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Pro Ecclesia Vol 16-N2: 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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TRIBUTE TO JAROSLAV PELIKAN

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In the first volume of his history of doctrine, The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan wrote that “the church is more than a school” but “can not be less than a school.” “Its faith, hope and love all express themselves in teaching and confession.” Christianity is not only defined by its faith and morals, it has nurtured a tradition of learning as well. Thinking is part of believing. This idea is, of course, not original to Pelikan; in different forms it was expressed by the greatest thinkers in Christian history, to whose thought Pelikan devoted his life, figures such as Origen of Alexandria in the third century or Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth.

Or Augustine of Hippo who put it this way: “No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable. . . . Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought. . . . Not everyone who thinks believes, since many think in order not to believe; but everyone who believes thinks, thinks in believing and believes in thinking.” Christianity has always nurtured a lively intellectual life.

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A BOOK SYMPOSIUM ON FRANCIS WATSON, PAUL AND THE HERMENEUTICS OF FAITH

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A Book Symposium on Francis Watson, Pauland the Hermeneutics of Faith (London: T&T Clark, 2004)

Richard B. Hays

Francis Watson’s recent book Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (henceforth PHF) is a masterful piece of scholarship that materially advances our understanding of Paul as a reader of Scripture.1 Watson’s study challenges some of my readings of Paul,2 and I shall therefore need to engage some points of difference between his readings and mine. First, however, I want to set my questions about Watson’s work within the framework of the substantial agreement between us.

A. Substantive Theses and Claims

I begin by identifying five substantive contributions of Watson’s study (five being an auspicious number for a study whose chief concern is how to read the Pentateuch):

With regard to the third, fourth, and fifth points, Watson’s book moves beyond what I claimed or attempted in Echoes. I am less certain than he is that Paul has a single comprehensive reading of the Pentateuch, and I believe, contrary to Watson, that Paul finally seeks an integrative reading of Scripture that resolves the antithesis between law and promise. (At least sometimes he seeks to do that.) With regard to the fifth point about a single intertextual field, however, Watson’s comparative studies are brilliantly executed. Indeed, the book offers us an exemplary model of how to read ancient texts.

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PAUL’S HERMENEUTICS AND THE QUESTION OF TRUTH

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A Book Symposium on Francis Watson, Pauland the Hermeneutics of Faith (London: T&T Clark, 2004)

Richard B. Hays

Francis Watson’s recent book Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (henceforth PHF) is a masterful piece of scholarship that materially advances our understanding of Paul as a reader of Scripture.1 Watson’s study challenges some of my readings of Paul,2 and I shall therefore need to engage some points of difference between his readings and mine. First, however, I want to set my questions about Watson’s work within the framework of the substantial agreement between us.

A. Substantive Theses and Claims

I begin by identifying five substantive contributions of Watson’s study (five being an auspicious number for a study whose chief concern is how to read the Pentateuch):

With regard to the third, fourth, and fifth points, Watson’s book moves beyond what I claimed or attempted in Echoes. I am less certain than he is that Paul has a single comprehensive reading of the Pentateuch, and I believe, contrary to Watson, that Paul finally seeks an integrative reading of Scripture that resolves the antithesis between law and promise. (At least sometimes he seeks to do that.) With regard to the fifth point about a single intertextual field, however, Watson’s comparative studies are brilliantly executed. Indeed, the book offers us an exemplary model of how to read ancient texts.

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ARTICLES

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Michael Hollerich

In January 2005, the New York Times “Profiles” feature carried an article on a public lecture given at Princeton University by the historian Fritz Stern.1 The subject of the lecture was the popular support given by conservative Christians to Adolf Hitler. Stern apparently stressed how what he called the “pseudo-religious transformation of politics” appealed to many German Christians. He also warned of a parallel phenomenon today in America, which he thought was experiencing a similar fusion of religious enthusiasm and national pride.

There probably weren’t many dissenters in Stern’s audience, which no doubt warmed to his topic—certainly the Times’s reporter warmed to it—given liberal anxieties about religious support for the Bush administration’s agenda at home and abroad. And the Nazis are an inexhaustible trope for political evil. Consider the ingredients: Hitler’s National Socialist dictatorship; a culturally and politically conservative Christianity; the politicization of religion, some of it cynical, some of it sincere; a pervasive cultural and religious anti-Semitism. . . . Well, the lecture (and the article) will practically write themselves.

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DOCTORES ECCLESIAE

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J. Warren Smith

“We are not justified by works, but by faith, because the weakness of the flesh is a hindrance to works but the brightness of faith puts the error that is in man’s deeds in the shadow and merits for him forgiveness of sins.”2

In the early phase of the Pelagian controversy, Augustine, responding to Pelagius’s De natura,3 articulates the central principle of his soteriology: The corruption of original sin “darkens and weakens all those natural goods, so that there is a need for illumination and healing” by grace “given gratuitously and not for our merits.”4 While he allows that before the fall humanity could merit eternal blessedness, postlapsarian humanity cannot merit salvation. Writing thirteen years later in his treatise De gratia et libero arbitrio, Augustine responds to concerns that his view of grace ultimately denies human freedom.5 Appealing to Jn 6:65, “No one can come to me unless it be given him by my Father,” Augustine concludes that our turning to God in faith and repentance is not a human work that merits forgiveness, but only a gift of grace.6 Thus redemption cannot be viewed as God’s rewarding our merits, but rather merely crowning the merits of his own gifts.7 Even the faith by which we are justified is a gift of God, not a work of the human will.8 The story of Paul’s conversion is the paradigmatic illustration.9 In Augustine’s correspondence with Prosper of Aquitaine and Hilary two years later, he argues that faith must be viewed solely as a gift and not as a natural human capacity that grace supplements or strengthens. Since sin has hardened the heart against God, we cannot hear the gospel and believe it unless grace first overcomes the hardness of the heart so that no prejudice may impede our perception of its truth.10 Even the merit of faith itself is a gift of God. Were grace not a gift but a reward of merit, it would be a debt God owes.11 Salvation that is in any way the result of human merit makes God a debtor to humanity and promotes only pride among people.12 If, however, salvation is pure gift independent of any human merit, then we have no basis for pride. Moreover, Augustine rejects his earlier view that God gives to all people grace that restores to them the freedom to accept God’s mercy—a freedom that, however, they may not accept.13 Thus, for Augustine salvation is wholly gift; any talk of human merit is but the intrusion of pride that would claim for itself the work of grace.

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REVIEW ESSAY

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Paul J. Griffiths and Reinhard Hütter, editors

Reason and the Reasons of Faith (New York and London: T&T Clark, 2005), ix + 373 pp.

Reviewed by John R. Betz, Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore, MD

Responding in part to John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical, Fides et ratio, this rich collection of essays, Reason and the Reasons of Faith, edited with an introduction by Paul Griffiths and Reinhard Hütter, is the fruit of a three-year, biannual ecumenical colloquium on the topic of faith and reason held at the Center for Theological Inquiry at Princeton, and it is an intellectual treasury well worth sorting through. Like the papal encyclical, which sought to address widespread skepticism regarding truth and the very possibility of knowledge, this collection proceeds from the sober recognition that “faith and reason are presently in crisis” (1).

On the one hand, there is the philosophical crisis of reason. Whereas throughout the history of philosophy, at least until Hegel (excepting the various strains of skepticism, ancient and modern), reason was regarded as a distinct, even godlike faculty by means of which we are able to apprehend the real and discover the truth, today, after Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, the modern “masters of suspicion”—not to mention the schools of American pragmatism and French deconstruction—reason has come to be viewed as merely instrumental, indeed, as Hütter observes, as “little more than a coping mechanism or a regulative fiction driven and directed by instincts and desires it can hardly perceive, much less rule” (160). As a result, stripped both of its contemplative vocation and its moral authority over the passions—its eternal prospect of the unum, verum, et bonum discredited either as the illusion of childhood or as the product of an alienated consciousness, in any case, as irrelevant to social “progress”—reason is cursed henceforth to labor as mere techne in the service of modern man: the instrument of a “brave new world” without ultimate aim or meaning, which knows no exterior but the terrifying spaces of Pascal and boasts of technological triumph even as it sinks ever deeper into nihilistic despair (see 161). On the other hand, connected to the philosophical crisis of reason but informed by a long-standing theological suspicion regarding reason’s postlapsarian soundness, there is a widespread theological crisis regarding the role of reason in matters of faith. Hence, witnessing to this crisis, one sees a general shift within modern theology (largely under the influence of Barth, who supposedly follows Anselm) from dialectic to narrative, from ratio to rhetoric, from compelling argument to the beauty of the Christian proclamation (beauty being the last salvageable transcendental); hence, too, one sees an abandonment of metaphysics, natural theology, and natural law—to the point that one’s apologetic resources are limited to the aesthetic “fittingness” of revelation or the “glory” and (therein) “credibility” of love. Far, then, from being irrelevant to theology, the present crisis of reason, and of reason in faith, is a matter of utmost importance, forcing theology to rethink its own understanding of reason’s nature, its limitations, and its role in the self-understanding of faith (intellectus fidei).

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