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Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times.

Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times. By Joerg Rieger. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007. ISBN: 978-0800620387. x and 334 pages. Paper. $22.00.

In the last twenty years, there has been a growing interest in the role of empire upon the development of Christian theology and praxis. In Christ and Empire Joerg Rieger, a systematican at Perkins School of Theology, has provided an ambitious series of analyses using the methodologies that have evolved in this multidiscsplinary effort. With a focus on one figure or issue, Rieger moves through the millennia. He begins with the New Testament (Paul) and then travels through the council of Nicea (language of "co-equality"), the early medieval period (Anselm), the missions that accompanied the discovery of the "New World" (Las Casas), nineteenth-century imperialism (Schleiermacher), neo-colonialism (Aulen), and the late twentieth-century interest in the "cosmic Christ" (Matthew Fox).

What is fascinating in this work is not only the historical range and variety it offers, but also the way Rieger approaches these case studies. Rather than taking sides as has often been the case in this field of study (either Paul sells out to empire or resists it), Rieger understands how difficult it is for anyone to escape the influence of empire (if it is one's cultural context) while, at the same time, he recovers the "christological surplus" of each of the figures/issues under review that may provide churches today with resources to reflect over and address the complicated power dynamics that come with globalization.

Given the range of the study, one can quibble with the accuracy of some of the historical details as presented. It is also clear that Rieger has a thesis to defend and will, at times, find ingenious readings of his source material to do so. His United Methodist theological ethos informs his sense of the ethical mandate upon the contemporary church, as it should. All in all this is a fine balanced introduction to current and important thinking being done in theological faculties concerning the effects of imperial ideology upon Christian theology, from Rome to the United States of America.

Erik M. Heen

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
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Author:Heen, Erik M.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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