Theology: Expanding the Borders. The Annual Publication of the College Theology Society. Volume 43.

 Theology: Expanding the Borders. The Annual Publication of the College Theology Society. Volume 43.

Edited by María Pilar Aquino and Roberto S. Goizueta. Mystic, CT: Twenty-third Publications, 1998. Pages, xiii + 333. Paper, $14.95.

available on Amazon

María Pilar Aquino and Roberto S. Goizueta have edited a sixteen essay collection which, when taken together, imaginatively explores how “borders” function across various theological discourses. Most selections were first delivered at the 1997 College Theology Society’s national convention whose theme, also this volume’s title, reflects the Society’s attentiveness to that annual meeting’s unique setting – the Tijuana-San Diego metropolis. Borders affecting theological reflection include not only those enforced by nation-states but also those created by differing world views, alternative historical narratives, divergent Christian commitments and communities, and theological critiques of society.

The essays are organized around three major concepts. The first, consisting of six essays, examines the “The Border as Epistemology.” Ann E. Patrick’s opening essay delineates positive and negative dimensions of borders under three general categories, “markets, barriers, and frontiers.” In the next piece, Virgilio Elizondo extols the “transformation of borders” through “mestizaje, which allows us to break through the most absolute of all borders at the deepest level of human existence: the body, the blood, and the human spirit!” (36) Mestizaje incorporates difference in a unified human family. The following two essays highlight obstacles to Elizondo’s vision. Ruy G. Suarez Rivero, Professor of Systematic Theology at Universidad Iberoamericana-Noroeste, presents “Teología en la Frontera: Límite y Encuentro de Dos Mundos.” Using the unique site of Tijuana-San Diego as his “locus theologicus,” Suárez Rivero analyzes its socio-religious complexity to lift up the theological dimensions of “la cotidianidad,” of actual individuals’ daily experiences, especially those of the poor and marginalized. Evelyn A. Kirkley’s survey of U.S. religious historiography highlights the paucity of accounts which integrate Hispanic and Latino/a agency in shaping U.S. religious life. The remaining two essays explore other significant epistemological borders. J. Matthew Ashley offers a careful critique of the current dialogue between scientists and theologians. These border-crossings indicate a rapprochement between science and religion but, as Ashley convincingly argues, they also prove theologically problematic when God’s revelation in Jesus remains almost completely outside the conversation. Francis Buckley. S.J. offers a practical guide to crossing disciplinary borders in the classroom through team-teaching.

The second group of essays explores “The Church and Borders.” Zaida Maldonado Pérez offers her own reading of selected early Christian accounts of visions to demonstrate their subverting normative ecclesial and social authority. Teresa of Avila provides another alternative source for a contemporary praxis-oriented, contemplative-based ecclesiology through Keith Egan’s analysis of the Carmelite’s The Book of Foundations. Bradford E. Hinze and Dennis Doyle engage directly in contemporary ecclesiological debates. Hinze offers a Trinitarian-based ecclesiology as the theological basis for a more inclusive and ethnically, racially diverse church. Doyle analyzes the works of Elizabeth Johnson and Roberto Goizueta within the theological framework of communion ecclesiology. Perhaps the most arresting of all the essays in this section is Jorge Luis Valdés’s consideration of the impact of his conversion to evangelical Protestantism upon his familial relations and his Hispanic identity. Drawing from a variety of sources including his own experience, Scripture, Hispanic theology, and John Paul II’s writings, Valdés traces his coming to appreciate the diversity in unity among Hispanic committed to “la lucha.” In the section’s final essay, Tom Poundstone selects specific passages from Gaudium et Spes to support an ecumenical ethics that justifies a critique of the Catholic Church’s prohibition of artificial birth control.

The third and final section, “The Border Between Theology and Society” features four essays. Carmelo Alvarez provides an overview of the theological perspectives and commitments emerging from the Caribbean. Peter Bernardi examines Maurice Blondel’s defense of French’s Catholics’ political allegiances in light of Blondel’s understanding of the nature-grace relationship. He then compares the arguments of Blondel and his opponents with those of liberation theologians and their critics to highlight theological continuities in these historically distinct disagreements over Catholic political engagement. Jennifer Reed-Bouley’s essay places the United Farmer Workers’ policies in dialogue with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ statements on the treatment of undocumented workers. Her analysis suggests how the practical concerns of the UFW and the consistency of Catholic social teaching’s defense of immigrants are mutually enriching in determining an effective strategy for defending the rights of all migrant workers. Finally, J. Milburn Thompson uses just war theory to defend a policy of humanitarian intervention in national conflicts predicated upon a long-range commitment to transforming the unjust social situation within a troubled sovereign state.

Certainly, the editors have “expanded the borders” simply by introducing the term as a theological category which in this case reorients considerations of epistemological, ecclesiological, and social concerns. It should be noted, however, that many of the best essays do not in themselves explicitly analyze the concept of “borders” or what “expansion” of borders might mean. Only in attending to the collection as a whole does the implications of “expanding the borders” come into view.

As with any collection of essays, not all entries are of equal quality. Some, such as Alvarez’s essay provide useful information with little analysis, and others like Poundstone’s require clearer support for their arguments. A commendable feature is the inclusion of Rivero’s essay in Spanish, a first for a College Theology Society volume and a definite attempt to display in practice a necessary expansion of the theological linguistic borders in the Americas. As suggested above, this book touches upon a wide-range of theological interests and would prove useful to generalists and, given the excellence of specific essays, specialists as well.

Sandra Yocum