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The Word and the Christ: An Essay in Analytic Christology.

The Word and the Christ: An Essay in Analytic Christology. By Richard Sturch. New York: Oxford/Clarendon, 1991. Pp. viii + 292. $79.

This book is a very painstaking and elaborate defense of orthodoxy concerning Christ, as that is formulated in the Thirty Nine Articles. The Anglican author, Rector of Islip in the Diocese of Oxford, finds that formulation more intelligible to modern minds than Chalcedon, while still consistent with the latter. What Sturch means by "analytic Christology" is a Christology which takes an acknowledged faith stance as the starting point, and then works out systematically what else must be true if this faith stance is to be defensible. He contrasts this with "revisionist Christology," which insists that the accepted orthodox faith stance itself must be reconsidered. Much of his argument is against a vast array of such revisionists, past and present.

Sturch proposes to conduct his analytical theology after the manner of Thomas Aquinas, by which he means that contrary opinions are lined up first, the orthodox case is then argued, and finally the objections are answered. Though elaborately constructed, the pattern of the argument is rather confusing, because the announced procedure does not seem to correspond with the shape of the book as a whole or the shape of each chapter. In a general way, one might say that chapters 1-5 summarize objections more continously and in detail, that chapters 6-12 place the emphasis more on arguing the case for orthodoxy, and that chapters 13-19 certainly focus on summing up the answers to the objections. The clean-cut clarity of Thomas's divisions is lacking.

The main thrust of the book is to lend intelligibility to the "one in two natures" identification of Jesus in relation to the divine and the human against "anti-Incarnationist" Christologies. S. seeks to do this by establishing the notion of "the central self" as the point of union--an idea with which the present reviewer certainly does not disagree, while not seeing, however, that the suggestion really moves the discussion further.

What is impressive in this book is the sheer scope and detail in the discussion of opposing authors. One has the impression that for many years S. has read with close attention and thorough critical reflection, comparing positions, mastering arguments, becoming comfortably familiar with each in all its aspects, highlighting perhaps, and returning again and again to the critical points of the discussion by which the argument stands or falls. it is a quite extraordinary feat of erudition as he finds his way easily through a thick forest of testimonies. The book read as though it were the recording of a graduate seminar conducted in a leisurely way, expounding each author along the way, and taking perhaps a year or more to cover the ground.

What is perhaps problematic about this very competent book is the question for whom it is intended. Those who have done all the reading and thinking through of positions that S. has done might be impatient with the detail, having already drawn their own conclusions. Yet those who are not familliar with most of the literature discussed in the book might well be overwhelmed and discouraged, losing their sense of direction. The book will be of most interest to readers with substantial leisure and few distractions who can read it in small instalments and think about it for a long time in the intervals, more particularly if they are already widely familiar with the "anti-incarnationist" Christologies from the 19th and 20th centuries and are looking for arguments to counter those positions.

Georgetown University Monika K. Hellwig
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Author:Hellwig, Monika K.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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