I was very excited to find a contributor’s copy of Genesis and Christian Theology in my mailbox yesterday. The book has, at long last, been released by Eerdmans and is available for voracious and inquisitive readers everywhere.
Among a host of other fine essays, the volume includes my piece, “Gregory of Nyssa on Language, Naming God’s Creatures, and the Desire of the Discursive Animal.” Here’s an excerpt/summary:
In this paper I take Gregory’s emphasis on Genesis 2:19-20 as a starting point for examining the way in which Gregory’s account of language [in Contra Eunomium] structures his theological anthropology, particularly insofar as language is implicated in Gregory’s articulation of the differences and similarities between humans, animals, and God. I contend that while Gregory explicitly uses language to distance/differentiate the human from the animal and to connect/ compare humanity to God, Gregory’s careful attention to the limits of language sets up a basic structural parallel between human and animal life focused on the orienting and compelling power of desire. In light of this parallel, both God’s image and God’s redemption of humanity can be seen as events that stand open to the animal rather than points of differentiation and exclusion.
Many thanks to Nathan MacDonald, Mark Elliot, and Grant Macaskill for all of their editorial work, and to Eerdman’s for publishing the volume!
In July a group of scholars are gathering at St. Andrews, Scotland in order to share thoughts, papers, and conversation on the book of Genesis and Christian Theology. As soon as I saw the announcement for the conference I was thrilled; my own theological interests always seem to orbit around theologians of various times and places reading the first few chapters of Genesis.
At any rate, I got some very good news last week. I submitted a proposal for the conference and received and invitation to attend and read a short paper. I’ll be presenting a paper entitled (subject to change): “Naming God’s Creatures: Gregory of Nyssa on Genesis 2:19-20 and Being Human.” I’ll be examining the way that Gregory deals with human language in the interaction between Adam, God (who is bringing all the creatures to Adam “to see what he would call them”), and creation.
In all honesty, I’m a bit awestruck (not to say terrified) at the opportunity to interact for a few days with the scholars attending. If anyone else will be in the area, I certainly recommend attending what promises to be a inspiring week.
The Greek word basileia underlies the “kingdom” of “kingdom of God” in English translations of the New Testament. The word can, and has, be translated by a range of terms, from “reign” to “empire” to “regime” and more.
I’m wondering what would shift in our thinking about the human relationship with creation (or conversely, what might shift in our thinking of the human relationship with God) if we began to use another term, already theologically freighted, namely “Dominion.”
“Dominion” is, of course, the English word most frequently used to translate the Hebrew word kabash from Genesis 1:28, and is a familiar term in Christian circles. It is also a pejoratively loaded term in ecological circles because it is (mis)taken to imply that humanity has a God-given right to do whatever the hell they want with God’s green earth, because it’s all here to serve us human-beans anyway. Some of us are convinced that human beings belong in both ecologically-minded circles and Christian circles, and are trying to wrestle out the best way to think about these things.
If Jesus’ ministry is to announce and inaugurate the dominion of God, setting prisoners free, restoring sight to the blind, liberating the oppressed, what does that imply for our “dominion” on the planet? What do “dominion” and “love” have in common?