Posted by: irenesroth | October 18, 2010

Tracking God/Reviewed by Irene Roth

     

       Tracking God: An Ecumenical Fundamental Theology
       Ivana Noble
       Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2010, 261pgs., $39.
       
      

       Noble’s book offers an introduction to some of the fundamental
       themes of theology. It insists on the contribution to be found in the
       different Christian traditions. Noble draws from these various
       Christian traditions. They become an inspiration for those from very
       different church structures, and even for people who are trying to
       understand their own spiritual journey and search for God. This is
       especially the case if an individual doesn’t belong to a particular
       denomination or church as yet but is eager to do so. This way, the
       book will appeal to a large readership.
      
       Theology is an investigation of God’s traces. The focus on the
       traces of God will make it possible to hold onto the mystery of God
       through a direct and mediated relationship. God’s self-revelation
       will be examined from the point of view of a relationship that has
       transformed human lives. The concept of theology was first
       developed in Plato’s Republic. Theology is the noblest science because
       it desires knowledge for its own sake. Anyone who wishes to
       understand the mind of the sacred writers must cleanse their own
       life first, and approach the saints by copying their deeds.
      
       Theology can be viewed as a triple critical reflection of the
       experience of faith, hope, and love. Theology typically originates in
       an encounter with God. Talking about God is bound up with talking
       about people, and about the world in which they live and struggle
       for faith, hope and love. Theology offers critical reflection. In her
       book, Noble interprets instances of faith, hope and love in ways that
       are accessible to the lay reader as well as to the religious person and
       theologian alike.
      
       Most cultures cannot live without some form of religious faith.
       Most human beings must respond in prayer, speak through prayer,
       and also respond to God by what (s)he does. There is a liberating
       power of faith, where faith is not merely an assent to a set of
       convictions but something that concerns us personally. There is a
       difference between faith as an act and the content as faith. However,
       the experience of faith features both. Believing in the reality of an
       event can fill a moral life. These are not exhausted by the liturgy or
       by ritual alone. It would seem to be the case that shadowy attitudes
       can deform faith over time.
      
       Hope arises when an individual’s goodness is tested, and when
       people get tired of continually asking questions about the
       provenance of evil and death in the world. Hope occurs as a greater
       insight into God’s promise. This insight doesn’t always come up with
       coherent solutions. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”
       [Hebrews 11:1] It is difficult to consistently not sin in our world. But
       with hope, all things are possible.
      
       Love puts faith and hope in the context of relationship with
       others. Human love ought to be an image of God’s love. God
       continuously inspires mutuality in love. Love is manifested in certain
       values, such as justice, wisdom, art, good, truth, peace, and the ten
       commandments. However, love should not be redeemed solely to a
       sacrificially interpreted agape. It can become its own parody if we’re
       not careful because it can be reduced to a form of ideological love.
       Love gives people roots and a foundation to rely on in times of
       trouble.
      
       As a science, theology is answerable to the demands for clarity,
       historical conceptual accuracy, and interpretive and systematic
       coherence. Theology is a triple reflection of faith, hope, and love.
       There’s a tension, however, between the relations of science and
       faith, hope and love. A scientific approach to the Christian
       community’s experience of faith, orientation to hope, and the
       practise of love is possible. Theology isn’t a science in terms of the
       natural sciences. However, theology is a critical reflection of attitudes
       and experiences of faith, hope and love.
      
       Noble argues that theology cannot be achieved without an
       anchoring of faith. Theology is not an assertoric science. It’s scientific
       approach consists in its ability to interpret and communicate God’s
       word. Theology is a spiritual journey and a science as well. Theology
       as a science always returns to where it started, to the spiritual
       journey, where communication with God, and in God with others, is
       lived before it is reflected on. What is most important in theology is
       for the individual to live his/her faith.
      
            The foundation of theology is relational. Theology begins
       when a person wants to understand his/her life journey and realizes
       that, for it to be complete, it has to include a spiritual dimension and,
       it should be a source of life for all the other dimensions of our
       existence. Religious experience can be captured through reflecting on
       the trinity of faith, hope and love. Theology is not an isolated subject,
       finding its fulfilment in an isolated God. Some form of community
       is needed where relationships are lived through and encountered. In
       addition, there needs to be access to the wisdom accumulated in
       tradition, and its symbolic forms of meaning that allow the reading
       of one’s life as a journey with others towards God’s kingdom.
      
       Noble believes that there is a difference between devout reflection
       and theology. Theology is both a spiritual journey and a science with
       all the requirements that is made on it. Theological reflection needs
       to be historically accurate, terminologically correct, systematic,
       unconfused, and clear in its interpretation. Theologians are
       challenged by these requirements that theology shares with other
       sciences. Our structures of understanding are human. We find our
       direction in life according to what we perceive as pleasant or
       unpleasant. Immanence stands or falls with trust that the Holy spirit
       works in us, and breathing the breath of life into us, converting and
       illuminating us in our relationships.
      
       I found Noble’s book to be informative and inspiring, which is a
       very rare combination for this type of book. On this journey, the
       reader will learn to be authentically human when exercising
       solidarity and compassion, and when sharing love, hope and faith.
       Communication with God is, above all, not about pondering the
       theoretical possibility of God’s existence, but encouraging the reality
       that is often not so much a question as a basic certainty that makes
       sense of everything else. What a great gift. A Christian theology of
       revelation needs to make space not only for ecumenical dialogue but
       also inter-religious dialogue, and thus to the fact that we are not the
       exclusive recipients of revelation. All traditions share a fragility that
       comes from the fact that they are not the ultimate, and if they try to
       avoid this fragility, they run the risk of self-referentiality. Tracking
       God is at the same time tracking the narratives of salvation from
       being lost to being found, and tracking a desire to penetrate this
       mystery still deeper.

       Rating: 3 stars
       
       Irene S. Roth

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