Book Review: The Entangled Trinity – Quantum Physics and Theology

entangledtrinityTitle: The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology

Author: Ernest Simmons

Bibliographic info: 160 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon.

I enjoy reading the occasional book on quantum physics and I love to read books on theology. This short book combines the two by seeking to explore the question of what our current scientific understanding of the quantum world can contribute to our understanding of the Trinity in relation to creation. The author’s thesis is that “perichoresis evolves within the Trinitarian life of God an entangled superposition, relating Creator and creation in mutual interaction, supporting a panentheistic model of God.”

The table of contents is as follows:

I. Foundational Concepts
1. Faith
2. Knowledge
3. Theology

II. Trinitarian Development
4. Bible to Nicaea
5. Constantinople to the Reformation
6. Contemporary Trinitarian Development

III. Science and the Trinity
7. Theology, Science, and Quantum Theory
8. Perichoretic Trinitarian Panentheism
9. The Entangled Trinity

As the table of contents may indicate, most of the book is more of an introductory look at the doctrine of the Trinity, with only the last three chapters (particularly ch. 9) really discussing how quantum theory can be used to elucidate our understanding of God and creation. The historical treatment discusses figures such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Athanasius, the Cappadocians (and their notion of perichoresis), Augustine, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Luther, and so forth. In the final chapters Simmons argues that perichoresis (a theological term) and entanglement (a quantum physics term) can function as “parallel metaphors”, with the latter providing us with an opportunity to more fully explicate a panentheistic understanding of God’s relationship to the world. Furthermore, he contends that the immanent Trinity exists in simultaneous superposition with the economic Trinity, or in his own words: “Christ kenotically emptied himself of the immanent perichoresis of the Trinity in order to enter into the economic perichoresis of the creation.”

All in all, any book that discusses Trinitarian theology in conjunction with Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is bound to be interesting, if not a bit mystifying and–no doubt to some–perhaps a tad bit perturbing with the panentheistic model of God that the author puts forth.

Book Review: Ressourcement – A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology

resroucementTitle: Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology

Editors: Gabriel Flynn and Paul D. Murray

Bibliographic info: 264 pp.

Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Buy the book at Amazon.

This volume, published on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II, contains thirty-one studies (thirty-three if you include the introduction and epilogue) on the Ressourcement Movement in Catholic theology. The table of contents, along with the authors of each chapter, can be found here. This volume also contains a 50-page bibliography which will no doubt be very useful for further studies.

While I am not a Catholic, my main area of interest is twentieth-century theology, whether it be Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, or any one of the other streams of Christian theology. And one of the most important events to occur in modern Catholic theology was the Ressourcement Movement, also known as la Nouvelle Théologie (French for “New Theology”). The word “Ressourcement” is French and means a renewal through a return to sources. This movement originated in early twentieth-century France and was essentially a theological and spiritual renewal of the Catholic Church based on a return to the original sources of Catholic theology: scripture, patristics, and liturgy. “Nouvelle Théologie“, also French, originated as a disparaging label (apparently by Pietro Parente) for those who were attempting to overturn the manualist theological system of neo-Scholasticism by returning to the original sources noted above. This approach eventually became the fully-fledged Ressourcement Movement.

The purpose of this volume is seen in the following quote from the introduction (by Gabriel Flynn): “to articulate the history of the Ressourcement movement, its antecedents and leading exponents and to assess the relevance of their prodigious theological output for the contemporary churches and modern society.”

The book is divided into four parts. Part One consists of twelve studies on the history and context of the movement, including such topics as Tridentine theology, modernism, Jansenism, Humani Generis, epistemology, and a few figures such as Maurice Blondel and Teilhard de Chardin. Part Two is seven studies on central figures of the Ressourcement Movement: Marie-Dominique Chenu, Yves Congar, Henri du Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Henri Bouillard, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Louis Boyer. Part Three contains three chapters who discuss the Ressourcement Movement in relation to biblical studies, liturgy, and patristics. Part Four contains nine studies looking at the influence of the Ressourcement Movement on the Modern World, with a couple of the chapters being on Protestantism and the Orthodox Church. The other chapters in this section include such topics as Vatican II, Eucharistic ecclesiology, Benedict XVI, Yves Congar, and Karl Rahner as an alternative to Ressourcement. Particularly interesting are the two chapters on the influence of the Ressourcement Movement on the agenda on Vatican II, which is especially seen in the conciliar documents Dei Verbum, Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, and Ad Gentes.

This 600-page volume is the most exhaustive treatment (in English at least) on the Ressourcement Movement and ably demonstrates how and why the Ressourcement Movement aroused a veritable renaissance in modern Catholic theology. This isn’t a book that you just read through once and are done with. It is a volume that requires a good time to study to fully reap the fruits therein and I will no doubt be studying these essays for a long time to come as I grapple with modern Catholic theology.

Three More Review Books on Moltmann

About a month ago I received a review copy of Nicholas Ansell’s The Annihilation of Hell: Universal Salvation and the Redemption of Time in the Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann (Wipf and Stock, 2013). Today I received three more review copies (ebook versions) of books on Moltmann. This time from Ashgate:

These three books cost $84 and $96 for the Kindle editions(!), so I am glad I managed to swing review copies.

Received a Few Review Books from Brill

Brill graciously provided me with gratis copies of the following books. Can’t wait to dig into them this winter.

Violence in Early Christianity: Victims and Perpetrators, Albert Geljon and Riemer Roukema (eds)

Ancient Christianity had an ambivalent stance toward violence. Jesus had instructed his disciples to love their enemies, and in the first centuries Christians were proud of this lofty teaching and tried to apply it to their persecutors and to competing religious groups. Yet at the same time they testify to their virulent verbal criticism of Jews, heretics and pagans, who could not accept the Christian exclusiveness. After emperor Constantine had turned to Christianity, Christians acquired the opportunity to use violence toward competing groups and pagans, even though they were instructed to love them personally and Jewish-Christian relationships flourished at grass root level. General analyses and case studies demonstrate that the fashionable distinction between intolerant monotheism and tolerant polytheism must be qualified.

The Language Environment of First Century Judaea: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels Volume 2, Randall Buth and R. Steven Notley (eds)

The articles in this collection demonstrate that a change is taking place in New Testament studies. Throughout the twentieth century, New Testament scholarship primarily worked under the assumption that only two languages, Aramaic and Greek, were in common use in the land of Israel in the first century. The current contributors investigate various areas where increasing linguistic data and changing perspectives have moved Hebrew out of a restricted, marginal status within first-century language use and the impact on New Testament studies. Five articles relate to the general sociolinguistic situation in the land of Israel during the first century, while three articles present literary studies that interact with the language background. The final three contributions demonstrate the impact this new understanding has on the reading of Gospel texts.

Texts in Transit: Manuscript to Proof and Print in the Fifteenth Century, Lotte Hellinga

After Gutenberg’s Bible had appeared in print in 1455, other early printers found different ways to solve problems set by the new technique. Survival of printer’s copy or proofs permits rare views of compositors and printers manipulating a text before it emerged in its new form. Versions were corrected to be fit for purpose, and might be adapted for a much enlarged readership, especially if the language was vernacular. The printing press itself required careful measuring and fitting of texts. In twelve case-studies Lotte Hellinga explores what is revealed in printer’s copy and proofs used in diverse printing houses, covering the period from 1459 to the 1490s, and ranging from Rome and Venice to Mainz and Westminster.

Some Overrated Theology Books

Here are a few of the most overrated theological books I have had the pleasure (?) of reading. Keep in mind that when I say “overrated” I am not saying that these books are not important and have not been influential. All I mean by saying “overrated” is that while these books have had nothing but praise lavished upon them, I myself have found them to be not particularly helpful at illuminating the good news of Christ (the decisive criterion for determining a theology book’s usefulness). These are a few overrated books that immediately spring to mind:

  • The City of God, Augustine of Hippo
  • Römerbrief, Karl Barth
  • Pensées, Blaise Pascal

At the popular lay level, the most overrated theology book is:

  • Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

I know that this book has been beneficial for millions of Christians (my teen-self included), but considering how it is often hailed as one of the most brilliant theological book written in the twentieth century, I have to say that it is waaaaay overrated, especially considering the level of argumentation put forth (e.g. Lewis’ trilemma apologetic of “Lord, liar, or lunatic”). Someone once correctly said that C.S. Lewis was a first-rate literary theorist, a second-rate fantasy writer, and a third-rate theologian.

If I was to use other criteria for determining overrated theology books, such as whether the praise a book has received is commensurate with its actual influence, then I would have to put these books on the list (both of which I loved):

  • The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann
  • Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Moltmann’s The Crucified God–with its patripassianist and theopaschite theology–seems to be more highly rated than his Theology of Hope, yet it was the latter that had more of an immediate and lasting impact (and, in my opinion, is much more interesting). In regards to Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship, I suspect it is like Barth’s Römerbrief in that while everyone lavishes praise upon it, few actually read (and understand) it. Also, I think that both Discipleship (and Römerbrief) occupy that hazy realm where it’s considered famous simply for being famous.

In fact, maybe that is a better way to measure how overrated a book is: whether the amount of applause a book receives measures up to how many people actually read it. In that case, wouldn’t Barth’s Church Dogmatics have to be the most overrated theology book of all time? No, wait, I think that honor would have to go to the Bible itself! (I know what you’re thinking… He said the Bible is the most overrated theology book? Wow, he is so avant-garde!)

A Few Books I’m Reading

Looking at my Kindle it appears I am currently reading a couple dozen books. Here are a few of the most recent ones I started to read:

They are all quite captivating reading (especially the MLK volume).

Quick Book Review: Ethics – A Liberative Approach

ethicsliberativeapproachTitle: Ethics: A Liberative Approach

Editor: Miguel A. De La Torre

Bibliographic info: 264 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2013.

Buy the book at Amazon.

This book takes a look at theological ethics defined as liberationist is currently expressed amongst various racial and gender groups. The studies in this volume were written from the perspective of various marginalized groups, each being a different expression of liberation theology (originally a Latin American Catholic manifestation). There are four studies from a global context, four studies from a U.S. racial and ethnic context, and five studies from a U.S. gender, sexual identity, and disability context.

Each study in this book approaches its own subject-matter using the same format. First the author discusses basic tenets of liberative ethics within a specific community, which is followed by explanations for why the liberation from the structure actually exists, followed by the issues and themes that each community deals with, and then notable figures in the movement and the potential for future trends in the movement. Each chapter finishes with study questions and a select bibliography.

The twelve chapters are on the following topics:

  1. Latin American Liberative Ethics
  2. African Liberative Ethics
  3. Asian Liberative Ethics
  4. Economic Liberative Ethics
  5. Hispanic Liberative Ethics
  6. African American Liberative Ethics
  7. Asian American Liberative Ethics
  8. American Indian Liberative Ethics
  9. Feminist Liberative Ethics
  10. Women of Color Liberative Ethics
  11. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Liberative Ethics
  12. Disability Liberative Ethics

As a person born with a lot of privilege –I am white, male, with a good education– I am not one who has to endure any marginalization, ostracization, exploitation, and other forms of oppression in my everyday life. Yet I am aware that there are many –e.g., the poor, persons of color, the LGBT crowd– who do experience these things on a daily basis. As a follower of Christ a part of discipleship is solidarity with those who are marginalized and helping working for liberation amongst the oppressed and the powerless. Yet coming from a position of privilege can make it hard to even realize that you are in a position of privilege, let alone to understand the various struggles that the marginalized and oppressed experience. This book, Ethics: A Liberative Approach, helps in this regard by informing the reader of how various disenfranchised faith traditions have dealt with marginalization, the theologies that have arisen from this and their contribution to the formation of an ethical discourse. A great read!

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