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Editor's Notes

Charles Hefling

Each issue of the ATR now begins with a self-description, which declares our intention to promote, among other things, "interdisciplinary inquiry." This issue is an especially good example of what we intend. The principal articles are concerned with the religious horizon of political commitment, with what it is to interpret the meaning of literature and the meaning of historical events with the ethics and the aesthetics of the Incarnation and the psychology of conversion, with the philosophy of communication and the communication of tradition, with Christianity in relation to culture, doctrine in relation to drama, art in relation to the artist's life and faith.

Three are addresses, spoken and heard before being printed and read, and one of these is an address on addressing, a rhetorical performance about the performance of rhetoric. David Cunningham takes up a notion of decisive importance for every department of Christian theology--revelation--and asks whether it might be fruitfully expounded not as information-delivery but in terms of participation in cooperative drama. As his title indicates, oratory is a primary theme here, and it was as an orator that the subject of Mark Chapman's article, the redoubtable Frank Weston, bishop of Zanzibar, had his greatest influence. But Weston was a prolific writer too, and the passion with which he advocated social and economic causes, his equally passionate championing of controversial devotions, and his understanding of what the Incarnation of the Word implies were, Chapman shows, all of a piece.

It might seem there could be little in a seventh-century regional council for anyone to be passionate about, but next to the Reformation itself the Synod of Whitby, as it is called, was the most significant event in the formation of Anglican Christianity. Or was it? And if it was, just what was its significance? Arthur Holder's paper, with which this issue opens, might be called an essay in the history of history. It investigates the Synod's "afterlife"--the notably different roles for which historians have cast it in the historical pageants they have produced.

From early English and/or Celtic Christianity, the issue passes to late modern and/or postmodern America, and from the impact of politics on the practice of religion to the influence of religion on the philosophy of politics. Gary Chartier studies one of the most effective philosophers of the present time, Richard Rorty, to show how the relevance of great theological ideas such as sin, hope, and grace is not restricted to a private realm of "spirituality." They shape the way public practice is construed and evaluated, unnamed and unacknowledged though they be. But theology does also reflect on the longings and lapses of what used to be called the soul, and especially on the personal reorientation that is conversion. In his extended study of T. S. Eliot's critical and poetic writings, Patrick Gray revisits the much-debated and many-sided question of the reasons and results of Eliot's mid-life turn to Christian faith.

 
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