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Colloquium On Violence & Religion



COV&R-Bulletin No. 1 (Sept. 1991)


Raymund Schwager, Jesus im Heilsdrama.

Entwurf einer biblischen Erlösungslehre ["Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Sketch of a biblically-based doctrine of redemption"] (Innsbrucker theologische Studien 29). Innsbruck: Tyrolia 1990. 8th ed. (307 pp.). Hardcover. 310 Austrian Schillings or 44 DM.

For several years, inspired by the works of René Girard, the Innsbruck systematic theologican Raymund Schwager has been working on a new model of the doctrine of redemption. After his book about the biblical problematic (R. Schwager, Brauchen wir einen Sündenbock? Gewalt und Erlösung in den biblischen Schriften, München 1978; 2nd ed. 1985; american translation: Must There Be Scapegoats? New York 1987), after a second book dealing with historical models of the doctrine of redemption (R. Schwager, Der wunderbare Tausch. Zur Geschichte und Deutung der Erlösungslehre. München 1986), and after a third book, one among many contemporary efforts made to consider current political problems in a theological light (R. Schwager, Für Gerechtigkeit und Frieden. Der Glaube als Antwort auf die Anliegen der Gegenwart. Innsbruck 1986), follows now his first attempt to conceive systematically a soteriology ("Jesus im Heilsdrama. Entwurf einer biblischen Erlösungslehre" Innsbruck: Tyrolia 1990). This book attempts to articulate and reconcile biblical and systematic questions.

The logical starting-point is the fundamental assumption, in the last 30 years of theology increasingly well-received, that God's redeeming action takes place in the proclamation and praxis of the message of the basileia. From this message emerge the contours and content of the God-image: the God of Jesus Christ is a radically good God. God's relationship to sinners is described as "enemy-love" (pp. 43-75). This argumentation, taken for granted by many contemporary theological models, is radically developed by a second step, in which a new question is considered. This new perspective is intimated by Girard in his "Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde" (pp. 226-228; German trans. 1983, pp. 210-212) where he treats the connection between God's basileia and the Apocalypse. According to Girard, the salvation offered by God, rendered impossible by human refusal, has nevertheless won out. How this divine salvation can reach the "refusing person", all the while respecting the "refusing" and "obdurate" human will, is the subject of Schwager's reflections for the following 200 pages. He analyses the "Answer of God" to humankind's refusal of God's love both in the context of contemporary exegesis as well as in a consideration of classical questions of systematic theology. In so doing, Schwager makes preciser and more nuanced many views which he in his book "Must There Be Scapegoats?" and Girard in his book "Des choses cachées" have intimated in reference to the theme of "the divine will and Jesus' violent death." The systematic conclusions which Schwager connects with the event of the cross (pp. 203-263) are of great significance for the contemporary theological, ethical, and political discussion. A new separation of humankind, corresponding to God's redeeming action, overcomes the soteriological myth of the "good followers" and the "evil rulers of this world." The temptation of a condemnatory moralism is thereby overcome: "the great dividing-line runs right through the middle of every person. Personally responsible for every sin committed, every person is an enemy of Christ. Yet as a victim of evil (and even as perpetrator of evil), every person is the concern of God's redeeming power." (p. 244). This book is an indispensable aid precisely for the political discussion which flares up again and again over the issue of perpetrators and victims of evil.

Józef Niewiadomski