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Book Review

Asian Horizons --> New Ecclesial Movements

Jacob Srampickal SJ, Communications Can Renew the Church, Delhi: Media House Publication, 2010. Pages: 328. ISBN: 978-81-7495-267-7.

Dr. Jacob Srampickal’s new book: Communications Can Renew the Church is a classy analysis of Church in relation to Communication and Media. Teaching at the Gregorian, Rome heading the department of Communications and other related communications programmes Dr. Srampickal proves how his perspectives on communications have gradually turned Catholic and Universal or Global, in its fullest sense in this book. The challenging areas, dominant issues, disturbing elements, inspiring thoughts, evolving theology, wanting attitudes, possible reformations of the Church especially relating to present-day world of Media and Communications have been comprehensively analyzed with precision and clarity here. The basic vision and frame of references of this book are the official documents of Universal Church and deeper understanding about Jesus of Gospels.

The author’s heart seems to be throbbing for the Church in India and he appears to be fully aware and alert about the styles and struggles of the Indian Church. His extensive travels and periodic teaching assignments in different Indian institutions seem to keep him well informed about the concrete Indian Church situations wherein he tries to target his observations, evaluations and creative suggestions. This book is not necessarily an effort at a highly theoretical exploration but a deeply practical application of the power of communication for updating and renewal of the universal church, more particularly that of India.

The phenomenon of Church becoming irrelevant and abandoned in the modern world is the backdrop of the whole study as Srampickal has chosen. So in the first part he makes a self-reflection and critical observation of the present day Church ministry styles and explores more into the background of mental attitudes and value systems sustained by the church leadership and zealous missionary workers.

The defective strategy and style of Church’s communication is found as the root reason for this. The challenge and chances of developing a Communication Theology is the first part of his positive exposition. When the Church becomes a real communicating community the envisioned spiritual ideologies of Christ, will be accepted and appreciated by the global society. He observes that the Church has produced excellent documents regarding communications in the world. Only problem he identifies is that they are practiced neither in the higher official levels nor in the ordinary practical levels. How can this be corrected through the smart and balanced utilization of modern media technology is elaborated in the second part. His thesis that ‘Communications Can Renew the Church’ is convincingly proved with ease and excellence in this book. For him communication is all about more participation of all in managing the church which can surely create a sense of belonging and intimate relations within the church.

Relying on Church documents and theological interpretations of renowned scholars, the author has made this study appear very authentic and convincing. The practical application of the various theories expounded is the main attraction to read this elaborate work in a short period.

A pastor or anyone who is seriously interested in updating the Church life based on the approved teachings and enlightened understanding of the scriptures will find this book really helpful. For priestly candidates and already pastors this is a guiding handbook in their planning and developing of meaningful engagement with the modern generation effectively.

Dr John Edappilly, CMI (johnedappilly@yahoo.com)

Dean, NISCORT, New Delhi

A. Pushparajan & X.D. Selvaraj, ed., Laity in the Church: Identity and Mission in India Today, Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2010. Pages: viii+243. ISBN: 81-7086-544-1.

The Catholic Church, immediately after Second Vatican Council, witnessed an attempt to actualize the divinely inspired and well articulated paradigm shift in the self understanding of the Church as ‘People of God’. Correspondingly the laity cherished a renewed self-understanding as the people of God. But gradually the new paradigm was side lined and not much attention was given to actualize the proposals of the council.

Every Year the Indian Theological Association (ITA) takes up relevant and appropriate themes and schemes for their theological updating and appropriation inspired by the Spirit and implemented by the theologians in India. To give flesh and blood to their concerns ITA’s 29th annual seminar in 2006 selected the theme, Laity in the Church: Identity and Mission in India Today. This volume is an attempt to present in words their concerns, hopes, desires and aspirations in the concrete context of present day India. This volume contains eight well researched and articulated papers presented and discussed in the annual seminar, the ITA statement and reports and minutes. A. Pushparajan and X. D. Selvaraj have made a commendable work in editing the papers and presenting them for our consideration and appropriation.

The first article, “Biblical Perspective of the People of God: Identity and Mission” authored by the well known biblical scholar and preacher, Dr Augustine Mulloor, surveys both the Old and New Testaments thoroughly to present a strong foundation for the use and practice of the concept ‘People of God.’ He first raises a few fundamental questions about our situation in the society and then re-reads the biblical traditions, including their vocabulary and thus arrives at a clear redefinition of the identity and mission of the people of God in the context of India today.

Errol D’Lima, an acclaimed theologian from JDV, Pune, attempts to evaluate the vocation, life and mission of the lay faithful in his article “Laity in the Post-Vatican Church …” In the light of his insightful and critical reviewing of the documents of Vatican II, post Vatican and those of FABC, he establishes doctrinally that the laity’s call today is not merely to animate the world with the spirit of Christianity but also to participate actively in the whole life of the Church.

In the next two articles, enquiry is made to evaluate how far the biblical and doctrinal notion of people of God is lived out in history. Dr Selvister Ponnumuthan makes a historical appraisal of the various efforts of lay participation, like pious associations in liberation, ecumenical and interreligious orientations. Dr Scaria Zacharia makes a study on ‘Palliyogam’ of the St Thomas Christian Church as an indigenous model of lay participation in the spiritual and material aspects of the Church.

“Lay Participation at Grassroots – Reality and Challenges: A Subaltern Perspective,” by A. Pushparajan is a concrete study of the present day contextual application of laity’s role from a subaltern perspective. The author notes that within the church participative values are rarely valued, fostered or promoted. Dr P. T. Mathew’s paper on “Sociological perspectives of the Charism and Structures in the Church and the Place of the Laity,” evaluates the efforts from the part of the Church to realize the teaching authority of the Church. He concludes that there has been the publication of enormous amount of literature in the Church on the theme of laity. But the discourse has remained by and large, theological and speculative, with little attention being paid to the underlying sociological factors. The author suggests some of the diverse models of religious leadership that could be taken up by the laity in the Church.

Lay spirituality is an important concern of the Church today. The last two papers are trying to focus on this concern and attempt to present a way for the laity to follow. In the light of his experience and expertise D.X. Selvaraj deals elaborately with the role the laity played in the past and analyses the triple mission of Christ and its relevance to the contemporary understanding of the vocation and mission of the laity. Thorough the analysis of the experience and practices of lay endeavours in the Church, in the fields of sacred and secular arenas, the author derives the type of spirituality most relevant and appropriate for the laity. In the last article, Dr Valarie D’Souza explores laity spirituality and touches upon the crucial foundations of a traditional spirituality of the laity. In this article special care is taken to analyze the Indian context of plurality of spirituality, with reference to women’s perspective.

This volume is an amalgamation of all the necessary ingredients for a fruitful existence, growth and fruitfulness of lay people in the life and mission of the Church. The articles in the book attempt to present a holistic vision for the integral growth and nourishment of the laity. The research that the contributors have done is praiseworthy and they have incorporated in it biblical, doctrinal, historical, contextual, sociological and spiritual aspects very judiciously. There are minor typographical and methodological errors which could be corrected for the perfection of the book. The order of the articles also could be rearranged according to the overall framework of the volume.

Siby Kavattu, CMI (kavattusiby@yahoo.com)

Lecturer (Theology), Faculty of Theology, DVK, Bangalore

Thomas Kadankavil, Changing Patterns of Thought: Philosophy as Interpersonal Communication, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2010. Pages: xx+136. ISBN: 978-81-89958-36-7.

This small but scholarly work of Prof. Kadankavil is the edited and enlarged form of the ‘Dharma Endowment Lectures’, which the author delivered at the Faculty of Philosophy of Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (DVK), Bangalore in August 2010. It has seven chapters, namely, (i) Dialogical Philosophy of Plato, (ii) Philosophy in Process Track, (iii) Constructive versus Destructive Postmodernism, (iv) Interpretation of Religious Scriptures from Asian Context, (v) Fellowship in Religious Experience, (vi) Homogenization of Cultures and Little Traditions, and (vii) Dialogue or Conquest versus Cultures and Religions.

A word about the author: Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil, CMI is an eminent thinker and academician both in Indian and Western streams of philosophy. A prolific writer and a distinguished teacher of philosophy, Professor Kadankavil is also an illustrious spiritual master. He has been Professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy of DVK for about three decades, and has also served as the President of DVK, and Rector of Dharmaram College. He has a special penchant and passion for the cause of the subaltern sections of Indian society. Studying and experiencing the little traditions and peripheral groups, their life-situations and existential exigencies had always been a devoted commitment for him. This concern gives his philosophical deliberations an extra vibrancy and urgency. His method of philosophizing exudes an earthiness and freshness, and is permeated by a predilection for a kind of theistic humanism and by an earnest yearning for a faith-centred egalitarianism in the societal life of humans.

The author argues in the book that there is marked paradigm shift in the vocation of philosophising today from that of the ancient and classical periods of philosophy. Philosophy as mere abstract and abstruse, theoretical and academic, meta-worldly and supra-normal speculation has little relevance and significance today. Philosophy should get out of the grips of some illuminati who find joy in arid intellectual acrobatics around some abstract concepts, which have no bearing to life and its multifarious troubles and tribulations. Philosophizing should emerge from the actual human conditions, especially from the awareness and experience of the unwholesome predicaments of human existence. The awareness of miseries, pains, wants and helplessness of the poor and marginalized, the oppression, persecution and injustice inflicted upon the defenceless people by the oppressive structures of the society, etc., should also become the springboard for further philosophical activity.

Prof. Kadankavil says: “The new way of doing philosophy is to place ‘human beings’ instead of ‘being’ in the centre. The philosophy thus returned to the concrete, to the human being, is not something in the abstract; is not a process of understanding in some hypothetical state of pure nature, but is a task of self-constitution of the subject.” Therefore, to discriminate a person on the basis of birth is an abomination, and philosophy, by cogitative processes and right ratiocinations, has the right and duty to dive deep into the causes of this malaise and challenge the oppressive structures of the society. The author says, “hence the realm of non-philosophical, all forms of subaltern or periphery existence has become a significant field of philosophical analysis. The new wine gets its vigour from a radical criticism of directing all truth to the singular one centre. ... The attempt to erode the autonomy of centre is an attempt to restore the space of the periphery.”

It is high time that the Indian philosopher turns his/her serious attention to Asia, to Asian cultures, religions and philosophies. Asian realities should also provide the tools and raw materials for an Indian philosopher to do philosophy. There is an urgent need of rewriting the history of philosophy, giving due importance to Asian philosophies.

Another feature of the present work is that it tries to project philosophy as interpersonal communication. As the author states, “interrelatedness and dialogical spirit are the sign of our times.” If philosophizing becomes context sensitive, life oriented and human centred, then one inevitable consequence is that it has to become creatively and effectively communicative. The act of philosophizing expresses itself in the process of interpersonal, intercultural and also interreligious communications. Communication is always contextual and the other-oriented. Positive interpersonal communication has to be mutually supporting and mutually enriching. Action is to ensue from this kind of dialogical communication.

The first chapter of the book is ‘Dialogical Philosophy of Plato’. Among other things, it analyses Plato’s idea of dialogue based on his work Republic. This dialogical philosophy deals with Concept of Justice, Philosopher-King, The Supreme Good, and Fine Arts and Philosophy. The chapter concludes with the statement that Dialogue is a way of life of philosophy. The last chapter of the book is on ‘Dialogue or Conquest versus Cultures and Religions’. It deals with some of the enemies of dialogue, like Fundamentalism, Radicalism, Terrorism, etc. The work concludes with a pessimistic note: ‘Liberation: A Mirage’. It would have been great if the author has gone deeper into the nature and dynamics of dialogue and interpersonal communication and their philosophical foundations, and their applications in the present-day scenario of the world. Indian Christian philosophizing needs to take dialogue more seriously. What the Federation of the Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) said about the triple dialogue, namely, dialogue with the poverty of Asia, dialogue with its cultural diversities and dialogue with its religious pluralism, could be a guiding principle for philosophizing.

(The Church has to be) a Church incarnate in a people, a Church indigenous and inculturated. And this means concretely a Church in continuous, humble and loving dialogue with the living traditions, the cultures, the religions - in brief, with all the life-realities of the people in whose midst it has sunk its roots deeply and whose history and life it gladly makes its own. It seeks to share in whatever truly belongs to that people: its meanings and its values, its inspirations, its thought and its language, its songs and its artistry - ; Even its frailties and failings it assumes, so that they too may be healed. For so did God's Son assume the totality of our fallen human condition (save only for sin) so that He might make it truly His own, and redeem it in His paschal mystery.[1]

Philosophizing in India should too definitely engage in this triple dialogue with the triple Asian realities.

Dr Augustine Thottakara, CMI (thotaka@bgl.vsnl.net.in)

Professor Emeritus (Philosophy), Faculty of Philosophy, DVK, Bangalore

Vincent Leclercq, Blessed Are the Vulnerable: Reaching Out to Those with Aids, New London: Twenty-third Publications, 2010. Pages: xi+257. ISBN: 978-1-58595-776-7.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has provoked a wide range of theological reflections, challenging many of the traditional ethical stances and inviting a deeper understanding of the Christian vision of life and its response to the changing situations of life. A great amount of theological works have focussed on the debate over the use of condoms to control the spread of the virus. But, theological works dealing with the ethical dimensions of accompanying those who are already infected with and affected by the HIV/AIDS are not many. Blessed are the Vulnerable. Reaching out to those with Aids by Vincent Leclercq, a physician and moral theologian of the Assumptionist congregation, is an original theological contribution on the ethical responsibility of accompanying with compassion those who are already infected/affected with HIV/AIDS, the most vulnerable of our times. This is the published version of Leclecq’s doctoral dissertation at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, “Vulnerability and the Kingdom of God: A Theological Ethics in a Time of Aids,” done under the direction of James F. Keenan, SJ. Lisa Sowle Cahill and Daniel Harrington, S.J. were the readers of the thesis, and Enda McDonaugh was the examiner. The entire discussion is set in the background of a profound theological vision, so that we are invited not only to re-think about our response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, but also to enter into a new approach to Christian theology and ethics. Leclercq is convinced that the reality of HIV/AIDS is a call to “enter into a new experience of vulnerability and hospitality” and that “persons who live with the virus or care for people living with HIV/AIDS need also to hear about the ‘goodness’ of their human life and their Christian vocation” (p. 5). In such a perspective, the sick are no more “objects” of pastoral attention or theological teaching, but subjects and actors. The ethics of AIDS first of all calls for the recovery of the integral well-being of those implicated. For this, Leclercq proposes “the empowerment of the sick as the ethical norm for overturning the situation of the most endangered groups or populations or nations” (p. 7).

The first chapter, “Vulnerability as a Common Experience in the Context of HIV/AIDS,” developing the notion of vulnerability, describes the experience of the HIV/AIDS crisis and its ethical challenges. Research studies show that the most vulnerable to AIDS are both the beneficiaries and partners of prevention. The authentic question about AIDS is not ‘how did you get it, but how do you get through it’ (p. 21). AIDS may not be confined within the conventional limits of moral theology and here the concept of vulnerability gives a realistic framework for our responses, keeping in mind that an ethics based on vulnerability is committed to addressing HIV/AIDS issues without any fatalism (pp. 30-31). Leclercq affirms that the HIV/AIDS crisis requires us to displace the limits of our compassion and that we have to pass from the status of ‘spectator’ to the status of a ‘travelling companion’ (p. 32). AIDS is an experience of the vulnerability of the physical body, an experience of vulnerability for the medical community and an experience of vulnerability of our economic, social and political body (pp. 39-47). Based on the concept of vulnerability, AIDS pandemic prompts us to commit ourselves to a social agenda where inequalities concerning health can be addressed politically, locally and personally (p. 45). We should also remember that stigma is the denial of humanness and God’s active and loving presence among those who face the disease (p. 49).

The second chapter, “The Kingdom of God,” places vulnerability on scriptural foundations and examines the experience of vulnerability in the background of the theology of the Kingdom of God, the central message of Jesus and the ‘goal and horizon of Christian ethics’ (p. 53). According to Leclercq, the Kingdom of God is the theological context for an ethics of vulnerability and he underscores that to downplay the place of the most vulnerable in the economy of salvation means to reject the very identity of Jesus, his life and ministry (p. 64). In the light of a profound understanding of the scriptural and theological vision of the Kingdom, the author delineates the ethical demands of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God at a time of the experience of the vulnerability to AIDS.

Chapter third, “The Kingdom of God Leads Us to Christ Event,” develops the Christological dimension of the experience of vulnerability. In the experience of vulnerability to AIDS, Christians are those who believe that Jesus is the kingdom in person and the only interpretation of the Kingdom of God. The author points out how the AIDS crisis and its cortege of injustices distort God’s covenant, how God intervenes in a time of AIDS and how it is a kairos, an opportune moment perceived by God for a new loving initiative (pp. 88ff).

The next chapter, “Liturgical Practices, Both Sacred and Secular for the Living and for the Dead,” looks at the ways of praying, celebrating and ministering with the people affected by AIDS. Sacramental celebrations are our ways of dealing with human experiences in faith (p. 139). The attempt is to explore how the liturgical practices promote a praxis of liberation, integrating the experience of vulnerability (p. 119). Four sets of practices, two for the living and two for the dead, one secular and one sacred each, are analyzed, in order to show how liturgical practices shape an ethics of hospitality and solidarity for a time of AIDS. Leclercq underscores that the AIDS challenge calls for a revision in the way in which the Church understands herself and her mission and that “to be hospitable to the other and to receive him or her in the experience of vulnerability constitutes the test of communion with the Holy” (p. 159).

The final chapter, “The Hospitality of Ethics and Ethics of Hospitality in a Time of AIDS,” reviews the relationship between vulnerability, hospitality and empowerment of the most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and identifies the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom in a world that lives in the night of HIV/AIDS. Today our presence at the side of those who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS reflects the actuality of Jesus’ ministry (p. 199). By providing an orientation for the present, ethics based on the Kingdom’s values seek to preserve the future of the most vulnerable. The Kingdom calls for personal as well as social and political conversion (p. 225).

Blessed are the Vulnerable. Reaching out to those with Aids inspires and challenges us to be compassionate companions of the HIV/AIDS affected people, the most vulnerable of our times. This book is an excellent example of the dialogue that Christian ethics has to engage with life. Ethics has to challenge the life situations, but at the same time has to be challenged by life in its concreteness – with its pain, suffering, experience helplessness and vulnerability. Only then ethics becomes relevant to human life, lived here and now. Leclercq has succeeded in presenting the issue in a profound theological context and hence, we find in this work, not only an ethical response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but a whole theology. The author, Vincent Leclercq, and James F. Keenan, the director of Leclercq’s doctoral thesis, deserve our appreciation.

Dr Shaji George Kochuthara (kochuthshaji@gmail.com)

Associate Professor (Moral Theology), Faculty of Theology, DVK

Mathew Vellanickal, Eucharist: Bread of Life for the World – An Exegetico-Hermeneutical Analysis of John Ch. 6, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2010. Pages: x+72. ISBN: 978-81-89958-23-7.

The Book Eucharist: Bread of Life for the World – An Exegetico-Hermeneutical Analysis of John Ch.6 is the printed version of the lectures given by Dr. Mathew Vellanickal in his Bishop Jonas Thaliath CMI Endowment Lectures at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore. That the author is a seasoned Biblical Scholar and Exegete is evident from the presentation and content of this book small in stature. Profundity of his erudition in the Gospel of John is well manifested in his analysis of John 6, which is the subject matter of the book. In analyzing John chapter 6, Dr. Vellanickal employs all necessary components of historical critical analysis, namely, structure and unity of the text, historical context of the events mentioned in the text and its redactional purpose etc. However, as the author himself mentions in the introduction “this is not an exhaustive study” of the theme of “Eucharist”, rather it looks into John Chapter 6 to understand the Eucharistic symbolism and the theme of Eucharist, which is the unifying thread of the various episodes and discourses, present in this chapter.

Dr. Vellanickal divides John 6:1-71 into six textual units: 6:1-15; 6:16-21; 6:22-34; 6:35-50; 6:51-58; 6:60-71. The six chapters of this book deal with each of these textual units.

John 6:1-15 is the account of the Multiplication of the Loaves. The fact that this miracle is narrated by all the four Gospels would imply that it was considered as having a special significance for all the ecclesial traditions. And in the opinion of the author this special significance was resulted from “a Eucharistic significance, since Eucharist was central to the life of the Church” (p.2). After having briefly considered the various possibilities of the relation between Johannine account with that of the Synoptics, Dr. Vellanickal comes to the conclusion that “John had an independent tradition of his own” (p.5). The peculiar details of John’s version of the multiplication of the loaves like ‘the Passover setting’, ‘feeding those who come to him’, ‘the identification of Philip and Andrew’, ‘the words of blessing’ etc. show its Eucharistic colouring. The Eucharistic nuance of this meal is well reflected in “The Discourse on the Bread of Life” (6:35-58).

Chapter Two of this book discusses the miracle of Jesus’ walking on the sea of Galilee in 6:16-21. In this periscope, Dr. Vellanickal identifies yet another aspect of the Eucharistic theology, i.e., Eucharist as the redeeming Presence of God for the World. Whereas in the Synoptic tradition this miracle concludes the multiplication scene, in John it “serves as a transition between the multiplication and the scene that takes place the next day, when the crowd comes to Jesus and hears the discourse on the Bread of Life” (p.16). The author dwells on the Johannine use of ‘ego eimi’ to highlight the unique Eucharistic significance of this miracle in John. John seems to depend on the Passover Haggadah, which associates the crossing of the sea and gift of the manna in giving a Eucharistic nuance to the miracle. Dr. Vellanickal recognizes here John’s dependence on Exodus themes of crossing the sea and the journey through the desert to state “Jesus is really the Bread of Life which sustains the faithful in their onward journey, through the desert experience of this life, towards heavenly glory” (p.21). Jesus’ coming to the disciples struggling to reach the shore, refers to Jesus’ mysterious presence in the Eucharist.

In Chapter Three the author considers the Eucharistic implications of John 6:22-34, the preparation for and transition to the discourse on the Bread of life. Eucharist is presented here as the imperishable food for the world. This section can be further divided into vs.22-24 and 25-34. Vs. 22-24 are having many textual variants, may be caused by mixing up of two different textual traditions. In the opinion of Dr. Vellanickal, “whatever be the history of the textual variants and their present form, in the present context on the part of it has the role of a transition and introduction to the Discourse on the Bread of Life” (p.24). Verses 25-34 prepare the people for the Discourse on the Bread of Life by “describing the imperishable nature of the Bread of Life and the dispositions which are required on the part of those who receive this Bread of Life” (p.24).

Chapters four and five deal with the Discourse on the Bread of Life in two parts, i.e., John 6:35-50 and 51-58 respectively. After having considered various meanings given to the “Bread of Life” in the history of interpretation, Dr. Vellanickal suggest: “in my opinion, the first part of the discourse (vv.35-50) refers primarily to the Revelation and secondarily to the Eucharist while the second part (52-58) refer primarily to the Eucharist” (p.35). According to the author, this discourse reflects the liturgical life of the Early church: The two parts imply “the juxtaposition of Jesus’ twofold presence to believers in the Liturgy of the Word of God and the Liturgy of the Eucharist” (p.39). In these chapters he highlights the Johannine understanding of faith in Jesus as a necessary condition to receive the lift-giving efficacy of the Eucharist, and the effects of the believing reception of the Eucharist: Life, mutual indwelling and resurrection.

Chapter six, the last chapter, studies the reaction of the hearers to the Discourse on Bread of life in 6:60-67. In this reaction, Dr. Vellanickal sees Eucharist as a “challenging sign for to those to whom it is offered” (p.57). The responses of the disciples (vs. 60-66) and the Twelve (vs. 67-71) to the words of Jesus show the centrality of faith in the words of Jesus and assistance of the Spirit to understand the mystery of Eucharist.

 This book is a well-written analysis of John Chapter 6 with special focus on its Eucharistic Significance. The Language is lucid, and the exposition is to the point. This book will be handy for those who engage in Johannine Gospel and theology as well as for those who are interested in the theology of Eucharist.

Dr. Joy Philip Kakkanattu, CMI (jpkakkanattu@gmail.com)

Associate Professor (Biblical Theol.), Faculty of Theology, DVK, Bangalore

Thomas Vallianippuram, New Society in John’s Gospel, Aloor: Biblia Publications, 2008. Pages: xxx+479. ISBN: 81-87271-14-0.

In his doctoral dissertation New Society in John’s gospel, Dr Thomas Vallianippuram explores the gospel of John and the related Johannine writings to expound the theological insights for a new society and civilization. Though the word society is a modern concept there are equivalent terms used for it in Palestine at the time of Jesus and studying these concepts the author shapes the Johannine vision of a new society

The method he adopts is an integrated approach of synchronic and diachronic analysis together with a balanced exegesis taking into account the world of the author, of the text and of the reader. He tries to approach the gospel from a social hermeneutical perspective meticulously analyzing the texts employing historical critical method, narrative criticism, social scientific criticism and social hermeneutics.

The author begins with a survey of the views of some of the authors who give social and liberationist interpretation of the fourth gospel. He analyses the Greek concepts kosmos, kainos and erga and explains the Johannine perspective of a new society. He also studies the hermeneutical keys that John provides to find out the social thrust of the gospel. The core of the research work can be seen in chapters 5-8 where the author makes a thorough exegetico-theological analysis of John 5 and 9 and presents the Johannine theology of a new society. He analyses the word kosmos as meaning human society which is a realm of sin, darkness and alienation from God. The kosmos is not basically evil, though it stands against Christ and his values. Hence there is no need of a flight from it but liberation from the clutches of Satan, from materialism and egoism. As the human society is alienated from God and is craving for redemption the liberation from darkness and alienation has to be achieved through the continuation of the salvific works of Jesus.

The followers of Jesus are entrusted with the task of creating a new society which is characterized by peace, fraternity, equality, freedom, justice, solidarity and prosperity. In it there is no discrimination among persons, violation of human rights, misery, injustice or exploitation. The vision of the society is unique and different from that of the Synoptics as it is built up on the foundation of God experience and mysticism. The new society is created when disciples continue the works of Jesus which includes Jesus’ life-giving actions, challenges to the existing unjust establishments, prophetic protest against the corrupt systems of the society, etc. The vision of Jesus for a new society challenges the reader to work for the realization of that vision in his own life situation.

The exegetical analysis of the author proves that John’s vision of life is an integral and integrated one including spiritual, mental, physical and social realms of humans. Jesus made changes in the society removing inequality, injustice and oppression and struggled to remove the insensitiveness of the rich and the powerful towards the sufferings of the marginalized and the oppressed. The disciple of Jesus too has to continue the life-giving and judging works of Jesus. The life giving work in John means the bringing up of wholeness, holistic liberation and development. The judging work implies a commitment to moral values. The disciples, through their social involvement and option of the poor, work for the deposing of the oppressors who perpetrated injustice and exploitation and work for the uplift of the marginalized and downtrodden.

The author gives practical suggestion for radical social transformation and creation of a counter culture of life and light combating the culture of darkness and death. He gives insights for the rebuilding of Indian society according to the gospel values and for fighting against corruption, violence, sexual injustice, exploitation of Dalits and tribals, child marriage, child labour, abortions and suicidal tendencies.

The work is informative and inspiring and it powerfully establishes that the Johannine Jesus had a vision of a new society. Against the general tendency of considering the gospel as a mystical and spiritual writing the author tries to explore social and communitarian aspects of the gospel. The new attempt is challenging but rewarding and makes the work an original contribution of the author. Indeed the work is the result of an enormous amount of labour analyzing the relevant and current views on the subject.

Thus the work stands as an outstanding contribution to study the Johannine vision of a new society and to understand the theological perspectives of the evangelist. This admirable work has precision, clarity of thought, rich insights and creative ideas to the reader. I am sure that both students and scholars will benefit from it and it will contribute to widen the missionary horizon of the church which aims at a holistic liberation and development of the outcast and marginalized.

Sebastian Mullooparampil, CMI

Associate Professor (Biblical Theol.), Faculty of Theology, DVK, Bangalore

Jacob Parappally and Antony Kalliath, ed., Theology of Economics in the Globalized World: Indian Approaches, Bangalore: Indian Theological Association & Asian Trading Corporation, 2010. Pages: xi+250. ISBN: 81-7086-546-8.

Theology of Economics in the Globalized World: Indian Approaches is a publication of the papers presented at 32nd annual meeting cum seminar of the Indian Theological Association (ITA) held on 25-29 April 2009 at Ishvani Kendra, Pune.

This volume, in the words of the editors, is an attempt to address the “need of theology of economics grounded in Gospel values, priorities and options to enlighten the policies and programs of the Church and its institutions so that the integrity of Christian witness and credibility of the Christian leadership are upheld” (p. v). ITA decided to have the seminar on the theology of economics, for “the market has become a pseudo-religion in the neo-liberal economics and greed has become the ‘creed’ and consume gadgets the gods in the modern hedonism” (p. vi).

The book has a collection of eight papers presented at the seminar of ITA by different scholars. In the keynote address, “Religion, Identity and Economic Agenda,” Ram Puniyani states that there is “the misuse of the identity of religion for economic goals” (p. 1). The author writes, “kings, sanctified by clergy, launched their political expansions as Crusades, Jihads or Dharmyudh” (p. 3). The author contends that economic and political interests are at work in the anti Christian violence in Adivasi areas. Ram Puniyani admits that the hidden truth in waging wars, violence against weak and demolitions of ancient holy places “have nothing to do with religion; these acts are motivated by hidden economic and political agenda” (p. 7). The author insightfully draws the attention of the readers to his statement: “What is obvious is not the truth, and what is true has to be seen by removing the outer layers of the phenomenon under scrutiny” (p. 7).

Victor Louis, in his paper on “Indian Economy in the Globalized World: Its Impacts on the Masses” makes an elaborate attempt to single out the major historical and economic reasons to the global meltdown. According to the author the major reason for the economic crunch is the massive failure of regulatory authority (p. 8). Joseph Thondiparambil, in his paper entitled “The Challenge of the Old Testament Prophets to Economic Structures” outlines the prophetic cry against the oppressive systems in the context of covenant. In light of his research, J. Thondiparambil suggests that “The understanding of the true nature of God cannot allow a system that is rooted in greed and selfishness, which lies at the bottom of the economic crisis” (p. 61). Hence, the author points out that the road to wipe out poverty is in obeying God’s law. Concluding the paper, J. Thondiparambil writes, “the solution to the global economic crisis is theological” (p. 62). Lucien Legrand, in his paper on “Jesus and Jesus’ Movement in a Globalized World,” begins his examination acknowledging the fact that “Jesus had to face a phenomenon of globalization in his days” (p. 67). The author also reiterates the importance of the message of the Sacred Scripture in addressing the present crisis. L. Legrand appeals, “Money and economic realities should not be left to drift following their own momentum but ought to stand in front of the God of justice, defender of the poor, not giving way to a Darwinist process of selection of the fittest – and elimination of the weak – but embracing a dynamics of disinterestedness and communion” (p. 83). Felix Wilfred analyses the “Current Political Economy” and traces greed as the root of all problems, including economic crisis. The author finds fault with “the present capitalist system as the epicentre of greed is also the source of violence” (p. 100). F. Wilfred argues, “What we require is an economy that will in the first place attend to the basic needs of the millions and not cater to the accumulative instincts of the upper castes and classes” (p. 101). The author makes a clarion call to theologians to concentrate on political and economic dimensions of the life of the people (p. 122).

John Chattanatt, in his paper on “The Policy and Politics of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ): An Ethical Analysis” explores the principles of social justice, common good, equality and preferential option for the poor and the marginalized (p. 145). This is because they are God’s favourites (p. 146). J. Chattanatt concludes his presentation with ten points of social implications of being Church in India (pp. 149-50). Jeanne Devoss illustrates the understanding of the “Unorganized Labourers: Domestic Workers, Migrant Workers” and suggests the necessity to “uphold the dignity of the domestic workers, especially children and women by empowering them through various schemes and projects” (p. 162). Mary Lobo engages her discussion on “Women and Economic Questions” shaped by three fields of experience. The author finds in the Magnificat of Mother Mary “the manifesto with a powerful and clear economic agenda proclaimed by a woman” (p. 171).

The volume includes ITA Statement 2009 Pune, “Theology of Economics in the Globalized World: Indian Approaches” and ITA Satement 2009 on the Violence Against Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa, India: “Indian Christian Perception on Orissa,” which help the readers to understand the mindset of the ITA concisely and comprehensively.

Theology of Economics is a contextual reflection on economy from a Christian world vision, inviting the readers to recapture the biblical and theological insights into the reading and addressing of the economic crisis of our times. Challenging the capitalistic economy, the book reiterates the importance of reclaiming the biblical outlook of the common good of the covenant community catering to the needs of the marginalised and defending the poor. Theology of Economics is a simple but profound statement on economics with ethics rooted in the biblical and Christian ethos.

Dr Paulachan Kochappilly, CMI (pkochappilly@gmail.com)

Professor (Moral Theology), Faculty of Theology, DVK, Bangalore

Mathew Vekathanam, OCD, Life and After Life: The God of Fulfilment, Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2010. Pages: viii+280. ISBN 81-7086-545-X.

In the book under review, Vekathanam offers a brilliant presentation of Eschatology. This book mainly deals with the Christian hope for the future (P.1) and indicates certain issues that affect our daily life: death, judgement hell heaven parousia, etc. One of the most mysterious questions people often ask is what really happens to life after death. Are there places called heaven, hell, purgatory etc? Fr. Vekathanam, a renowned theologian, presents here a Christian response to the above questions.

The book is presented in eleven chapters. In the first chapter, “The Future as the Central Theme for the Present” the author speaks about the hope in the future of unending happiness to which we are destined and which we have to reach by our co- operation with God’s grace (p.5.). In this chapter the author synthesizes the traditional, dynamic and revolutionary thinking of eschatology as developed by various thinkers.

In the second chapter, “The Task of Christian Eschatology and its Challenge” the author highlights the theology of hope. The Christian faith lives by and is inspired by the resurrection of the crucified Christ (p.16). The author emphasizes that hope is based on the present experience of God’s love for us here and now. The character of being “already and not yet” is an indispensable aspect of Christian experience (p.17). The third chapter elaborates the Christian faith as the basis of Christian hope. It is based on the proclamation of the Jesus Christ, his deeds, his death and resurrection (p.22). Here the author emphasizes that Christ-Event is the central theme of the Eschaton.

In the following chapter, “Death: Rupture and transformation,” he discusses the concept of death and says that the universe, all living being and the entire humanity are created with the purpose of coming to an end some time (p.41). The author explains death as the result of sin, death as personal act, death as the radical option, death as self giving and death as gain.

Chapter five, “Judgement: The Clarifying Encounter,” provides a beautiful analysis of Judgement: There are two types of judgement, namely particular judgement and the general judgement. The next chapter presents the concept of the purgatory as a state of purification. This explained with sufficient biblical and magisterial teachings of the Church. The suffrages offered on our behalf while in purgatorial maturation process would help us because then we would have to accept, in humility and thanksgiving, the help offered by the communion of the saints, by the mystical body of the Christ.

The chapter “The Beatifying Encounter with Christ: Heaven,” explains heaven in terms of the beatifying encounter with the risen Christ. This concept is beautifully presented with various imageries like marriage feast, banquet, paradise etc. He concludes this chapter by saying that heaven is the touch of God. Through this image of touch, what is portrayed is the intimate, tender nature of the relation and contact with God. In Chapter eight, “The Frustrating Encounter: Hell” the writer gives an idea that hell refers to eternal damnation, which is essentially loveless-ness. Eternal hell is a serious affair. We do not know whether some are lost and who they are. A mountaineer has always to be aware of the possibility of catastrophic slip from the cliff in to the abyss (p.129). He concludes this chapter by saying that where there is no love, hell is already present.

Chapter nine, “The transforming encounter: Resurrection,” explains how the dead are raised? The resurrected person will not be the one according to the flesh, but one according to the spirit (p.142). By explaining this concept he says that there is no time factor involved between the events of death and resurrection. It is all simultaneous if we look at it from the angle of time. The next chapter “The Cosmic Encounter: Parousia”, highlights the final epiphany of the lord bringing about cosmic fulfilment. It is the last item in the history of salvation (p.150). The last chapter, “The Fate of the Anabaptized,” deals with the necessity of baptism for the salvation (p.157). The church has not a defined doctrine on the eternal fate of unbaptized infants. The basic problem in the whole approach is the notion of the “original sin.” The author concludes this chapter by presenting the current approaches to this issue.            

The vital theme that connects all the discussions in this book is the theology of hope. Vekathanam’s book is an important contribution to the present reality of human existence. This book will be of great help in our seminaries and colleges.

Devasiachan Mukulath, CMI (dmukulath@yahoo.co.in)

Lecturer (Theology), Faculty of Theology, DVK, Bangalore

Christoph Stueckelberger, We All Are Guests on Earth! A Global Christian Vision for Climate Justice, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2010. Pages: xviii+58. ISBN: 978-81-89958-37-4.

The author Christoph Stueckelberger, is the Founder and Executive Director of Globethics.net (A Global Network on Ethics, based in Geneva, Switzerland). The book, We All Are Guests on Earth! is a collection of lectures delivered by Prof. Stueckelberger as part of the Paul Wiegelmann Annual Lectures on Environmental Studies 2010-2011 at the Centre for Environmental Studies in the Faculty of Philosophy at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore.

This small book has four chapters, a brief introduction and a conclusion. The introduction is an attempt to highlight the Global Environmental problems with special focus on the Indian context and the need for decisive action in favour of environmental protection. It also raises the question how Christian faith can contribute to meet the environmental challenges especially the global climate change.

The first chapter analyses the position and task of human beings on earth. The author presents human beings as guests on earth where God is the owner of the Guesthouse and Host (Eco-Theology). Human beings, being the invited guests, (Eco-Anthropology) should celebrate the caring and just God (Eco-Spirituality) by acting as responsible guests and ‘careholders’ (Eco-Ethics) – responsible to maintain and develop the Guesthouse in the name of the owner – God. Acting as a ‘careholder’ includes non-violent caring for human and non-human beings (p. 15). The author has succeeded in pointing out the human responsibility to preserve Nature supported by a discussion based on the biblical background.

The second Chapter of the book, titled ‘Contextual and Global Environmental Ethics,’ attempts to explore the interreligious outlooks for caring for the earth from a contextual and global perspective. This caring aspect according to the author is deeply rooted in all world religions and he draws our attention to some of the religions including Hinduism. The third chapter, ‘Climate Justice,’ is all about the ethical question with regard to climate change which is basically a question of climate justice (p. 29). Stueckelberger presents various levels of ethical life depending on a value based climate justice (pp. 29-34). It provides some concrete and relevant ethical guidelines to bring about climate justice in the present day global context (pp. 38-43).

Chapter four poses the question whether something can be done about the huge and disastrous challenge of climate change? Put clearly, the question is, is it too late or is there any hope to find solutions for the problem of climate change? According to Stueckelberger, cynical, fatalistic and fundamentalist answers cannot be ethically allowed as they do not adapt to the complex reality of climate change (p. 48). But differentiated answers from a Christian perspective, he argues, can empower and encourage for decisive action from faith perspective which evokes hope in God’s promise in supporting life in dignity on earth for all beings. Humankind is called to continue the journey of nature and culture and constant change, always seeking orientation in the constant dialogue with God in alliance. Acting as responsible stewards is our answer to God’s alliance. Responsible stewardship is the basis for the responsible management of resources and this management is the key for caring for creation and sustainability.

This beautiful discussion on climate justice concludes with an invitation to use and care as good stewards and ‘careholders’ of the mother earth which is God’s own household. The author reminds us that it is now time to do more in a sustainable way for a sustainable lifestyle also in the context of India with an environmentally sound behaviour. Nevertheless, who in a global way will take the necessary steps towards a responsible climate justice still remains a question unanswered.

Stueckelberger’s great merit is that he has dealt with a most interesting topic which has greater relevance for our contemporary thinking and acting. His attempt to approach the problem of climate change and the need for climate justice are deeply reflected in almost every page of his book, always with a positive and creative note based on faith for a hopeful tomorrow for human beings and every other beings on earth.

Dr. Sebastian Alackapally, CMI (alackapally@hotmail.com)

Professor (Philosophy), Faculty of Philosophy, DVK, Bangalore



[1]Texts, Documents and other Papers from the Federation of the Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) in Connection with the Third General Synod of Bishops, Rome. 1974, Digna C. Dacanay (ed.), Manila: Cardinal Bea Institute, 1976, book 2, 332.

 
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