Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Julian of Norwich, Theologian

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Julian of Norwich, Theologian

Article excerpt

Julian of Norwich, Theologian. By Denys Turner. (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2011. Pp. xxvi, 262. $45.00.)

Characterizing the work of Julian of Norwich is a challenging task, one which authors from a variety of fields enjoy. She is at once described as a mystic, a fount of wisdom, a visionary, or an interpreter of those visions. To those descriptions, Denys Turner adds one more: theologian. Turner's efforts are at once iconoclastic as well as apologetic; he will complicate the description of Julian as a "mystic"-readers unfamiliar with Turner would do well to peruse his The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism (1998) to discover why this is the case-before complicating the understanding of Julian as a visionary. The task of apologetic is to explain the case for Julian as a theologian, and not only as such, but also as a "systematic" theologian, a term which Turner carefully qualifies. This final point is important to distinguishing her from the previous characterizations which Turner finds somewhat dismissive. Instead, Turner's hope is that we acknowledge Julian's rightful place among those other giants of theology from the medieval period.

Given her status as theologian among theologians, it is perhaps unsurprising that Turner proceeds to place Julian's Revelations of Divine Love (1373) into dialogue with other works of theology. After explaining the above distinctions regarding systematic and mystic, Turner moves to a discussion of theodicy. He opens with a discussion of her use of the term "behovely," arguing for its correlation with the Scholastic theological term "conveniens." When used by figures like Thomas Aquinas, it describes something "fitting" or "seemly," and usually refers to something which is neither necessary nor contingent, but something in between. …

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