Inquiring after God: Classic and Contemporary Readings
Long, D. Stephen, Anglican Theological Review
Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Edited by Ellen T. Charry. Readings in Modern Theology series. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000. xxx + 346 pp. $66.95 (cloth): $31.95 (paper).
Ellen Charry brings together classical and contemporary theological readings in this delightful volume. Part of its beauty is the difficulty in describing precisely what this collection of essays is. It is not a reader in systematic theology, ethics or spirituality, and yet it draws on all these disciplines as well as philosophy, science, economics and hermeneutics to invite readers to inquire after God through practices of everyday life-both secular and sacred. "Sacred" practices such as preaching, prayer, sacraments, and discernment are interspersed with "secular" practices such as working, scientific study, and architecture. Yet each of these practices is given an iconic significance so that the very distinction between sacred and secular collapses as readers proceed through the essays. This occurs in an understated manner that subtly calls into question modernist disciplinary divisions. This is understated, yet intentional. Charry's excellent introduction to the collection establishes the background for this to unfold by her reflections on the "end of modernity." Divisions such as "faith/reason, belief/objective knowledge, and history/theology" no longer hold, and the correlation between classic and contemporary sources throughout the volume suggests that such divisions were never effectively operative in Christian tradition in the first place.
Charry's introduction to Inquiring after God begins with the "end of modernity," but it does not then capitulate to postmodern concerns. Instead, she draws upon the medieval convertibility of the good and the true to suggest that even though foundationalist accounts of truth are no longer possible, this need not lead to postmodern suspicion against Christianity's claim that its God who transcends history is truth. This claim need not be abandoned, but it must be displayed in good living and not speculative argument alone. Belief and practice are brought together. Thus Charry suggests that this volume "does not seek to argue for the existence of God, but for the truth of life with God" (p. …