Wei, “Gratian the Theologian”

In March, the Catholic University of America Press will release “Gratian the Theologian” by John C. Wei (law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit). The publisher’s description follows:

Gratian the Theologian shows how one of the best-known canonists of the medieval period was also an accomplished theologian. Well into the twelfth century, compilations of Church law often dealt with theological issues. Gratian’s Concordia discordantium canonum or Decretum, which was originally compiled around 1140, was no exception, and so Wei claims in this provocative book. The Decretum is the fundamental canon law work of the twelfth century, which served as both the standard textbook of canon law in the medieval schools and an authoritative law book in ecclesiastical and secular courts. Yet theology features prominently throughout the Decretum, both for its own sake and for its connection to canon law and canonistic jurisprudence.

This book provides an introduction to and reassessment of three aspects of Gratian’s theology: his use of the Bible and biblical exegesis; his penitential theology; and his handling of the other sacraments and the liturgy. The manuscript discoveries and methodological breakthroughs of the past few decades have rendered older accounts of Gratian’s theology obsolete. This book reappraises Gratian’s theological views and doctrines in light of recent scholarly advances, particularly the discovery of new theological sources that Gratian appears to have known and used and the discovery of the first recension of the Decretum, which differs in significant ways from the considerably longer vulgate text that scholars have traditionally relied upon. In the process, this book also uncovers new evidence concerning Gratian’s intellectual background and milieu and provides new insights into the Decretum’s composition, structure, and development.

Ultimately, this book does more than just enhance our understanding of Gratian the theologian. It also contributes significantly to our knowledge of Gratian the jurist and to the world of theology and law in which he worked.

Layish, “Sharīʿa and the Islamic State in 19th-Century Sudan”

In April, Brill will release “Sharīʿa and the Islamic State in 19th-Century Sudan: The Mahdī’s Legal Methodology and Doctrine” by Aharon Layish (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

The Sudanese Mahdī headed a millenarian, revivalist, reformist movement in Islam, strongly inspired by Salafī and Ṣūfī ideas, in late 19th century in an attempt to restore the Caliphate of the Prophet and “Righteous Caliphs” in Medina. As the “Successor of the Prophet”, the Mahdī was conceived of as the political head of the Islamic state and its supreme religious authority. On the basis of his legal opinions, decisions, proclamations and “traditions” attributed to him, an attempt is made to reconstruct his legal methodology consisting of the Qurʾān, sunna, and inspiration (ilhām) derived from the Prophet and God, its origins, and its impact on Islamic legal doctrine, and to assess his “legislation” as an instrument to promote his political, social and moralistic agenda.

Gratitude for Legal Traditions

I completed my law and tradition cycle of posts today at Liberty Law with this one,TP Banner Gratitude for Legal Traditions. Here is the rest of the cycle in one place:

And here’s a little bit from the beginning of the most recent post, which responds in part to Mark’s post on the subject:

The prospects for law and tradition are difficult to discern. This is in no small measure because the most frequent predictions about tradition’s future have little time for any traditions other than those of science and technology. And these generally are not presented as traditions but instead as repudiations of tradition—as simply rational responses to changing circumstances in the service of progress and present need. The prophets of the traditionless society never go quite so far as to strike out the traditions of science from their predictions.

Recently, my friends John McGinnis and Mark Movsesian engaged in an interesting exchange on the subject of tradition and contemporary politics and society. John argued that technology creates a culture and a politics relentlessly oriented to the future and deracinated from the past. Mark responded that traditions and traditional institutions survive, even today, because they speak to basic human nature and “most of us need the stability the past provides, the guidance of received wisdom.”

Each man makes his points. It is certainly true that substantive traditions—particularly substantive religious traditions—have been severely shaken by various contemporary tremors. They have been attacked directly and they have been weakened from within. And yet they have not been destroyed. Perhaps they cannot be destroyed so long as human beings are born to human beings. So long as parental care is necessary for the raising of children. So long as people seek to find meaning in an infinitely mysterious universe. So long as they depend upon rules, categories, and institutions which they cannot create ab ovo and for that occasion alone whenever changing circumstances demand it. So long as the autonomous acts of autonomous actors cannot achieve all of the ends that render life worth living. Just so long will people seek and find traditions, cling to them, and be grateful to them. Though they may become dissatisfied with them, human beings need traditions to live.

“Recovering Buddhism in Modern China” (Kiely & Jessup eds.)

In March, the Columbia University Press will release “Recovering Buddhism in Modern China,” edited by Jan Kiely (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and J. Brooks Jessup (Free University of Berlin). The publisher’s description follows:

Modern Chinese history told from a Buddhist perspective restores the vibrant, creative role of religion in postimperial China. It shows how urban Buddhist elites 9780231172769jockeyed for cultural dominance in the early Republican era, how Buddhist intellectuals reckoned with science, and how Buddhist media contributed to modern print cultures. It recognizes the political importance of sacred Buddhist relics and the complex processes through which Buddhists both participated in and experienced religious suppression under Communist rule. Today, urban and rural communities alike engage with Buddhist practices to renegotiate class, gender, and kinship relations in post-Mao China.

This volume vividly portrays these events and more, recasting Buddhism as a critical factor in China’s twentieth-century development. Each chapter connects a moment in Buddhist history to a significant theme in Chinese history, creating new narratives of Buddhism’s involvement in the emergence of urban modernity, the practice of international diplomacy, the mobilization for total war, and other transformations of state, society, and culture. Working across an extraordinary thematic range, this book reincorporates Buddhism into the formative processes and distinctive character of Chinese history.

Bank and Gevers, “Churches and Religion in the Second World War”

In March, Bloomsbury Publishing will release “Churches and Religion in the Second World War,” by Jan Bank (University of Leiden) and Lieve Gevers (Catholic University Leuven).  The publisher’s description follows:

Despite the wealth of historical literature on the Second World War, the subject of religion and churches in occupied Europe has been undervalued –9781472504807 until now. This critical European history is unique in delivering a rich and detailed analysis of churches and religion during the Second World War, looking at the Christian religions of occupied Europe: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Orthodoxy.

The authors engage with key themes such as relations between religious institutions and the occupying forces; religion as a key factor in national identity and resistance; theological answers to the Fascist and National Socialist ideologies, especially in terms of the persecution of the Jews; Christians as bystanders or protectors in the Holocaust; and religious life during the war. Churches and Religion in the Second World War will be of great value to students and scholars of European history, the Second World War and religion and theology.

Volf, “Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World”

In January, Yale University Press released “Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World” by Miroslav Volf ( Yale University). The publisher’s description follows:

More than almost anything else, globalization and the great world religions are shaping our lives, affecting everything from the public policies of political leaders and the economic decisions of industry bosses and employees, to university curricula, all the way to the inner longings of our hearts. Integral to both globalization and religions are compelling, overlapping, and sometimes competing visions of what it means to live well.

In this perceptive, deeply personal, and beautifully written book, a leading theologian sheds light on how religions and globalization have historically interacted and argues for what their relationship ought to be. Recounting how these twinned forces have intersected in his own life, he shows how world religions, despite their malfunctions, remain one of our most potent sources of moral motivation and contain within them profoundly evocative accounts of human flourishing. Globalization should be judged by how well it serves us for living out our authentic humanity as envisioned within these traditions. Through renewal and reform, religions might, in turn, shape globalization so that can be about more than bread alone.

Lehner, “The Catholic Enlightenment”

This month, Oxford University Press releases “The Catholic Enlightenment: The Forgotten History of a Global Movement” by Ulrich L. Lehner (Marquette University). The publisher’s description follows:

“Whoever needs an act of faith to elucidate an event that can be explained by reason is a fool, and unworthy of reasonable thought.” This line, spoken by the notorious 18th-century libertine Giacomo Casanova, illustrates a deeply entrenched perception of religion, as prevalent today as it was hundreds of years ago. It is the sentiment behind the narrative that Catholic beliefs were incompatible with the Enlightenment ideals. Catholics, many claim, are superstitious and traditional, opposed to democracy and gender equality, and hostile to science. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that Casanova himself was a Catholic. In The Catholic Enlightenment, Ulrich L. Lehner points to such figures as representatives of a long-overlooked thread of a reform-minded Catholicism, which engaged Enlightenment ideals with as much fervor and intellectual gravity as anyone. Their story opens new pathways for understanding how faith and modernity can interact in our own time.

Lehner begins two hundred years before the Enlightenment, when the Protestant Reformation destroyed the hegemony Catholicism had enjoyed for centuries. During this time the Catholic Church instituted several reforms, such as better education for pastors, more liberal ideas about the roles of women, and an emphasis on human freedom as a critical feature of theology. These actions formed the foundation of the Enlightenment’s belief in individual freedom. While giants like Spinoza, Locke, and Voltaire became some of the most influential voices of the time, Catholic Enlighteners were right alongside them. They denounced fanaticism, superstition, and prejudice as irreconcilable with the Enlightenment agenda.

In 1789, the French Revolution dealt a devastating blow to their cause, disillusioning many Catholics against the idea of modernization. Popes accumulated ever more power and the Catholic Enlightenment was snuffed out. It was not until the Second Vatican Council in 1962 that questions of Catholicism’s compatibility with modernity would be broached again.

Ulrich L. Lehner tells, for the first time, the forgotten story of these reform-minded Catholics. As Pope Francis pushes the boundaries of Catholicism even further, and Catholics once again grapple with these questions, this book will prove to be required reading.

Movsesian on Human Dignity (Rome, March 7)

logoFor those who are interested, next month I’ll be giving a faculty workshop at Università LUMSA (Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta) in Rome. The workshop, sponsored by the university’s law faculty, will take place on March 7. I’ll present my current draft, “Of Human Dignities,” a reflection on the incompatible understandings of dignity in contemporary human rights law, especially with respect to religious freedom . Details about the event are here. My talk will be in English. CLR Forum readers in Italy, please stop by and say hello!

Fai, “Civilizing the Chinese, Competing with the West”

In January, the Columbia University Press released “Civilizing the Chinese, Competing wth the West: Study Societies in Late Qing China,” by Chen Hon Fai (Lingnan University). The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores the development of late 19th century study societies in China against the context of the decline of the imperial Qing government and its control9789629966348 on ideological production, widespread social unrest, and intrusions by Western imperialist states. The author uncovers the history of civil society activism in China by examining the study societies in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hunan, which were organized around the goal of promoting and defending the Confucian religion. Illustrating a facet of the civil society that emerged in China as a reaction to the influences of Christianity, the modernization of Confucianism, and nationalist state formation, this study extends understanding of the unique and complex processes of Chinese political and cultural modernization in ways that differed from that of Western societies.

“Annotated Legal Documents on Islam in Europe: Latvia” (Danovskis, ed.)

In January, Brill released “Annotated Legal Documents on Islam in Europe: Latvia,” edited by Edvins Danovskis (University of Latvia).  The publisher’s description follows:

This volume of Annotated Legal Documents on Islam in Europe covers Latvia and consists of an annotated collection of legal documents affecting the status of 69066Islam and Muslims. The legal texts are published in the original Latvian language while the annotations and supporting material are in English. By legal documents are meant the texts of legislation, including relevant secondary legislation, as well as significant court decisions. Each legal text is preceded by an introduction describing the historical, political and legal circumstances of its adoption, plus a short paragraph summarising its content. The focus of the collection is on the religious dimensions of being Muslim in Europe, i.e. on individuals’ access to practise their religious obligations and on the ability to organise and manifest their religious life.