- Paperback: 346 pages
- Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishers; Softcover edition (April 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0800620380
- ISBN-13: 978-0800620387
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times Softcover Edition
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"In this stunning book, Joerg Rieger reveals the hidden grammar of Christology by elucidating how theological depictions of Christ have been laden with colonial biases. Yet he also shows that the Christ symbol cannot be simply domesticated and offers resources to construct a hope-filled Christology to address the empires of our day."
About the Author
Joerg Rieger is Professor of Systematic Theology at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. He is author of Remember the Poor: The Challenge to Theology in the Twenty-first Century (1998) and God and the Excluded: Visions and Blindspots in Contemporary Theology (Fortress Press, 2000). He is also editor of Liberating the Future: God, Mammon, and Theology (Fortress Press, 1998) and Theology from the Belly of the Whale: A Frederick Herzog Reader.
Top customer reviews
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Personally, I dislike the book. The origins of my bias are very simple - more than often Rieger's logic and vocabulary is the same as in marxist soviet propaganda of my childhood, spent as a protestant in USSR. Hence, reading Rieger at a seminary for me is very similar to an experience that a Jew who survived Auschwitz would have in Yeshiva, seeing some treatise by an Arian Nation sympathizer on the curriculum. That being said, I did the best to separate my own presuppositions and partialities from the text and treat the book on its own merits to the best of my abilities. Nevertheless, I fully understand that despite my finest attempts, it is impossible to be fully objective; hence, I consciously review my conclusions in order to separate them into two distinct categories. Namely, I separate my opposition to Rieger's arguments due to my inner biases from critic, based on deficiencies of his analytical argument.
The author, a professor of Systematic Theology at Perkins School of Theology, builds the book by evaluating seven particular historical frameworks in the development of Christology. For the purposes of this review, the evaluation is limited to "Resisting and Reframing Lord: Christology and the Roman Empire" chapter. Rieger's first premis consists of pointing that using the title of "Lord" toward Jesus of Nazareth had significant political applications at the time. Namely, this designation was the unique entitlement of the Roman Emperor, not a crucified Jew. Hence, by claiming Jesus' Lordship, Christians were openly challenging the basic political order of the Empire. If one views this from Rieger's standpoint, such stance constituted nothing less than revolution and open - even if it is was mostly passive - rebellion. Nevertheless, due to historic developments, this radical approach was transformed into the concept of Christian Empire. At the end, instead of destroying the injustices of Roman Empire, the Lordship of Jesus was used to sustain it. This this the light under which Rieger evaluates major Christological debates during the first Seven Ecumenical Councils. For the author, these debates are concerned with the task of sustaining the unity of the Empire and, subsequently, its continuous oppression. In accomplishing this unity, opinion of the most powerful became the doctrine of the Church, not the "correct" opinion. In addition, the task of understanding of the role and the personhood of Christ shifted from His role of liberating the marginalized into complex debates on His nature within framework of Greco-Roman worldview and philosophy.
Even if Rieger was correct about his premises, this would not negate the validity of the basic Christological frame of references, set by the Seven Ecumenical Councils. No one would argue that political realities influenced these decisions and, particularly, their enforcement. Yet, that does not make these decisions and formulations invalid. One may not approve how the proverbial sausage is made; nevertheless, the process of its preparation does not negate the nutritional value - not to mention the taste - of the product.
Moreover, it is not that only most powerful or those who had the backing of imperial forces that won the Christological battles. One only has to remember Athanasius Conra Mundum as an example. To state that the interests of Empire fully subordinated what the Church considered as its central "interest" is to reject all we know about the processes and decision-making of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. For example, in regards of the early Christological debates, anyone who opened the pages of the ecclesiastical histories of Socrates Scholasticus or Sozomenus - even in comparison with Eusebius of Ceasarea -- would find Rieger's depiction of the same period to be overly simplistic at best, and historically false at worst.
It is interesting that Rieger does not mentioned at all the general acceptance of the early Christological decisions of the First Nicaea outside of the boundaries of Roman Empire. For example, even if the Church of the East did not accept the Chalcedonian Definition, it was in full accord with the decrees of Nicaea (325). If one would follow Rieger's argument, he\she would expect this church that existed under the rule of Sassanid Emperor to reject anything produced under that patronage and in the interest its main political nemesis, the Roman Empire.
Hence, Reiger's conclusions are often based on the evidence of problematic - if not questionable - composition. His cathedral built with stones that already show sign of cracks.
Nevertheless, despite the gaps in Reiger's line of argumentation, his approach is not without a merit. Particularly, when Reiger's concept of "Christological surplus" stands on its own as a footnote on the margins of the Treatise on the historical development of Christology, it deserves a place as valuable and interesting annotation. Indeed, the issues that Reiger raise are important and worth detailed attention. The main issue with "Christological surplus" in Riger's position is its status as authoritative. His book does not provide enough consistent and sound support in order to place this surplus into such position.
There are additional factors to consider while reading Rieger. First stems from the previous paragraph. Namely, Reiger attempts to dismember traditional authority in the body of Christological doctrines by imposing his own. It is strikingly amazing how his purely academic method repeats age-old story, told countless times in the book of the Lady by the name History. Destroyers of empires always build new ones, usually more bloody and oppressive than old. There is no worst oppressor than formerly oppressed. Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite becomes regicide, guillotine, and la Terreur ; Land to Peasants and Factoriels for Workers becomes the dictatorship of the prolétariat, Gulag, and 1937. That is where my main objection to Reiger's work lays - what he considers to be unquestionable axiom, is merely a theory for me. And a dangerous theory... As Christians, we may and should oppose certain elements of any Empire and stay on the side of oppressed. Nevertheless, the Empire itself is not the evil to be fought against. It is merely an institute of mind and matter. If we are to find the true source of the evil, we should look no further than into the heart of Jeorg Rieger and Sergey Dezhnyuk.