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Pro Ecclesia Vol 22-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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5 Articles

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The Art of Creaturely Life: A Question of Human Propriety

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The Art of Creaturely Life: A Question of Human Propriety

Norman Wirzba

There appears to be a law that when creatures have reached the level of consciousness, as men have, they must become conscious of the creation; they must learn how they fit into it and what its needs are and what it requires of them, or else pay a terrible penalty: the spirit of the creation will go out of them, and they will become destructive; the very earth will depart from them and go where they cannot follow.1

Human beings have lost their creaturely nature; this has been corrupted by their being sicut deus [like god]. The whole created world is now covered in a veil; it is silent and lacking explanation, opaque and enigmatic.2

In 1988 Jean-Luc Nancy convened a group of leading French philosophers around the question, “Who comes after the Subject?” Nancy wanted to assess the status of human subjectivity after much reflection upon it by thinkers as diverse as Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Bataille, and Wittgenstein, but he also wanted to explore what such reflection looks like in the wake of a century punctuated by war, fascism, Stalinism, the camps, decolonization, the birth of new nations, American economism, and the proliferation of (increasingly uncompelling) signs. Far from pursuing a nihilistic exercise in the obliteration of subjectivity or the self, Nancy wanted to see how our thinking about subjectivity might be opened up to fresh thoughts and new possibilities. Given numerous philosophical critiques and a century of horror, there could be no simple “return to the subject.” We need to move forward to someone. But who? The question was how to name, narrate, and receive this “someone.”

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Saving the Appearances: Creation’s Gift to the Sciences

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Saving the Appearances: Creation’s Gift to the Sciences

Michael Hanby*

When Nietzsche’s famous madman burst into the marketplace in search of God, he was met first with derision and laughter and then with dumbstruck silence. The scene conveys the sense that the death of God, which unchains the earth from its sun and obliterates any reference by which to distinguish up from down or forward from backward, happens almost by accident, less a result of malice and intention than incomprehension and irrelevance. Such is the situation that confronts any attempt to make intelligible the church’s understanding of the world as creation. While it may indeed be true that “we can win the future only if we do not lose creation,” and that “‘by living as if God did not exist,’ man not only loses the mystery of God, but also the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being,” the real problem with any attempt to live otherwise is not overcoming the modern “case against God.”1 Rather it is overcoming the fact that the modern mind has so defined the world that we can no longer imagine, apart from a few nettlesome rules, what difference God’s existence or nonexistence might make to it.

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The Darkling Lights of Lucifer: Annihilation, Tradition, and Hell

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The Darkling Lights of Lucifer: Annihilation, Tradition, and Hell

Ross McCullough

I am ever tending toward nothing.

—The Imitation of Christ, III.40

Gregory of Nyssa is famous for defending both the doctrine of epektasis, the continual ascent of the blessed toward God, and, in places, the doctrine of apokatastasis, the eventual restoration to God of all creation, including the Devil. This is a curious conjunction, for while Gregory connects them more than adventitiously, the tradition of the Eastern Church has largely received the former and rejected the latter.1 The point of this essay is to follow that intuition, not to say inspiration, of the tradition: briefly to challenge Gregory’s conjunction and to develop from that challenge and with certain currents in philosophy of religion a conception of hell that is consistent with epektasis, avoids the implications of apokatastasis, and is itself attractive—which is to say, appropriately repulsive.

This will not be an attempt to reconcile epektasis with Western eschatology. The best such effort may be present, incipiently, in Maximus the Confessor’s impossible “moving rest,”2 itself a synthesis of the dynamic suggestions of Gregory with the static and sabbatical emphasis of the late Platonists, the early Origenists, and the Latins. This will also by its nature be closer to what philosophers call a “theodicy” than to what they call a “defense”: more a plausible attempt at filling out the truth—here not the why but the what of hell—than a demonstration of certain doctrines’ logical coherence. I care to describe hell, darkly and in part, not to defend the mere compatibility of some two of its attributes. Here also Maximus gives the keynote: “It is not a matter of refuting the opinions of others, but of presenting one’s own; not a matter of contesting some aspect of the teaching or behavior of others that seems not to be good but of writing on behalf of the truth.”3

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Community and Discipleship: Toward a Mennonite-Catholic Convergence on Baptism

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Community and Discipleship: Toward a Mennonite-Catholic Convergence on Baptism

Julia Hildegard Smucker

Introduction: Divergence and Dialogue

Baptism is an essential practice that shapes personal and ecclesial identity within most Christian traditions, yet debates surrounding its meaning and practice have long been at the root of divisions among the churches. For the Mennonite Church, a direct descendant of the Anabaptist movement, beliefs concerning what constitutes legitimate baptism have been central to its self-definition from its origins. The Catholic Church from which the Reformation movements emerged and diverged has held to the idea of continuity with its received tradition, in baptism as well as in other ecclesial and sacramental practices. Thus it is surely accurate to observe, as does Mennonite theologian and historian Alan Kreider, that “baptism is at the heart of Mennonite/Catholic differences.”1

Central to these differences is the polarity between infant baptism and believers’ baptism, both of which have become self-defining practices implicated in a myriad of interconnected questions. As Mark Searle summarizes,

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Theological Interpretation of Scripture and Evangelicals: An Apology for The Fundamentals

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Theological Interpretation of Scripture and Evangelicals: An Apology for The Fundamentals

Jacob Shatzer

Introduction

Theological interpretation of Scripture (hereafter TIS) is enjoying widespread popularity nowadays as biblical scholars and systematic theologians reject various strictures of modernism, such as pretended neutrality, and seek to read the Bible in an unabashedly theological way. Defining TIS is a difficult but worthwhile task. Such definition not only assists us in understanding how to “do” theological interpretation now, but also helps in the task of discerning what other traditions and approaches complement the concerns of TIS and provide insight for the process of interpretation.

At the same time, this offers an opportunity to revisit approaches to Scripture from previous eras and evaluate them in light of TIS. Evangelical biblical interpretation from the early twentieth century is one such example of this possibility. Evangelicalism’s reaction to modernism, higher criticism, theological liberalism, and other perceived threats led to cultural and intellectual entrenchment by the middle of the twentieth century. “Fundamentalist” became a moniker all-too-easily utilized to dismiss a person, a view, or an entire group of believers as hopelessly out of touch. However, before the entrenchment was complete and before the term “fundamentalists” was even used to describe this group, various evangelical scholars contributed essays to a series of volumes called The Fundamentals, seeking to combat perceived threats and to stand for Christian orthodoxy against modernism. These texts provide insight into evangelical attitudes toward Scripture prior to the polarization that eventually set in.

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