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Matthew Milliner, review essay - Lenten Reading - Ephraim Radner, A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church | Books and Culture 2013
Radner, a Protestant, [argues] that something in our modern world has gone wrong. However, he places the blame less on an elusive pattern of secularization (Taylor) or on Protestant fragmentation (Gregory) than on the much wider phenomenon of Christian disunity... Christian disunity is what gave birth to—or rather, miscarried—the liberal democratic state. These are massive claims, and Radner marshals the erudition... A Brutal Unity is ..an "eristology," which Radner defines as "the study of hostility in its disordering forms and forces." -- Radner [opens with a] polemic against Wm Cavanaugh's The Myth of Religious Violence, [which] unjustifiably absolves Christians from their share in the violence of the liberal state. ...the nations as we know them arose from the inability of Christians to refrain from mutual murder. Radner marches his readers deep into the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust.... "[Nazi death squads] were Protestants and Catholics both." To suggest otherwise—whether to exonerate Pope Pius XII or to overemphasize the role of Bonhoeffer—is to succumb to "hallucinogenic fantasy." "The dead bodies, as it were, are already gathered by the time churches admit to complicity in their murder." Radner explores Catholic and Protestant .. attempts to deny the reality of Christian disunity by carving out an inviolable space of "the Church as such"... The saving of the church from her own sins by concocting an invisible or elusive sanctity is, admittedly, a traditional theological move, but... were this approach employed Christologically, it would be plainly Gnostic. - Radner [makes] the villain of his story Ephiphanius of Salamis (d. 403), who listed heresies and distanced the church from her enemies, especially the Jews. ?..inaugurated the "Epiphanian paradigm" and its program of exclusionary violence...the church's "brutal unity." Providentialism and proceduralism are the [church's] blinders... The former is the notion that God was somehow at work in church councils, however violent; the latter is the idea that somehow bureaucratic decisions and parliamentary process betray the hand of God. We should, Radner believes, trust neither.
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june 2014 by dunnettreader

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