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Theological Notebook: Abstracts for Kari-Shane Davis Zimmerman and Bogdan G. Bucur Dissertations

The last few weeks saw two dissertation defenses for friends in the program that were kinda kick-ass. I got to see a little of their development along the way, hearing Kari-Shane toss around her ideas and being part of a patristics group Barnes put together to help Bogdan brainstorm out a structure to his work. I thought I'd put the abstracts here as a way of highlighting these cool and very different projects.

Kari-Shane Davis
"A Critical Assessment of Michael Novak's Interpretation of Pope John Paul II's Theological Anthropology in Centesiums Annus and Its Impact on Christian Economic Practices"

In 1991, Pope John Paul II became the first post-Cold War pope to issue a social encyclical marking an anniversary of Rerum Novarum. The anthropological claims made by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus drew the attention of early commentators and sparked significant debate among U.S. Catholics. In his well-known book The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: The Free Press, 1993), for instance, Catholic "neo-conservative" commentator Michael Novak argues that Centesimus Annus provides its reader with a "classic restatement of Christian anthropology" that successfully responds to questions raised about both the political economy and free social institutions post-1989. Michael Novak's interpretation of Pope John Paul II's theological anthropology in Centesimus Annus has been challenged by a number of other U.S. Catholic scholars. This dissertation will present the work of David L. Schindler, and it will focus on one aspect of Novak's interpretation and the challenges that follow, namely the issue of human creativity in the context of theological anthropology.

It is therefore the aim of this dissertation to lay groundwork for a more fruitful reception of Centesimus Annus regarding human participation in the economic order by lifting up and developing two key issues: 1) the anthropological/ontological grounding for Catholic social teaching that underlies Centesimus Annus that can ultimately be applied to the creation, use, and possession of material goods. 2) the sorts of concrete practices, virtues, and communities that can respond to this teaching. I will do this by way of a two-fold project. Part One of the dissertation (proposed Chapters 1-3) will provide a critical assessment of Michael Novak's interpretation of Pope John Paul II's theological anthropology in Centesimus Annus, focusing specifically on the issue of human creativity. Part Two of the dissertation (proposed Chapters 4-5) will draw on selected resources in recent Christian ethics (e.g. the recent work of Vincent Miller and Alasdair MacIntyre's notion of a practice) to investigate the implications of this assessment for the broader questions surrounding the role of material goods (their creation, use, and possession) in the life-experiences and practices of Christian communities. In so doing, the dissertation will model a perspective that is distinct from the typical "liberal" versus "conservative" way in which debates about Centesimus Annus, and Catholic economic ethics in general, are typically framed.

Bogdan G. Bucur
The Angelomorphic Spirit in Early Christianity: Scripture and Theology in Clement of Alexandria's Eclogae propheticae and Adumbrationes

This study brings together scholarly research in three apparently distinct areas. The first is what has been styled "angelomorphic Pneumatology," that is, the use of angelic imagery in early Christian discourse about the Holy Spirit. The second is the Pneumatology of Clement of Alexandria, a topic generally acknowledged as ripe for research. The third is Clement's Hypotyposeis, a writing that has until now been allowed only a minor role in the reconstruction of this author's theological thought.

The surviving Greek and Latin portions of the Hypotyposeis – chiefly the Excerpta ex Theodoto, the Eclogae propheticae, and the Adumbrationes – offer an ideal entry-point into the tradition of angelomorphic Pneumatology: it is here, more clearly than anywhere else in the Clementine corpus, that Clement sets out certain views of the Spirit and the angels that he claims to have inherited from an earlier generation of Christian teachers. Clement's Pneumatology reworks traditions about the seven first-created angels (protóktistoi), and is supported by an equally traditional exegesis of specific biblical passages (Zech 4:10; Isa 11:2-3; Matt 18:10). The resulting angelomorphic Pneumatology occurs in tandem with Spirit Christology, within a framework still characterized by a binitarian orientation.

The complex theological articulation of angelomorphic Pneumatology, Spirit Christology, and binitarianism constitutes an early and relatively widespread phenomenon in early Christianity. Evidence to support this claim is presented in the course of separate studies of Revelation, the Shepherd of Hermas, Justin Martyr, and Aphrahat. With the exception of the latter, these are writings that the Alexandrian master is certain to have read and, as in the case of Shepherd, held in particularly high esteem. On the other hand, there is no literary connection between Aphrahat and Clement of Alexandria, and no literary connection, either, between Aphrahat and Justin, Shepherd, or Revelation. Nevertheless Aphrahat displays an exegesis of the biblical verses linking traditions about the highest angelic company with early Christian Pneumatology that is strikingly similar to what one finds in Justin and, especially, Clement of Alexandria. Moreover, scholars over the past century have raised concerns about the Persian Sage's theology – e.g., Geistchristologie, binitarianism, a certain overlap of angelology and Pneumatology – that are similar to those raised by many of Clement's readers. The witness of Aphrahat, therefore, strengthens the thesis of an early relatively widespread Christian tradition of angelomorphic Pneumatology.
Tags: barnes, biblical studies, books, ethical, friends-marquette era, grace and freedom/nature, jewish mysticism, john paul ii, marquette, mysticism/spirituality, papacy, patristics, pneumatology, political, theological notebook

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