"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is Matthew Levering Predestined to Make Us All Look Like Slackers?

Last week I was very graciously invited to lecture at the University of Dayton in Ohio. My visit there was arranged by Matthew Levering, and he is even more impressive in person than in writing, not least for his enormous humility in the face of so many superlative accomplishments. His rate of publishing makes one's jaw drop; it utterly shatters on the floor when you realize that in addition to the ten or more books he has authored by himself in the last decade (and for major publishers, chiefly Oxford), he has edited that many books again, published untold articles and reviews, edits the journal Nova et Vetera, and has a young and large family.

Readers may recall my interview with him and Gilles Emery on their recent The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity (Oxford Handbooks in Religion), a wonderful collection I highly recommend. You may also be interested in my review of his Christ and the the Catholic Priesthood: Ecclesial Hierarchy and the Pattern of the Trinity,
which is an outstandingly thorough-going theological engagement on the question of hierarchy and priesthood as seen in numerous figures East and West, including especially John Zizioulas--as well as Afanasiev, Schmemann, and Evdokimov.

In addition he has written many books on Scripture and exegesis, on Thomas Aquinas, natural law, sacraments, and, one of his most recent, which he promised to send me, Predestination: Biblical and Theological Paths, a book that engages much of Eastern theology. It will receive attention on here in due course. But the book does raise the question: is he predestined to make the rest of us look like slackers and layabouts?

On a more serious note, what is, above all, most impressive about his work is how precisely--and, it seems, almost effortlessly--he embodies the role described in the gospels of the householder who brings out of his storeroom treasures both old and new. I admire Levering because in an age when--as Alasdair MacIntyre acidly observed more than thirty years ago--most Western theology is in a state of intellectual disrepair lower at any time than since the start of the second millennium, Levering is able to speak to our age and its questions in a manner not enough of us attempt today. He faces the challenges of our age and does not cravenly capitulate to the latest intellectual fashion of the bien pensants, but neither does he respond with a ham-fisted assertion of creedal propositions one must blindly accept: neither a Quisling nor a Savonarola he. Instead, in careful, lucid, respectful prose, he engages the challenges and questions, and seeks to answer them ex traditione or, if you will, ex corde Ecclesiae, bringing out the treasures of the faith in a way that is fresh and inviting. We very much need more of this, and so we must pray he lives until either his fortieth birthday or the publication of his thousandth book--whichever comes first!

1 comment:

  1. I did not know about his new work on Predestination. Can't wait to read it! The Eastern dimension will supply an interesting contrast to Augustine, I'm sure.

    There are no recent survey 'histories of grace' Although this doesn't seem to be quite it, it looks like a nice offering to at least partially fill the lacuna.


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