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The Tragedy of Human Freedom

The Failure and Promise of the Christian Concept of Freedom in Western Culture

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Martien E. Brinkman

Human freedom has been the source of both the high points of humanity as well as of its low points, thus giving rise to the impression that it is a somewhat ambivalent concept. According to Martien Brinkman, the major factor in this ambivalence is the rather narrow meaning that the concept has received in the course of history. Freedom is, for the most part, understood as ‘freedom from’ or ‘freedom to’ but only rarely as ‘freedom for’. However, it is precisely this latter understanding that is closest to the Christian understanding of freedom, which Brinkman defines as ‘internal attachment’. In his view Christian freedom is at bottom characterized by that to which one commits oneself in trust. He sees primarily the Christian theology of baptism, with its accent on ‘dying’ and ‘rising’ with Christ as the model for the way in which one acquires freedom.
Brinkman illustrates this in this study by means of a great number of biblical images and images borrowed from the historical debates between Augustine and Pelagius and Luther and Erasmus.

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Edited by Henk van den Belt

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Henk van den Belt

The authority of Scripture is the cornerstone of Reformed theology. Calvin introduced the term autopistos from Greek philosophy to express that this authority does not depend on the church or on rational arguments, but is self-convincing. After dealing with Calvin’s Institutes, the development of Reformed orthodoxy, and the positions of Benjamin B. Warfield and Herman Bavinck, the author draws theological conclusions, advocating a renewed emphasis on the autopistia of Scripture as starting point for Reformed theology in a postmodern context. The subject-object scheme leads to separating the certainty of faith from the authority of Scripture. The autopistia of Scripture, understood as a confessional statement, implies that truth and trust are inseparable.

The Cosmic Breath

Spirit and Nature in the Christianity-Buddhism-Science Trialogue

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Amos Yong

Recent thinking in the interfaith dialogue and in the theology-science dialogue have taken a “pneumatological turn.” The Cosmic Breath explores this pneumatological theology as unfolded in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue alongside critical interaction with the theology-and-science conversation. As an attempt in comparative and constructive Christian philosophical theology, its central thesis is that a pneumatological approach to Buddhist traditions in further dialogue with modern science generates new philosophical resources that invigorate Christian thinking about the natural world and humanity’s place in it. The result is a transformation of the Buddhist-Christian dialogue from insights generated in the theology-and-science interface and a contribution to the religion-and-science dialogue from a comparative theological and philosophical perspective.

One Gospel – Many Cultures

Case Studies and Reflections on Cross-Cultural Theology

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Edited by Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Hendrik M. Vroom

The gospel is directed to people in the concreteness of their lives. For this reason the understanding of the gospel is always of a contextual nature, i.e., is at all times related to the situations in which people live and is therefore influenced by various cultures. The one gospel is understood in and shaped by many cultures. In One Gospel—Many Cultures authors from various parts of the world describe examples of such contextual understandings of the gospel message.
The volume contains accounts of Jesus as rice in a Korean and as guru in a South-Indian setting; churches in secular and individualistic societies on both sides of the Atlantic struggling to understand the gospel anew; Christians in East Asian megalopolises trying to inculturate faith in their local cultures; poverty stricken people in massive urban areas in Latin America who cannot read eating fragments of the Psalms; women in African countries suffering poverty and threatened by the spread of diseases, raising the question whether the churches should stick to monogamy or make room for polygamy? These examples entail serious questions for the churches. In what does the unity of the worldwide church consist and how strong is its witness if various contexts yield different interpretations of the gospel? Is cross-cultural understanding in the church possible?
Is the World's Day of Women's Prayer perhaps a better example of cross-cultural sharing and unity, women listening to women from parts of the world other than their own, praying together, sharing songs and, if needed, money, and thereby demonstrating one faith, one gospel, one God. And to take another completely different case, was apartheid not a cruel form of contextualization, a parody of the gospel of liberation, a negation of the gospel that calls for and makes possible the breaking down of existing walls of separation between people of different races, colours, nations and genders? The contributors to the work in hand do not merely present case studies of attempts to bring the gospel into rapport with diverse cultural and human situations but also discuss the pro's and con's of the examples of contextualization they describe.
The papers included in the present work are the fruit of a study project which forms part of the larger long-standing and ongoing program of theological reflection undertaken by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. With its fascinating cases studies and thorough discussions of the problems and issues involved in contextualization, this volume will be recognized as an important textbook for academic courses in intercultural theology, ecumenical studies and theological hermeneutics.
Contributors: Marcella Althaus-Reid, Russell Botman, Heup Young Kim, Christine Lienemann-Perrin, Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Joseph Small, M. Thomas Thangaraj, Hendrik M. Vroom, and Choo-Lak Yeow