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Reviews 311

If one is left wondering about the relation between relation itself and wonder, indeed perhaps the feminist, queer and decolonial concrescences of the respon- sible indeterminacy proposed in Strange Wonder, one looks forward to Mary-Jane Rubenstein’s next work and the growing force of her own voice. If one wishes to hear her reflect on the relation between theology and philosophy, “we are left,”

she writes, “with a meditation on the breath, which opens the self essentially onto

.” (p. 188). If this last ruach feels too animal for otherworldliness,

too mysterious for atheism—so much the better. Theologically, Strange Wonder will provide smart companionship for those working on questions of negative theology, of the responsible deconstruction of Christianity, or of a relational basis for a political theology. It will be showing up as the sort of commentary indispensable in future interpretations of her four primary sources—all the more so because it is itself so quotable. The reader can only come to the end of this book astonished.

every other

Catherine Keller 303 W 66th Apt 20HE New York, NY 10023 USA

The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist by Angel F. Méndez Montoya (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) xi + 170 pp.

There is a surprising dearth of material dealing with the philosophy and theology of food and of eating, and Angel Méndez Montoya’s book is a timely investigation into one of the most interesting areas of embodied life. In this work Montoya addresses the question of the significance of food and eating to theology, taking the alimentary function of food in all its complex resonances as a model for the role of theology in nourishing human life, reorienting it towards the interdependencies between human beings in community, of human beings with ecology, and of cre- ation with God. Montoya takes it as given that food “matters”, though the question of what it is to “matter” is held open in the name of preserving a view of things that escapes reductionism: Food matters because we cannot live without it, because in some sense, as Feuerbach observed, we are what we eat, but this is significant because food is not “just food”; it always points beyond itself to speak of something greater. Montoya’s thesis is that various aspects of eating suggest a vision of theology conceived as “alimentation”. Food is an occasion for human nurturing and sharing because it participates in some sense in God’s superabundance and in the self-sharing of the trinity. The incarnation, and the self-giving of God becoming bread in the eucharist, continue this. The author distinguishes between nutrition, referring to discrete chemical processes, and alimentation, which considers such processes as well as their social and symbolic context. It is theology’s calling, Montoya proposes, to participate in this function of the transformation of human beings by being a nurtur- ing and sharing force, and so becoming a kind of food. This all points to an ontology which is considered “as the co-arrival of superabundance and sharing, neither abso- lutizing nor demanding total ownership” (p. 4). The first chapter begins with an extended passage on making mole, a tradi- tional Mexican sauce, by grinding together 33 ingredients including several varieties

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312 Reviews

of chili, spices, nuts and chocolate. For Montoya the example of mole paints a picture of the role of theology in human life according to certain points of comparison. Mole is a complex hybrid which combines flavours and traditions in a way that intensifies what is best in them and retains a strong sense of cultural identity; mole expresses the distinctively Mexican, preserving the many cultural strands that go to make it up, rather than emasculating them by a bland dilution. The making of mole is analogous to the making of theology insofar as it is a complex labour requiring discipline and dedication, an art which is learned by doing. The fleshly nature of the incarnation points to the reality that flesh is not God’s other, just as food is not other to the human person, but the product of human creation, and becoming-human in its eating, though it is not itself “flesh” in a strict sense. This seems to me to be one of the book’s most powerful comparisons, and it is a shame it is not more carefully drawn, though this is in many ways a consequence of the very wide scope of the book and the fact that Montoya does not have a great deal of source material to work with. In the second chapter, Montoya takes up the comparison between wisdom and taste: the Spanish words for these, saber and sabor, betray their common root in the Latin sapere. For Montoya this etymology demonstrates that to taste is to truly know, to understand in a kind of mutual participation. Montoya refers to Laura Esquivel’s novel Like Water for Chocolate, in which a forbidden erotic relationship is conducted through the cooking of a woman for the man she truly loves, who is also her brother- in-law. Cooking and eating constitute, then, a sensual form of communication, and are paradigmatic for a participatory model of knowledge, showing how the Thomistic conception of knowledge as participation bridges the ontological chasm between subject and object characteristic of correspondence theories. For Montoya, “Eating and drinking thus provide a culinary medium for a cognition that is connected with the body and constructions of the world” (p. 46). Montoya could go further here. Food is described as a medium for cognition, but this seems to presuppose a kind of internal mental representation (a cognitive act) which is prior. Cuisine could perhaps be better understood as a form of bodily thought itself. Cooking is an example that shows that action is not the translation of a mental intention into a bodily movement, but rather an embodied process in which thought and action are inseparably intertwined in a body-subject. In the third chapter Montoya argues, with Bataille, that in the postlapsarian world there is a disconnection between creatures and creation, and that in this situation eating is linked with death, both of the eaten and inevitably of the eater. But asserting, against Bataille, the possibility of a creator that transcends creation, Montoya goes on to argue for a more positive reading under which eating points to the suberabundance of God both prior to the fall and at creation’s end. Montoya spends several pages developing a reading of the narrative of the fall in Genesis 2-3, arguing in the end that eating the forbidden fruit amounts to separating creation from its creator by taking what is not given; this leads to a loss of the vision of God (which, then, presumably depends on seeing created things properly), and to the inevitability of death (since life is cut off from its ultimate source). It is with Alexander Schmemann that this becomes clearer—for we depend on food, and such dependence leaves us dependent on the whole creation, which is God’s gift. Montoya’s reading of Sergei Bulgakov clarifies this, by elucidating the notion of nourishment—eating blurs the boundaries between ourselves and the world, between what is I and what is not-I, between subject and object. As such I find myself as a dependent part of the world, not a Kantian subject forever distanced from noumenal reality, but rather a dependent part of that reality. Montoya examines Bulgakov’s Sophianic vision, affirming the point of view that human beings play a role in

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Reviews 313

co-creating or re-creating the world. Again, Montoya could go further in showing how our dependence on the world for sustenance involves our being a part of that world, so that whether or not human beings have a privileged place in the world, their role is best understood not in terms of a dualism between man and nature but as an aspect of the self-shaping lability of the world. In the fourth chapter, Montoya brings his reflections on food to bear on political considerations. Taking Isak Dinesen’s novel Babette’s Feast as a starting point, he aims to show how food’s role as the matter of gift-exchange suggests a politics which is grounded in the abundance of the gift, God’s superabundance, as opposed to the pure power-politics which arises in capitalist conditions as a result of the conception of desire as figuring a fundamental lack. Montoya draws parallels with the scriptural pictures of God’s provision of manna to the Israelites wandering in the desert, and Jesus’ miraculous feeding of crowds, both of which demand that food be treated as a gift rather than as property, and point to a deeper dependence on God’s Word. For Montoya, Christian celebration of the Eucharist symbolically repeats the miraculous feedings, reminding Christians of their dependence on God, for food and for their very existence. Eucharistic eating displays a logic of co-inherence which is central to Christian understanding, for when I eat, the food I eat becomes me in the process of digestion, but I also become the food, I am what I eat. In the same way the Christian is in Christ, just as Christ is in the Christian, as the believer eats Christ’s body. This ontology of co-inherence is opposed to a conception of desire as lack in capitalist societies, for whose citizens, however much they have, can never have enough. The practices of feasting and fasting serve to discipline desire and to re-orient it towards God, the source and true object of what it desires, instead of towards the superficial object of desire. Montoya highlights four main conclusions of the argument of his book—first, that theology, like cooking, is a performative reality, which concerns what we do as much as what we write or say. Second, that theology involves a broad plurality of “ingre- dients” (traditions, cultures, languages, etc.), but also a careful and knowledgeable crafting of these elements. Third, that reflections on food in general bear on the eucharist, which nourishes us both as material reality and as sign. Fourth, that think- ing about the eucharist can in turn inform the way we eat and live, and calls us to respond to the hunger of others, seeking to enter into the circulation of the gift whose source is in God by being nourished and nourishing others, physically and spiritually. Montoya ends in an acknowledgment that the church does not always live up to this calling, and in particular of our failure to treat our ecological resources with respect. Nevertheless, there is cause for hope since the nourishment which God gives is transformative and ongoing. The Theology of Food makes theological use of food as a paradigm and example for re-thinking both the aims of theology and its presuppositions, successfully holding together form and content in an attempt to move beyond false dualisms. It shows how food can be demonstrative of the failures of modern conceptions of the autonomous and spectatorial self and its relation to the world and to God. In some ways it does not carry this logic to its conclusion, in ways I have suggested. Montoya’s argument depends on a kind of associative thinking which demands further exposition in both philosophical and theological terms, and depends on a commitment to a Thomistic approach which not all readers will share. Whilst many of the associations he makes are suggestive of fruitful possibilities, the work of bringing to full expression the ontological insights which are nascent here, and their conse- quences for politics, ecology, and theology, remains to be done. Nevertheless, Montoya’s book is a delight to read, and is a significant contribution to the effort to apply theological thinking to the everyday realities of embodied life.

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314 Reviews

One hopes that the book will be, as the author suggests, a “prolegomenon” to further discourse.

Orion Edgar Department of Theology and Religious Studies The University of Nottingham University Park Nottingham NG7 2RD UK

Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology by Mark A. McIntosh (Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2008) xii + 252 pp.

All introductory theology textbooks should have three distinguishing features. First, they should cover—as thoroughly as possible—the essential building-blocks of the discipline. By conveying such information clearly and efficiently in written form, textbooks free up class time for deeper, more interesting explorations and/or inter- active discussions. Second, they should be accessible to their audiences without expecting instructors to add mountains of explanatory addenda. If they presume too much, they defeat their primary purpose; students come to class mystified, in need of definitions, historical background, and explications of convoluted passages. Most books marketed as “textbooks” clearly fail on this criterion; too many authors, pre- sumably in an effort to demonstrate their vast scholarship (or perhaps because they haven’t spent enough time in the classroom), simply expect too much background. While students are often eager and interested, they are not classically educated in languages, philosophy, or history; scatterings of untranslated words, or sidelong references to Wittgenstein’s aphorisms or Caligula’s morality, lead to blank stares and eventual frustration. Third, a textbook should be interesting and enjoyable. This does not mean that it must “entertain” in the popular sense, or that it cannot stretch its readers. Most students today are relatively overwhelmed; they work at a job for twenty hours a week, feel compelled to maintain social lives (both real and virtual), and participate in many of the thousands of activities that are thrust upon them. If they are to be persuaded to read material in preparation for class, this will not be accomplished simply by force of the instructor’s will. A well-written textbook should be at least as interesting as the other demands on students’ time and energy; in doing so, it may even inspire a love of the discipline. These observations are my own, based on years in the classroom. But they are not only my own; Augustine believed quite firmly that theology should be written with its audience in mind. Adopting a slogan from Roman rhetoric, he insisted that the goal of theology should be “to teach, to delight, and to move”; if Christianity is truly the captivating, inspiring, and joyous way of life that we often proclaim it to be, then those who read about it should experience it this way—and not as dull, boring, and utterly unappetizing. In other words: if our students are put off by theological study, we have only ourselves to blame. Given these criteria, it has been some time since I have read an introductory theology textbook that I could genuinely recommend, or that I would consider using in the classroom. I am therefore happy to report that Mark McIntosh’s latest entry into this field is a marvelous exception to the rule. Recently named the new Van Mildert Professor of Theology at the University of Durham, McIntosh has written a book that

© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd