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  • Direction: The Story of Original Sin
    traducianism from the Stoics and his notion of original moral fault together suggesting that both the material and immaterial aspects of humans body and soul are propagated through generations In addition Ambrose taught the original righteousness of Adam and his fall lapsus from that prior state rather than a transgression of it praevaricatio and Ambrosiaster translated Romans 5 12d as in whom all sinned rather than because of whom all sinned as the Greek Fathers did All of these elements and more influenced Augustine s understanding of original sin which became the dominant understanding in Christianity Some might think this suffices for a history of the development of the doctrine but Toews being the good historian he is knows that theological questions are never neutral to the question of power And that leads him to an inquiry that is one of the most valuable contributions of this book Toews notes that many scholars have recognized that Augustine s reliance on Rom 5 12d for his doctrine jeopardizes his hamartiology This is because Augustine not fluent in Greek relied on Ambrosiaster s faulty Latin translation which rendered the passage in whom all sinned Consequently when the Pelagians informed the bishop of Hippo that the Greek 261 could not bear his Latin translation there was simply too much at stake for Augustine concerning other aspects of the controversy that he would not and could not acknowledge this error Indeed his theology of original sin was so systematic that to change this mistranslation could cause the entire edifice of sin and salvation to crumble though that might not have been so bad after all Thus through a series of councils the doctrine was sedimented as orthodox theology at least as far as the West was concerned In addition to his brief but thoroughgoing

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/story-of-original-sin.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Tongue Screws and Testimonies: Poems, Stories, and Essays Inspired by the Martyrs Mirror
    left behind Still other pieces might be described as attempts to work between these two extremes in order to reflect on how the faith of the martyrs might continue to resonate in a world in which the dynamics of faith seem in some respects to be distant if not altogether different from that of the martyrs One of the strengths of the collection is that it manages to present Anabaptist martyrs as simultaneously familiar and strange It rightly refuses the temptation to tidiness and sentimentality that is characteristic of some apologetic engagements with the Martyrs Mirror Instead it elects simply to present a range of different responses many of them in conflict with one another which have been stirred up by collective practices among contemporary North American Mennonites in which the book and the stories it contains figure prominently As editor Kirsten Eve Beachy suggests these pieces should be read not so much as advancing arguments as representing a shared experience and a complex one at that Accordingly the contributions are arranged not in terms of thematic coherence but loosely grouped around images reflected in the Martyrs Mirror itself Book Fire Water Wounds Tongue Memory Enemies and Heirs As a record of the ways in which the Martyrs Mirror continues to assert a palpable presence among contemporary Mennonites this collection is an invaluable resource 263 Despite the desire to let the essays speak for themselves it is worth asking whether there are any common themes which echo across the diversity of approaches they are said to represent Let me identify just one theme I find reflected in these pieces taken as a whole With a few notable exceptions many of these meditations on martyrdom suggest a certain fascination with speech and a relative absence of the body Indeed this is

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/tongue-screws-and-testimonies-poems.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Participating Witness: An Anabaptist Theology of Baptism and the Sacramental Character of the Church
    from the sixteenth century Anabaptist Pilgram Marpeck and the twentieth century Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer as outstanding resources for the role of the church and its sacraments as mediators of God s presence in the world 62ff Here Siegrist seems to be challenging Anabaptism and its descendent movements they have had a sacramental place for the church as God s agency in the world but have been reluctant to extend that role to its practices Why this inconsistency The author uses Marpeck to show that it is possible to extend a mediating role to ceremonies from a consistently Anabaptist position 81 90 He faults Marpeck at a crucial point in his scheme the Spirit remains the inner agent of God s presence in the church and Christ remains the outer agent Siegrist argues that in a Trinitarian confession of God you cannot have the church as mediator unless the Holy Spirit is also the agent of its outer life 93 Only then is a sacramental understanding of baptism possible At this point Siegrist affirms the historic Protestant and Mennonite fear that such thinking can lead to the collapse of Christology and pneumatology into ecclesiology 99 without however relinquishing his assertion that Anabaptism is pneumatologically underdeveloped 106 His argument begins with the Martyrs Mirror the foundational record of the faithful martyr church from the early church to the sixteenth century Siegrist finds its account theologically rash 115 135 because it judged the state 265 church solely by its failings rather than also by the promise that the Spirit would always inhabit the church I like Siegrist s consistency of thought and willingness to address difficult issues But on this issue I think he is confusing devotional with systematic writings and consequently asking the impossible that of a persecuted minority affirming the presence of the Spirit in its persecutors When he goes on to chastise twentieth century Old Mennonite theologians like J C Wenger and Norman Kraus for the marginal place of the Spirit in their understanding of the church he is at least engaging fellow theologians 116 123 Siegrist then lays out a theology of the Holy Spirit in three categories conversion unity and promise Here I was disappointed that he did not make reference to the larger Mennonite tradition On the matter of conversion the Mennonite Brethren and their fusion of Anabaptism and Pietism have much to offer The author s next category unity invokes a notion from Ephraim Radner arguing that God has withdrawn a measure of his presence as a judgment upon a divided church but equally importantly that God has not abandoned the church In other words Mennonites might rightly disagree with the historical evolution of infant baptism but they would be wrong in concluding that the churches that practice it have any less of the Holy Spirit than Mennonites do esp 146 152 On the basis of this developed pneumatology Siegrist returns to baptism He makes a great deal of the three actors in baptism God the

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/participating-witness-anabaptist.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Rewriting the Break Event: Mennonites and Migration in Canadian Literature
    Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo and a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto calls the break event for Canadian Mennonites the rise and 267 then collapse of the so called Mennonite Commonwealth in the Russian Ukraine This story told repeatedly has become in the Russian Mennonite imagination a mythological beginning and thus central to identity In his lengthy introduction Zacharias summarizes that event conscious that his overview is a re telling too and draws on the work of Benedict Anderson and Paul Ricoeur to discuss the relation between literature and the formation of collective identity In chapter 1 he delves into Mennonite history and literature in more depth and in chapters 2 to 5 he analyzes the novels mentioned above as four strains of the retelling project theo pedagogical narrative ethnic narrative trauma narrative and meta narrative My Harp is Turned to Mourning is theo pedagogical narrative that is it envisions a fully religious perspective on events Here Zacharias uses Janice L Dick s Out of the Storm as a comparative foil of sorts to Reimer s book because their striking thematic similarities illustrate how extensively the biblical paradigm structures a theological rendering of the Russian experience Temporality the experience of time is both secular and sacred and both have a linear structure that presents as accurate history though Dick celebrates the faith community while Reimer interrogates it In Arnold Dyck s Lost in the Steppe Mennonite history in Ukraine is imagined as that of a Völklein ethnic community with the Commonwealth itself serving as its timeless originary landscape The religious element is mostly absent or taken for granted Temporality here is a sense of outside time there s no messianic time for the community itself is sacred In The Russländer which opens by announcing the death of major characters author Birdsell said she wanted readers to pay attention to these lives the focus is on the individual as an individual within the community rather than representative of community Zacharias reads this novel as trauma narrative and an extended critique of the adoption of individual trauma narratives in the construction of communal identity What s at stake he asks when that happens Zacharias considers The Blue Mountains of China a meta narrative Perhaps anticipating that some readers like me might call it theo pedagogical Zacharias states that Wiebe s novel focuses not on the Mennonite commonwealth of the Russian story but moves towards a much larger and disparate picture of the global Russian Mennonite diaspora Its central story of dispersal works against a one true self tradition he says to suggest that deep differences constitute who we really are In the conclusion Zacharias argues that his study belongs not only in Canadian literary studies but in the field of migration or diaspora studies as well He acknowledges that viewing Mennonite literature as diasporic runs counter to the dominant critical discourse of diaspora studies in part 268 because of the whiteness of Mennonite identity but insists rightly I

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/rewriting-break-event-mennonites-and.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: An Introduction to Christian Ethics: History, Movements, People
    address and critique the standard approach to Christian ethics Perhaps this is why the book is so long and detailed But for a book of such length the argument is clear Christian ethics is distinct from ethics in general in that it names a way of life and a type of character particular to those within the Christian community To think otherwise leads to asking the wrong questions Asking the right questions is a significant part of learning to live as a Christian Huebner s approach is best described as a narrative of Christian thought and practice His retelling begins with an historical overview of the history of Christian ethics from its beginnings through the Enlightenment This approach follows from the basic claim that every ethic presupposes a sociology an enactment This is a conscious effort both to put ethics in context and to indicate the source of our modern approach to ethics Huebner rightly shows that the current focus on issues and moral dilemmas is generated by Enlightenment assumptions of individual autonomy and abstracted rationality He goes further to argue that in teaching learning and applying Christian ethics our focus should be on the skills virtues required to live a faithful Christian life Thus Christian ethics is a matter of character If this is right then it is not enough to write a book about principles abstracted from context and ideas dissociated from the people in whom they originate Instead a book on Christian ethics needs to give an account of characters Learning Christian ethics is then a matter of acquiring the needed skills by emulating significant people This explains the focus of the second half of the book where Huebner explores the lives and contexts of twenty two theologians ethicists from the past 150 years In many ways

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/introduction-to-christian-ethics-history.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Just Peace: Ecumenical, Intercultural, and Interdisciplinary Perspectives
    particular context of church theology She parallels the dehumanizing effects of life in the Gulag with the theological concept of theosis the attainment of God s likeness in the human in the Russian Orthodox Church She argues that inasmuch as theosis is described abstractly as a way to transcend the particularities of human existence it could be complicit in dehumanizing efforts especially when it refuses confrontation with the reality of one s own past and guilt In the second section Mient Jan Faber s paper explores the role of Responsible Outsiders in war showing how it is often third parties with nationalistic interests that prevent new possibilities for peace Where tragedy strikes complicit third parties often create lies that uphold their image as virtuous This lie only furthers attitudes that restrict peace and justice along national lines ignoring the call to solidarity with others Mattijs van de Port s paper shows how the function of the lie or fantasy anthropologically speaking is not only a political tactic but also a way that societies maintain their social cohesion especially societies that have experienced wartime violence themselves Where war unmasks the fantasy of social cohesion post war societies need to forget and yet face the impossibility to forget As a result often a new fiction is created in society by projecting life s absurdities onto other social groups Albanians Gypsies Annette Mosher s paper argues that spaces of peace however require that we really recognize the concrete other Only in that recognition can we see that in the incarnation of Christ God has affirmed our humanness Recognizing the other happens through active solidarity with the other This active solidarity is the modus operandi of Christian Peacemaker Teams which are described in Maarten van der Werf s paper In the third section Andrés

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/just-peace-ecumenical-intercultural-and.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: For a Church to Come: Experiments in Postmodern Theory and Anabaptist Thought
    this wandering and somewhat disjointed style The organization matches the approach and in this way forms an implied argument theological claims 273 are essays trials tests and should reflect the contingency of the process by which they emerge Also implied is the flip side to this argument answering challenges put to theological claims and their concomitant social practices are not attempts to solve their problematic nature Ecclesiological claims and the liberal individualism that criticizes them are not opposed but held together in pregnant tension One helpful contribution of For a Church to Come is a healthy suspicion of using church or community as foundations for addressing theological and social problems The riskiness of Blum s method and analysis foregrounds both what s at stake as well as what can be gained in relinquishing foundations in favor of tension In short the unpredictability and uncertainty of Blum s experiments mark the book s coherency and argument The poetic and confessional interludes and epigraphs from figures as diverse as Bob Dylan Tool Music Machine and Walker Percy give it an added disorienting quality which experientially underscores his theology If there is one theologian who gives Blum s theology an orientation it is John Howard Yoder Several essays refer to Yoder explicitly and Blum concludes the book with an appendix entitled Some Personal Reflections on John Howard Yoder where he outlines Yoder s importance as both a friend and academic conversation partner The chapters on Foucault and Derrida bring each thinker side by side with Yoder in order to understand the aspects of their work genealogy différance that resonate theologically But this is not to say that Blum uses Yoder or theologians generally as the interpretive basis for his thinking about postmodern concepts or philosophers In chapter 7 Two Cheers for an Ontology

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/for-church-to-come-experiments-in.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: The Trace of the Face in the Politics of Jesus: Experimental Comparisons Between the Work of John Howard Yoder and Emmanuel Levinas
    is a way of extinguishing all conversation 27 Koyles s book is inspired by the possibility that philosophical materials can in fact significantly and fruitfully stimulate theological conversation The Trace of the Face is therefore both an implicit and explicit critique of Yoder s attitude towards philosophy Whereas chapter 1 describes several aspects of Yoder s theology chapter 2 presents several angles on the charge of sectarianism often levelled against Yoder Koyles covers criticisms of Yoder from James Gustafson 275 on Yoder s rejection of philosophy A James Reimer on Yoder s suspicion of metaphysics and creedal formulations and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza on the weaknesses of revolutionary subordination in light of power imbalance Chapter 3 then engages Yoder s supporters Craig Carter and his critique of Reimer Stanley Hauerwas and his connections with Romand Coles and Alasdair MacIntyre and Chris Huebner and his work on Yoder s dialogical vulnerability In chapter 4 Koyles offers a counterpoint to the critical perspectives of the previous chapter and disagrees in particular with Huebner s rejection of the idea that Levinas is a valuable conversation partner for Yoder Having refuted arguments that dismiss a connection between Yoder and Levinas Koyles proceeds to advance scholarly discourse on the relationship between pacifism and nonviolence and metaphysics and ontology In what is undoubtedly the heart of the book Koyles brilliantly reflects on Levinas s critique of ontology vis à vis Yoder s concepts of methodologism and revolutionary subordination building on their complex but mutual affirmation of kenosis self emptying as a key category Koyles describes how Levinas critiques ontology for its all encompassing purview and its expectation that all discourses should justify themselves before it 94 He points out that for Levinas The comprehension achieved by ontological thinking is brought about by resolving the difference between the same and the other through a neutral middle term 95 This middle term tends to reduce the encounter between the same and the other often by reducing the otherness of the other to the sameness of the same 96 Levinas s critique maintains that no self should think itself able to entirely grasp the other in perception or thought In fact the distance between the same and the other is what makes dialogue possible and this distance generates the possibility of thought and language 97 The ontological framework corresponds to the tendency to ignore the radical difference between the self and the other and according to Koyles This reduction is a violent grasping of the other person 99 Levinas sees these violent tendencies in the way that reductive ontological thinking conditions the experience of encountering the other face to face The point for Levinas is not that ontology should be done away with but rather that ethics is the best way to do ontology Koyles picks up on the resonance of this critique with Yoder s thought and matches Levinas s affirmation of our responsibility for the other with Yoder s critique of efficacy 111 Koyles sees this connection as

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/43/2/trace-of-face-in-politics-of-jesus.html (2016-02-16)
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