Magazine article The Christian Century

Religion Book Beat

Magazine article The Christian Century

Religion Book Beat

Article excerpt

In my capacity as an editor for Baker Academic and Brazos Press, I annually attend the meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. These conferences always provide occasion for reflection on current trends in theology and biblical studies. My major impression after the meetings held this past November was that there is a lack of any large-scale movements or trends in the theological academy. Beginning in the 1980s, biblical studies saw a massive output of work on Jesus of Nazareth--what is known as the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus. And in the late 1990s, Radical Orthodoxy enlivened several packed sessions at the AAR. But nothing that is happening now is remotely on the scale of those developments.

A biblical scholar remarked to me that "biblical criticism is exhausted." But scholars continue to search for what lies after it. Theology, meanwhile, seems to have broken into a wide variety of subfields with no one school of thought dominant. People seem reluctant to identify, let alone jump on, any particular bandwagon.

But one major formal development is worth noting. I mention it gingerly, because of what may be construed as a conflict of interest on my part. Though denominational and university presses continue to publish copious and important work, the center of gravity in publishing has arguably shifted to houses with evangelical bases or connections. The conspicuously large bookselling booths, and presumably concomitantly robust sales, now belong to Eerdmans, InterVarsity Press, Baylor University Press and Baker Academic and Brazos Press.

Some academics view this development as a cause for alarm, resorting to the f-word, fundamentalism. But such names as N. T. Wright, Miroslav Volf, Richard Hays, David Gushee, Peter Leithart and James K. A. Smith need only be mentioned to dispel arguments that evangelicalism, broadly conceived, lacks sophisticated and rigorous thinkers.

Whatever large trends are occurring, certain issues and topics stood out in book exhibits and conversations. For example, there is a revival of interest in the writings of the apostle Paul. As global capitalism continues its turbulent reign and as most forms of working communism have died out, Marxist and post-Marxist thinkers such as Slavoj Zizek, Giorgio Agamben and Alain Badiou find in Paul various grounds for resistance. Of course, these authors approach Paul on thoroughly materialist, nonsupernaturalist terms, so there is much for theologians and biblical scholars to debate about the new claims laid on Paul. …

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