Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate

By Vivian, Tim | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate


Vivian, Tim, Anglican Theological Review


Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate. By Rowan A. Greer. New York: Crossroad/Herder & Herder, 2001. 282 pp. $24.95 (paper).

First the disclaimer: Rowan Greer, professor of Anglican Studies (emeritus) at Yale University, was my faculty sponsor and mentor when I had a postdoctoral fellowship there in the late '80s. I sat in on some of his wonderful classes in historical theology and I am still amazed at how much time and care he took commenting on students' papers. There. Now I can say with a clear conscience that this is an excellent book. I'm not alone in holding that opinion: Christian Hope and Christian Life won the Association of Theological Booksellers' Theologos award for Book of the Year in 2001. We Episcopalians can be proud that one of our own has been so honored.

I wonder if Greer modeled his subtitle after Thomas Merton's Raids on the Unspeakable. Both authors are attempting to write about the ineffable. (As Greer appositely remarks on page 87, "The people who first clarified the Christian doctrine of the Trinity were committed to the doctrine that God is incomprehensible.") For Merton the subject is contemplation, the silent encounter with God, while for Greer it's eschatology, whether "realized" or future. "Christians," he points out, "are caught between two worlds, tom between who they are and their destiny," the dialectic between the "here and now" and the "there [heaven] and then [Second Coming/Judgment]" (p. 59). Greer believes that a "worldly understanding of Christianity has come to prevail," that "the here and now has eclipsed the there and then" (p. 3) As a balance, he wishes "to study the interaction between views of Christian destiny that locate that destiny outside our world and understandings of the Christian life in the present" (p. 7). To do this he offers lengthy chapters on the New Testament, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, John Donne, and Jeremy Taylor. Thus Greer is quintessentially Anglican (and Catholic), not because he includes two Anglican writers but because he works with, and within, both Scripture and tradition. …

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