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Review: Volume 49 - History
Petr Lunak ( 1 ) considers how documents discovered in Warsaw Pact archives are influencing and challenging conventional interpretations of the Cold War alliances.
Cold War warriors: The Parallel History of NATO and the Warsaw Pact project has brought together scholars from both East and West
The period since the end of the Cold War has been especially stimulating for historians of that era. Whereas, under normal circumstances, researchers are obliged to wait several decades before classified documents are made public, the demise of the Eastern bloc has been followed by the opening of some former Warsaw Pact countries' archives, which have, in turn, provided hitherto unimagined possibilities for study. In 1999, an international project entitled Parallel History of NATO and the Warsaw Pact was established bringing together scholars from both East and West to assess the record of the two alliances during the Cold War. In the process, key controversies - such as the nature of the threat from the Warsaw Pact, the relative importance of nuclear deterrence and the reasons for the collapse of the Eastern bloc - are being re-examined, with new evidence challenging the conventional wisdom.
Traditionally, the danger of the Cold War turning hot was considered to have been greatest in the early 1950s in the aftermath of North Korea's invasion of South Korea. As Konrad Adenauer put it in his memoirs: "Stalin was planning the same procedure for West Germany as had been used in Korea." Indeed, the notion of an imminent Soviet march into Western Europe in the 1950s was advanced by many historians, including the then Czech émigré Karel Kaplan in Dans les Archives du Comité Central: Trente ans de secrets du Bloc Sovietique (Michel, 1978). Basing his thesis on an interview with former Czechoslovak Defence Minister Alexej Cepicka, Kaplan claimed that Stalin called upon Eastern Europe's Communist leaders to prepare an invasion of Western Europe at a meeting in Moscow in January 1951.
This interpretation of events has since been challenged by many researchers. Convinced that the Soviet Union was never such a formidable enemy, Czech-born American historian Vojtech Mastny, for example, concluded in The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years (Oxford University Press, 1996) that Stalin feared imminent Western attack in Europe, which he believed would come in the wake of a series of Western defeats in Korea. As a result, Mastny argued that what others viewed as a call to prepare for attack against the West should, in fact, be interpreted as a call to prepare for defence of the East.
New evidence, uncovered in the archives of the former Eastern bloc, appears to add weight to Mastny's arguments. In particular, the transcript of the January 1951 Moscow meeting, drafted by Romanian Armed Forces Minister Emil Bodnaras and recently uncovered in Bucharest, seems to confirm the defensive character of Stalin's intentions, an interpretation that is further supported by the fact that no preparation for an invasion of Western Europe was made at the time. Indeed, well into the 1950s, all Europe's Communist armies concentrated on territorial defence. From the Czechoslovak archives, for example, we know that although military exercises did occasionally include offensive operations, they almost never took place outside Czechoslovakia. In the few cases when forays into foreign territory were envisioned, it was only in the framework of a successful counter-attack.
The 1964 Czechoslovak war plan
If evidence from the Czechoslovak archives is circumstantial, documents recently found in Poland offer more conclusive proof of the defensive thinking of the Eastern bloc at the time. Drafted when Poland's defence minister was the Soviet Marshall Konstantin Rokossovskij, the Polish Army's 1951 war plan was clearly based on the assumption that Western military invasion was inevitable and therefore focuses on defensive actions to be taken on Polish territory. Haunted by the memory of Nazi Germany's surprise invasion in 1941, Eastern military strategists could not envisage the next war in any terms other than one beginning with a Western attack. Paradoxically, therefore, at a time when Western decisionmakers were obsessed with the Soviet threat, Eastern military planners sought nothing more than to contain what they saw as imminent Western invasion.
If Soviet intentions in the early 1950s now seem less ambitious than once believed, does this vindicate those who questioned the need for Western efforts through NATO to prevent what was thought to be an imminent Soviet attack? To make such a judgement, it is important to take several additional factors into consideration. Firstly, what we know today is not what Western leaders knew at the time. Secondly, although we now know that Stalin did not wish to repeat the Korean experience in Europe, it is not clear whether his attitude would have been the same had NATO not existed. In fact, his decision to give the goahead for the attack on South Korea in the summer of 1950 was probably based on a misreading of the likely US reaction, after then US Secretary of State Dean Acheson had publicly excluded the Korean peninsula from the US security sphere. When the United States intervened in Korea, Stalin could be almost sure that it would also honour its obligations under the Washington Treaty in Europe. If, therefore, NATO's existence failed to deter a communist attack on Korea, it was, nevertheless, indispensable as an insurance policy for the West in its aftermath.
The shift from defensive to offensive thinking in the Warsaw Pact seems, ironically, to have taken place in the period that has traditionally been viewed as a time of improving East-West relations after of Stalin's death. This transformation was closely connected with a reassessment of the role of nuclear arms. Although Stalin was eager to acquire nuclear weapons, he did not consider them a critical, strategic factor because of, among other reasons, their small number. In the wake of Stalin's death, Soviet strategists began to discuss the implications of nuclear war, at a time when nuclear weapons already formed the cornerstone of NATO's doctrine of massive retaliation. In this way, nuclear weapons were belatedly included in the strategic plans of Eastern European armies in the mid-1950s. This discussion and its results are brilliantly described by Herbert Dinerstein in War and the Soviet Union: Nuclear Weapons and the Revolution in Soviet Military and Political Thinking (Praeger, 1959) and Raymond Garthoff in Soviet Strategy in the Nuclear Age (Praeger, 1958).
As these and other authors have pointed out, there were fundamental differences in the understanding of nuclear conflict and its potential consequences in East and West. According to Soviet military planners of the time, nuclear weapons would determine the speed of war, but not its entire character. Since nuclear arms considerably shortened the stages of war, Soviet strategists argued, it would be necessary to try to gain the initiative with a powerful, preemptive nuclear and conventional strike. Whereas Western planners never envisaged actions beyond the initial, massive nuclear clash - as can be seen in Gregory Pedlow's edited NATO Strategy Documents: 1949-1969 (NATO, 1997) - Soviet strategists assumed that their massive strike would prepare the way for a ground offensive. Persuaded of the possibility of winning a nuclear war, Eastern-bloc operational plans viewed such a conflict as a realistic scenario, thereby downgrading any Western deterrent and making war perilously more realistic as a prospect.
This crude military thinking can also be seen in a plan which I uncovered in the military archives in Prague, whose details can be found on the Parallel History of NATO and the Warsaw Pact web site and will be analysed in a forthcoming issue of International Cold War History Bulletin. According to this document, which dates from 1964, the then Czechoslovak and Soviet military planners anticipated advancing into France within a few days of the outbreak of a war, capturing Lyon on the ninth day and turning Western Europe into a nuclear inferno.
The 1964 Czechoslovak war plan ignored the possibility of a non-nuclear war in Europe and assumed that the war would start with a massive nuclear strike by the West. Drawn up in the period of détente after the conclusion of the first arms-control agreement, the 1963 Test-Ban Treaty, it shows that the Soviet leaders at this time remained wedded to Leninist notions of an aggressive Western bloc, views that were harboured by Soviet leaders and their Eastern European allies well into the 1980s. The plan is something of a revelation, since it appears that the US doctrine - adopted by NATO in 1967 - of flexible response, which sought to enhance the credibility of deterrence by limiting conflict to a supposedly manageable level, failed to discourage the Soviets from harbouring notions of winning a nuclear war. Moreover, it indicates that the Soviets had no illusions about the possibility of fighting either a conventional or a limited nuclear war.
Although US nuclear superiority failed to discourage Soviet leaders from indulging in nuclear brinkmanship during the two major crises of the Cold war - over Berlin in 1961 and Cuba in 1962 - the deterrent effect of Western nuclear weapons has generally been taken for granted. However, as John Mueller suggests in Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (Basic Books, 1989), Western reliance on nuclear deterrence seems to have been neither the only conceivable, nor even the most reliable way of preventing the outbreak of a Third World War. Indeed, according to documents uncovered through the Parallel History project, it even seems that, in the last decade of the Cold War, the Soviets were less concerned about the precise numbers of nuclear weapons on both sides and increasingly worried that they were falling behind in conventional weaponry - especially in the field of high-tech, high-precision weapons - where they had once held an undisputed advantage. Although the debate on the effect of Western deterrence on the Soviets remains inconclusive, the West's conventional weapons and a clear willingness to use them appear to have been at least as effective a deterrent as the threat of nuclear Armageddon.
Is it fair to say that the Eastern bloc collapsed under the weight of its own failures and that the West only played a marginal role in its demise? Or was the West, and more specifically NATO, critical to this event? The answer may be rather subtle. As Mastny argues in his superbly researched Learning from the Enemy: NATO as a Model for the Warsaw Pact (Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktforschung, Nr. 58, 2001), NATO was not only an adversary but, in many ways, a model of how to address the perennial crisis of the Warsaw Pact. However, as Mastny illustrates, the various attempts to emulate NATO in the end deepened that crisis.
The difference between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was as obvious as it was crucial. NATO was created at the request of Western European governments and, in spite of the undisputed leadership of the United States, it was a community of equals. By contrast, the Warsaw Pact was a creation of the Soviet Union in which the other members initially had minimal influence. Indeed, when Nikita Khrushchev created the Warsaw Pact in 1955, allegedly in response to the entry of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO, the decision to do so was above all a tactical ploy. By proposing the simultaneous disbanding of both alliances, Khrushchev believed that he could get rid of NATO, while maintaining a system of bilateral defence agreements with Eastern European nations.
Nevertheless, once the Warsaw Pact came into existence, Soviet leaders found it increasingly difficult to resist attempts by Eastern European allies to turn it into a genuine alliance, not unlike NATO. When initial reform efforts failed to generate any tangible results, the inability of the Soviets to accord their allies a more equal status undermined enthusiasm among some Eastern European allies for the newly created alliance. Increasingly, the Soviet Union's Eastern European allies found themselves in a situation in which they were obliged to share the risks involved in Soviet ventures without having a say in managing them. In this way, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, we now know that Bucharest secretly let it be known to Washington that Romania intended to remain neutral in the event of a nuclear conflict.
While reluctant to give the Eastern European allies more say than necessary, Mastny writes, the Soviets realised the necessity of giving the allies a sense of belonging in the wake of growing Romanian dissent and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The results of this ongoing reform were, however, mixed. While trying to satisfy the allies' desire for a more equal alliance, it rapidly became apparent that the Soviets would not be able to give them what they really wanted, namely similar consultation to that which the Western European nations secured through NATO. On the other hand, the Soviets did succeed in educating a Moscow-loyal officer corps by forging a more equal relationship with military establishments in various Eastern European countries. This saved them, for example, from having to invade Poland in the early 1980s, where the immediate crisis was temporarily resolved by the military coup of General Wojciech Jaruzelski. When, however, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, tried to breathe new life into the Eastern bloc, his hope of marrying a Western-style alliance of equals with a revamped Soviet system only exacerbated the crisis of the Warsaw Pact and hastened its demise.
Persons With Severe Mental Illness in Jails and Prisons: A Review
OBJECTIVE: The presence of severely mentally ill persons in jails and prisons is an urgent problem. This review examines this problem and makes recommendations for preventing and alleviating it. METHODS: MEDLINE, Psychological Abstracts, and the Index to Legal Periodicals and Books were searched from 1970, and all pertinent references were obtained. Results and CONCLUSIONS: Clinical studies suggest that 6 to 15 percent of persons in city and county jails and 10 to 15 percent of persons in state prisons have severe mental illness. Offenders with severe mental illness generally have acute and chronic mental illness and poor functioning. A large proportion are homeless. It appears that a greater proportion of mentally ill persons are arrested compared with the general population. Factors cited as causes of mentally ill persons' being placed in the criminal justice system are deinstitutionalization, more rigid criteria for civil commitment, lack of adequate community support for persons with mental illness, mentally ill offenders' difficulty gaining access to community treatment, and the attitudes of police officers and society. Recommendations include mental health consultation to police in the field formal training of police officers careful screening of incoming jail detainees diversion to the mental health system of mentally ill persons who have committed minor offenses assertive case management and various social control interventions, such as outpatient commitment, court-ordered treatment, psychiatric conservatorship, and 24-hour structured care involvement of and support for families and provision of appropriate mental health treatment.
Review: Volume 49 - History
Michael Rhle ( 1 ) reviews some of the best and the worst recent literature on the Alliance.
Monographs on the post-Cold War Atlantic Alliance are a challenging task. They attempt to pin down a moving target. However, compared to edited volumes, which often are just hastily assembled conference papers of uneven length and quality, monographs should at least offer consistency and clarity of argument. With only one author in charge, the problem of too many cooks should not arise.
But what if the cook has no recipe? Such is the case with the monograph by Peter Duignan, a scholar at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. His NATO: Its Past, Present, and Future (Hoover Institution Press, 2000) brings to mind the immortal words of Ambrose Bierce: "The covers of this book are too far apart." Indeed, the covers of Duignan's 150-page book are too far apart by about 150 pages. Already as early as page 9, we learn that NATO's famous Lisbon force goals of 1952 were apparently agreed in Boston. We learn that: "The NATO powers agreed on enlargement in 1998" (page 61), apparently one year after the 1997 Madrid Summit. The 1945 "Yalta sell-out" has been moved to 1946 (page 71). A map on page 78 dates NATO's creation three years ahead of its time, to 1946, and we also learn that Slovenia, Romania and Austria are likely to be the next members in an alleged "2003 tranche" (pages 115 and 118).
In discussing NATO's post-Cold War adaptation Duignan displays appallingly poor knowledge. For example, based on sources from 1990 (!) he opines that the WEU will have an expanded role to play in European security blissfully unaware that the WEU has, to all intents and purposes, been dismantled. He also seems to believe that ESDI is an institution rather than a policy. And so he offers some sweeping policy advice: "The WEU, therefore, should be encouraged to take on more of NATO's responsibilities and to work with the ESDI for a Europe-wide defense system backed up by NATO. Let the WEU, the Anglo-French "Euro force", OSCE, and ESDI handle most of the peacekeeping and conflict resolution functions of NATO in Europe. Activities outside Europe should also be shared if the EU wants to participate" (page 119).
This travesty continues across the entire spectrum of NATO's activities. Perhaps the author may be forgiven for not knowing exactly what NATO's Combined Joint Task Forces Concept (CJTF) is. Yet, to mistake CJTF for the (worldwide) US Military Assistance Program requires a special effort in getting things wrong. The same holds true for turning the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council into the "NATO Russia Forum", or for his claim that the Soviets were hiding SS-20 intermediate-range nuclear missiles in East Germany. His discussion of NATO's Balkan engagement does not fare better: Ibrahim Rugova, a symbol of Kosovo's peaceful road to independence if ever there was one, would surely be surprised to learn that he was in favour of Kosovo's autonomy within Yugoslavia.
In getting all his facts wrong, Duignan shows at least some consistency. In his political judgements, however, not even a modicum of consistency remains. While Duignan takes NATO enlargement critics to task and argues that enlargement was the right thing to do, he changes his mind later in the book, warning the reader that "diluting" NATO with more members might jeopardise its decisionmaking process (page 115). In a similar vein, he argues that Lord Ismay's famous characterisation of NATO as an instrument to "keep the Germans down" was still applicable today, yet as the book proceeds, he again changes his mind, arguing that "leadership of NATO . should pass from the Americans to the Europeans early in the twentyfirst century" and that "Germany is a logical choice to take over from the United States" (page 119).
This intellectual rollercoaster is further aggravated by the absence of a structure (for example, the Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society is discussed under the heading of NATO enlargement). Instead, the narrative flip-flops between the past and the present, between facts cobbled together from the NATO Handbook and personal musings, all of it carrying the ring of someone who doesn't really know what he wants to say. Indeed, "say" is the appropriate word here, because much of the book reads like it was spoken straight into a dictaphone.
Bad books are legion, and yet there is a sense of tragedy here. After all, Duignan is a pro-NATO Atlanticist. Apparently, he wanted to write a defence of the US engagement in Europe. That he failed so spectacularly in crusading for such a laudable cause is saddening.
That the case for NATO's undiminished relevance can indeed be cogently argued is demonstrated by David Yost's NATO Transformed (United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998). Although published nearly three years ago, i.e. before the Kosovo air campaign, it still ranks among the finest monographs on the subject. Painstakingly researched, Yost's book takes the reader through NATO's Cold War history before examining NATO's post-Cold War adaptation an adaptation marked by a shift from collective defence only towards a mix of collective defence and collective security.
Yost leaves no doubt as to where he sees trouble brewing. He is concerned that NATO's venturing into collective security might risk undermining both the capabilities as well as the cohesion needed to provide for its core function of collective defence. Hence, his rather elaborate treatment of the idea of collective security and its pitfalls. Indeed, given the difficulties of sustaining NATO's current military engagement in the Balkans, Yost's warnings are to be taken seriously.
The well-known difficulties of NATO's Kosovo campaign may even add more credibility to Yost's warnings about NATO embarking on the slippery slope towards over-extension. Still, is it really so important to achieve conceptual clarity as to what NATO "is"? Should we not be more concerned with what NATO "does" and does right? Collective defence may be a less challenging concept than collective security, but can NATO really afford to fiddle while the Balkans are burning? Indeed, Yost himself acknowledges that the Allies have little choice but to follow a dual strategy of pursuing collective security aspirations to the extent that this is feasible and prudent, while maintaining their collective defence posture and orientation. Thus, one cannot help but suspect that his lengthy treatment of collective security may be something of a straw man. However, Yost employs it in such an effective and enlightening manner that it is highly worthwhile. Those not deterred by the book's hefty 430 pages will learn more about the NATO of today than from any other book on the subject.
One of the victims of NATO's Kosovo campaign was the Alliance's 50th anniversary. The Balkan tragedy that unfolded in spring 1999 did not leave much time for reflection on NATO's first half-century. That the Alliance ultimately prevailed in Kosovo was certainly worth the cancellation of this or that commemorative event. For those who are nevertheless interested in NATO's history, Lawrence S. Kaplan's The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years (Praeger, 1999), will be a treasure chest. (Bookcover) It is not a monograph, but a collection of 12 essays written over almost two decades. Yet it remains highly consistent, and the few inevitable overlaps and repetitions do not matter much.
Kaplan is a historian. The reader should therefore not expect too much on NATO's present or future. Indeed, whenever Kaplan tackles current issues he becomes vague and evasive. Moreover, as the title implies, Kaplan's focus is very much on US foreign policy. But none of this diminishes the value of this collection. Indeed, his focus on the past is a healthy antidote to those "experts" who believe that the world began with the end of the Cold War in 1989. Kaplan also proves wrong those who believe that history must always be boring. For example, his essay NATO: A Counterfactual History offers a thought-provoking speculation about the path Europe might have taken had NATO never been created. Even if the reader may not always agree with Kaplan's extrapolations of "what would have happened if . ", this chapter alone is worth the price of the entire book.
Yost and Kaplan offer good, solid writing on NATO and transatlantic relations. But these are books for the NATO aficionado, not for the average reader. The NATO "primer" has yet to be written. The student of international relations who is looking for a readable monograph of modest length still has to wait.
Review: Volume 49 - History
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7.5. METABOLISM OF GINGER
Although ginger is one of the most widely consumed spices in the world, not a great deal is known regarding its metabolism or metabolites. Evaluating the bioactivity of ginger is necessary for completely understanding its mechanism of action and potential therapeutic effects. Although many food-derived supplements are consumed today with little knowledge of their activity or safety, more attention is beginning to be given to addressing these issues. The most well-studied bioactive component of ginger is probably -gingerol (Surh et al. 1999). The careful isolation of several metabolites of -gingerol following its oral administration (50 mg/kg) to rats was reported (Nakazawa and Ohsawa 2002). A primary metabolite, (S)--gingerol-4′-0-β-glucuronide, was detected in the bile and several minor metabolites were found in β-glucuronidase-treated urine, suggesting that -gingerol undergoes conjugation and oxidation of its phenolic side chain (Nakazawa and Ohsawa 2002). Gingerol is rapidly cleared from rat plasma following intravenous administration (3 mg/kg Ding et al. 1991), and it was reported to be metabolized enzymatically in a stereospecific reduction to gingerdiol (Surh and Lee 1994).
A method has been developed for the simultaneous quantification of -, -, and -gingerol and -shogaol in rat plasma in pharmacokinetic studies after oral administration of ginger oleoresin (Wang et al. 2009b). The investigators were able to identify a glucuronide of -gingerol after hydrolysis of β-glucuronidase, and the intestinal glucuronidation was further confirmed by comparing plasma samples of hepatic portal vein and femoral vein (Wang et al. 2009b). This method was also used to obtain pharmacokinetics, tissue distribution, and excretion studies of 6-gingerol after oral or intraperitoneal administration in rats (Wang et al. 2009a). In a study in which a ginger extract (approximately 53% -gingerol) was administered to rats by oral ingestion, -gingerol was absorbed rapidly into the plasma, with a maximal concentration (4.23 μg/mL) being reached after 10 minutes (Jiang, Wang, and Mi 2008). The -gingerol was distributed to various tissues and the most concentration was found in the gastrointestinal tract. Peak concentrations of -gingerol were reached in most tissues at about 30 minutes, and the concentration in tissues was higher than that in plasma (Jiang, Wang, and Mi 2008).
At least one clinical trial focused on the pharmacokinetics of -, -, and -gingerols and -shogaol along with their respective conjugate metabolites (Zick et al. 2008). In this case, human volunteers were given ginger at doses ranging from 100 mg to 2 g and blood samples were taken at 15 minutes to 72 hours after a single oral dose. Results indicated that the free forms of -, -, and -gingerols or -shogaol were not detectable, whereas the respective glucuronide of each compound was detected, suggesting that these ginger components are readily absorbed after oral consumption and can be detected as glucuronide conjugates (Zick et al. 2008). Although progress in determining the active components and metabolites of ginger and understanding their pharmacokinetics has been made, more work is clearly needed.
Review: Volume 49 - History
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Oceanography and Marine Biology : An Annual Review
Increasing interest in oceanography and marine biology and its relevance to global environmental issues continues to create a demand for authoritative reviews summarizing recent research. Now in its 49th volume, Oceanography and Marine Biology has addressed this demand for almost 50 years. This annual review considers the basics of marine research, special topics, and emerging new areas. Regarding the marine sciences as a unified field, the text features contributors who are actively engaged in biological, chemical, geological, and physical aspects of marine science. This year’s chapters include, "The marine invasive alien species in European Seas that have the most impact," "Threats to the diversity of coral-dwelling invertebrates due to climate change and induced coral bleaching," and "Burrowing shrimps as ecosystem engineers," among others. Including color inserts and extensive reference lists, this series is essential for researchers and students in all fields of marine science.
Broken Signposts: A Review of N. T. Wright’s History and Eschatology
N. T. Wright. History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2019).
N. T. Wright is the first biblical scholar since James Barr and Rudolf Bultmann, in 1991 and 1955, respectively, to receive a prestigious invitation to present a Gifford lecture. The lecture series was launched in 1888 to sustain a conversation about the possibility and character of natural theology. Wright gave his lectures in 2018 at the University of Aberdeen under the title “Discerning the Dawn: History, Eschatology, and New Creation.” 1
The lectures were adapted into this book, History and Eschatology, in which Wright makes two main arguments. He contends that we see the presence of God in the world in such things as beauty, justice, and human relationships, however compromised our human experience of such things is. In these “broken signposts,” we see hints of God’s glory that will be restored, and these hints of glory offer places for followers of Jesus to engage in the world (chapter 7). Wright’s vision for how we are called to engage comes from his understanding of Christian eschatology—the end plan of God. According to Wright, God’s plan for the creation has been inaugurated in time and space through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that plan now waits for full redemption. He uses this sense of eschatology to suggest new loci for natural theology, and he charts this eschatological vision primarily in chapters 5, 7, and 8.
The book is also an argument for a new vision of what natural theology might be, and this is a vision rooted in history. The Gifford website defines natural theology as “the attempt to prove the existence of God and divine purpose through observation of nature and the use of human reason. Seen in a more positive light natural theology is the part of theology that does not depend on revelation.” 2 All these terms receive consideration as Wright unfolds his argument. He contends that the life of a historical (natural) person, Jesus of Nazareth, who can be investigated using historical methods (human reason), has much to contribute to an understanding of God (existence and divine purpose). Thus, the life of Jesus ought not to be excluded from the task of natural theology (because this historical work does not depend on revelation). He wants “to relocate Jesus and the New Testament within the real first-century world without sacrificing their theological relevance” (xvi). We might think of his argument for doing natural theology as his attempt to restore the life of Jesus as a signpost for natural theology. This is the work of chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4.
An astute reader should now wonder how chapter 6 fits into the picture. Wright promises to show in this chapter that “with Jesus’ resurrection (a strange event, to be sure, within the present world but the foundational and paradigmatic event within the new creation) a new ontology and appropriate epistemology are unveiled” (xvii). The question for the reader is whether—and how!—all these parts are held together.
Wright’s arguments move through four sections, each with two chapters. The first section traces the history of natural theology in general and then considers its implications for the historical study of Gospel texts. Chapter 1 starts with Joseph Butler and other writers of the early 1700s who accepted that “the world of creation and the world of scripture belonged closely together” (4). Wright suggests that the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 in combination with other events changed that optimistic assumption, and Deism was displaced by Epicureanism. Because the label Epicurean carries a lot of freight throughout the book, it is worth noting Wright’s definition: “the key point at issue is the great gulf separating [the gods] from us, together with the apparent randomness of the world and the non-intervention of divine forces” (21). Two characteristics, however, distinguish the eighteenth-century version from the ancient version: a confidence in human progress, co-opted from a Jewish and Christian sense of divine purpose (23), and a Platonic response by Christians who wanted to hold onto belief in a god within this framework (29). 3
Chapter 2 looks at the implications of this modern Epicureanism for the study of the life of Jesus, focusing on D. F. Strauss, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, and Ernst Käsemann. In particular, Wright shows how the historical context of these shaped their understanding of Jesus and his first-century world. He especially attends to eschatology and the way their proposed frameworks anticipated transformation of the world. Wright’s point is that within an Epicurean frame, eschatology is a difficult task, imagined by Schweitzer as the end of the world and by Bultmann as an existential experience and then, in both cases, read back into the life and teachings of Jesus. As a conclusion, Wright calls for better historical work so that the life of Jesus is not located as much in the twentieth century as in the first.
In the second section, Wright turns to describing the task of the historian by defining two terms that speak about the transformation of the world: eschatology and apocalyptic. In many ways, the burden of demonstrating that historical research can contribute to natural theology is a methodological question, and chapter 3, on historical method, is the longest chapter in the book. Wright defines history as collecting facts about past events and arranging them into patterns that make sense to us (78). The word history is confusing because it can refer to any of the events themselves, the narrative about those events, the task of narration, and the meaning of the events (86). He admits that historical conclusions work with a “balance of probabilities,” but he suggests that this is like any other scientific endeavor (88). Wright’s conclusion is that Bultmann “has very little to contribute on genuine historical method” (93). Rather, Wright proposes critical realism as an approach that offers methodological control. Critical realism can function this way because it gives close attention to the data and proceeds by hypothesis and verification. It differs from the hard sciences in that history is not repeatable, and it includes the study of human motivations, but it is a rational public endeavor like other sciences (96). This historical work also calls for use of a sympathetic imagination, what Wright calls an epistemology of love (97). 4 Thus Wright concludes, “The historical task, investigating historical events in the natural world, is actually a close cousin of the hard sciences which investigate objects and organisms in the same natural world” (101). In Wright’s view, all these characteristics commend historical work as the foundational task of theology, and they lay the groundwork for describing more accurately the cosmology and eschatology from the first century.
At the end of this long chapter, Wright speaks against historicism, defining it as the view that history is somehow determinative such views are used to promote grand schemes in a way that fosters particular actions in current affairs. True historical research counters historicism: “Commitment to the historical task obliges us to make a determined effort to reframe our great theological questions in terms of the actual life of first-century Palestinian Jews” (126). This is a strong claim: he is arguing that because the texts of an ancient time are authoritative for our theological questions, the historian is a guide for the theological enterprise. 5
Chapter 4 is simpler: Wright aims to provide a historical picture of first-century eschatology (129). He makes his case for an inaugurated eschatology that anticipates a final day, a now-and-not-yet perspective (132, 147). This is in contrast to the various ways eschatology and apocalyptic have been used in twentieth-century discussions by other New Testament scholars who didn’t get the history right, finding in the New Testament documents an expectation of an imminent end to the world or apologies for the delay of such an event. And it contrasts those whose understanding of apocalyptic sees no lines of continuity with our present life. In Wright’s view, the crucifixion is to be understood as a royal enthronement, inaugurating a kingdom that redefines power and politics (147) and anticipating a future consummation of all things (150).
The third section lays a foundation for Wright’s positive contribution to the question of natural theology. Chapter 5 describes Wright’s understanding of the first-century worldview, particularly its cosmology, eschatology, and view of the human condition. Underlying these details is his conviction that “Second Temple Jews assumed that heaven and earth were intended to overlap and did in fact overlap in several contexts” (159). The temple was “the place on earth where you would find yourself in heaven,” an indicator of Jewish cosmology (166). The Sabbath was, and here Wright uses the words of Jon Levenson, “a weekly celebration of the creation of the world, the uncontestable enthronement of its creator, and the portentous commission of humanity to be the obedient stewards of creation,” an indicator of eschatology (168). 6 Human vocation is “the summons to glimpse the new creation and, on that basis, to discern and respond to the meaning in the old rather than retreating from it or letting it go to wrack and ruin” (174). Wright acknowledges that this may not have been the vision of all Jewish people at this time, but he notes that such a worldview clashes with Epicureanism of an ancient or modern variety (169, 174). The chapter concludes by noting that this is the worldview of the earliest Christians and that it helped them to make sense of the resurrection. If we do not find this viewpoint in later centuries, it was not “so much rejected . . . as simply not grasped” (183).
In chapter 6, Wright turns to describing an epistemology that he argues will offer new loci for natural theology based on his restatement of cosmology and eschatology and that will replace the Epicureanism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He calls this “an epistemology of love” (205). He begins by arguing that the best explanation for the actions of the first disciples is that they “really did believe that Jesus was bodily alive again—albeit in a new body which seemed to possess properties for which they were quite unprepared—and that easily the best explanation for this is that they were right” (197). Furthermore, this bodily resurrection made sense, in retrospect, of many of the teachings and hopes of Israel, including the hope for the renewal of the creation. Jesus’s bodily resurrection also required some modifications to these teachings, namely to the expectations of the end, to the role of the temple, and to the identity of the image-bearer: “Jesus’ resurrection, by unveiling the creator’s rescuing and transformative love for the whole creation, opens up the space and time for a new holistic mode of knowing, a knowing which includes historical knowledge of the real world by framing it within the loving gratitude which answers the creator’s own sovereign love” (205).
The last section of the book develops Wright’s positive vision of this kind of natural theology as he explores how this approach could be understood as natural theology. In chapter 7, he identifies seven loci where human beings see glimpses of the divine: justice, beauty, freedom, truth, power, spirituality, and relationships. He argues that these are present in “different societies and times . . . . as inarticulate aspirations and impulsions” (224). He suggests we think of them as signposts indicating what humans should do in the world, signposts of our human vocation. Not only do people have an imagination for these aspirations they recognize when these values are transgressed or compromised. The signposts are broken. We might say that people know the Good and know when the Good is crucified. And so natural human experience points toward the central event of Christian faith, calling for its interpretation in light of the revelation of God—functioning in the way that one might expect in a natural theology.
In chapter 8 Wright returns to the question of doing natural theology, but now “in the wider, new-creational sense” (253). He proposes that natural theology is best done not by imagining “the final moment when God will be ‘all in all’” (258) but by providing an explanation for “how the larger picture fits together and makes sense” (261). Natural theology in this key is less an apologetic and more a participation in the mission of God, the redemption of the created world. He ends the book by pointing to several practical contexts in which this could happen: healing and justice, the arts, the sciences, politics, and theology. His final vision is expansive and inviting: “The ultimate reality in the world is the self-giving God revealed in Jesus. It will invite us to enter into the larger public world opened at Easter. It will enable us to know him with, once more, the knowledge whose depth is love. That is how history and eschatology come together at last. That is how the true story of Jesus opens up the promise of a genuine, if radically redefined, ‘natural theology’” (277).
There is much to commend in this book, including Wright’s mettle in taking on such a task. It is one thing to make a proposal within an ongoing conversation it is another, more difficult thing to challenge the categories of that conversation and to propose new methods and goals for its success. Reimagining a discipline is not a task for the faint of heart. It is not a small thing to hope that “a Christian apologetic . . . might begin in the world of space, time and matter and end by speaking of the one true God” (74). And toward this hope, Wright makes a strong argument that the modern framework of natural and supernatural is counterproductive for the task of natural theology, that a cosmology where heaven and earth overlap offers a more fruitful framework. The fruit of that argument is his vision for what the church might do in our time and space. In a world where the church often retreats from or tries to co-opt the structures of society, it is encouraging to hear a robust call to participate in the arts and politics. There is hope and life in an expectation that God is present to heal relationships. And one can act with more confident faith if the current varieties of spirituality are viewed as broken signposts a signpost can be an invitation for movement rather than a blockaded avenue.
But in the end, I find two aspects of his historical method—which he makes foundational—troubling. The first can best be described using his definition of the historical task: collecting facts about past events and arranging them into patterns. There are few who can match Wright’s capacity for collecting historical facts about past events, whether that’s from the first century or the nineteenth. He draws from literature and poetry, from technical volumes and hymns. And he works hard to contextualize these facts—recognizing that events such as revolutions and wars influence ideas and distinguishing, for example, between the reception of ideas in Germany and Britain (e.g., 15–22, 88, 113). The development of various ideas is treated with nuance and detail.
But this is not always the case. At times, Wright creates and labels patterns that are then treated as actual rather than heuristic frameworks. The most troubling example is his use of the label Epicureanism. He may be right that there are some affinities between the cosmology of nineteenth and twentieth German theology and ancient Epicureanism. The one, however, is not the same as the other, as even he notes by introducing codicils about progress and Platonizing. So what is gained by characterizing modern thinking in this reductive way? I suggest that the label functions primarily to reduce the disjunction between the integrated cosmology that he is arguing for and the split cosmology that he is arguing against. If the split cosmology is also an ancient model, these are just two ways of looking at the world, so he can say, “Our modern assumption of a split world does not mean that we understand cosmology and they didn’t—much the same way as, just because we’ve invented mechanical clocks, we mustn’t assume that we understand time and the ancients didn’t” (159). But I suggest that having clocks means we understand time quite differently than the ancients did. The ancients undoubtedly thought about time—but having the capacity for precision that comes with clocks has certainly changed how we engage ideas of time. In general, I think Wright underestimates the degree to which the categories in which we think about things actually change the way we perceive the thing itself. 7
The same reductive tendency is apparent in his analysis of the ancient world. As important as the temple and the Sabbath undoubtedly were in ancient Jewish life, they are symbols of a pattern that Wright developed. Other patterns are possible—ones that give prominence to other data, like food laws and table fellowship or circumcision and ethnic identity. He is right to note that politics and religion were framed differently in the ancient world, but to reduce the ancient worldview to two variables is reductive of that world. Even Wright admits that his proposal is not representative of all Jews at the time—so we need to recognize that it is not the data but the historian that makes them significant variables. In the final analysis, heuristic frameworks are created by historians they exist in the mind of the historians, not in the world they are describing. A framework can be debated publicly, but it is always derivative of the data and requires selection and prioritization.
That leads to my second concern. In Wright’s schema, the one who saves us all from bad theology is the historian. I don’t see such prominence in the history of the church for this gift, and his occasional comments suggest that he doesn’t either. Rather, it seems likely that in an age which values history—such as our own—historians come into their own as the champions of what is valued at this time. The modern valuing of history called modern historical biblical work into being. This is not a criticism of this state of affairs but a recognition of the degree to which our age shapes how we think and what we value. This is exactly what Wright argues with respect to Schweitzer, Bultmann, and Käsemann. We may publicly debate how to do history, but even such a debate is a sign of our times.
Without question, Wright is right that we have struggled in the modern age to understand how the divine is present with us and that modern cosmology has thwarted the ways we might imagine God’s presence. And much of his analysis of the ways our split cosmology has thwarted our thinking is worth considering. As well, his vision of how we might think about God’s presence in more fruitful and life-giving ways is to be welcomed. Even if you don’t care about his attempt to ground his eschatological vision of Christian life in history, chapter 7 is worth the read. But I do not think an epistemology of love is based on the sure results of history. The results of the historical task remain heuristic, not actual, and the historical task is significant because our age deems it so. Early in the book Wright asks, “how to stop both questions (history and eschatology) being fatally distorted by the pressures of the surrounding culture” (31). Instead, I think we need to reframe the problem as how we should answer these questions faithfully given that the pressures of the surrounding culture are a necessary part of our way of answering them.
- To find Wright’s lecture and others, visit “Lectures,” Gifford Lectures, https://www.giffordlectures.org/lectures.
- “What Is Natural Theology?,” John Templeton Foundation, Gifford Lectures, https://www.giffordlectures.org/overview/natural-theology, italics mine.
- Wright summarizes his historical overview as “the resurgence of Epicureanism” modified by “postulating a pantheistic ‘progress’” or “finding a Platonic escape route” (39).
- He will describe this as “neither appraisal nor assimilation: neither detachment nor desire, neither positivist objectivity nor subjective projection” (103).
- This reminds me of the hopes of Johann Philipp Gabler, “An Oration on the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each” (1787), translated in John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge, “J .P. Gabler and the Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality” Scottish Journal of Theology 33, no. 2 (April 1980): 133–58.
- Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil (Harper and Row, 1994), 120.
- This is perhaps to underestimate the nominalism of William of Ockham, which Wright notes briefly on page 8. See for example, the argument of Louis Dupré that modernity represents an essential distinction from what came before, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
UIC John Marshall Law Review
In Part I, this comment will discuss the different types of intellectual property issues that can arise on social media websites. Part II will then discuss the three actions currently available to an infringed owner attempting to protect its intellectual property rights. Part III will discuss the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), a successful mechanism for resolving domain name disputes online. Finally, Part IV will discuss the possible creation of a USRP, which will be modeled after the UDRP, in which a private third-party arbitrator would resolve intellectual property disputes in the social media arena. This section will debate the viability and desirability of such an option, keeping in mind the need to balance fairness, accuracy in decisions, consistency, cost, and time. This comment will conclude that a USRP, while attainable, is not desirable. Instead, as Part V will discuss, social media websites should play the primary role in regulating social media intellectual property disputes. This comment argues that the best solution to this problem is for social media websites to change their regulations by making their policies more cohesive and coherent, and their takedown requests and decisions more transparent.
Daniel Doft, Facebook, Twitter, and the Wild West of IP Enforcement on Social Media: Weighing the Merits of a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, 49 J. Marshall L. Rev. 959 (2016)
Labour History Review
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