- Lord, Giver of Life: Toward a Pneumatological Complement to George Lindbeck's Theory of Doctrine
Post-liberal theology has, by and large, taken the form of an extensive research project initiated by George Lindbeck's The Nature of Doctrine in 1984 and so, as a theological project, it tends to be a bit formalistic. This formalism, Moulaison argues, is not just an acceptable by-product of academic work but is a specifically theological problem. In particular, Lindbeck's cultural-linguistic theory of doctrine, in spite of its great strengths, suffers from an insufficiently developed and operative pneumatology. Assessing and overcoming this deficit is the central concern of this fine book. Throughout, Moulaison carefully develops this criticism in relation to central theological loci – theological method, the nature of apologetics, Lindbeck's theory of textuality, ecclesiology, the relation of church and world, and divine/human agency (each subject making up a chapter) – and on each offers her own constructive 'pneumatological complement.' This proposal pays off, even in light of the rather steep price of admission!
One of the main strengths of this book is the ease with which Moulaison employs patristic sources (particularly the Cappadocian Fathers) as the primary source of her constructive proposal and weaves them together with a wide variety of contemporary philosophical and theological sources. This engagement with Cappadocian theology pushes Lindbeck's project in a fruitful and very promising direction.
Take Moulaison's chapter on intra-textual theology (chapter 4) – in my opinion the strongest of the book – as an example. She offers a close reading of the Song of Songs in both a modern (via André LaCocque) and pre-critical mode (via Gregory of Nyssa). Lindbeck's hermeneutics, while appropriately employing aspects of pre-critical exegesis (typology and figuration), misses the pneumatological core of patristic ways of reading. The Lindbeckian axiom 'The text absorbs the world' is a paradigmatic instance of Lindbeck's formalism. This way of describing the relation of text, church, and world tends to undercut the very reality and agency to which the text refers. The text qua text doesn't absorb the world, rather the Spirit 'returns the reader to the soteriological core of the Bible' – to the reality and agency of the Word, which saves the world – and so what is needed is a theology of revelation as address to uphold and fill out Lindbeck's formal literary analysis of intra-textual reading. [End Page 377]
Moulaison's overall thesis not only develops Lindbeck's theory of doctrine along pneumatological lines, but also in the direction of a more fully developed Trinitarian account. It is a pneumatological corrective, but the content of that corrective is itself christological. Throughout, but especially in relation to ecclesiology, she is keenly aware of the dangers involved with accounting for the work of the Spirit in a way that would equate that work all too easily with the work of the church. Here she has in mind certain forms of theology-as-church-practice, mostly in dialogue with Reinhard Hü tter, which tend to domesticate the sovereignty and freedom of the Spirit.
If one fault can be raised, it is that Moulaison fails to engage some of the most current Lindbeck scholarship in the field. While this book is a revised doctoral thesis (which has taken some time to reach publication), one would have expected at least a mention of Pecknold's recent study of Lindbeck (2005) and his own proposal that Lindbeck's post-liberalism ought to advance along Pierceian pragmatic lines. It seems to me that Moulaison's thesis would only have been strengthened with such a fruitful consideration. Regardless, Moulaison's book is a very attractive and well-needed corrective to Lindbeck's overall project that no student of post-liberal theology ought to miss.