Arthur James Limited, London, 1993; 173pp., £7.99; ISBN 0 85305 296 4
Templeton describes this book as 'fragments of thinking done over some fifteen years ... mostly since I stopped being "an academic"'. This latter phrase, perhaps, explains her description of this material as 'unacademic theology'. Certainly, these articles are likely to prove very difficult reading for those who are not academics! The Bishop of Durham, who would presumably classify himself as an academic, appears to have found this book heavy going. His Foreword urges perseverance in reading
this book, especially where the reader does not 'at first, make much sense of it'. In the Foreword, we read that this book 'lies very much within Christian Faith, taken for granted and pursued'. Some readers may wonder whether this begs the question: Can we take it for granted that this book gives us an authentic account of the Christian faith? Later, the Foreword describes God as 'far too great a Mystery and a Glory for dogmatisms, moralisms and sectarian certainties'. This statement highlights the difficulty of speaking about God in a way that does not reduce him to human size. Templeton's book is a protest against this type of thinking. Perhaps, in her theology, there is a strong element of reaction against 'two years of fervent evangelical acceleration in my early teens'. Throughout this book, there is one conspicuous absence: the voice of Scripture, speaking authoritatively as the Word of God. At the risk of being accused of 'claustrophobic anti-world sectarianism', this reviewer must ask the author for more exposition of Scripture. Templeton's articles raise the question: What is to set the agenda for our theology - the world or the Word? She insists that we must not say 'more than can be said in view of the facts' and that we must not dodge 'the actualities of existence'. The evangelical theologian must also say that Scripture is one of the facts, Scripture as a Word, spoken to our existence by God himself. Where the Word is removed from theology's centre-stage, the world will not be slow to fill the gap. Theology will, then, be too much our speaking and not enough God speaking to us, too much listening to the world and not enough listening to the Word. There needs to be balance here: listening to the world and listening to the Word. I suspect that many readers will question whether Templeton has come close to achieving such a balance. In her opening chapter, she depicts God as saying, 'I will go to them incognito ... I must be careful not to dazzle them. I will be mistakable for anybody, or nobody.' While affirming that, in Christ, we have God 'veiled in flesh', this reviewer must ask: Is the glory of God so hidden as to merit this kind of talk- 'mistakable for anybody, or nobody'? or Is there some other reason why Templeton is drawn to this way of thinking? On the next page, she tells us that 'a strange thing happened. In the community of those who had learned to love this man ... the presence of the man who was dead and gone became more alive and potent and convincing than it had been even in his lifetime'. Here, we must ask whether this is how Scripture describes, for us, the 'strange thing' that we call the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Again, we must ask why Templeton speaks as she does. She speaks of God in terms of 'love and freedom which is uncoercive'. Do we have, here, an explanation why she shies away from a clearer statement concerning the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:16-18)? Is this the reason why she draws back from giving an account of Christ's resurrection, which refuses to reduce the fact of his resurrection to our faith in him (1 Corinthians 15:17,20)? It seems, to this reviewer, that she draws back from any account of Jesus Christ, which is, in her view, too coercive. Here, we have the problem of reading Scripture according to our own preconceived notions. We only allow Scripture to say what we want to hear. It seems, to this reviewer, that readers, who look for a greater willingness to let Scripture speak more freely, will feel that there is an element of strangeness in this book. Whether this is 'the strangeness of God' is another question. Perhaps, it is the strangeness of reading theology, which seems so uncommitted to a careful and attentive listening to the voice of Scripture, speaking as the Word of God.
Charles M. Cameron