Robert A. KRIEG, Treasure in the Field: Salvation in the Bible and in Our Lives. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2013. pp. 165. $19.95 paper. ISBN 978-0-8146-8068-1. Reviewed by Wilburn T. STANCIL, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO 64110
Robert Krieg, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, writes with four objectives (vii-viii): 1) to discuss some of the Bible’s classic texts from Genesis to Revelation; 2) to retrieve the Bible’s teaching on salvation; 3) to recast the Bible’s talk of salvation in contemporary terms; and 4) to undertake a critical yet respectful approach to the Bible.
The title for this book comes from a short parable in Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a treasure hidden in a field. Krieg believes this parable is instructing us to receive ourselves as God’s treasure, to say yes to God’s gift of ourselves. For Krieg, our task is “not to invent ourselves but to discover ourselves” as we become what God desires us to become (1). “In other words, to be saved is to receive ourselves from God” (1). Though Krieg’s dialogue partners throughout the work are many—from Karl Rahner to Václav Havel—he clearly considers the spirituality of Thomas Merton to be central to his own thought.
Each of the eight chapters in Treasure in the Field includes exegetical and theological expositions of key Scriptural passages that contribute in some way to the theme of finding salvation (salus, “health,” “well-being,” “being whole”). Among the passages treated are stories about creation, Cain and Abel, Jonah, the Exodus from Egypt, Job, Jesus, and themes such as prophecy and apocalypticism, resurrection and hope, and salvation beyond history in the Book of Revelation. As one reads Treasure in the Field, the reader must keep in mind the basic premise of the book—that the gift of salvation is the gift of personal wholeness. Otherwise, the biblical and theological themes are so widely diverse and broad that one could easily lose the thread that ties the chapters together.
One of the key ideas that serves as a guiding principle throughout the book is Krieg’s notion of three approaches to freedom: “Heteronomy” (others determine what I do), “Autonomy” (I determine what I do with little or no regard for others), and “Theonomy” ( I listen to God’s Word through the Spirit, as made concrete through my informed conscience). Krieg believes that to live out of a false center, a false self, is to give oneself over to either radical “heteronomy” (I give my individuation to someone or something else) or to radical “autonomy” (I claim sole authority to my life). On the other hand, when I allow my ego to be de-centered, I will place my hope in God, not exclusively in others or myself.
I would recommend this book for lay people for two reasons. First, it provides important insights about the nature of our “true selves” as opposed to our “false selves.” In fact, Krieg’s insights are reminiscent not only of Merton’s but also those of Richard Rohr. Second, Krieg’s methodology for utilizing biblical texts demonstrates that one can combine both critical, scholarly studies with spiritual insights. The book invites the reader to a website that contains additional commentary, study questions, and bibliography, which would be very helpful for lay readers. However, when I tried to access the website, the link was dead.