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of liberal discourse has the side effect of removing agency from Catholics themselves , few of whose voices are heard here. One question is, Did the rhetoric of Catholic politicians of the mid-19th century conform to or resist the idea of religious liberty? Moreover, the human costs of anti-Catholic discourses are elided at the expense of risking a positive spin on them as the watersheds of religious liberty. Finally, Fenton focuses on rhetorical production (the creation and sustenance of discourses), at the expense of reception: What did readers make of this antiCatholicism ? Was it received and made part of their lives or was it ignored? Still with these qualifications in mind, I can recommend Religious Liberties to this journal’s readers seeking a well-written, rich, and ambitious study encompassing literature, Christianity, and political theory. Fenton’s scholarly performance alone is worth the ticket of admission, even if the apples and oranges she so fascinatingly tosses ultimately remain distinct. Ronald J. Zboray University of Pittsburgh C. S. Song. In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2012. ISBN 978-0-227-68023-0 (paperback). Pp. vii + 172. $18.90. Choan-Seng Song is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology and Asian Cultures at the Pacific School of Religion in San Francisco. His book In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts seeks to challenge ‘‘Western biblical scholars and theologians who have monopolized the interpretation of the Bible’’ (115). He desires to throw ‘‘wide open the door of interpretation to men and women from outside the West, to people of different ethnic origins and cultural backgrounds, to women as well men, to the powerless over against those who hold power, whether political, social, religious, or academic’’ (115). Here is how Song structures the book to accomplish his goal. The book consists of ten tightly integrated chapters and a bibliography. Chapter headings include, ‘‘In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts,’’ ‘‘Story Is the Matrix of Theology,’’ ‘‘Theology Rewrites Stories,’’ ‘‘Stories Rectify Theology,’’ ‘‘The Theological Power of Stories,’’ ‘‘In Search of Our Roots,’’ ‘‘Stories within a Story,’’ ‘‘Stories Are Culturally Distinctive,’’ ‘‘Stories Can Be Theologically Interactive.’’ The final chapter, ‘‘The Bible, Stories, and Theology,’’ provides the reader ‘‘approaches’’ to pursue theology conceived in stories inside and outside of Scripture. Chapter 10 answers this question, ‘‘How is . . . intense theology to be born out of the matrix of stories?’’ (152). The first step of story theology is, ‘‘Awareness of the theological nature of stories’’ (155). For Song, ‘‘[s]tory is the matrix of theology’’ (18). This axiom drives his book, challenging the Western penchant for systematic theology. He raises some intriguing questions to make his case: ‘‘Who says theology has to be ideas and concepts ? Who has decided that theology has to be doctrines, axioms, propositions?’’ 262 Christianity & Literature 65(2) (6). Song’s conclusion? ‘‘God is not concept; God is story. God is not idea; God is presence. God is not hypothesis; God is experience. God is not principle; God is life.’’ He adds, ‘‘theology worthy of its name has to be part and parcel of the dramas of life and faith’’ (116). Song ably answers the above questions in the book. And his story-based approach to theology is his major and masterful contribution to the Christian world. The book reminds one of Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (1974), Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981), Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones’s Why Narrative? (1997), Leland Ryken’s How to Read the Bible as Literature (1984), Kevin Vanhoozer’s Drama of Doctrine (2005), and Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, among others, in the emergent church movement in the USA. One significant difference between Song and the above authors, however, is his entertainment of secular stories in theologizing. As one who has lived in Asia for many years I loved the stories from the various countries from that part of the globe, as well as the more familiar, ‘‘The Ugly Duckling.’’ But why include secular stories? How does this relate to discovering the theology of Scripture? Song surmises, ‘‘Stories have the capacity to transcend...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 262-264
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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