I am excited to hear that at my undergrad, Multnomah Bible College, Dr. John Perkins is giving lectures. Coming to Union last semester was dramatically different to say the least (though it was something I was looking for) and in that difference I found myself reading and listening to critiques, some solid and others flimsy. Here following is part three of three responsorial writings to three books I read for Social Ethics as Social Criticism dealing with race, as I presume some of Multnomah is going through too.
Part 3 – The Solidarity of Others in a Divided World: A Postmodern Theology after Postmodernism, by Anselm Min (New York: T&T Clark 2004).
For the most part, I liked this book. Before reading the book, I had never encountered Emmanuel Levinas and only had a decent working knowledge of Jacques Derrida; however, Anselm Min wrote The Solidarity of Others in a Divided World in such a clear and readable fashion that my use of reference materials were minimal. Certainly Min’s language was a bit different than what I am used to, but, after a short time, his language seemed like second nature and in fact, maybe even a better way of describing the universal – totality.
In the past few years, I have discovered Trinitarian theologians, like Colin Gunton, and even more recently, the suffering, Trinitarian Christology of Moltmann. With this in mind, it seems obvious I would like this book, but aside from the prolific use of Moltmann (and critique), I found that the author addressed a topic that has literally been on my mind for years – “the oddity of the Holy Spirit” (109). The social nature of the Trinity is clear, after all the words Father and Son are relational terms of identity; however, the Holy Spirit seems to lack a similar relational name. Min answers well the question with verse after verse from the Bible and finally concluding with the selfless nature of the Spirit and the role the Spirit plays as the one “who actualizes the full potentialities of the model” – a relator for others (118, 121, 125).
I found it a wonderful stroke to ground solidarity as a reflection of the social God and inherently within the Trinitarian framework – to the Christ of God by way of the cohesive Spirit. Granted much of what Min is saying is not necessarily new because he grounds so much in Moltmann, but the way Min says it is new for it is geared towards the first steps of communion – solidarity – as the next step for theology. Also, Min is talking ecclesiology throughout his book when he says solidarity, and that the church, or better said the body of Christ, finds not only unity in the past and future acts of the suffering, resurrected Christ, but also in the now through the Holy Spirit.
Another chapter in the book that delighted me was “Solidarity of Others in the Body of Christ.” I have found this particular metaphor of the body of Christ to be particularly rich and vivid. I was thrilled that Min covered the variety of subjects that the metaphor addresses and I know it will be a reference in the future merely because of its brevity and clarity.
However, I am unsure as to the success that Min achieves when addressing pluralism. I myself am undecided on the extent for Christianity and pluralism. The body of Christ seems a great metaphor for explaining Christianity’s identity in the world where it interacts with religions, but as Min notes, the metaphor is at least partially exclusive (150). I know some classmates will object, but if the church (Christianity) does not draw its identity from Christ, what then makes it Christian? I think Min makes a good point, that within a pluralistic world, being Christian does not mean one does not have boundaries; rather that, Christianity confesses its own boundaries, enters into sensitive dialogue with other religions and finds commonality from which to work together (150, 174, 175).