Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Signs of Freedom: Theology of the Christian Sacraments

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Signs of Freedom: Theology of the Christian Sacraments

Article excerpt

Signs of Freedom: Theology of the Christian Sacraments. By German Martinez. New York/Mahwah, NJ.: Paulist Press, 2003. xv + 346 pp. $22.95 (paper).

Martinez, who teaches at Fordham University, offers us a wide-ranging approach to the emerging field of sacramental theology. This area of growing importance has to do not with liturgy per se, but with how the great theological themes of Christianity' inform sacramental belief and practice and are informed by them. As Martinez notes, the fields of Christology and soteriology achieved relatively coherent visions within Roman Catholicism in the years following Vatican II, but the same cannot be said for church teachings on the sacraments. Many non-Roman Catholics would echo this assessment. Yet the need for a clear sacramental vision is great today since secular culture tends to undermine language about transcendent mystery and to relativize all rites and symbols. Signs of Freedom is designed to address this need. It is lucidly written and could be used as an introductory textbook for people who are new to the field. Pastoral ministers of all denominations, especially those in the more sacramentally oriented churches, will profit from working through this volume.

Christian freedom is the chief theological theme and organizing principle selected by Martinez for his treatment of the seven sacraments. This is no arbitrary choice since a great deal of biblical material stresses freedom, particularly in relation to the Holy Spirit, whose sacramental activity Martinez highlights. Moreover, as he points out, Augustine explicitly links freedom in Christ with the sacraments. Contemporary forms of liberation theology obviously play into the mix as well, and Martinez uses these perspectives skillfully. If one had to categorize his overall bias, one would say that he prefers biblical-patristic forms of the faith, blended with the thought of theologians like Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin, and some Latin American activists, over against the medieval and counter-Reformation traditions. …

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