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Pro Ecclesia Vol 24-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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D. Stephen Long’s Saving Karl Barth: An Agent’s Perspective

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D. Stephen Long’s Saving Karl Barth: An Agent’s Perspective

Robert W. Jenson

Two things should be said at the very beginning.

First. This is a well-researched and often illuminating book from which readers can greatly profit. I lay this down here because I am going to spend most of the following contesting a polemical strand in Professor Long’s project.

Second. The review will have an odd logical twist. I find I am obligated to include myself as an agent in the story Long tells. Perhaps making a high-modernist review?

So to the review proper.

The title is precise. The book is about von Balthasar’s career-long preoccupation with saving Barth from what von Balthasar takes to be his mislocation of Catholicism’s problems and for the benefit that exposure to Barth’s theology, if interpreted in Balthasar’s way, could bring to Catholic theology.

The book falls into two parts. The first tells the history of von Balthasar’s Barth-saving; the second deals with the same theological matters, now systematically.

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Unforgetting an Unlikely Bond: Barth, Balthasar, and the Future of Ecumenism

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Unforgetting an Unlikely Bond: Barth, Balthasar, and the Future of Ecumenism

Peter J. Casarella

D. Stephen Long’s impressive monograph engages three highly controversial debates. The first concerns the reception of the theology of Karl Barth today and especially his not-so-consistent statements about post-Kantian European philosophy and Roman Catholic theology. This tangled web is mainly but not exclusively a concern of Barthians. The second debate is of far greater concern to Roman Catholic theologians than the first and concerns the future of ecumenical rapprochement in light of the exchange between Barth and Balthasar that took place from 1940 to 1968. The third has to do with what Christian ethicists today can learn from the elusive but profound bond forged in Basel. Any respectable publisher would have jumped at the chance to release a book on any one of these topics. That Long has delved deep into all three areas makes this book particularly fascinating and surprisingly complex. Caveat lector: reading Saving Karl Barth is no walk in the park. But the challenge of negotiating the cumbersome terrain is well worth the effort.

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Doing Theology in the Enigmatic Rift

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Doing Theology in the Enigmatic Rift

William L. Portier

I

On Ash Wednesday 1968, Karl Barth gave his last public lecture. He delivered it conjointly with Hans Urs von Balthasar. Both spoke on church unity and the Second Vatican Council. Not long after, on 10 December 1968, Barth died at the age of eighty-two. Their joint lectures reflected a collaborative friendship of nearly three decades that began shortly after Balthasar moved to Basel at the end of 1939. Balthasar was a young Jesuit of thirty-four, a new university chaplain at Basel; Barth, twenty years his senior, was already an established scholar and teacher. The younger man wrote asking Barth if they could meet. In Saving Karl Barth, Stephen Long tells the story of what happened as a result of that meeting on 29 April 1940.

This is a passionately ecumenical study. As a story, Saving Karl Barth dramatizes, in impressive historical detail, the shape theology would have were it done as “the practice of friendship.”1 If Catholicism “haunted” Barth and Barth “preoccupied” Balthasar, Long shares deeply in their common preoccupation with the rätselhafte Riss, the “puzzling crack” or “enigmatic rift” (239) that gave Christian urgency to Barth’s and Balthasar’s ongoing conversation and still divides Protestants and Catholics in the West. We can neither explain nor ignore this rift. Long began his own theological studies in the ecumenical space created in the United States by the effects of the Second Vatican Council. In the meantime, official ecumenism has stalled. Catholic and Protestant theologians retrench or ignore one another. Saving Karl Barth offers theology as the practice of friendship as the way to keep going on the ecumenical path. For Long, the ecumenical friendship of Barth and Balthasar challenges us “to affirm Christ as the center of our common faith and allow that center to radiate into all things, without allowing those things to somehow usurp the center” (282). Barth began this conversation from a self-proclaimed posture of “dogmatic intolerance” (4), while Balthasar went to Basel hoping to convert Barth (13). “Our task,” concludes Long, “is not to take up where they began but where they ended” (282). Far from a mere option in the subfield of ecclesiology, ecumenical conversation is simply the way Catholics and Protestants must now do theology.

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Von Balthasar on Barth: A Few Lingering Doubts

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Von Balthasar on Barth: A Few Lingering Doubts

Kenneth Oakes

Introduction

D. Stephen Long’s Saving Karl Barth is a fascinating and able account of a theological friendship. Inasmuch as the majority of recent books on Barth are revised Ph.D. dissertations (and these are most welcome), it is refreshing to read a senior scholar tackling Balthasar’s interpretation and evaluation of Barth’s theology. Saving Karl Barth has two aims. The first is to chronicle and defend von Balthasar’s account of Barth’s development (the first half of the book) and to detail the affinities and divergences in their doctrines of God, ethics, and the church (the second half). The second aim, which surfaces at various points, is to lament and identify why the conversation between Barth and von Balthasar has run aground. This conversational lacuna emerges from reading Barth as forwarding a postmetaphysical, epistemologically fraught, and staunchly Reformed modern theology and reading Balthasar as contaminated by his engagement with Barth’s theology and its implicit modernism and explicit Protestantism.

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Responses to Reviewers: Identifying What Matters Most

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Responses to Reviewers: Identifying What Matters Most

D. Stephen Long

Seeing your own work through the eyes of others is illuminating, humbling, and revealing. What an author thought was a minor theme gets picked up as major one, while a major one is sidelined. Or what was intended as description is read as evaluative and vice versa. Unforeseen misunderstandings arise. Or perhaps they are not misunderstandings? Perhaps the author was deceived about the true intentions of his or her work? Are authors ever fully transparent even to themselves? Reading one’s work through the eyes of others can make it more transparent not only to readers but also to the author. Publications have a life of their own that authors cannot, and should not, control.

I preface my response to Jenson, Portier, Casarella, and Oakes with these remarks in hopes that readers will be encouraged to engage in the conversation that motivated Saving Karl Barth with the same care my four respondents have. I am in their debt. They are all careful readers who pose insightful questions and illuminating interpretations that advance the conversation and show me aspects of my own work that I admit I had not envisioned. It should come as no surprise to readers that I find less of what I intended to write in Jenson’s response than in those of Portier, Casarella, and Oakes. That does not make Jenson’s “dispositive evidence” against my interpretation incorrect; it only suggests that if he is correct, he has shown me something about my work about which I was not fully aware. Jenson reads my work as a polemical essay. As he puts it, “With slight exaggeration, one could say that Balthasar versus McCormack, with Long managing Balthasar, is an underlying plot of the whole book. Long has his own preoccupation.” I hope the exaggeration is more than slight. This book is not about McCormack; it is about Balthasar and Barth. McCormack’s work had to be addressed because, despite all his appreciation of Balthasar, he more than any other Barth scholar finds Balthasar’s reading inadequate. Had I written this book without attending to that critique, it would have been an obvious lacuna.

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Technology as Principality: The Elimination of Incarnation

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Technology as Principality: The Elimination of Incarnation

Travis Kroeker

In an Easter op-ed in the New York Times, Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, compares the Christian hope of the resurrection and Prometheus the Titan, who stole fire from the gods and gave it as a gift to human beings.1 In Aeschylus’s version, not only is Prometheus thus responsible for the gift to humans of “technology” (all the arts of progressive human civilization), he is also responsible for a second, more “spiritual” gift: “I stopped mortals from foreseeing doom,” says Prometheus, “I sowed in them blind hopes.” According to Critchley, the apostle Paul inadvertently confirms this second Promethean gift in asserting that the Christian hope in resurrection is precisely a blind hope: “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Rom 8:24; cf. Heb 11:1). The problem, Critchley implies, is that when blind hope of a spiritual kind is tied to civilizational arts and especially political ideals, we are in danger of being deluded by the most blatant and painful forms of unreality that prolong human bondage and suffering.

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Reading Forward: The Old Testament and Retrospective Stance

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Reading Forward: The Old Testament and Retrospective Stance

Don Collett

Recent years have witnessed the rise of an interpretive model that construes the Old Testament’s literal sense in “Christotelic” terms.1 While the term itself appears to be of recent vintage, the hermeneutical assumptions undergirding this approach to Israel’s Scriptures find expression in a variety of contexts in the history of biblical interpretation.2 The approach is arguably at least as old as the reception history of Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which we learn that “Christ is the end [telos] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”3 Broadly speaking, two different ways of thinking of Christ in relation to the OT find their origins here, one of which interprets the Greek word telos in terms of the OT’s subject matter (res) or authorizing purpose, and another that glosses the word primarily in terms of an eschatological goal. Because these readings are not mutually exclusive, on one level Christotelic readings of the OT may be interpreted in traditional terms as the belief that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the goal, or telos, of the Old Testament. Christotelism would then be something akin to theological shorthand for the belief that the OT finds its fulfillment in the Incarnation, death, and Resurrection of Jesus who is the Christ, a noncontroversial claim for most Christian readers of the OT. In the hands of its more recent advocates, however, Christotelism is bound up with an eschatological reading of the OT that identifies the OT’s Christological sense with its NT fulfillment. On this approach, the OT’s literal sense does not bear witness to Christ on its own semantic level, apart from the NT, but awaits correlation with the NT’s own witness to Christ before it may be said to be Christian Scripture in more than a telic or eschatological sense.

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One Body, One Spirit, One Hope: Theological Resources for Those Who Struggle to Hope

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One Body, One Spirit, One Hope: Theological Resources for Those Who Struggle to Hope

Barbara K. Sain

In a recent essay Margaret Adam describes how emphasis on certain ideas about hope in theological discussions can result in the neglect of other valuable ideas about hope from the Christian tradition.1 For example, focus on the revelatory character of human suffering can diminish the importance of a God who transcends suffering, and determination to fight injustice in this world can overshadow longing for eternal life beyond this world. The oppositions Adam describes reveal a characteristic of the larger discussion of Christian hope. The current conversation about hope is actually multiple conversations, with different presuppositions and focal points, that have surprisingly little engagement with each other. In addition to writers who focus on the classical topics of eschatology, such as the afterlife and the end of time, there are theologians who emphasize the social and historical character of hope, others who maintain the traditional understanding of hope as a theological virtue, and pastoral theologians who draw on psychology. To some extent the variety of approaches reflects the richness of the Christian experience of hope. However, the lack of engagement among different schools of thought results in disjunctures and omissions in the conversation. Some situations for which hope is important are not well addressed in the literature.

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Sacramentally Regulated Eschatology in Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Benedict XVI

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Sacramentally Regulated Eschatology in Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Benedict XVI

Jonathan Martin Ciraulo

Thomas Aquinas’s O Sacrum Convivium ends with the acclamation of the Eucharist as “futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur,” which summarizes well the intimate connection between sacramental theology and eschatology that Catholic and Orthodox theology have always held. However, as much as the sacraments themselves are often placed within their eschatological horizon, it is rare to flip the equation and see the ἔσχατα in light of the sacraments.1 This article proposes to do precisely that. In examining how sacramental theology can (and sometimes should) regulate eschatology, we will begin by briefly tracing the theological connections between the sacraments and eschatology, and then provide an analysis of the epistemic congruence between the two theological topics. Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will then be employed as exemplars of maintaining a harmony between the sacraments and the Last Things. Balthasar is used to exemplify the Trinitarian contours of sacramental eschatology, while Benedict XVI highlights its liturgical and imaginative aspects. Eschatology, considered in this light, is sacramental in that the entire economy of salvation, and even the life of the Trinity, is essentially sacramental (Balthasar), a reality expressed and communicated in the liturgical life of the church (Benedict). For both Balthasar and Benedict, because the sacraments are privileged loci of the ἔσχατα, their respective eschatologies are regulated and in constant dialogue with sacramental theology.

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Review Essay

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Review Essay

Paul R. Hinlicky

Robert C. Saler

Between Magisterium and Marketplace: A Constructive Account of Theology and the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014)

Rob Saler has written an insightful and instructive book that ought to be of interest to readers of Pro Ecclesia. That is the case for a number of reasons. First, there is, refreshingly, the almost entire absence of polemic in the book. With clarity and charity, Saler accounts for the position of the “polis ecclesiologists” (chiefly under discussion is Reinhard Hütter) while at the same time acknowledging without prejudice some of the weaknesses of the alternative position that he (seemingly) advocates. This kind of fair-minded treatment is an increasingly rare thing. The fruit of the irenic procedure is that his book sheds light rather than heat. Second, there is the range of the book. Saler is equally comfortable in contemporary literary criticism and philosophy as in the spectrum of modern genitive theologies; there are indications of an equally thorough engagement with historic Christian theological tradition(s), though this is not foregrounded in the book. Third, there is the complex and interesting two-part thesis that the book entertains—to wit, first, that theological authorship is the function of an ecclesiological commitment and, second, that a decentered, spatially diffuse ecclesiology can sponsor robust theological authorships in which openness to a “profusion” of innovation is an aspect of fidelity rather than a betrayal of it. For the Pro Ecclesia readership, the first part of Saler’s thesis will seem obvious and his argument on its behalf welcome. Yet the second part will be found, to put it charitably, question-begging. Faithful? To what, exactly? And why? And how is that related to spatially diffuse ecclesiology? One senses that the author too is aware of such ambiguities. We will return to this matter.

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