Paul Griffiths’s earlier book, Decreation: The Last Things of All Creatures, was a speculative theological essay about what might be said from within the boundaries set by the Roman Catholic tradition about the eschatological fate of creatures. Christian Flesh, similarly, is a speculative theological essay about what might be said about Christian flesh from within the same boundaries. Griffiths remains rooted in the deepest sources of the Roman Catholic tradition about what it means for Christian flesh to be flesh that is cleaved to Christ, while pushing beyond the boundaries of magisterial teaching in surprising ways.
The panel engages Griffiths’s powerful work from a number of viewpoints and from a number of different ecclesial locations. David Cloutier, who believes that Catholic theology must speak to the whole tradition wonders if Griffiths has pushed his points beyond what the Magisterium permits. Rev. Jason Evans, rooted in an African American Baptist tradition, quires Griffiths’s seeming inattention to the color of Christian flesh. What does it mean to think about the racialization of flesh, both in the present life and in the eschaton? Brandy Daniels, in a vein similar to Evans, asks about what it means for bodies to take transgressive stances in relation to dress, something that Griffiths takes up in his discussion of sartorial marking. While appreciating the space he opens for difference, she notes that different configurations of identity makes transgressing these boundaries carry different levels of risk for different people. She wonders what Griffiths’s theology would look like if it talked not about a “theology of the flesh” but an “enfleshed theology.” From within the Anglican tradition, Scott MacDougall asks if we can truly understand bodies if we look to lost glory of Eden rather than to the transfigured bodies of the eschaton.
The myriad of responses, both appreciative and critical, from such diverse places shows just how provocative and rich Griffiths’s work is.
Paul Griffiths has withdrawn from this symposium and has declined permission to post his replies to the essays below. The panelists, who have agreed to post their essays without Griffiths’s replies, have been encouraged to respond to one another instead. -Sean Larsen