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The Cross in Our Own Context.

The Cross in Our Own Context. By Douglas John Hall. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003. x and 274 pages. Paper. $17.00.

From the outset, Hall indicates that this work is not a summary of what he has already articulated in his trilogy (Thinking the Faith [1989], Professing the Faith [1993], and Confessing the Faith [1996]). Rather, this book "is an original essay with its own internal logic and purpose" (p. ix). It has ten chapters that initially were lectures given at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, in 2002. In this publication, the lecture style was intentionally retained. Despite the declaration that this is an original work, the major themes and motifs of his trilogy are evident. Hall makes it easy for the reader to consult those earlier works for in-depth discussion and analysis by providing a three-page table, "Related Sections in the Trilogy" (pp. 257-59).

Throughout, the reader is reminded that this is a post--September 11 theological wrestling. In this endeavor, the litmus test for all religions "is whether they are, at base, life-affirming or agencies of death" (p. 1). For Hall, the actions of followers of any religion must be evaluated in light of the essence of that religion. Thus, he rejects the claim that, irrespective of what the foundational beliefs of Christianity are, one can determine the essence of Christianity in terms of how Christians act. He insists "that the actions of believers are usually the acting out of foundational beliefs, whether in conscious or unconscious ways" (p. 2).

At the heart of Hall's articulation of a contextual evangelical theology of the cross is his argument for a relational Christology in contrast to a substantialistic ontology. In this representation, in Jesus' humanity, he represents God; in his divinity, Jesus represents humanity. He grants that the substantialistic ontology of Chalcedon was inevitable, as it was an authentic contextual formulation consequent upon the entry of the Christian movement in the Graeco-Roman world. What we need today, however, is relational ontology, which resonates with the contemporary Western sense of "the essence of what is means to be" (p. 126).

I strongly commend Hall's work to a wide readership, not least for the searching questions he raises and the honest attempt he makes at formulating an answer to them as well as his contemporary presentation of Luther, which is to be critically welcomed.

Winston D. Persaud

Wartburg Theological Seminary

Dubuque, Iowa
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Author:Persaud, Winston D.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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