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Pro Ecclesia Vol 16-N1: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology

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Pro Ecclesia is a quarterly journal of theology published by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. It seeks to give contemporary expression to the one apostolic faith and its classic traditions, working for and manifesting the church's unity by research, theological construction, and free exchange of opinion. Members of its advisory council represent communities committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, ecumenical dogmatic teaching and the structural continuity of the church, and are themselves dedicated to maintaining and invigorating these commitments. The journal publishes biblical, liturgical, historical and doctrinal articles that promote or illumine its purposes.

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WORLD METHODIST COUNCIL AND THE JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION

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Geoffrey Wainwright

At its Hong Kong meeting in September 1999, the executive committee of the World Methodist Council (WMC) expressed its joy at the achievement by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church of their Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) and resolved to congratulate the two partners on the impending signing of their agreement. Dr. Joe Hale, then general secretary of the WMC, represented the WMC at the solemn ceremony that took place in Augsburg on 31 October 1999 and brought the letter of congratulation. The Hong Kong meeting also resolved to explore with the LWF and the Catholic Church the possibility for the WMC and its member churches to become officially associated with their doctrinal agreement in the matter of justification—a neuralgic point of difference in Western Christendom since the sixteenth century.

All these actions were reported and confirmed at the full meeting of the WMC in Brighton in July 2001. Meanwhile, the LWF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity jointly invited the World Methodist Council, together with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), to enter a process whereby they also might come to join in the achievement concerning the doctrine of justification. Accordingly, a consultation was held in Columbus, Ohio, in November 2001 among representatives of the WMC, the WARC, the LWF, and the Catholic Church. At that consultation it became clear that good prospects existed for an association between Methodists and the JDDJ.

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FROM APOSTOLIC CHURCH TO CHURCH CATHOLIC, AND BACK AGAIN

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A Book Symposium on Jaroslav Pelikan, Acts, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005)

John Behr

The aim of Brazos Press's new commentary series, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, is simple and praiseworthy: to provide a theologically informed reading of the books of Scripture. After a sojourn through the desert of modernity, hopefully now having learned how to use the tools of the Egyptians to good effect rather than being enthralled by them, we are now able to return to the way that Christians read Scripture for the first millennium and more: standing within a living tradition and supported (rather than encumbered) by doctrine so as to be able to read the Scriptures in such a manner as to encounter the Word of God addressed to us now. Doctrine is not, as the editors of the series put it, "a moldering scrim of antique prejudice obscuring the Bible, but instead a clarifying agent, an enduring tradition of theological judgment that amplifies the living voice of Scripture" (13). Doctrine provides a pedagogical framework within which the reader of Scripture acquires a sanctified vision, a discipline or habit of mind, enabling the searching of Scripture to bear fruit.

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THE ACTS AND CHRISTIAN CONFESSIONS: FINDING THE START OF THE DOGMATIC TRADITION

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A Book Symposium on Jaroslav Pelikan, Acts, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005)

Brian E. Daley, S.J.

It is evident that many reflective Christians today no longer feel as confident in the value of specialized biblical study as their forebears did fifty years ago. The so-called historical-critical study of Scripture, cultivated first by European Protestant scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and adopted as a new source of theological life and energy by Roman Catholics, after it had received qualified approval from Pope Pius XII in the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) and later at the Second Vatican Council (e.g., Dei Verbum 12), seems now to be regarded by many theologians, young and old alike, as in need of renewal, of reintegration within the larger context of thoughtful, ecclesial reflection on the gospel that Jesus is Lord. As a result, patristic exegesis is now a "hot" topic for graduate students, scholars, and publishers in a variety of Christian traditions, as theologians and believing readers look for alternative approaches to biblical interpretation. In the light of what might generally be called the postmodern understanding of the life of texts, the project of seeking to establish the original intended meaning of an author or redactor by historical source analysis seems less achievable today than it did in the 1890s, or even in the 1960s. We are more aware today, probably, than ever before that the importance of any text is not simply its witness to the author's mind but its constantly developing significance for the tradition of understanding and moral aspiration in which it is received. If it is true that "it takes a village to educate a child," it seems even truer that it takes a believing community to find and express the meaning of Scripture.

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WHAT IS A THEOLOGICAL COMMENTARY?

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A Book Symposium on Jaroslav Pelikan, Acts, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005)

C. Kavin Rowe and Richard B. Hays

Jaroslav Pelikan, the longtime Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, will be well known to readers of Pro Ecclesia for his many scholarly contributions, including his magisterial five-volume work The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. The editors of the new Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible could not have found a more distinguished and erudite author for the initial volume in this ambitious new series. Alas, this first Brazos commentary was to be Pelikan's last work, as he succumbed to lung cancer in May 2006. In this final work, Pelikan seeks to heed the advice of Adolf von Harnack, that past master of Dogmengeschichte, who declared that a historian of the early church "must always be ready ... to take on the exposition of a book of the New Testament."1

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MARY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

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Gary A. Anderson

The Mother of God
William Butler Yeats

The threefold terror of love; a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room;
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The heavens in my womb.

Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?

What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart's blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?

The figure of Mary has provided a considerable challenge for ecumenical relations between Catholics and Protestants. Historically, the grounds for this suspicion rest largely on the Protestant fear that Catholics commit idolatry when they venerate the person of Mary. In his recent article on the subject of Mary, the evangelical scholar Timothy George makes this point quite clear in an amusing vignette from the life of the famous Scottish reformer, John Knox. George recounts the incident thus:

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JUSTIFICATION AS VERDICT AND DELIVERANCE: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

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Peter J. Leithart

Many contemporary theologians agree that justification involves not only a verdict but also a transforming act. This view is reflected in ecumenical documents1 and in the work of systematic theologians,2 historians of dogma,3 and some biblical scholars.4 Yet, in some significant sectors of evangelical, Reformed, and Lutheran Protestantism, such a definition of justification is seen as a sell-out to Roman Catholicism, a betrayal of the Reformation. Reformed theologian Robert Reymond, for instance, describes the Roman definition of justification as "tragically defective," insisting that

justification per se says nothing about the subjective transformation that necessarily begins to occur within the inner life of the Christian through the progressive infusion of grace that commences with the new birth (which subjective transformation Scripture views as progressive sanctification). Rather, justification refers to God's ioholly objective, wholly forensic judgment concerning the sinner's standing before the Law, by which forensic judgment God declares that the sinner is righteous in his sight because of the imputation of his sin to Christ, on which ground he is pardoned, and the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience to him, on which ground he is constituted righteous before God. . . . Christ's righteousness before God is in heaven at the right hand of God in Jesus Christ and not on earth within the believer.5

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THE MELCHIZEDEK TRADITIONS IN THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS: READING THROUGH THE EYES OF AN INSPIRED JEWISH–CHRISTLAN AUTHOR

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Nathan Lefler

When the modern social theorist looks for explanations of the atrocities of the Shoah, or more broadly for an account of the deep mutual distrust that characterizes Jewish-Christian relations today, he turns naturally and correctly in search of historical antecedents and even, should it be possible, of the root causes of these tragic contemporary (and yet to date perennial) phenomena. And not surprisingly, his investigation often leads him to the texts of the New Testament. The New Testament provides some of the earliest—and indisputably the most influential—accounts available of interactions between Christians and Jews, as well as the first sustained treatments by Christians of the vexing theological question of the true relation between the new and old covenants, between the old and new Israel, between the chosen people and the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

From this modern and basically text-critical perspective, of the six to eight major New Testament witnesses, the author of Hebrews inevitably appears to be one of the worst culprits regarding the gradual deterioration of Jewish-Christian relations over the centuries.1 Granted, Hebrews was never as influential as St. Paul's letters or the Gospels, its authority even remaining in dispute for several centuries. Nevertheless, as to objective content, Hebrews seems at first blush to be enthusiastically "dispensationalist": Christ has entirely superseded Aaron as the high priest of the true religion (e.g., 9:24). The old sacrificial system has been rendered utterly superfluous by the blood of Christ shed once for all (10:12). Law has been supplanted (cf. 7:28, 10:1, etc.) by faith—a new and revitalized faith, no longer in one who has not yet come (contra the patriarchs and other biblical heroes hymned in ch. 11) but in one who is known and will come again (12:1–2).

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LUTHER AND “THIS DAMNED, CONCEITED, RASCALLY HEATHEN” ARISTOTLE: AN ENCOUNTER MORE COMPLICATED THAN MANY THINK

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Jared Wicks, S.J.

Theodor Dieter

Der junge Luther und Aristoteles. Eine historisch-systematische Untersuchung zum Verhältnis von Theologie und Philosophie (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2001), xvi + 687 pp.

Reviewed by Jared Wicks, S.J., John Carroll University, University Heights, OH

In 1520 Martin Luther set forth a comprehensive program for the German Christian nobility to follow in reforming abuses in the church and Christian society. One project was to overhaul the standard university curriculum by outlawing the study of certain works of Aristotle. The Physics, Metaphysics, Concerning the Soul, and Nicomachean Ethics were to be banned, while the Logic, Rhetoric, and Poetics were to remain in use, at least in abridged texts without commentary, because they contributed to improved speaking and preaching. Luther felt such a ban urgent because the "blind, heathen" Aristotle had ruled higher studies, marginalizing the study of Scripture and the doctrines of faith. In the banned works Aristotle boasted about naturally acquired knowledge of the world while communicating nothing of value about the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.1

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