Christ, religion and ‘other religions’

In this paper I will argue that the Christian faith creates and sustains the public sphere. Christianity creates a distinction between faith and the public sphere, religion and politics, church and world, and it does so because the gospel serves the world, and indeed creates the world it serves. When this distinction is extracted from the Christian faith and allowed to become a separation the good functioning of society is threatened. It is the Church that makes the public square public, the secular sphere secular.

Continue reading “Christ, religion and ‘other religions’”

Introduction to ‘The Eschatological Economy: Time and the Hospitality of God’

This book invites you to hear what Christian theology has to say to the contemporary world. Christian theology is the creature of the Church, and the Church is the creature of God. When the Church lives out of the tradition it has received, and passes on the good things of that tradition, it has something to say about the world. It speaks theologically when it offers coherent and public talk about God and man. The Church has a more generous definition of the world than our contemporary world has of itself. Theology has a more sophisticated idea of time than does the surrounding world. It talks about time in order to say that the world is not yet settled, and will not be settled until it is established in relationship with God. We raise the subject of time to draw our attention to the way things come and go, and to remind us to be realistic in estimating what we know about them. Eschatology is the Church’s term for this form of self-control.

Continue reading “Introduction to ‘The Eschatological Economy: Time and the Hospitality of God’”

No lack of love – the Fulcrum sermons of Oliver O’Donovan

Oliver O’Donovan is one of the most exciting theologians in the UK. He writes on current issues, like bioethics, just war, sexuality and the church. But his great strength, and the source of his evangelical authority, is his ability to show us how Christians in different periods of history have dealt with the very same problems that face us now. He is able to summarise the hard-won experience of Christians of different centuries, so we can see the intellectual resources available to us. He has just published a series of seven ‘Sermons on the issues of the day’ on Fulcrum. They are master-classes in Christian discernment. Sexuality and the unity of the church are the issues of the day, and the whole package of Christian wisdom will enable us to tackle these issues together and grow in truth and love as we do so.

Continue reading “No lack of love – the Fulcrum sermons of Oliver O’Donovan”

Catholicity

In the Western part of the Church we have this basic and very deep assumption of a oneness or unity that occurs at the expense
of diversity
. Although the diversity is expressed, Western theology does not make clear that the diversity is not subordinate to the unity. It does not tell us clearly enough that plurality and unity are equally fundamental. To put it at its very bluntest, the Western church fails to tell us that the people, and included with them the leadership of the church (and not the leadership of the church without the people) who make the unity of the church. This is to say that Christ-united-with-his-people, never one without the other, who are the church.
Continue reading “Catholicity”

About this website

This website offers essays on systematic theology, Scripture, Christian doctrine, biblical hermeneutics and contemporary theologians. It also has a number of papers by Professor John Zizioulas, many not available anywhere else, and three pieces by me about John Zizioulas. There are papers on the work of Colin Gunton, Robert Jenson, Oliver O’Donovan and John Webster in the Contempary Theologians section. I apologise for the present grey and pokey look of Resources, and that papers do not appear in the right order, but the site is in better condition now than it has been. The best way to find what you want is via the Categories in the Sidebar (right).

You can find out more about me and about what is good in contemporary theology from my blog – Douglas Knight – which has a range of faster-moving short pieces on Christian theology, Church and Christian life.

Douglas H. Knight

The Eschatological Economy

The Eschatological Economy

“No attentive reader of this book can fail to be impressed by its scope, boldness and sheer theological energy. As he moves across the fields of historical and systematic theology, biblical studies, and philosophy, Knight demonstrates the resources within the Christian tradition for critical analysis and hopeful reconstruction of culture. This provocative book deserves to be read and debated very widely.?
John Webster University of Aberdeen

“Dense, erudite, and provocative, this work confirms the vitality of British, indeed, European doctrinal theology. This is fundamental theology in the best sense, investigating the unity of thought and practice, language and reality, faith and politics, and doctrine and worship in the activity of the triune God. The reader opening to any page will be rewarded with startling and original theological insights. ?
Brian Brock University of Aberdeen

Read this book…wrestle with this book…please, please, take your time with this book. This book is rocket-fuel. This book wants to teach you precisely how classic Christian theology interrogates and soars above so much that is stale and dispiriting in modern thought, particularly in modern political philosophy and, more generally, in all the humanities and social sciences. This book is an invitation to intellectual freedom and genuine creativity in the service of God.
Christopher Roberts Villanova University

“Douglas Knight is a free-flowing fountain of unexpected ideas and connections. Consider only the title of this book: everyone one of the pairings does conceptual work, including those made by the chiasmus.?
Robert Jenson Center for Theological Inquiry, Princeton

“Ambitious, creative, and challenging, Douglas Knight combines a rigorous and scripturally disciplined dogmatic approach with fundamental analysis of metaphysical concepts. The result is an exciting and theologically motivated challenge to our modern assumptions about time and change, embodiment and identity.?
R. R. Reno Creighton University

Knight has produced an ambitious, engaging, and creative account of the drama of redemption by changing the base-line terms in the discussion. This is constructive theology of a bold and fresh kind, taking seriously Israel, sacrifice, and an account of the problem of the human condition indebted to Irenaeus and Zizioulas. It is remarkable for its timely account of our present destiny as the Church, in the world of God’s constant, caring, and consummative work.
Christopher Seitz University of St Andrews

“In the tradition of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies and in conversation with leading theologians and biblical scholars from across our confessions, this tour de force tells a grand narrative of all things coming together and coming to be in Israel, Jesus Christ, and his Church. Douglas H. Knight displays an impressive imagination for pulling together a dizzying variety of voices.
Telford Work Westmont College

See The Eschatological Economy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

On this website

1. Christian thought is political. Christian doctrine is at war with other systems of ideas. There is a real encounter and contest of world-views. Modernity is a religion. It is contested by Christianity, but it is modernity that is an extremely conservative movement. Only Christianity can consistently point to a future. Modernity and Christianity are both forms of enlightenment, but modernity is the thin counterfeit version, Christianity the real one.

2. Christian thought is not just about ideas, but about life, practice and action. It is not only about action, but it is about the establishment of plurality and community, and so about the Christian community.

3. I give you a new account of human relations. I show that we owe one another all the being we have, and that God supplies to us the being that we are to supply one with. I call that a doxological ontology, or a theory of persons-in-constitutive-relation. Our failure to provide one another with being means that we deny others the goods and recognition that God considers due to them, so they suffer a decline in public standing, visibility and credit, and this deficiency is what the bible terms ‘sin’. We make other people sinful, deficient, and God will holds their deficiencies against us.

4. I give you a new doctrine of sin. I put the ideas of sin and fall into a properly Christian framework, which determines that God will not be interrupted by our sin. He brushes it aside. Sin is very much less serious than we imagine, and not worth talking about except in the context of confession and forgiveness. (I also say that our sin is more serious than we realise, but that is only for the very curious).

5. I give you a new account of suffering. There are two sorts of suffering. One is purposeful because united with the action of God. The other form of action and suffering is pointless because it is not united to the action of God.

6. I give you a new understanding of the death of Christ and of death generally. I talk about the cross and atonement without making it either a metaphorical description of the human predicament or some kind of mechanism.

7. I give you a Christian teaching that listens to the Scriptures at all points. But the revolution here is that I insist that ‘Scriptures’ means bible plus biblical scholarship. And more revolutionary still I insist that contemporary biblical scholarship must be in conversation with, and under discipline of, the whole tradition of Christian reception of the Scriptures. Christian doctrine is nothing but summary statement of centuries of Christian hearing and obeying the Scriptures. Biblical studies dislikes this message and filters out what it doesn’t want to hear.

8. I offer an account that unites theology and economics. Our talk about sin, guilt and morality has been separated from our talk about what we lack materially and financially. This split of religious thought from economic thought has had extraordinary consequences, the chief of which is that we cannot see how our own public and economic behaviour can have a devastating impact on people beyond our field of view. This split allows us to be insulated from the consequences of our (economic) actions. This means that religion has been turned into just a form of talk that has no impact on the world, an inoffensive metaphorical talk about our own inner spiritual or emotional states. We have divided the theological confession of sin. We have invented two parallel worlds, one in which the language of guilt describes some private state of our own, the other in which the language of credit and debt describes the external world of finance and career – but is not thought to impact on our own inner being. This website puts these two worlds of thought together again. It is unique in doing this. You will not find this done anywhere else.

All right, I am joking. Nothing here is new. Everything one of these ‘innovations’ is old. They have just been forgotten. They are unknown to most modern Church leaders and you almost never encounter them in modern theology. The result has been a disaster. Modern theology doesn’t believe that the Christian tradition has the resources to answer the questions, because it is gullible enough to believe that these issues really are new, and it has got into the habit of sourcing its ideas from outside the Christian tradition. It imports solutions that don’t work well, because they take the problems too seriously. Only the Christian tradition can set the problem in a properly theological context that will give them a new definition and solution. But everything here comes from the huge resources of the Church, often the early Church, known as the Patristic period. And it all comes out of the Scriptures. So this is a retrieval programme – and it is just this that makes it revolutionary. As somebody once said, a good teacher brings out of the cupboard things that are old and new.

John Zizioulas – Ecclesiological presuppositions of the holy Eucharist

Thus in the office of the Bishop we encounter at least two fundamental paradoxes which are also paradoxes of the Eucharist. One is that in him the One become Many and the Many becomes One. This is the mystery of Christology and Pneumatology, the mystery of the Church and at the same time of the Eucharist. The other paradox is that in the Bishop the local Church becomes Catholic and the Catholic becomes local. If a Church is not at the same time local and universal, she is not the body of Christ. Equally the Eucharist has to be at the same time a local and catholic event. Without the Bishop it cannot be so.

This links the question of the ecclesiological presuppositions of the Eucharist closely with another aspect of ecclesiology, namely conciliarity. The Eucharist by its very nature transcends the dilemma ‘local or universal’, because in each eucharistic celebration the Gifts are offered in the name of, and for, the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’ which exists in the whole world. In practical terms this means that if one is a member of a certain eucharistic community (or local Church), one is ipso facto also a member of all the eucharistic communities of the world: one can communicate in any one of these communities.

It was precisely this nature of the Eucharist and its practical implications that led to emergence of the synod system in the early Church. Conciliarity is closely connected with eucharistic communion – both in its theory and its practice – and with its presuppositions. If two or more Churches are in schism, the eucharistic life (and perhaps also validity?) of all local Churches is upset. Conciliarity as an expression of the unity of the local Churches in one Church, constitutes a fundamental condition for the Eucharist. Just as the many individuals of a local Church must be united in and through the ministry of the One (the bishop, representing Christ), in the same way the many local Churches must be united into one for their Eucharist to be proper ecclesiologically. Ecclesial unity on a universal level is essential for the Eucharist.

Continue reading “John Zizioulas – Ecclesiological presuppositions of the holy Eucharist”

Preface to The Eschatological Economy

This is a book of Christian theology. Theology is what the Church does when it checks that it is fully expressing and passing on the word it receives from God. This book relates our understanding of time and history to Christian theology, to conform our understanding of ourselves to the theological truth that God is changing us. Sanctification is the term the Christian tradition uses for the process of our transformation. In this book I connect the concepts of paideia, our formation, and the doctrine of sanctification. It is a very old theme in Christian theology, associated with Irenaeus, that God always intended come to man and stay with him, and that in the course of this coming, man would grow up, a process delayed, but not halted, by sin and rebellion. This book discusses the ways in which Christian doctrine and biblical studies tackle this issue of the education or formation of humanity, and in particular the role of the people of Israel in this. It explores the relationship of sacrifice, along with other models of the work of Christ, to sanctification, and it re-examines the connections between Israel, Jesus Christ, time, history and Scripture, by closely linking them to the Christian doctrine of God.

This book compares the Christian view of who we are with other modern views. It suggests that modern thought, ever ready to take things apart but unable to put them together again, creates intellectual divisions which give us a series of partial, and so defective, understandings of who we are. In this book I suggest that the trinitarian doctrine of God alters the way we understand secularisation and the world of modernity, and avoids the tunnel vision that determine modern existence. To do this, this book makes some proposals about the relation of theology to the world.
Continue reading “Preface to The Eschatological Economy”

The Theology of John Zizioulas – Introduction

John Zizioulas is one of the best known theologians of the contemporary Orthodox Church, a central figure in the ecumenical scene and one of the most cited theologians at work today. This volume demonstrates the unity of Zizioulas’ work by setting out the connections he makes between theology, philosophy and the Church. Its twelve contributors discuss issues of theology, ontology and anthropology in order to assess his view of the relationship of community and freedom. Offering Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant perspectives, they come to a range of conclusions about the degree to which Zizioulas brings these issues together to form a coherent theological ecclesiology, but they agree that Zizioulas presents contemporary thought with an unrivalled expression of Christian theology. This Introduction will set out theological and philosophical context of Zizioulas’ distinctive proposal.

Zizioulas’ central concern is human freedom and the relation of freedom and community. Freedom is not restricted, but enabled, by our relationships with other persons, Zizioulas argues, for the community in which God includes us is the place in which our personal identity and freedom come into being. God is intrinsically communion and free, and his communion and freedom he shares with us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the source of the communion of the universal Church, and the promise of real freedom for the world. This communion is being actualized by God in the world in the community of the Church. The persons gathered into this communion will come to participate in the freedom of God, and through them the world will participate in this freedom too.
Continue reading “The Theology of John Zizioulas – Introduction”