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Remembering the Christian Past [Paperback]

By Robert Louis Wilken (Author)
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Item Number 144132  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   190
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.03" Width: 6.03" Height: 0.56"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2000
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802808808  
EAN  9780802808806  

Availability  146 units.
Availability accurate as of May 25, 2017 07:59.
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Item Description...
Prompting readers to reacquaint themselves with forgotten aspects of Christian tradition, this collection of essays points out the importance of remembering the enduring truths of the faith.

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More About Robert Louis Wilken

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Louis Wilken is William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books, including The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, published by Yale University Press.

Robert Louis Wilken currently resides in the state of Virginia. Robert Louis Wilken was born in 1936.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General   [6817  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The Relevance of the Past  Mar 26, 2004
A few years ago I was asked to review for this journal a book on contemporary ecumenical responses to the classic Christian creeds of the fourth century. In that review, I commended the book for demonstrating so clearly how important patristic research is to the present ecclesiastical situation, despite its reputation as "arcane." Reading Robert Wilken's Remembering the Christian Past, I was delighted to experience the same reaction again. Previously published or delivered in a variety of forums, some academic, others confessional, the eight essays contained in this volume survey a diverse range of sources from many religious milieux in the late antique and medieval period in response to current questions regarding scholarly integrity, religious pluralism, the teaching of virtue, and even the politics of the Middle East. With his masterful command of the sources and incisive style, Wilken lays to rest once and for all the claim that patristics is irrelevant to the contemporary situation in universities, churches, and society at large.

The first essay, "Who Will Speak for the Religious Traditions?," Wilken's 1989 AAR address, is programmatic for the rest of the collection. In it, he questions the view currently held in many quarters of the academic world that personal commitment to and affiliation with a specific religious tradition are impediments to objective critical study of that tradition. Wilken argues that far from hindering such study, personal engagement with the religious tradition one studies can unleash reason's critical and imaginative powers, an effect he sees demonstrated in the lively three-way dialogue that took place between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sages in the Middles Ages. In the next essay, "Religious Pluralism and Early Christian Thought," Wilken takes on the current question of religious diversity in a multicultural society, placing it in context by examining Origen and Augustine's response to pagan arguments against Christianity's claim to be an exclusive way to salvation. Wilken argues that for both these authors, such a claim was based on events in biblical history (Christ's resurrection and the establishment and ongoing witness of the Church) that were (and, he implies, still are) open to critical scrutiny. "No Other Gods," originally published in First Things, the journal of ecumenical orthodoxy, continues the examination of Origen and Augustine's critiques of philosophical theism begun in the previous essay. In it, Wilken argues that, for both theologians, the latter misses the mark because it refuses to see what God has done for humankind in Christ and to embrace the new life and worship of the one true God this event has made possible. Wilken uses this critique to make his own passionate plea for the restoration of Christian culture to Western society.

These spirited polemical essays are followed by two with a primarily exegetical focus. "Not a Solitary God: the Triune God of the Bible" is an excellent survey of the biblical evidence and patristic exegesis of it that contributed to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. "In novissimis diebus: Biblical Promises, Jewish Hopes, and Early Christian Exegesis" examines patristic exegesis of Isaiah 2 for evidence of the Christian "spiritualization" of Old Testament promises for the restoration of Israel to the Jewish people, a practice that continues to have implications for today's Jewish-Christian dialogue.

"The Lives of the Saints and the Pursuit of Virtue," my favorite essay in this collection, considers the rise of Christian hagiography in the fifth century, arguing against an Aristotelian background that saints' lives proved a superb way to illustrate and inspire the habitual practice of virtue over a lifetime, to introduce new role models (such as Christian holy women), and to encourage unpredictable, creative responses to moral challenges. Although the polemical application is more muted here, the relevance of such material for contemporary Christian paranesis is clear.

"Loving God with a Holy Passion" presents Maximus the Confessor's understanding of the role of the passions in the spiritual life. Wilken places Maximus within the context of foregoing debate on this topic, and outlines his ultimately positive view of the passions as enabling the soul to hold fast to virtue and knowledge. He also discusses Maximus' affinity with Augustine on the organic relationship between love and knowledge. This study leads smoothly into the final essay, "Memory and the Christian Intellectual Life," which brings the themes explored throughout this collection full-circle. Here Wilken again emphasizes the complementary roles reason and affect play in the life of faith, and argues that religious traditions, with their long histories of lively critical debate and beloved role models held up for imitation, are invaluable in helping scholars understand religions. This appeal to tradition (helped along by reference to Augustine's understanding of authority) concludes with a call to contemporary students of Christianity to reclaim the richness of that tradition's biblical, patristic, and scholastic legacy. A scholar of early Christian literature could ask for no more bracing exhortation.

Kelley McCarthy Spoerl

An excellent Collection Worth 10 Stars  Mar 23, 2004
Early Christianity has been thoroughly taken to task by contemporary academic criticism as the root of all kinds of evils for Western civilization, from sexism and misogyny to militarism and violence. Is it possible that this period, once considered foundational for Christian piety, can have anything to say to the postmodern world? Robert Wilken argues gently but passionately that it can, and focuses his erudition and lucid style on defending the point.

This supplicatio for patristic theology is a collection of eight previously published essays. It begins with Wilken's 1989 presidential address to the American Academy of Religion, "Who Will Speak for the Religious Traditions?" where he argued that the post-Enlightenment academic discourse into which the study of religion has fallen marginalizes the real character and experience of religion for the sake of the researcher's objective distance. Modern teaching about religion, he says, is too often teaching about something else. This collection of essays, by contrast, defends the place of religious truth, both dogma and experience, within the conversation of religious studies.

Wilken's point gains strength in the common issues of the pre- and postChristian societies of antiquity and modernity. His essays focus on the issues which persistently occupy contemporary theology: pluralism, relativism, monotheism, and Jewish-Christian relations. This collection argues that early Christianity's treatment of these issues is an essential resource for contemporary Christian reflection. The bracketing essays of chapters 1 and 8 argue that in embracing the rational method and secular discourse of modernity, Christianity has deprived itself of a necessary past, a way of knowing and a way of speaking (that is, a tradition) which makes it possible for it to navigate present and future history.

Each of the essays, therefore, is both an exercise in historical theology and a bid for the relevance of the tradition. Chapters 2 and 3 point out that one of the first challenges of pagan thinkers to Christianity was that of exclusivity. Focusing on Celsus and Origen and Porphyry and Augustine, Wilken notes that early Christian apologists resisted philosophical claims that the various religions of the Roman Empire are diverse but equal roads to piety, and argues that religious practices and beliefs should be evaluated in light of the one true God. "In this," concludes Wilken, "they were correct, and their judgments have stood the test of time" (p. 45). Chapter 3 ("No Other Gods") calls upon the early Christian defense of monotheism as a resistance to the idolatry of secular modernism, while chapter 4 ("Not a Solitary God: The Triune God of the Bible") invokes Gregory of Nazianzus's emphasis on the indispensability and particularity of scriptural language. The next three chapters touch on various topics of patristic theology. Chapter 5 examines early Christian and Jewish exegetical treatment of biblical promise, chapter 6 examines the mimetic character of the saints' lives in Christian moral development, and chapter 7 treats asceticism and holy eros.

To some these essays will seem excessively confessional, homiletical, and filled with Christian triumphalism. Wilken, however, provides an interestingly postmodern justification for his approach. Knowledge, he argues, is not a matter of abstraction or disembodied ratiocination: "It is found within rather than outside of things," and "only in the act of doing and participating do we truly know and understand" (p. 171). These essays are exercises in patristics of the old school, in which patristics was a branch and indispensable tool of theology. However, while Wilken's appeal for the Christian past is at times nostalgic, his arguments and exempla have a surprising cogency in contemporary discourse.



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