Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams

By Malcolm, Lois | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams


Malcolm, Lois, Anglican Theological Review


Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams. By Mike Higton. New York: Church Publishing, 2004. viii + 170 pp. $18.00 (paper).

This book is more than an introduction to Rowan Williams's theology. It engages its readers in the subject matter at the heart of Williams's often complicated and abstruse prose. After a brief introduction, the first chapter grapples with Williams's insight into God's "non-negotiable" love, a love that "exposes and condemns the acquisitive, defensive, strategic 'self we have created" (p. 16). It describes Williams's distinctive reflection on the "disarming love" of the gospel (p. 23). Though betrayed and crucified, Jesus offers forgiveness and the possibility for transformation, creating among his very betrayers a "community of the forgiven" (p. 22). Jesus is God's word of acceptance and judgment, a gospel that tells of a "free, unauxious, utterly demanding, grown-up love" (p. 33).

The second chapter describes how Jesus, as crucified and resurrected, gives us a picture of God not as an "omnipotent being, free to choose love," but as One in whom power always and only emerges as love. God's will emerges from God's loving nature (p. 39). But Jesus' way of the cross is not a journey into randomness. Rather, it is a "ceaseless growing" into "what is always and already greater"-"the fullness of the divine," a "steady and endless enlarging of the heart" (p. 54). We are drawn to stand where Jesus stands before God as "Abba," sharing equally in his work "towards the good and healing of the world." In the power of the Spirit, we experience the "excess," "openness, and "generativity" of Jesus' relationship to the Father (p. 57). The Spirit is God's infinite capacity for new activity that is also faithful to God's purposes-an openness not exhausted by the particular identities of Father and Son. This Spirit draws us into a disciplceship in a worldwide community that struggles to find a form of life appropriate to God's life.

The third chapter discusses how the gospel involves us in "processes of learning" (p. …

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