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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Publication details for Professor Paul D. Murray

Murray, Paul D. (2007). Theology 'under the lash’ theology as idolatry critique in the work of Nicholas Lash. In Idolatry false worship in the Bible, early Judaism, and Christianity. Barton, Stephen C. London: T&T Clark.

Author(s) from Durham


‘It has, in these postmodern times, become a little easier to win a hearing for the suggestion that Ideologiekritik is always, in the last analysis, critique of idolatry.’

‘[T]he critical dimension of the theological task is to be sought in the direction of the critique of idolatry – the stripping away of the veils of self-assurance by which we seek to protect our faces from exposure to the mystery of God.’

For Nicholas Lash, theology is best understood as the critical theory of faith; as a process of ‘critical reflection on Christian practice.’ This paper explores the way in which Lash has increasingly treated of this under the category of idolatry. There are three broad movements to the discussion. The first explores Lash’s understanding of the proper role of criticism in theology. The second focuses in on the suggestion that his recurrent references to idolatry can be taken as a hermeneutical key to understanding the core concerns in his writings. The third then considers his understanding of the specific education in right desiring and right worship that is to be found in the school of Christian discipleship. The essay draws to a close by reflecting on the specifically ecclesiological implications of this and the ways in which Lash’s concerns might appropriately be taken forwards.