as a source. First Jenkins mapped the reality in The Next Christendom. Now he is mapping the way these churches read the Bible. Twenty years ago, Fr Martin Jarrett Kerr gathered a group of people to collect samples of preaching in the Two-Thirds World.

New Faces surveys well-worn paths -liberation theology, women, and the use of expository preaching in political resistance. It does not cover the development of holistic mission theology, the theme of stewardship which underlies the new development that has changed the long-held reticence of Christians to go into business, and biblical understanding of religion in the context of other faiths.

It focuses on those understandings of Scripture which take seriously the transcendental, supernatural and miraculous element in, for example, healing ministry. A taxonomy for understanding this was developed over twenty years ago by Professor Paul Hiebert, a mission scholar in India (in Folk Religion in Andhra Pradesh). He identified a three-layer view of the world: high religion which focused on the large questions of God and destiny - this is the realm of the major world religions and philosophies; and natural science, which focused on observable features in the natural world (fire burns, ice cools). In the middle level is the realm of the supernatural and local deities, folk religion, magic and astrology. It is this realm which has been dismissed in the West as superstition, but is where most poor people in Africa, Asia and Latin America live.

Jenkins presents all this as slightly exotic. He focuses on the extent of these beliefs in the non-Western Church as they read the Bible with a pre-modern world-view in pre-modern ways. A number of texts look and feel different when read in the context of a state that is not benign, or where clan identity is the primary identity. In this context, liberal ways of reading the Bible begin to look equally culturally captive. However, there is little discrimination in the reporting. The wilder excesses of the extreme theologian Hyun Chung of Korea in her presentation of Han spirits,

about whom a major protest was raised at the Canberra Assembly of the WCC by the whole contingent of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, are put on a par with the readings of classic Pentecostals.

Jenkins' thesis is that since most Christians in the world are now reading the Bible from this pre-modern background, this way of reading the Bible will increasingly become normal in Global Christianity. This means that anyone wanting to understand Global Christianity will have to become familiar with these churches, their cultures and their ways of reading the Bible. But Jenkins does not discuss whether any of this raises a challenge to the Western Church. It is observable that the Western Church still continues to produce its theological products as though eventually modernity will sweep all before it. The one concession Western theology has made to external pressures is to accept Middle Eastern money for at least seven of its theological faculties in the United Kingdom, with the result that in British universities it is increasingly difficult to study the truth about Islam or Christian engagement with it.

The major difference this reviewer has observed in the way the Church in the Two-Thirds World reads the Bible is that most of them believe it is God's word to them, much as the scribes of the Book of Kells did who rewrote the whole manuscript if they made a mistake, and that the world of the Bible is the one to which Christians are called to conform this world, and thus they seek to order their lives by the Bible as a matter of course. That is the challenge.

Dr Chris Sugden is a canon of the Church of Nigeria, and author of 'Seeking the Asian Face of Jesus'

 

PRAYER IN NEWMAN

Giovanni Velocci cssr Translated by Nicholas Gregoris

Gracewing, 94pp, pbk 978-0852440339, 5-99

 

This slim, large-type volume divides into three nearly equal sections. The second of these, and the reason for buying the book, is Fr Velocci's selection of texts from Newman's writings. These are ordered in textbook fashion to show the reasons for prayer, the types of prayer, its effects and the conditions for 'successful' prayer. The generous quotations are linked by a commentary so that Newman's otherwise unconnected thoughts are systematized.

 

Unfortunately, there is no serious attempt to place what Newman said about prayer, or the prayers he wrote, a selection of which make up the final part of the book, within the context of how Newman actually prayed himself. In this respect, Fr Gregoris' introduction is a missed opportunity.

This is the greater pity because Gregoris has an enthusiasm for Newman, though one which occasionally lets him down - even Newman might have permitted himself a wry smile to see the Cork Examiner quoted as evidence of how the English viewed him. And it becomes frankly tedious to be told this prayer or that devotion is beautiful, without any analysis of why it is beautiful - the possibility that Newman is a third-rate versifier whose true genius lay in his sermons does not seem to have occurred to Gregoris.

More serious is the attempt to line Newman up with the tradition of how a Catholic saint prays. Taking a series of spiritual heroes, Gregoris notes what Newman shared in common with them. It may be this is done with Newmans canonization in mind - the book ends with a prayer for that canonization - but the results are often misleading. So, the parallel with St John of the Cross, whose works Newman owned, though the pages were uncut at his death, suggests a mysticism foreign to Newman, and one discouraged by the Church of Rome in his day. Again, it will not do simply to say that Newman appropriated the prayer forms of the Eastern Church. Certainly he valued the prayer types used by the Fathers, East and West, but there is no evidence that he used the Jesus prayer or its equivalents. Nor will it do to say that he followed St Alphonsus' devotion to Our Lady, without noting that he thought such Italianate taste unsuited to the English, not to say misguided at points. And as to placing Newman alongside the founder of Opus Dei, you have to wonder whether he would have appreciated the compliment.

The problem is that Newman, such an Anglican Roman Catholic, does not fit the scholastic, ultramontane straitjacket. His prayer life was largely self-taught and unsystematic. His thought, which was inseparable from his prayer, was deeply personal, and often suspect to the censors. Perhaps if the introduction had been written by the advocatus diaboli we might have had a more insightful account of a man who has much to teach us about the life of prayer; but the insights we are given are certainly worth a read.

Owen Higgs

 

LAST RITES

The End of the Church of England Michael Hampson Granta, 244 pp, pbk 978 1862078918, 12-99

The fact that one of our chains of bookshops allows its customers to take books into its in-house coffee shops before deciding whether or not to buy should serve as a lesson to us all. Having popped into the religion section with some book-tokens, Hampson's title sounded rather intriguing so I took it to the desk, bought it and left. Having finished it a couple of hours later, I rather wished I hadn't bothered.

There are interesting elements within it; however, the comment from Andrew Brown on the cover that this is the best book he has ever read 'about life inside the Church of England' reveals the scarcity of books about life within the said institution.

In his introduction, Hampson talks a little of his time serving as an Anglican priest and then sets the tone for the rest of the book. He refers to himself as one of the many gay clergy who were disheartened by Jeffrey John's decision not to go to Reading [p. 4] before starting to talk of'liberals' and 'fundamentalists' [p. 5].

I realized that Hampson and I were not going to agree very much when he described the charism of liberalism as compromise, before saying that 'the special talent of fundamentalism is to get its own way' [p. 5]. It is unclear throughout the book but I think that he means by 'fundamentalist' what the rest of us mean by 'evangelical' If this is so, I admit to being rather confused. Is it not the liberal movement that has taken over the Anglican Communion, leading to its many divisions? I thought that the issue within many of its provinces was the self-professed liberals going their own way without caring about the reactions of those who might not describe themselves as such.

More so than the Jeffrey John affair, Hampson's main gripe is that the Bishop of Chelmsford (he does not actually name him but a cursory glance at Crockford will reveal the necessary information) refused to license him to a new post after learning that he was in a homosexual relationship with his partner living in the vicarage. This must have been a traumatic time but his interesting understanding that the bishop was not allowed to ask him to confirm that he, as a priest under his authority, was living chastely strikes one as verging on the laughable.

In a rather sketchy history of Anglicanism from the Reformation in England, Hampson seeks out polarization at every opportunity, whether or not it was actually there, before moving on to the main premise of his book. This seems to be that the divisions within the Church of England are all the fault of his 'fundamentalists' and that the oh-so-beleaguered liberals have repeatedly kowtowed to them to the effect that the ship can no longer hold the disparate groupings.

In an apologia for practising homosexual relationships which might, on a good day, scrape a third in an ethics essay at a second-rate university, we learn that a 'heterosexual assumption in places like the Garden of Eden or in Jesus' discussions of human relationships' is special pleading on behalf of the fundamentalists. It would be far too easy to throw back that accusation at Hampson with regard to his whole book so I shan't. That would be rude.

What I shall say, though, is that his understanding of ecclesiology and the need for the unity and up-building of Christ's Church is seriously deficient if he honestly believes that we should all split up into different networks.

He believes that the CofE is destined for complete financial breakdown imminently, and that all would be best served by forming differing groups of networks for people who like the same sort of things. Those horrid folk who disapprove of the ordination of women currently have the only form of Congregationalism to be legitimate, apparently, the option to 'opt into a new network of parishes, complete with its own bishops to co-ordinate their common life' [p. 192]. I doubt many of ND's readers will disagree with the idea that these churches should be the first to be set free from diocesan control, but the suggestion that this is Congregationalism would, I hope, be dismissed. It is surely a desire to avoid Congregationalism and to be truly Catholic that we call for a satisfactory structural solution.

Resolutions A, B and C should now be followed by E-K apparently (and these as a minimum). These new resolutions should not be seen negatively, like Resolution C, as opt-out measures (which is rather odd, given that two pages earlier he described C as being opting-in) but should be positive - for those who like bishops, and those who don't; for those who hold to traditional morality and those who don't; for those who believe in justice before sacraments and those who don't (what the last set actually means, I'm not sure).

This way, there will be no more fighting, no more arguing; we can simply go our own way and be as we want to be. Let us ignore St Paul rejecting the idea of Tm for Cephas', Tm for Apollos', Tm for Paul', and embrace schism. That seems to be Hamp-son's message in this poorly written, inadequate book which should have been placed in the round filing cabinet on the floor by the religion editor at Granta.

Richard Doney is Pastoral Assistant to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and an ordinand from the Diocese of Durham

 

 

THE GOD DELUSION

Richard Dawkins

Bantam, 406pp, hbk 0 618 68000 4, 20

C.S. Lewis once said science could only write the footnote to the poem of life but Christianity was the poem itself. Is The God Delusion to be written off as a mere footnote? There can hardly ever have been a scientific book as polemical in its dismissal of religion as a harmful force. Richard Dawkins takes no captives and his populist style allied to a formidable intellect put this reader rather on the defensive. It is understandable, though regrettable, that some Christians have felt the need to dismiss the book without reading it. In some respects it is not a pleasant read.

Even if believers can comfort themselves that no rational discourse could ever have the last word on God, they are left with wounds. Nowadays the religious world, let alone the Christian world, is seen much as one, however many divisions we recognize ourselves. Pascals quotation that 'men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction' is amply backed up by the contemporary testimonies of Muslim suicide bombers and murderous Christian anti-abortionists. Dawkins' picture is plausible unless the reader discerns the frequent caricatures: for example, 'the sanctimoniously hypocritical Mother Teresa', and Pope John Paul IPs 'polytheistic hankerings' as commentary on his love for the mother of Jesus.

The God Delusion may have caricatures, but it also has enough evidence of the misuse of power within religion to humble a religious reader. If only Christians could dissociate from Pat Robertson's crude homophobic ramblings, let alone the legacy of the holocaust, but we cannot do so with any great ease in a world that increasingly lumps us together, history and all, and finds our certitude alarming and destructive.

Those who value Richard Dawkins' intellectual achievements in zoological research cannot be other than alarmed at his production of a book that is so weak in its academic rigour as to be likened to 'someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds' (Terry Eagleton). As we read of St Paul's authorship of the letter to the Hebrews, we get a hint of how little Dawkins has engaged with a process of biblical criticism and interpretation. He would find few historians agreeing with his thesis that the gospels are no more historical than Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. How can a mind so schooled at weighing evidence in zoology be so guilty of bias and misrepresentation when it comes to theology?

This book gives its readers shock treatment. Does Dawkins protest too much? Perhaps, but there is enough truth-telling to provide a wake-up call to friends of God. If faith and reason both lift us to God, the rational debate Dawkins invites must be welcome unless we shrink back to having 'confidence in confidence' {Sound of Music). No Christian should stomach his definition of faith as 'blind trust in the absence of evidence'. The omission in the book of any serious consideration of the historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus seems extraordinary.

There is poignancy in the reminder at the end of the book that atheists are concerned above all to avoid 'self-delusion, wishful thinking, or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something', fuelled as they are by a perception that this life is all that they have. The God Delusion may help believers challenge and re-root their faith, but it should also inspire a degree of admiration for those like Dawkins who live energetically by their own steam with no such back-up or rooting.

John Twisleton, Chichester diocesan mission and renewal adviser

 

 

DOUBLE-EFFECT REASONING

Doing good and avoiding evil T.A. Cavanaugh

OUP, 244pp, hbk 0 19 927219 0, 45

 

What should we do about the foreseen but unintended consequences of our moral actions? The three classic examples are the administering of pain-killers to a terminally ill patient at a level that may cause his death; the need to perform a hysterectomy to save the life of a pregnant woman (and so killing the child she bears); and the likelihood of collateral damage and the killing of civilians with the use of tactical bombing. How do we judge such cases?

Much (most?) public moral discussion sees no special ethical problem: being of a 'consequentialist' character, where the value and justification for an action are dependent upon the results alone, there is no separate reasoning in these cases. Of course we seek to minimize the evil consequences of our actions, but there is no special notion of double effect. The sum total of good is alone relevant, whether foreseen or intended is strictly speaking neither here nor there.

Double-effect reasoning is a peculiarly Christian aspect of ethical reasoning. Cavanaugh traces its medieval origins from Aquinas onwards to the later modifications by John de Lugo, St Alphonsus Ligouri and Jean-Pierre Gury, and analyzes its limitations and weaknesses (after all why should it matter when you have been blown to bits by a bomb that it was foreseen but not intended), with such perspicacity that halfway through the book one feels it to be an embarrassing anachronism. The law of double effect, as it is often called, seems to be the worst example of what is generally sneered at as Jesuitic casuistry.

This makes the second half of the book an exciting, if highly technical, rehabilitation. The ethical relevance of the 'intented-fore-seen distinction' and the practical outworking of double-effects make a compelling case for the sophisticated and nuanced theological thinking that derives from the Catholic moral tradition. There is no simple answer to the very real problem of seeking to do good while also avoiding evil, but of all the philosophical answers on offer, it is this tradition that carries the greatest conviction. Cavanaugh's writing is spare and precise, but he has done a fine piece of work. Double-effect reasoning is an important lesson to learn.

John Turnbull

 

 

THE QUEER BIBLE COMMENTARY

Edited by Deryn Guest et al

SCM, 860pp, hbk

0 334 04021 3, [64-99]

Here it is, a solid, library-shelf hardback Bible commentary from the LGBT perspective. (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered; to which 'queer' is sometimes added when emphasizing an overall, semi-critical perspective.) This book intends to declare that the new sexuality has arrived in the competitive world of biblical scholarship. An illusion? I think so. The content does not match up to the form, though there is much of real interest.

The treatment of Leviticus 18.22, by David Stewart is a case in point. The commentary is sharp and precise. 'Did the writer need to write more than 'You shall not lie with a male' if the intent was a general condemnation of male homosexuality?' His carefully worked-out suggestion, that it concerns homosexual incest, is not without conviction. He concludes, 'These 'texts of terror' are not a general prohibition against all homosexual relations. One must turn to the pages of the history of interpretation to find that', louche.

The effect, however, is spoilt two pages later when he talks of himself as 'a North American, middle-class, post-fundamentalist, Episcopalian, queer, white boy, academic' and wanders into his own little world of anecdotal reminiscence and the problems of 'internalized heterosexism' he encounters among his students. It may have some merit, but it undermines what earlier seemed like genuine exegesis.

Wondering what to turn to next, I asked myself, 'What has the Book of Lamentations got to do with a LGBTQ agenda?' After a brief discussion of its historical origins in the exilic period, the commentator turns to its 'cultural afterlife' which proves the perfect excuse for a long essay on the justified outpourings of anger and bitterness of gays and lesbians in England over the past thirty years - it makes an impassioned lecture, complete with quotations from contemporary authors, but it does nothing to interpret this particular biblical text.

The commentary on Judges offers just three items, 3.12-30, the male rape of Eglon by Ehud; the lesbian relationship of Deborah and Jael [chs. 4-5]; and finally the horrendous and well-known conclusion [chs. 19-21] the treatment of which is rather tame by comparison. The Book of Ruth is seen as a glorious manifesto for a lesbian strategy for acquiring a child for the relationship, 'Ruth, Naomi and Boaz would be proud of the ways in which we continue to follow their strategies for creating family and having our relationships recognized.'

The New Testament, b eing b etter known among Christians and more widely studied, allows less room for interesting difference. Unfortunately I started with Acts, which has several commentators. Acts is not [a book] I have concentrated on during my ministerial career. I much prefer to talk about Jesus...' Bully for you, but at this price we expect a bit more. A later writer considers Lydia's conversion [Acts 16.14-15], a mere list of innuendos to counter 'the heteronor-mative atmosphere of biblical interpretation. She was a dealer in purple ('shades of lavender and pink') and the place is close to the island of Lesbos; in all we have 'a tantalizing glimpse of an economically apparently independent woman who likes to spend her Sabbaths in the company of women.' At what point does such 'scholarship' become merely stupid?

This is unfortunate as there is much that is of interest, and at least thought-provoking. If the book were a quarter of the length, and a quarter as pompous, it would be four times better. But of course it isn't, for its purpose is not to speak to you and me (frankly, are we that interested?) but to establish the academic credentials of what is in effect a tiny but vocal interest-group. Whatever value this has in political terms, it has little to do with biblical scholarship. It is a common if unfair jibe that Christians are obsessed with sex. With this group of writers, it is true, and how!

Anthony Saville

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