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Serene Jones is President and Roosevelt Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Before Union she was Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School.

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Associated Works

The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology (2001) — Avustaja — 70 kappaletta
The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theology (2011) — Avustaja — 16 kappaletta

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Accessible writing on difficult themes, and so I moved deliberately and slowly. Thoughtful and well researched while balanced with personal experience and the insight that comes from paying attention to and processing lived trauma—with a friend, a parishioner, and in the writer's own life.

When I began reading, my life was still untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic. And then suddenly, reading about trauma, both personal and communal, became more overwhelming. The urgency of the question: Who are we and how do we relate to one another in the midst of, as well as after, collective trauma? became much more pressing.

Each chapter/essay offered perspectives I found helpful and/or thought provoking. I continue collecting language for my current body of work based on personal trauma and stories I'm telling myself about those experiences.

Many lines from the final chapter Mourning and Wonder, are now inscribed in my journal. Here is a small sample:

"Grief is hard, actually the hardest of all emotions and perhaps most intolerable because its demands are so excruciating. It requires a willingness to bear the unbearable. As morning, it requires turning private agony into public, shared loss. If you can learn to truly mourn, then there is at least the possibility of moving on. Not because the would is mending or traumatic scars suddenly vanish... The gift of mourning is that fully awakening to the depth of loss enables you to at least learn, perhaps for the first time, that you can hold loss: you can bear terrors of heart and body and still see your way forward with eyes open. 163
… (lisätietoja)
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Chapter Four. How are Theologians "dealing" with Jesus?

Noting recent “explosion” of materials on “Jesus Christ” [163], in a chapter captioned by same, four authors of this working group of Constructive Theology (2005) limn the theology (not the biography or teachings) in this treacherous intersection between human and divine. As with all Chapters in the volume, they begin with four Vignettes. These stories were collected by a UU and a Congregational DOC minister, Brock and Parker.

I love the way this book, this text for theology, is constructed. Each Chapter leads with VIGNETTES or scenes which display the working of living theologies – usually in tragic ways. The scenes reflect a John Dewey invitation for learning in a life context. A section called STATE OF THE QUESTION then follows. This gives a condensed version of the main issues of the chapter. The Question raises themes and draws “cartographical lines”, metaphorically, and called GEOGRAPHIES. This section includes the sub-continents of Scripture and History – metaphors for a geographical grid from which they build the rest of the chapter.

GEOGRAPHIES. Scriptural geography – Sources from Scripture are cited throughout, but this section provides the historical context of the pertinent documents. Then a section tracking the theologians and their contributions is presented as Historical/theological geography. Then this mid-section is brought current with Contemporary Doctrinal geographies

SPECIAL QUESTIONS. The final part of each Chapter, often inter-spersed, is called “Special Questions”. These are Intersectional, picking up the themes running through respective Chapters. For example, on this Chapter Four, Redemption and atonement themes run through these Questions.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
VIGNETTES - four life examples are provided. Here are two:
First, in a pastoral care setting, woman with violent husband confides that a priest told her to rejoice in her suffering. “If you love Jesus, accept the beatings…as Jesus bore the cross”. But now the abuser is turning on the children. [Drawn from UU Parker, and DOC Brock, examples of interfaith].
Second reworded example: In Cuba 1511, Spaniards captured Hatuey who led a rebellion. Tied him to a stake to be burned. Franciscan priest invited him to convert so he could go to heaven. Hatuey asked, “Will there be any Christians in heaven?” The priest assured him of this. Hatuey replies he did not want to go to a place where he would find such cruel people.

STATE OF THE QUESTION. In asking Who is Jesus Christ? Cite Christ: “Who do you say I am?” Matt. 16:15. Christians proclaim him “Son of God” and “Savior”. Described here as a “mediation of God’s revelation”, under the theological heading of Christology. Jesus is pivotal to Salvation, the Soteriology subheading [164]. Note INTERSECTIONS – themes of Redemption and Atonement.

GEOGRAPHIES. In presenting Doctrines (“full, round and ripe with significance” [8]) as “maps”, the authors expose the cartography of Christ:
Scriptural geography – Matt. 16:15; New Testament, Gospels and Letters of Paul [165]. Note Hebrew Bible prophesies, even as foundational credibility not detailed as part of “Christianity”—not even noted as part of Thomas Aquinas’ “synthetic sensitivities” [172].

Varying Christologies in Gospels. Mark portrayal of “secret” or enigmatic Messiah, whose identity is only known by demons. No birth narrative, seemingly “adopted” by God at the time of baptism. Cryptic ending, the [inexplicably] terrified women told to say “nothing to anyone”. Mark 16:8.
Matthew writing to Jews provides geneology to Abraham, and traces Old Testament prophesies. Matt. 1:23, 4:6-10, 12:17; 13:14. Luke writing to Gentiles, provides geneology back to the Creation of Adam, and reaches out to marginalized persons. Luke 13:10; 14:16; 15:11; 19:1-9.
The Christology of John centers on the Logos, before Creation. “Abide in me as I abide in you” Jesus tells his disciples. The Pauline letters portray Jesus “as the one crucified, risen, and returning soon”, freed from confines of Law, and reaching out to the marginalized. Romans 6-8.

Historical/theological geography – From post-factum images of 1st century Jew (163; 177, 294 fideism?). Limns history of Christology [without mention of Philo, Origen, Clement, or even Augustine in this Section.] Early ecclesia, debating Councils and saints, to theological systems of Catholic and Reformation Christology, used as “weapons” [citing Harnack, 175] during Colonialization and Slavery.

The Enlightenment commitment to Reason led christologists to look past creedal claims to history and logic. Hegel reasoned that incarnation “made sense”—an infinite Godself would not be limited to being infinite “and would therefore be limited (and not God)” [177]. David Strauss explored the Jesus of history in 1835, followed in spirit by the Jesus Seminar to this day. Kant critiqued Reason (1791) showing the impossibility of reasoning one’s way to faith, or even a humble homoousio. [177]

John Wesley and Friederich Schleiermacher turned from Christologies of faith and orthodoxy to history and human agency, accepting resources from “below” and “above”. Wesley described the “good works” required in a “process of sanctification” which completes in terminal salvation or “nothing” [178]. Schleiermacher, often called the pioneer of modern theology, found Who Jesus is, and What Jesus does, to be mutually informative. The humanity of Jesus enables humans to “share in some level of God-consciousness”. Being Christlike is to recognize this deep dependence, where Christ manifested as “fully actualized God-consciousness”. [178] The simultaneity of human and divine, even the supernatural, is “evident in the workings of the natural”.

Challenges of 20th Century. Facing and recognizing many “crimes” perpetrated “in the name of Christ” became the concern of 20th century theologians. Four movements strove to correct injustice:

(1) Social Gospel. Begun in US, Baptist minister Walter Rauschenbusch was a leading spokesperson, and preached that “social religion” grounded in the teachings and example of Christ, was the key to prosperity, happiness, and salvation. Many suffragettes led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton shared concerns for social equality, alcoholism, and labor abuses. In 1896, Charles Sheldon published a novel describing the transformation of a town whose pastor asked “What would Jesus Do?”. [180]

(2) Modern Catholic Incarnational Theology. Karl Rahner grounded Christology in Creation as an evolution reaching a climax in Christ as God’s self-communication, a fulfillment of God’s Will to Save. This approach is ironically echoed by Teilhard de Chardin in his suggestion that the movement of the universe is toward mystical communion in Christ. [181]

(3) Neoorthodoxy. The post-Holocaust [and Hiroshima] crisis in Western culture shocked the “liberal theology” which had been filled with optimism no longer tenable. To counteract the natural theology and human reason, neoorthodox theologians emphasized the transcendence of God and the sinfulness of creaturely existence which is unaware of what God is up to. “The charge to discern who God is by looking to Jesus Christ was used by Barth and Bonhoeffer…to condemn the German Christians for treating Hitler as a messiah-figure.” [181]

(4) Liberationist Movement. In 1971, Gustavo Gutierrez presents Jesus as Liberator. By developing the vantage point of the marginalized we see that Sin is more than a “personal problem”. [The Karnack Sermons the Nazi regime hid behind.] From the point of view of the poor, the oppressive system prevents exercise of the salvific choice. Leonardo Boff argues that the messianic task is to free human beings. [182] Liberation theology erupted out of Africa, James Cone’s “Jesus is Black”, and poured out like God’s Compassion from the feminist theologians, including Rosemary Ruether and Elizabeth Johnson. [182]

SPECIAL QUESTIONS – running through the “Jesus Christ” Chapter. Christology, with references.

Significance of Mother Mary [168] – Luke’s grace-filled collaborator, John’s positioning of Mary at the foot of the Cross, and Mary reappearing by apparitions, even in Tepeyac, near Mexico City.

Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon [169], the creeds do not connect the person of Christ to his teachings, but consolidated imperialist metaphysical ontology over any liberating salvific message.

Atonement. How is Salvation accomplished with Christ? Three major theories: (1) Satisfaction – Anselm argued that for estranged humans to share fellowship with God, God’s honor would first need to be satisfied. We who are sinful are incapable of doing it, so Christ is needed. (2) Moral Exemplar - Abelard responded that death of Christ is act of “perfect love” inspiring us to respond in kind with salvation as result. (3) Christus Victor – from Iraneus (2d c.) to Luther and CS Lewis, Aulen argues that God and Satan are in battle, temporarily won by Jesus’ resurrection.

Stumbling over the Cross. Quoting Paul, the “stumbling block” for Jews and nonsense for Gentiles. 1 Cor. 1:23. One sacrifice for many, while many sacrifice for a few, and how can the suffering of the innocent be a healing or salvation for others?

Medieval Catholic Christology (172) Aquinas “captures the synthetic sensibility” of the high Middle Ages. Using Aristotelian metaphysics, Chalcedonian depiction of a fully human/divine Christ, and Anselm’s feudal atonement theory, his Summa Theologica draws Christ as culmination of God’s saving intention from creation to return to God. Emphasis on role of Church in Salvation.

Reformation Christologies (173) 16th century Reformers sought to clarify salvation in Christ, seeking direct saving relationship with Christ – Solus Christus – by grace. Luther condemned attempted disintermediation by Church. Calvin preached that only the true God could bridge the gulf, and the sole purpose of Christ’s incarnation is our redemption. The “Radical Reformation” wing was led by Anabaptists who were violently persecuted for rejecting violence. (174)

Spanish Conquest of Americas. The Dominicans documented and condemned the abuses of the encomienda system which enslaved indigenous people. Fray Montesinos, from the outset in 1511, denounced the injustice of the Conquista. Cortes went on to conquer in the name of the Cross, launching a Holy Crusade as God’s agent. Las Casas denounced him, his hypocrisy, and his greed, showing Christ present in the poor and oppressed. {Spain prohibited slavery as a result.}

Schleiermacher and Colonialism. In explaining the absence of “miracles”, Schleiermacher pointed out there is no longer a need for them. “It is undeniable that, in view of the great advantage in power and civilization which the Christian peoples possess over the non-Christian…preachers of today do not need such signs.” (179) Christ taken as mirror of the power of the West.

Asian Christologies. Aloysius Pieris states a nonexclusive double concern for inculturation and liberation emerging from “an authentic Asian theology”. (182) The poverty of the cross is a denunciation of the mammon of elite classes. Chung Hyun Kyung critiques traditional Suffering Servant and “Lord” images, as marginalizing women and reinforcing subservience. Male ecclesial authority is countered with images of Jesus as a woman – Jesus as one of the people, the minjung.
… (lisätietoja)
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