Christian Theology and Tragedy

This is a guest post from Kevin Taylor, co-editor of Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory

One of the great questions of Christian theology is how to relate to knowledge outside of itself. The early Church Fathers had to decide how to relate to the great pagan thought of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and to a lesser degree the tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides), with many deciding that it was permissible, in St. Augustine’s words, “to plunder the Egyptians” and borrow from those ideas for Christian theology. In the Middle Ages, the rediscovery of Aristotle spawned new theological developments for Aquinas and Duns Scotus, as they sought to make theological sense of this new knowledge and perspective.

There are numerous other historical examples, of course, and this question is present in the Bible as well. The problem of how the Israelites are to relate to the Gentiles pervades the Old Testament, and in the New Testament there are the pagan Magi, a Roman centurion, and Greeks who seek out the Messiah. Christian theology has often intersected with knowledge outside of itself and God’s revelation, as it has sought to understand God and human existence.

In our Ashgate collection Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory, Giles and I explore this question in relation to tragic literature and theory. There is benefit in asking how tragedy deals with themes of interest to theology such as life, death, suffering, freedom, guilt, and sacrifice, as well as what broader theological insights might be gained from such an engagement. By considering the question of theology’s relationship to knowledge outside of itself in light of tragic literature and theory, new insights are gained, and theological reflection is further enriched.

Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory is edited by Kevin Taylor and Giles Waller, with contributions from Ben Quash, Jennifer Wallace, Vittorio Montemaggi, Robin Kirkpatrick, Giles Waller, Adrian Poole, Kevin Taylor, Michael Ward, Craig Hovey, Larry D. Bouchard, Douglas Hedley, David S. Cunningham and David F. Ford.

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