About Providence, Divine Action and the Church


In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Controversy in the Making?

I've just found details of Stephen Webb's forthcoming book on the incarnation. Here are some details, taken from the Oxford University Press website:

In this groundbreaking study, Stephen H. Webb offers a new theological understanding of the material and spiritual: that, far from being contradictory, they unite in the very stuff of the eternal Jesus Christ.

Accepting matter as a perfection (or predicate) of the divine requires a rethinking of the immateriality of God, the doctrine of creation out of nothing, the Chalcedonian formula of the person of Christ, and the analogical nature of religious language. It also requires a careful reconsideration of Augustine's appropriation of the Neo-Platonic understanding of divine incorporeality as well as Origen's rejection of anthropomorphism. Webb locates his position in contrast to evolutionary theories of emergent materialism and the popular idea that the world is God's body. He draws on a little known theological position known as the ''heavenly flesh'' Christology, investigates the many misunderstandings of its origins and relation to the Monophysite movement, and supplements it with retrievals of Duns Scotus, Caspar Scwenckfeld and Eastern Orthodox reflections on the transfiguration. Also included in Webb's study are discussions of classical figures like Barth and Aquinas as well as more recent theological proposals from Bruce McCormack, David Hart, and Colin Gunton. Perhaps most provocatively, the book argues that Mormonism provides the most challenging, urgent, and potentially rewarding source for metaphysical renewal today.

Webb's concept of Christian materialism challenges traditional Christian common sense, and aims to show the way to a more metaphysically sound orthodoxy.

Will Jesus Christ, Eternal God be as controversial ('provocative') as this blurb suggests? I doubt it, but I can never predict what will be the next big thing. And I dare say many others can't, either. Without knowing the full background, I suspect that Bruce McCormack never expected his essay on Barth's doctrine of election in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth to be as, um, discussed as it has been.

I will get Webb's book should finances allow; I'm glad OUP are listing it as £40 rather than the £65 other hardback books are commanding. Stephen Webb has written on providence before, and I'm wondering if he will discuss this doctrine at all in relation to Christology and analogy. Also, more secondary literature on Colin Gunton's thought is welcome.

Jesus Christ, Eternal God is scheduled for publication in October 2011.

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