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Pro Ecclesia Vol 21-N3: 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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Call No Movement New until It Is Old: “New Monasticism” and the Practice of Stability

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Call No Movement New until It Is Old: “New Monasticism” and the Practice of Stability

Gerald W. Schlabach

Can monasticism really ever be new? So claims the “New Monastic Movement” that has emerged during the last decade among a group of youthful evangelicals who not only find inspiration in Anabaptist models—as a previous generation of Christian intentional communities did—but also in ancient monastic models? We certainly should hope so. For Christ’s church always needs its renewal movements. It needs serious lay Christians who long to incorporate into their families and work life the kinds of practices traditionally assumed possible only amid celibate communities. Meanwhile many old monastic communities (if we must call them that) face demographic challenges that could lead them to welcome new models for sustaining their charisms and apostolates into the new millennium. Still, the ironic reserve of an ancient Greek proverb may be appropriate here. “Call no man happy,” said the Greeks, “until he is dead.” Likewise, we may not be able to call “New Monasticism” new until it is old.

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Can the Papacy Lead toward a Communion of Churches? A Challenge and an Opportunity

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Can the Papacy Lead toward a Communion of Churches? A Challenge and an Opportunity

Hermann J. Pottmeyer (translated Rev. John Jay Hughes)

1. An Invitation from Pope John Paul II

The topic of this paper derives from Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Encyclical Ut unum sint, in which he invited the religious communities not yet united with the Catholic Church to join him in a fraternal dialogue about how the bishop of Rome could exercise his office to promote Christian unity. The purpose of the dialogue, the pope said, was to see how the papal office could be defined and exercised in a way that would permit all Christians and churches to view the papacy as a ministry of unity. The pope wanted us to seek together ways in which the pope, without forfeiting anything essential to his mission, could be open to the new situation in which we find ourselves today.

This new situation includes the ecumenical advances toward unity already achieved, as well as the challenges that await Christianity in the future. The pope based his appeal on the desire already voiced in some parts of current ecumenical dialogue for an office of unity, with references to Catholic belief about the Petrine office. Our non-Catholic partners in dialogue are unable to recognize the papacy, as currently exercised, as a ministry of unity. It is high time for a response to the pope’s invitation.

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The Church and the Presence of Christ: Defending Actualist Ecclesiology

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The Church and the Presence of Christ: Defending Actualist Ecclesiology

Christopher R. J. Holmes

Can a dynamic Christology give rise to a concrete ecclesiology? In this article I argue that a Christology underwritten by an account of the hypostatic union understood as an event rather than a state provides serious theological resources for a doctrine of the church that takes as its primary task that of being present to Christ. Following and extending Karl Barth and Hans Frei, a concrete account of the church is one that recognizes the church not as an afterthought to Jesus’s enacted identity but rather as ingredient in the one that he is. Indeed, the esse of the church is Christ, and Christ never wills to be known without the apostles and us in them. Thus to describe Christ is never to describe him without Christians. The risen, ascended, and glorified Christ is present as One whose person creates a people, and in the Spirit effectively so.

I. Introduction

Several years ago in my student days, I recall having a conversation with one of my doctoral supervisors who, while very sympathetic to Karl Barth, wondered whether his doctrine of God and of reconciliation (really, his Christology) gives rise to an “occasionalist” account of the church. That is to say, my supervisor suspected that Barth’s Christology, peppered as it is with “event” language, sponsored an insufficiently concrete account of the church as something that “happens” when baptized women and men gather together to hear the proclaimed Word as sealed by the sacrament. Having reflected on his concerns for the better part of half a decade or more, I want to venture an answer to his query, an answer that will constitute the focus of this article. The answer is this: Barth’s Christology, specifically the twofold movement of the humiliation of the Son of God and the corresponding exaltation of the Son of Man, saturated as it is with “event” language, does generate a concrete ecclesiology. By concrete I mean to say that there arises an account of the church as ingredient in the identity of the resurrected and ascended Christ. The esse of the church is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is never without concrete form, that is without the apostles.

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Predestination and Mary’s Immaculate Conception: An Evangelically Catholic Interpretation

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Predestination and Mary’s Immaculate Conception: An Evangelically Catholic Interpretation

Edward T. Oakes, S.J.

Catholic Marian doctrine is widely regarded—by both Catholics and Protestants—as a stumbling block to ecumenism, especially in its most recent developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when (according to Protestant accusation) things really got out of hand.1 For one thing, the Catholic-specific doctrines of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her bodily Assumption into heaven at the end of her earthly life are intimately bound up with the exercise of papal magisterial authority—another neuralgic point for Protestants (and not a few Catholics too).2

Second, these two doctrines cannot be found in Scripture, or so goes the claim, which if true would violate one of the central axioms of the Reformation: the sola scriptura principle. The case of the Immaculate Conception is even more dire, for here the Bible is not just silent on the issue but seems directly to contradict the doctrine. For according to Paul, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). If Paul does not mean all here—everyone without exception—when he uses the word “all,” then why have a Bible at all?

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A Trinitarian Palimpsest: Luther’s Reading of the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6.24–26)

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A Trinitarian Palimpsest: Luther’s Reading of the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6.24–26)

Nathan MacDonald

For Protestant Christians the priestly or Aaronic blessing from Num 6:24–26 is one of the most familiar parts of the Bible, perhaps second only to the Lord’s Prayer. In many traditions the blessing concludes the Eucharistic liturgy, and even those churches that do not have a formal liturgy will often bring services of worship to a close with its words. The King James Version translated it in the following manner:

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.

The familiarity of these words, and the Trinitarian interpretation implicit in its use within Christian worship, has led some interpreters into believing that the priestly blessing has been hallowed by widespread Christian use from the very earliest days. The learned nineteenth-century commentary of Keil and Delitzsch, for example, claimed that “in these three blessings most of the fathers and earlier theologians saw an allusion to the mystery of the Trinity.”1 More recently, Soulen suggests that patristic attention to the Trinity in the Old Testament focused around, among other things, “repetitions of the name yhwh in a single context” and gives Num 6:22–27, Deut 6:4, and Isa 6:1–3 as examples.2 Such claims overstate the evidence. Admittedly the work De Trinitate attributed to Didymus the Blind does include Num 6:24–26 among a catena of texts that have a threefold repetition of God’s name or some other divine designation. As the author of De Trinitate explains, “in order to indicate the three persons, it does not say once: ‘the Lord bless you and appear to you and give you peace,’ but he says three times ‘Lord.’”3 Since De Trinitate is something of a compendium of Trinitarian argumentation, it is possible that this use of Num 6 was not original to the author.4 Nevertheless, as far as I am aware, there is no textual evidence for this, and the appearance of Num 6 as a Trinitarian proof in Didymus the Blind’s De Trinitate is otherwise without parallel among Christian writers in the first four centuries. Contrary to the assertion in Keil and Delitzsch, the priestly blessing makes a surprisingly shallow impression in early Christianity and the medieval age, and plays little or no role in the liturgies of Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. The familiarity of the priestly blessing and its Trinitarian interpretation is entirely due to the liturgical innovation of Martin Luther.

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Creation’s Praise: A Short Liturgical Reading of Genesis 1–2 and the Book of Revelation

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Creation’s Praise: A Short Liturgical Reading of Genesis 1–2 and the Book of Revelation

Jack Kilcrease

According to the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo, creation is radically dependent on God’s Word and Spirit. Seen particularly from the perspective of the New Testament, this is also true of redemption. Just as creation came through the Word and Spirit of God (Gen 1:1–3), so too redemption comes through both the Incarnation of the Word and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. When creation functions properly, it can only trustfully praise God for this grace. Martin Luther recognized this and claimed that the freedom of a Christian entailed the praise of God as the gracious and truthful creator and redeemer.1 For this same reason, both the creation and new creation are viewed by the biblical authors as liturgical realities.

In the following short exegetical essay, we will examine how the biblical authors illustrated the liturgical nature of creation and redemption. Just as the author of Genesis views the original creation as a great Tabernacle built for the worship of God, so too the author of Revelation understands the New Jerusalem to be a renewal and fulfillment of the original liturgy of creation. For this reason, the church’s liturgical practice as a response to God’s gifts is a true expression of the most fundamental reality of creation.

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