Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book review--Lord, Giver of Life by Jane Barter Moulaison


The following book review appeared in Anglican Theological Review.  90.3 (Summer 2008).


Lord, Giver of Life: Toward a Pneumatological Complement to George Lindbeck’s Theory of Doctrine by Jane Barter Moulaison. Toronto: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007. 180 pages. $65.00 (cloth)

In Lord, Giver of Life, Jane Barter Moulaison examines George Lindbeck’s theory of doctrine, focusing on the pneumatological aspects in Lindbeck’s work.  She puts Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic model in dialogue with an interesting mix of theological approaches by Lindbeck’s supporters and detractors, and patristic theologians.  Moulaison’s intent is to push Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic model into new areas, which she does while trying to answer relevant contemporary questions.  This book will be most useful for scholars interested in Lindbeck’s pneumatology.  Other scholars and graduate students will also find this book contributes an original perspective to understanding Lindbeck’s theology.

In the first chapter, “The Spirit Who Saves,” Moulaison introduces the book and her method.  She identifies three regulative principles in Lindbeck’s work: monotheistic, historical specificity, and Christological maximalism.  She then adds pneumatology as a fourth regulative principle based on the Trinity.  Moulaison writes that adding a reconstruction of pneumatological confession “is not intended merely to expose Lindbeck’s faulty recollection of historical doctrine; rather, it is meant to consider this surprisingly pre-empted reconstruction of historical doctrine as an intriguing clue as to what might be overlooked within his own constructive theology” (8).  By following Lindbeck’s concern in The Nature of Doctrine, Moulaison answers Lindbeck’s critics by theologically addressing anthropological concerns of formalism.

In the second chapter, Moulaison defends Lindbeck against critics who contend there is an ontological deficit in The Nature of Doctrine.  She asserts that ecumenism is the primary question Lindbeck is addressing.  Moulaison describes “the picture of theological language that holds us captive” in the first section (16-22), and the second and third sections address epistemological and doctrinal questions.  In chapter three, Moulaison places Lindbeck in conversation with Alister McGrath and the Cappadocian Fathers.  She writes that her second chapter is “animated by a quest for an adequate account of the relationship between the res significata (the thing that is signified) and the modus significandi (way of signification)” (35), addressing the post-Kantian dependence on res, while acknowledging exceptions like the assertions of Lonergan and McGrath.  Moulaison writes, “McGrath’s critique of Lindbeck’s theory of doctrine and his alternative theory on the nature of doctrine have, unwittingly, demonstrated the clear superiority of the cultural-linguistic model as an adequate account of both the genesis and nature of doctrine” (56), but she concludes the chapter, “Lindbeck’s project retains vestiges of the epistemologically prominent picture of the self-determining individual of which he sought to rid theology” (64).

The two primary foci of chapter four are intra-textual theology and intentionality.  Moulaison writes, “The dual nature of Lindbeck’s definition of un-translatability--irreducibility and sufficiency--is in keeping with Patristic understandings of the Bible” (83).  She places Lindbeck in conversation with Patristic scholarship and explicates Lindbeck’s metaphor ‘the text absorbs the world.’  “The text does not simply absorb the world; rather, because it is issued from the God who loves us, its address embraces, trains, and even saves us, insofar as the text is illuminated by the Spirit who saves” (98).  The chapter concludes Lindbeck’s text/world relationship is guided intentionally by the Holy Spirit. 

In chapter five, Moulaison examines Lindbeck’s “people-of-God ecclesiology, and she offers a patristic description of Church life.  This leads her to a brief exploration of the political implications of radical pneumatology at the end of the chapter.  Moulaison concludes her study with a chapter about the continuing role of the Holy Spirit.  She begins chapter six by tying the previous chapters together, including an examination of faith and reason, absorbing the world, and church and polis.  The majority of the chapter is a succinct restatement of her pneumatological complement to Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic model, and brings the book to logical conclusion.  I would recommend this book to scholars interested in exploring Lindbeck’s pneumatology.  

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