The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics
By Stanley Hauerwas
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
Review Author: John R. Popiden
For any Christian seeking to understand our faith more fully, this “primer” is well worth careful study. Hauerwas proposes an innovative and provocative analysis of being Christian.
The Church, for Hauerwas, is that community that retells the story of Jesus as its own and as part of the story of God reaching out to us. By knowing Jesus and God and his kingdom, Christians can know themselves as sinners, as forgiven, and as called to a way of life made possible through Jesus Christ, the life of God’s kingdom.
Here is the peaceable kingdom, the kingdom established by God’s love, a perfect love that casts out fear. Having had God’s love shape one’s character, one is freed from fearing one’s neighbors so that trust and peace are not only possibilities in our lives but also constitute the character of our lives as Christians.
Some may say that this is all well and good, but idealistic. Hauerwas may be right about how Christians are supposed to be, but by and large Christians are not like that. Indeed, they can’t be, for God’s Kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Others may contend that we are also Americans (or whatever). As such, we are and must be realistic. We must prepare for war if we are to keep the peace.
These objections would seem to amount to an admission that Hauerwas is right about Christianity, but it is impossible for us to be Christian (and thus perfect). We are in fact human. We have come to identify ourselves with other communities informed by stories other than Jesus’. So as Christians and Americans, we are reticent to accept Hauerwas’s stress on peaceableness. Being reasonable people, we know that self-defense is morally justified. Being understanding, we know that human beings can be driven to warfare and revolution and destruction. Being fearful, we trust in our own powers.
But our reaction is exactly the point. Hauerwas makes it possible for us to see ourselves as we are. Our own reaction to his proclamation of the Gospel reveals us to ourselves.
Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism: The 14th c. Apologia of Demetrios Kydones for Unity with Rome
By James Likoudis
Publisher: Catholics United for the Faith
Review Author: Raymond T. Gawronski
This is an odd book, full of interesting and good material, and yet seriously flawed. It is, first of all, difficult to determine just what the book contains without careful examination. The book is a compilation, centered on an excellent translation of the defense issued by a 14th-century Byzantine imperial court official who began studying Latin to serve foreign visitors more effectively, and ended by becoming a student of St. Thomas Aquinas and moving to communion with Rome. There is an Introduction to this Apologia, and three chapters follow it, reprints of earlier essays by Likoudis.
Demetrios Kydones, the Byzantine official, is a fascinating man, and his story is enhanced by a first-rate translation which renders it possible for the modern reader to spend an afternoon visiting with a very fine Byzantine Christian. Kydones is remarkably Christ-like in a philosophic way. His narrative shows us a forthright man who seeks the Truth and is opposed by those “who follow slavishly their ancestors.” It is curious that the tutor he engages to teach him Latin is a Dominican who introduces him to the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. He becomes interested in the dispute between the Greeks and the Latins over the nature of the procession of Persons in the Trinity, and determines to trace the problem to the Fathers. His conclusion is that the Fathers of the Church, Greek and Latin, shared one essential vision, although their languages differed. He also becomes convinced of the Primacy of the Roman See. As he writes: “The Fathers of the Church, Greek and Latin, do not contradict each other, and that is something which you too are required to believe.”
Kydones falls in love with the logic of the Latins, St. Thomas in particular, and finds a great strength in that light, which the traditionalist preoccupations of his Byzantine brethren obscured. The text is redolent of the New Testament, and provides a good reflection on how to do theological investigation. His observations on the relation of New Rome (Constantinople) and Old Rome are fascinating: he is watching his beloved world collapse as the Turks loom ever more powerful to the East, reducing his own land to a sort of vassalage, while elsewhere lies a Latin Europe which is very much the Golden West. One thinks of Kristen Lavransdatter’s world. Kydones argues for a firm, unshakeable faith in God and a way of life that conforms to God’s law as the foundations of the Christian life.
Yet Kydones should not be unhesitatingly accepted. One wonders, for example, just how seriously Kydones’s love for the pagan philosophers and for Latin scholasticism is taken as a forerunner of the Renaissance humanism — and whether Likoudis understands how this would be seen as a threat to the Greek Church. This bespeaks a real lack of understanding in this book of the conflict between different ways of theologizing which the rise of scholasticism helped create, and which has been with us to this day.
Likoudis’s chapters subsequent to the translation are of varying degrees of interest. His presentation of the thought of Nikos Nissiotis and Alexis Stawrowsky, two Orthodox lay theologians, is interesting. Likoudis’s approach tends to be very “official,” dealing with the Schism in terms of dogma and ecclesiology, largely ignoring the profound cultural differences between East and West.
He mentions the scars of the Crusades on the Byzantine world, but his frankly triumphalistic Roman Catholicism blights his obviously well intentioned and devotedly compiled work. For example, in the very first pages of the book he articulates our Lord’s hope that all be one with a certain heavy-handedness: “in the One Church built upon the infallible Rock of Peter.” This would hardly beckon Orthodox readers, and tends to limit the book to a Roman Catholic readership with interest in the East. There are some truths one should proceed to very gingerly, carefully, hoping for that unity of love which Likoudis himself celebrates.
Likoudis is at his best when, at the very end, he outlines the treasures the reunited Eastern Orthodox would bring to a needy West. It is unfortunate this book lacks both the clear focus and the deep vision of unity which would further its good hope. But the author is owed a debt of gratitude for presenting Kydones to us.
©1985 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved.
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