Dynamics of Difference

Christianity and Alterity: A Festschrift for Werner G. Jeanrond

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Ulrich Schmiedel, James Matarazzo
Studies in Theology
  • New York, NY: 
    Bloomsbury T&T Clark
    , February
     336 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


In this edited volume of thirty-one articles, the authors, coming from diverse backgrounds, celebrate the work and life of an accomplished scholar-thinker, Werner G. Jeanrond. Known for their tendencies towards “completeness,” the editors of Dynamics of Difference, Christianity and Alterity negate a closure of a conversation. Instead of a finale, the book produces a rupture, announcing the dynamic imagination of the one being celebrated. The inversion of the volume might have some intention to illustrate just some of the ramifications of the concept of religion as relation.

The book is neatly divided into five useful categories that cover the broad bases of Jeanrond’s oeuvre: Biblical Others and Other Bibles, Philosophical Others and Other Philosophies, Theological Others and Other Theologies, Religious Others and Other Religions, and God as Other and the Otherness of God. Not only does each segment implicate a non-binary interpretation of the phenomenon of alterity in relation to a celebration of difference—or its revulsions—but also each complicates Christianity in whatever political, social, or cultural milieu the faith may find its root taking form as being in “a tension” (3). In using Christian theology on love and neighbor as springboard for interrogating alterity, the volume accomplishes a significant feat in comparative sociocultural politics of heritage engagement.

Beginning with biblical characters that illustrate perceptions ranging from assimilation to alterity (Andrew D. H. Mayes), to the intentional ways of becoming “another” (Mary Marshall); ‘good text-bad text’ interpretive foil (Jasper Svartvik); alterity of the letter (Olivier Riaudel); other as neighbor (Arne Grøn); humanizing the other (Dietmar Mieth); valuing the other (Tage Kurtén); love of God (Jeffrey Bloechl); Paul Ricoeur as other (Bengt Kristen Uggla); dialectic dialogue (david Tracy); encounter in philosophy and theology (Matthias Petzoldt); dialogue and theology (Claudia Welz); religion in modernity ( Knut Wenzel); laughing at the other (Ola Sugurdson); emphasis of foreignness (Pierre Buhler); sexual difference (Kari Elisabeth Børresen); the other on the cross (Anne-Louise Eriksson); the other within and without (George Newlands); Augustinian love (Rowan Williams); collective personality (Johannes Zachhuber); ‘thirding as-othering’ (Kjetil Hafstad); empathy and otherness (Catherine Cornille); making room for the other (Karl-Josef Kuschel); related rivals (Susanne Heine); practice of hospitality (Mona Siddiqui); beyond indifference (Christopher Schwöbel); loved by the other (David Fergusson); interruption of love (Lieven Boeve); a study in the unfamiliar (Santha Bhattacharji); and finding the otherness (David Jasper), the volume is an important contribution to theological and philosophical studies because of two reasons: first, it arrives at the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century, when global xenophobia is gaining a strange momentum from the top echelons of political and cultural class, and second, because this volume serves both as a reminder that and warning against the tendencies to construct Christian narratives through monolithic theological lenses. In assembling these chapters by the various scholars, who are, in their own right, accomplished theologians, the editors of this volume embody, touch upon, and address important aspects in the theological and intellectual excavations of Professor Werner G. Jeanrond, the scholar of love.

On the whole, the proposition in Dynamics of Difference, Christianity and Alterity is that love and oneness are interlinked. Yet, the overarching narrative found through the entire collection is one that emphatically rejects the suggestion that there is just one way for the one who loves to handle or manage any ensuing difference that emerges through what is an ineluctably human relational network with the one who is loved as evidenced in conflict and otherness. Consequently, the volume will serve several intellectual constituencies, starting from the acutely academic scholar of theology to those whose curiosities might lead them into the trained maze of philosophical musings.

About the Reviewer(s): 

David Olali is Curator with the Comparative Heritage Project.

Date of Review: 
September 22, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Ulrich Schmiedel is Lecturer in Theology, Politics and Ethics at the University of Edinburgh.

James M. Matarazzo, Jr. is Instructor in Theology at Boston College and Minister of the First Congregational Church, Shrewsbury, MA


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