Julian of Norwich, Theologian

Julian of Norwich, Theologian

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Julian of Norwich, Theologian
    Book Description:

    For centuries readers have comfortably accepted Julian of Norwich as simply a mystic. In this astute book, Denys Turner offers a new interpretation of Julian and the significance of her work. Turner argues that this fourteenth-century thinker's sophisticated approach to theological questions places her legitimately within the pantheon of other great medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Bonaventure.

    Julian wrote but one work in two versions, a Short Text recording the series of visions of Jesus Christ she experienced while suffering a near-fatal illness, and a much expanded Long Text exploring the theological meaning of the "showings" some twenty years later. Turner addresses the apparent conflict between the two sources of Julian's theology: on the one hand, her personal revelation of God's omnipotent love, and on the other, the Church's teachings on and her own witnessing of evil in the world that deserves punishment, even eternal punishment. Offering a fresh and elegant account of Julian's response to this conflict-one that reveals its nuances, systematic character, and originality-this book marks a new stage in the century-long rediscovery of one of the English language's greatest theological thinkers.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16468-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  6. PART ONE Providence and Sin
    • CHAPTER ONE Julian the Theologian
      (pp. 3-31)

      In this chapter I set out little in detail of Julian’s substantive theology, attempting but to assemble some preliminary suggestions about what kind of theologian she is. I read her in what follows as always being a systematic theologian, sometimes more explicitly than others an anchoritic theologian, often a vernacular (or, perhaps better) demotic theologian,¹ an apophatic, and, more problematically, a mystical theologian.² Each of these terms of theological taxonomy requires some elucidation with reference to Julian, and I must begin with a word or two in explanation of what I mean in describing her theology as systematic. It is...

    • CHAPTER TWO Clearing the Conceptual Space
      (pp. 32-67)

      When in Genesis 1 God is said to have looked upon his Creation and seen that it was good, we are perhaps inclined to think, in view of the sorry events recounted in Genesis 3, that the divine optimism was a trifle premature. And to some it seems disturbingly so, theologically speaking. For if we had to say that God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, was as responsible for the sinful choice of Adam and Eve or for the existence of the serpent who tempted them as he is for the birds and the bees, then we...

    • CHAPTER THREE Two Stories of Sin
      (pp. 68-100)

      The purpose of the previous chapter was merely to clear the way for the exploration of what are, at the very least, tensions internal to Julian’s theology, tensions to which she herself admits. But before exploring those tensions in the form in which she addresses them within her own text, it seemed necessary first to confront formally the objection that rather than being theologically constructive inducements to deeper reflection, they amount to obstructive inconsistencies and incoherent dead ends such as would subvert any possible case for the systematic character of her theology, or even any value to her work on...

  7. PART TWO Sin and Salvation
    • CHAPTER FOUR The Lord and the Servant
      (pp. 103-134)

      There is a story that tells the record of human sin, and there is the story of that record as sin tells it. The first is real enough, for there are sins enough of which to tell, and they have visited much by way of consequence upon human history. But the second is a bogus theology of history equipped with its own accounts of selfhood and of God, and, as we will see, even with a kind of soteriology all its own. If in the first half of this essay I have sought to explain how Julian responds to an...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Prayer and Providence
      (pp. 135-166)

      Julian is a theologian. But is Julian’sRevelationalso a work of “spirituality”? The question raises another—namely, whether you could envisage a medieval writer composing a work of theology that is not a work of spirituality, or, on the same terms, a work of spirituality that is not a work of theology. The question is real, not merely rhetorical. Bernard McGinn has identified the first use of the wordspiritualitasas early as the fourth century,¹ presumably as designating a way of life lived through the spirit—more or less, in other words, lived Christianity. The question is not...

    • CHAPTER SIX Substance and Sensuality
      (pp. 167-204)

      “I saw him and sought him, and I had him and wanted him.” Two features come most readily to mind as guiding motifs of Julian’s spirituality. The first is trust in a given reality known and possessed, trust in the divine love that, being already fully given, is there for the taking: “I saw him and I had him.” The other is desire for a consummation of that love not yet fully achieved: “I sought him and I wanted him.” What is had and what is sought are one and the same—him. Moreover, these two pairs of terms, “saw”...

  8. CONCLUSION: Julian’s Soteriology
    (pp. 205-218)

    “Sinne is behovely.” Having cleared away some philosophical and theological obstacles blocking the route to understanding what Julian means in this statement, I have opened the path to a more positively theological account of the context of Julian’s teaching about sin. I argued in chapter 2 that the logical force of the Middle English adjective “behovely” lay somewhere between that of the necessary and the contingent, and that sense is made of this theological term of art within the more informal logic of narrative. But as to the substantive truth-claim that in our fallen world sin is behovely—the statement...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 219-258)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 259-262)