Luke Penkett – The Julian Centre Norwich, England

November 7, 2022

Considering the vast number of books in print on Julian one wonders if there is room for any more. Reading Julia Lamm’s God’s Kinde Love we hear a resounding “Yes!” Lamm is the editor of the acclaimed Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Christian Mysticism (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) and she has already published chapters on Julian: “Casting Out Fear: The logic of ‘God is love’ in Julian of Norwich and Friedrich Schleiermacher” (in Ann W. Astell, ed., Saving Fear in Christian Spirituality, Notre Dame Press, 2019); “Divine Lordship, Divine Motherhood” (in David Jaspers andDale Wright, ed., Theological Reflection and the Pursuit of Ideals: Theology, Human Flourishing and Freedom, Ashgate, 2013); and “Julian of Norwich’s Retrieval of a Biblical Notion of Mercy” (in V. Cottini et al. ed., Rab,ma. Muslim and Christian Studies in Mercy, Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 2018). There is also an article on Julian: “Revelation as Exposure in Julian of Norwich’s Showings” (Spiritus 5, no. 1 (2005) 54-78). But God’s Kinde Love is not only her first solo monograph on Julian of Norwich, it is also the first in-depth study of Julian’s doctrine of grace.

Through close readings of both the Long and the Short Texts, and an analysis of Julian’s use of the word “grace” which developed profoundly between the two, Lamm discovers three clearly articulated yet interrelated aspects of Julian’s doctrine of grace, the cause of “the joyful raising of our humanity.” In concentrating on the connection between grace and love, Lamm

argues for a closer bond, not only between humankind and God, but also between one human and another. God’s Kinde Love is both an outstanding achievement in its own right and an invitation to its readers to deepen their own compassionate lives.

With this last in mind, we have a contextualizing introduction and first chapter in which the thesis of God’s Kinde Love is stated, its relationship to other areas of scholarship outlined, and its place within vernacular theology described. We have scene-setting sections on Julian the anchoress, England and, in particular, Norwich before, during, and after the plague, and the state of the church afthe end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries.

What Chapter One has done for the history of the period – Lamm makes the point that “[Julian’s] theology makes more sense when it is seen as a contribution to the larger conversation” (84)-Chapter Two does for the theology of Julian. Lamm . argues that “[Julian’s] doctrine of grace both presupposes and is closely intertwined with her understanding ofrevel ti n” (18).

When we arrive at the third chapter, then, specialists and the¬†general reader have the historical and theological backgrounds in place and are enabled to begin reading and reflect g on this study of Julian’s doctrine of grace. Lamm starts with Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us,” and, therefore, “hope does not disappoint.” It is not long before Lamm shows that “not only was [Julian] in line with Augustine himself and with h . dominant Augustinian tradition, but she was also familiar with some of the scholastic debates on the issue” (138). (There is, additionally, an appendix on Romans 5:5 in Augustine’s doctrine of grace). Lamm contrasts Julian’s use of scripture in the Short and Long Texts, and, specifically, her use of Romans 5:5 s a “leitmotif’ throughout her Showings. Lamm goes on to wnte about God’s “excessive” love for all his evencristens (159), and its “cosmic dimension” (164).

Chapter Four, “Mercy and Grace: God’s Compassion and Joy ” examines the distinction made between mercy and grace (w; recall the psalmist’s description of the Lord as “m:rciful and gracious” in Psalm 103:8), “a distinction that set them m dynamic relation to each other” (19), the parable of the lord and

servant from Chapter 51 of the Showings, and the concept of God as mother in Chapters 52-63 of the same, and all this is made vivid when set against the backdrop of the 1381 Revolution.

In the penultimate chapter, I think the finest and most original so far, Lamm explores Julian’s use of the word “kynde” which flew in the face of patristic and medieval understandings of the word. Lamm posits three doctrines which, she convincingly argues, God made manifest to Julian: about himself, about Christ, and about humanity. First, God reveals that his nature is kindhede (kindness), his kinde love is his motherhood, and the Trinity as kinde, mercy, and grace. Second, Christ is substantial kindness, the ground of humanity’s union with God, and Christ as our Mother is substantially and sensually kinde. Third and fmally, God’s kinde (nature) as kindness determines human kinde (nature) as kinde (good).

The final chapter considers some of the implications of Julian’s doctrine of grace as a whole, especially in regard to predestination, divine foreknowledge, the divine will, and salvation. Lamm’s conclusions to this chapter and to the book as a whole are as beautiful as they are authentic. At the time of her writing, the prevailing view of mercy was seen as the forgiveness of a wrathful God. What Julian succeeded in doing was to retrieve “a Biblical¬∑understanding of mercy as compassion and as the renewal of an intimate relationship. In the process, she redefined the twinned terms mercy and grace and set them into dynamic relationship, as the two operations of the one divine love.”

Lexically, the word kinde held several latent possibilities.

God’s nature (kinde) is kindness (kindhede). God’s kinde love is the source of goodness. Human nature (kinde) is fundamentally good. Thus, we see that Julian’s doctrine of grace was made manifest and shaped “her belief in God’s kinde love” (327).

Lamm perceived that Julian’s use of Romans 5:5 acted as a leitmotif, that she encoded this leitmotif within the parable of the lord and the servant and developed it more fully in her theological summary.

God’s Kinde Love is a fine contribution to Julian scholarship. Perceiving the significance of one of the major aspects Julian’s writing hitherto little explored, Lamm offers us much upon which to ruminate. One of the many joys of this publication is that it will be of equal interest to the student of Julian and to the general reader. Lamm’s readers are further assisted by a superb bibliography and a detailed index.

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