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The Paradox of Christian Sacrifice: the Loss of Self, the Gift of Self.

THE PARADOX OF CHRISTIAN SACRIFICE: THE LOSS OF SELF, THE GIFT OF SELF. By Erin Loathes Biviano. New York: Crossroad, 2007. Pp. x + 294. $39.95.

The cultivation of Christian identity, whether anthropologically or ecclesio-logically considered, gains its specific character from Jesus' call to self-sacrificial love in discipleship (Mt 16:25). And yet, the language of sacrifice has come under considerable scrutiny, especially among feminist theologians who argue that the call to sacrifice can lead to the oppression of women who have traditionally occupied subordinate roles in family, religion, and society. Limiting her study to anthropology, and primarily structuring her argument around several related feminist objections to sacrificial language, Biviano maintains that, rather than jettison the language of sacrifice as irredeemably oppressive, Christian theology must contextualize and patiently sift through the many-layered meanings of sacrifice to retrieve what remains essential to Jesus' call to discipleship. While remaining sympathetic with feminist criticism, B. maintains that Christian theology must creatively appropriate sacrificial language while keeping in careful balance the paradox of self-expropriation and self-realization; unless these two ostensibly opposed poles are kept in creative tension, significant distortions will arise in the formation of Christian identity.

While this thesis breaks no new ground, B.'s book, which began as a doctoral dissertation, creatively synthesizes an array of critical resources. Chapter 1 provides an overview of sacrificial language in Scripture, and chapter 2 examines feminist critiques of its continued usage. Chapter 3 is particularly admirable. Working with the philosophical anthropology of Paul Ricoeur (Ricoeur also functions prominently in the book's method of retrieval and appropriation), B. makes a convincing case that a robust ontology of mutuality gives philosophical coherence to the central paradox of discipleship. Chapter 4 helpfully engages Edward Schillebeeckx's theology to highlight the appropriate and inappropriate ways to relate sacrifice to suffering. And while the final chapter could be extended to explore more systematically and richly the trinitarian dynamics of gift and reception--this is where, B. argues, the paradox is most fully realized--it does synthesize the several themes raised throughout this engaging and well-written volume.

BRIAN D. ROBINETTE

Saint Louis University
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Title Annotation:SHORTER NOTICES
Author:Robinette, Brian D.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:349
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