Gisela H. Kreglinger grew up on a winery in Franconia, Germany; her family has been crafting wine for many generations. She holds a PhD in historical theology from the University of St. Andrews, where she also taught Christian spirituality for four years before turning to writing full-time I asked her to write a review and what follows is a most interesting exchange all hinging on one statement in the book. “It is impossible to read the gospels as gospel truth if they are historical”
Gisela Kreglinger Begins
Dear Mary Jane, I have read your lovely book and really enjoyed it. I appreciate both your celebration of icon tradition but also where you departed from it, most significantly using a black background. I was nearly finished writing my endorsement when I came across this statement: “It is impossible to read the gospels as if they are historical”. What do you mean by that? What makes the Christian faith so unique, is that it is a historical faith. God breaking into history as gospel truth and the gospels are both history.
However, I strongly disagree with this statement as it goes against everything I believe. Please let me know what you mean by this – if it is what I think it is then I cannot endorse your book as it goes against what I and the church believes to be one of the most powerful tenants of the Christian faith. I have loved loved your icons. They are powerful but I am committed to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore I need you to clarify before I make any endorsement. Gisela
Thank you for your time and detailed attention. Yes I did say “It is impossible to read the gospels as if they are historical”. Taken alone and out of context the words are stunning. I meant no offense. My writing is condensed, too short and a statement so definitive is challenging and easily misunderstood. I might have better said, “It is impossible to read the gospels as if they are ONLY historical”.
Where the story of Jesus Christ is concerned, history has been crucial for the church, doctrine, ritual, sacrament and cannons that influence our collective behavior. The events took place 2,000 years ago in a very different age and context. I think the description of History changes with time, the church is seeing itself changing in our lifetime. The gospel truth as message is historical but its interpretation has changed and will continue to change over time.
I think my book encourages us to love, to live in the spirit of our maker, and to be people of prayer, to know Christ more deeply. How we define him through History, That is a book to be written by another.
Gisela Kreglinger Gospel truth
Dear Mary Jane, your statement about the Gospels is very troublesome. As a teacher you have to be very careful how you make a statement – is deeply disturbing to me and I cannot endorse your book because of it. If you can change the text then I will be able to but as it stands you are challenging one of the most important tenets of Christianity.
Gospels are above all an account of the God who entered into human history and transformed it. It is profoundly historical. I am so sorry and I am troubled by the way you excuse this statement you have written. It shows to me that you do not take this issue to be of utmost importance. It is not difficult to say things clearly as you yourself indicated.
My passion as a theologian is to write and endorse Orthodox and faithful theology, especially in a time like ours where there is so much false teaching. I am glad I got to see your beautiful icon work. If it were embedded in more Orthodox theology, I would be gladly endorsing it. Gisela
I have been hesitant about this conversation, as I know the respect and wisdom it takes to make things clear. I am happy to change the text for the benefit of your teaching, reputation and endorsement. Even if your review is not stellar, I value your Orthodox opinion. The book is called Life in Christ and more about spiritual life.
I am curious how you understand the word history? GOD is a word, a written in holy books and I personally think of Him, as a verb. His teachings are active and unfolding constantly in our lives. We live our best lives from a place of unknowing. God is outside of time and space, not defined as solid but still unchangeable. Paradoxical Teachings. It takes courage to paint icons and write about them in such ignorance. I learned iconography from a God given desire.
I study historical renditions of the past prayerfully. Never schooled in the Orthodox faith or guided by a master or theologian. I am the most ignorant of all. And say that in the book. But not for lack of love or the courage to be open minded.
Speaking of History, do you agree….Women in the Catholic Church worldwide continue to seek a more meaningful role in the society and the formation of spiritual life. Evidence indicates that Jesus strongly promoted the dignity and equality of women. The early Christians gave leadership roles to women, however the influence of prevailing cultural norms historically caused the role of Women in the Church to be diminished.
Even though today cultural bias against women has been overcome in part, christian societies around the world maintain a male dominated culture. Women are still not fully or equally represented preaching, teaching, and decision making within the church.
Are we speaking Gospel truth when we murder, go to war, criticize radical un orthodox behavior?
Perhaps you have heard the phrase, History is written by the winners, it is the losers who push for change and the re-framing of customs that no longer fit with human dignity for all. Black lives matter is a glaring example of the need for historical change. Yes it is a political movement but at its core, we it shows we have not taught history as truth.
Truth is held by God and the interpretation of Gospel truth is on Humanity.
Dear Mary Jane, I think that your work is quite prophetic regarding women and the black background of the Icons gives due witness to the darkness of our times, the atheism that many have embraced for one reason or another and yet with this backdrop of spiritual darkness the Gospel and Jesus Christ shine more brightly than ever. What I can’t accept is your stance towards the Gospel as not historical. There is no point is changing this for me.
You need to feel that you can accept that God who is beyond all knowing still chose to break into history (time and space), became a human being in order to save and heal us. Teaching and writing and proclaiming Gospel truth is more of the most sacred services one can do and I won’t endorse a work that is not orthodox in Christianity’s most central tenants of God entering history and shaping it, redeeming it and healing in.
There is so much to commend but my spirit, a servant of the Triune God, will only do what will truly Glorify God. Blessings, Gisela
Reflections on why and how this book is Unique
Many books about the ancient art form of iconography have been written. Mine is a delightful book with 30 images like these two included here and their descriptions. Life in Christ, will serve a wider audience by broadening an already lively discussion about the spiritual context we live in.
The important subject of women’s voices is being fully recognized and valued in today’s society. I am deeply respectful of the iconography tradition and knowledgeable of its long history, I want my book to challenge the male-dominated church landscape of today’s theology. My fascination with narrative icons is strong because of the beauty they radiate and how they teach us using only visual language. For almost three decades, the icons have slowly spoken and quietly revealed their mysteries to me. I feel confident the iconography descriptions and authors’ meditations will stimulate discussions and revelations about Christian art and theology.
For more information about Mary Jane Miller and her visual ministry, visit her website at San Miguel icons. Her book collections of iconography are found searching for Mary Jane on LULU.com Mary Jane’s wonderful workshops have been suspended due to Covid but stay tuned at Sacred Icon Retreats. Mary Jane Miller is an icon painter, writing religious Icon Books, History icons, religious painters, religious imagery, christian art books books about biblical paintings, early christian art books, iconography art books, catholic icon, books of Christ paintings,