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Hein, David, and Edward Hugh Henderson [Eds.]
Captured by the Crucified. The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer.
London-New York: T & T Clark International (Continuum) 2004. XVIII, 221 S. gr.8°. Kart. £ 16,99. ISBN 0-567-02510-1.
Ed Henderson writes in this volume: »The Christian philosopher must rehabilitate the Christian Imagination« (67). Captured by the Crucified: The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer attempts to do justice to this apologetic and practical aspect of the genius of Austin Marsden Farrer (1904–1968). The volume is unified by the endeavour to appreciate Farrer as a spiritual writer whose explorations into philosophy or exegesis were dominated by the idea of participating in the presence of the Divine; a preacher whose eloquence in the pulpit was fired by the vision of the bond between the sacramental and sacrificial life. One of the most eloquent spiritual writers since the great age of Anglican Divinity in the Seventeenth century and a worthy inheritor of such luminaries as Jeremy Taylor and John Henry Newman, Farrer belongs to a great and distinct tradition of English theology that links seamlessly poetic sensibility, scriptural meditation and philosophical reflection.
Farrer was an Oxford man, friend and colleague of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien, and part of the wider world of English letters that included Dorothy Sayers, T. S. Eliot and Iris Murdoch. He was chaplain and tutor of St. Edmund Hall (1931–35), Trinity College (1935–60) and Warden of Keble College (1960–1968). He was, in his ownquite unique manner, both a philosopher and biblical scholar. He was at odds with the anti-metaphysical bias of contemporary Oxford philosophy, but equally had little patience with mainstream biblical scholarship, especially Bultmann’s form criticism. He famously rejected the thesis of ›Q‹ and insisted that individual Gospels should be seen as possessing real literary integrity rather than mere collections of oral tradition. Yet his opposition to various theological trends was not merely ›reactionary‹ but principled and creative. Numerous visits to Germany had endowed Farrer with critical awareness and knowledge of German theology and biblical scholarship. Nor was his probing genius afraid to pursue positions in philosophical theology which challenged any cosy orthodoxy. His earlier Thomistic doctrine of God in Finite and Infinite (1943) was transformed into the primacy of ›Unconditioned Will‹ by the time of his Faith and Speculation (1967). His theory of double agency: ›God makes things make themselves‹ provides an instance of his metaphysical audacity. An exemplary stylist among British Theologians of the twentieth century, Farrer’s challenging œuvre repays detailed scrutiny. For example, Ingolf Dalferth’s superb work Jenseits von Mythos und Logos. Die christologische Transformation der Theologie (Freiburg i. Br., 1993) has a section devoted to Farrer’s work.
Ann Loades provides a nuanced and suggestive account of Farrer’s milieu, especially the remarkable ›Oxford Christians‹. This essay provides a remarkable basis for the rest of the collection. Diogenes Allen discusses Farrer’s spirituality; Ed Henderson produces a most metaphysical essay on Farrer’s seminal theory of double agency; William McF. Wilson and Julian N. Hartt expound Farrer’s theodicy; David Hein reflects upon Farrer’s account of friendship and saintliness, Charles Hefling on the relationship between scripture and theology. O. C. Edwards and David Hein write on Farrer’s preaching.
Collections of essays on Farrer tend to concentrate upon his philosophical work. The value of this book is that it highlights the importance of his practical divinity. This is a most instructive work for admirers of Farrer. However, it provides little criticism of Farrer’s work, and if it is to be faulted it is on the lack of grappling with the challenge of Farrer. Sometimes the enigmatic genius of Farrer was more evident in his formulation of problems than in his specific solutions. The volume is attractively produced by T & T Clark and contains a very useful bibliography.