This list tries to define what Sallie McFague means by a particular words and phrases in her book, Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril (Fortress Press, 2001). 

Abundant life
To understand what Sallie McFague means by ‘the abundant life,’ compare what Irenaeus said in the 3rd century (the glory of God is a human being fully alive) with McFague’s translation (the glory of God is every creature fully alive).

The study of human beings; seeking to understand what humans are, and what they do. (See p. 20f)

The study of Jesus Christ; seeking to understand who Christ is, and what Christ does. (See p. 62f)

Consumerism as religion
Can ‘consumerism’ be a religion?  If a religion, most basically, makes us understand the world and our place in it, then market capitalism and its worldview is not only a religion, but surely one of the most successful on earth.  This worldview is not only the basis for our own lifestyle, but the ideal for the 5 billion who aspire to it.  (See ch 4)

A change in our thinking about God, and a change in our behavior.

The study of the universe; seeking to understand the origin and structure of the universe. (See p. 184f)

Thinking and living differently:  Religions are in the business of envisioning countercultural alternatives on how to live rightly; in fact, that may be one of few things on which they all agree… Likewise, counterculturalism – recognizing that Christian discipleship requires ‘living differently’ and living in a cruciform fashion, in solidarity with and sacrifice for others – is central in Christianity. (See p. 35)

A credo is the thoughtful expression of what I believe most deeply and am prepared to act on.  A Christian credo is the personal embrace of beliefs central to the Christian tradition – not just a matter of personal experience or private revelation.  (See p. 15f)

Cruciform life
Living a cross-shaped life; like Jesus, identifying with the suffering of others. The cruciform life is not primarily what Christ does for us, but what we can do for others in partnership with the Holy Spirit. (See p. 14)

Formation into God’s way of life, trying to follow God’s will in this world (not mystical ascent to another world).  By ‘deification’ McFague is talking about ‘theosis’ – the classic Christian term still retained by Eastern Orthodoxy, meaning ‘the process of coming into union with God.’ (See p. 177f)

Following Christ by working with God for the flourishing of all life on our planet – not just personally following Christ. (See p. 15f)

Distributive justice
The just sharing of material goods (nature’s resources). The allocation of resources [should be] made on the basis on what it takes to achieve a just and sustainable society.  (see p. 105)  To have a sustainable economy, there must be limits to inequality.  Both poverty and excessive wealth destroy nature.  A median lifestyle for all human beings is desirable.  This does not mean that all (or even most) people will have the same income, but that all have the basics to survive and flourish.  (Compare with sustainability)

Ecological theology

A theology that gives glory to God by loving the world; that understands its context to be the well-being of the planet, and its subjects all creatures, human and otherwise. (See p. 33f)

Economic worldviews

The neo-classical economic worldview
pictures our planet as a collection of individuals, all striving to benefit from the world’s natural resources.  In this worldview, the planet operates like a machine, with all its parts externally related to each other.  Human beings dominate the rest of the system, and every human being is motivated by self-interest.  In this worldview, God is creator but mostly absent from the world. The structures of our western society – our assumptions, our institutions and laws – are derived from this worldview. (See p. 71f and ch. 4)

The ecological economic worldview pictures our planet as a community that survives and prospers through the interrelationship of its many parts – human and non-human. In this worldview, the planet operates like an organism, with all its parts internally related to each other.  Human beings are the conscious part of the body.  In this worldview, God is present because the Earth and all its beings exist within God. (see p. 71f and ch. 5)

Hebrew for God-is-with-us  (See p. 157)

God’s house rules
For the world (God’s ‘household’) to function as God intends, humans must live by God’s ‘house rules.’  If we imagine ourselves living in a global household, we will need to become aware of new house rules: take only your share; clean up after yourselves; keep the house in good repair for future occupants.  (See chapter 5)

GDP – Gross Domestic Product
The sum of all financial exchanges within a country (See p. 113f)

HDI – Human Development Index
The United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI).  The HDI does not consider just economic growth (or per capita income) but includes two other indicators as well: life expectancy and education. While the HDI doesn’t take the environment into account, it does suggest that the good life is about the quality of life for all.  (See p. 113f)

God’s ‘Godness’ is manifest in, through, and with the earth and all its creatures; compare with  transcendence.   (See especially ch. 6)

God becomes present in human flesh. (See p. 17f)

Jesusolatry means ‘the worship of Jesus.’  In this Christology the incarnation occurs just once, in Jesus of Nazareth.  The resurrection is also concentrated on Jesus – it is new life given to Jesus, and to us only as we are joined to him.   If God is present only in Jesus and if Jesus does it all, then we do not have to meet God in the face of a starving person or in the remains of a clear-cut forest. (See p. 159f)

Kingdom of God
McFague quotes John Dominic Crossan: “The Kingdom of God … appeared as a shared community of healing and eating – that is to say, of spiritual and physical resources available to each and all without distinctions, discriminations, or hierarchies.  One entered the Kingdom as a way of life, and anyone who could live it could bring it to others.  It was not just words alone, or deeds alone, but both together as life-style…. The Kingdom of God is what the world would be if God were directly and immediately in charge.” (See p. 174, 177) 

Liberation theology
Modern liberation theologies (arising in the second half of the 20th century) call for liberation from social, political, and economic oppression.  Liberation theologies speak from the perspective of the many unheard voices (the poor, women, gays, third-world peoples, ethnic minorities), and expose traditional theology’s universal statements as partial, biased, and often oppressive to others. Liberation theologies have democratized theology as the right and responsibility of every Christian.  (See p. 27f)

God is always present in mediated form, appearing through something or someone else.  (See p.150f)

A model is a framework, a window, a pair of lenses that allows us to speak about things that words can’t fully describe. (See p. 63-64)

Neo-classical worldview
See economic worldviews

Greek for household – the root for ecology, economics, ecumenical (See p. 36)

The world exists in God – each and every one of us, in our distinctiveness, dwells within the divine reality. (See p. 141-2)

The world is God – God is the world. There is no distinction between the world and God.  (See p. 141)

Paradigm shift
A shift in worldview that leads to a new way of living in the world. (See worldview)

Postmodernism, the philosophical culture of the late 20th century, delights in pluralism and difference; it rejects all fixed certainties and universal assertions. Because traditional western theology has rejected diversity and ignored the ways culture forms us and influences our ideas about God, postmodernists often regard theology as empty and even dangerous. (See p. 26f)

Protestant principle
See ‘radical monotheism’

Radical monotheism
God is radically Other – God is God and nothing else is.  (See p. 28f)

Radical relationality
Everything in the world is related to everything else – human beings, animals, plants, the physical world, the air, and the Spirit of God within the world and holding all beings together. (See p. 57f)

Relative absolute
In post-modern theology, there are no ‘absolutes’ but only ‘relative absolute’ – to call a central conviction a ‘relative absolute’ means that it gives unity and coherence to a theology, but in a way that is fluid and open to change.   (See p. 128f and postmodernism)

Revelation is the sort of insight about God and the world that changes your life, the sort of insight that you have to do something about.  Through ordinary experiences we glimpse, now and then, God’s liberating love at work.  What we believe – the content of our faith – is derived from these experiences of revelationRevelation did not stop with the Bible; the Bible is a witness to the revelations of God’s experienced by the first Christians, but revelations continue in new and different circumstances.  As we enlarge our picture of who our neighbors are  (third world peoples, other living creatures, even oceans and forests),  we will begin to experience God’s liberating love in those places as well.

In traditional Christian theology, ‘salvation’ has meant human deliverance from sin and its consequences, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, even in the New Testament the word ‘salvation’ has dimensions other than ‘deliverance,’ and Sallie McFague adds another dimension: Salvation means living in God’s presence, and living appropriately on our planet… by consciously working to help bring about God’s beloved community throughout the earth.’ (See p. 161f)

Centering life in the self,  living contrary to God’s ordering of things.  Sinful living will result in disorder and chaos, and the abundant life will be seen as consisting of material things.  (See p. 21f)

Before anything else, the Earth’s community must be able to survive (sustainability), which it can do only if all members of the household have the use of its resources (distributive justice).  Sustainability can be defined as a community’s control and prudent use of all forms of capital – nature’s capital, human capital, human-created capital, social capital, and cultural capital – to ensure that present and future generations can attain a high degree of economic security and achieve democracy, while maintaining the integrity of the ecological systems upon which all life and production depends. (See p. 106-107)

The defense of God’s goodness and justice in the face of evil.  Over the centuries, theodicy has taken two basic positions: either that the magnificence of the entire world justifies the spots of evil here and there; or that the evil we experience makes us into better persons. (See p. 152)

The study of God; seeking to understand God.  Our personal theologies are deeply held, perhaps unconscious beliefs about God and the world that profoundly influence our actions. Doing theology begins in experience and ends in a conversion to a new way of being in the world.  (See p. xiiif)

God is radically Other than us, completely beyond our world.  God is God and nothing else is. Compare with immanence. (See especially ch. 6)

 Wild space
To the extent that each of us fits into a culture’s picture of a stereotypical human being, we feel at home.  But wherever we don’t fit the picture can become a new lens, a ‘wild space’, through which we can view our culture from a different perspective.  It’s that ‘wild space’ in each of us – whatever doesn’t fit into the stereotype – that questions our culture’s picture of ‘the good life.’  If we can free ourselves, even a little, from the standard picture and allow our ‘wild space’ to emerge, we begin to realize how unjust the picture is: Da Vinci’s man – with arms and legs spread out over the planet – is not related to other humans or to nature, but superimposed over it.  (See p. 48f and footnote 10 on p. 216)

Working theology
A set of deeply held beliefs that actually functions in our personal and public lives. A working theology develops as we move through our lives, reflecting theologically on our experiences. (See p. xii)

The largely unconscious picture of who we are, that is the silent partner in all our behavior and decisions.  These world-pictures or world-views are formed by many factors, one of which is the religious assumptions about human beings that operate implicitly in a culture.  (See p. xi)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *