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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hoping, October 15, 2005
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This review is from: Hope among the Fragments: The Broken Church and Its Engagement of Scripture (Paperback)
It was the Archbishop of Canterbury's recommendation on the back of the book that first drew me to reading the new book by Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner. Hope Among the Fragments: The Broken Church and its Engagement of Scripture is a deep valley where Patristic and Anglican sources are woven together in essays on ecclesiology, sexuality and culture amidst the market forces of modernity. At points dense, it is also richly rewarding.

The entire book may be seen as a playing out of the them of "form". By "form" Radner means not simply aesthetics, but the visible and locatable Body of Christ. Thus, ecclesiology is never far from incarnation in his writing and sacramentality pervades his understanding of seeing hope as "clothed" in both the Church and in Scripture, neither being separable from the other (a premise drawn from Archbishop Michael Ramsey's great work, The Gospel and the Catholic Church, which permeates the book, being given explicit mention at its conclusion).

Reading Scripture is, for Radner, an "act of grace" (77). He considers some of the writings of John Keble who, in discussing "figural" readings of Scripture, mediates to us (just as he did to his own time) how the Church Fathers themselves read Scripture. Hermeneutics is inseperable from the providence of God, which includes not only the canon of Scripture (in both its Old and New Testaments), but history, nature, and personal discipline (81), the latter of which must animate our own reading of Scripture. "To remove the Scriptures themselves as the discardable vessel of these gifts is to wish that time itself were no longer the skin of our transformation, an almost gnostic yearning for release from a world that is felt to be cut loose from God" (108).

Such transformative reading is done together, and it is no mistake here that Radner immediately moves into a discussion of sexual morality; it is Pauline precedent to discuss moral issues within an ecclesiological context, for the two are bound up with one another. That marriage is a sacrament is denied by few; that marriage, being between a man and a woman, is an iconographic (151) window by which God's own desire for the Church (and the Church's desire for God) is expressed in two particular bodies, oriented towards redemption in their marital askesis, is something less willingly agreed upon. Yet, Radner opens up such a vista sensitively and poetically.

We are faced, then, again with ecclesiology. Despite bad bishops and despite novel teaching, what must take place is a return - not to "a Pelagian ratcheting up of the theological task" (202) where the theologian sees her or his vocation as "getting it right", but to the difficult work of discerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. Thus, Radner proposes that we are called to stay in the church that we have been given to, praying for its redemption and being conformed to the image of Christ through a foolishness that is God's own wisdom.

Only an Anglican in the United States could write a book of this sort. As the only Protestant group who has considered the historicity of its being located in the person of the bishop, Anglicans have long been an oddity on the American religious landscape. We have always claimed that historic faith ("the teaching of the Apostles, the breaking of bread, and the prayers") is inseperable from historic order ("the historic episcopate, locally adapted"), despite our many sympathies with various Protestants. Being self-conscious of this (as only Episcopalians can be, for it names us) is what lets there be a recognition that the Church truly is fragmented - a largely American phenomenon, now sadly exported throughout the world because of our hegemonic domination as *the* world power - yet called to be of a single form: the organically united "Body of Christ".
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting!, April 22, 2006
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This review is from: Hope among the Fragments: The Broken Church and Its Engagement of Scripture (Paperback)
This one was up and up and up! No downs at all. You find the hope you need in these fragmented times of ours. Wars and wars and hurt all around us, but there is hope. When we can hope for something to be better, it can be.
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