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Pro Ecclesia Vol 25-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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Story Time in America

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Story Time in America1

Joel Biermann

It has become commonplace within Christian conversation that the Church in North America is facing increasingly stiff competition not only from other religions, but from worldviews or narratives that profess to be irreligious. Those committed to the project of apologetics are likely to concur and respond by mounting spirited campaigns to counter the threat. Others like the present writer affirm the ultimate supremacy of the Christian account of reality and see dubious outcomes when the attackers are engaged on their own turf. When all is said and done, Christianity has no competition. Nevertheless, simply from the standpoint of undertaking the Church’s mission with some degree of deliberation and effectiveness, there is value in surveying the contemporary narrative landscape and exploring the sort of life stories or worldviews or narratives that describe and drive people in North America.

To describe or even just to think about the narratives that are at work in the surrounding culture and to accomplish such a task in the space of a single essay is more than an ambitious undertaking, it is, it must be admitted, the errand of a madman. Which is to say, that this essay will not offer a general overview or assessment of the assortment of narratives at work today in the American context. Of course, it would be tempting to invest some time and thought considering some of the alternative narratives at work in the wider culture. It would be easy enough to craft a paper that recounts a quick trip around the “western-worldviews-buffet” and offers a spicy or, more probably, a rancid sample here or there. While there certainly remains a compelling attraction to following such a route, that exercise would, it seems likely, easily and speedily devolve into self-indulgence and tend merely to nurture the simmering sense of outrage and sanctimony all too typical among more conservative Christians as they survey the godlessness, wantonness, and arrogant decadence of our contemporary Western culture. It would be wonderful to serve up a sizzling diatribe against the theological naturalism described and refuted so cogently by Cornelius Hunter.2 And it would be gratifying to savor the penetrating arguments of Timothy Keller as he tackles some of Western culture’s most cherished and most inane ideas about God and religion.3 It would be a delight to share a healthy portion of N. T. Wright’s soaring refutation of those—Christian and non-Christian alike—who pine for an otherworldly, immaterial, pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-bye-and-bye version of heaven.4 Obviously, though, this work has already been done, and it just may be that there are better things to consider in grappling with the reality of our current twenty-first-century Western context. To add to the critique does little to further our understanding of the culture around, and begins to seem a bit like piling-on.

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Humility: An Augustinian Perspective

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Humility: An Augustinian Perspective1

Kent Dunnington

In a letter to a young student named Dioscorus, Augustine writes, “If you were to ask me, however often you might repeat the question, what are the instructions of the Christian religion, I would be disposed to answer always and only, ‘Humility,’ although, perchance, necessity might constrain me to speak also of other things” (Ep. 118.3.22).2 In this essay, I show why, for Augustine, humility is the definitive virtue of Christian life. I also show that Augustine’s account of humility differs significantly from what contemporary philosophers “remember” Christian humility to be.

The essay unfolds in four parts. First, I isolate what I call the “standard account” of Christian humility among contemporary philosophers. Second, I argue that the standard account of Christian humility does not capture Augustine’s understanding of humility. Third, I develop what I take to be Augustine’s account of humility, namely a disposition of the will to embrace radical dependence, particularly with respect to one’s identity or self-understanding. Fourth, I show why Augustine’s account of humility is inseparable from specifically Christian commitments.

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Gratia Non Tollit Naturam sed Perficit

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Gratia Non Tollit Naturam sed Perficit 1

Robert W. Jenson

I

The Thomistic maxim2 which provides the matter of this essay is conventionally translated in some such way as this: “[God’s] grace does not eliminate nature, but rather perfects it.” The maxim is widely accepted in the West, also among Protestants, yet is also the frequent occasion or context of theological and even ecclesial divergence. Such a situation is often a sign that something is amiss with the language of the proposition in question, or perhaps only that it is more complicated than appears at first thought, or perhaps a bit of each. Thus the matter of this essay is not Thomas Aquinas’s theology, but the possibilities and problems of the maxim taken for itself as a piece of discourse—though Thomas will be instanced along the way. The goal is a plausible exegesis of the maxim.

I will be profligate in the discovery of both opportunities and difficulties, to give a general impression of the mixed-species jungle we enter with our title3 and without any intent to deal with them all in one essay—or ever. I should note that my current interest in this jungle is aroused by experience with a group of Princeton Seminary graduate students who meet with me: no matter what text we start with, at some time during the discussion we find ourselves entangled in one or another of the jungle’s thickets.

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Unitatis Redintegratio after Fifty Years: A Protestant Reading

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Unitatis Redintegratio after Fifty Years: A Protestant Reading

Timothy George

On 21 November 1964, the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio (UR), was approved by the Second Vatican Council.1 Although this document had been much debated and revised through several drafts, the final vote by the Council fathers was overwhelming: 2,137 in support and only 11 in opposition. This confirmed what everyone knew as the Council approached the close of its third session, namely, that one of the principal concerns of only the second ecumenical council convened since the Protestant Reformation was “the restoration (or reintegration) of unity among all Christians.”

Among the Protestant observers present in St. Peter’s Basilica that day was Dr. Douglas Horton, sometime dean of Harvard Divinity School and a delegated observer of the International Congregational Council. In his published diary of the Council, Dean Horton made this observation about the great expectations raised by the Decree on Ecumenism half a century ago:

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“Proto-Ecumenical” Catholic Reform in the Eighteenth Century: Lodovico Muratori as a Forerunner of Vatican II

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“Proto-Ecumenical” Catholic Reform in the Eighteenth Century: Lodovico Muratori as a Forerunner of Vatican II

Shaun Blanchard

Introduction

The name of Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750) does not often enter discussions of the Second Vatican Council. On one hand, it is understandable that most scholarship on Muratori concerns his impressive historiography, his discovery of the “Muratorian Fragment” in the Ambrosian library, and his moral philosophy and political thought.1 But Muratori also composed a rich corpus of theological writing that advocates deep reform in the Catholic Church—through Christocentric renewal, liturgical rejuvenation, and regulated devotion to Mary and the saints. These are some of the same key areas targeted at Vatican II for reform and revitalization.

I intend to consider Muratori’s writings on Church reform alongside the reforms implemented by Vatican II—chiefly in the Constitutions Sacrosanctum Concilium, Lumen Gentium, and Dei Verbum. A retrieval of Muratori’s theology can shed light on current debates over continuity and discontinuity, ressourcement and aggiornamento, and contribute to the genealogical question of when key ideas began germinating which came to fruition at the Council. My goal is not to suggest a certain hermeneutic for the Council or contribute to a specific postconciliar debate—it is rather to reach back further than the nineteenth century to highlight a figure that shared many concerns with reformers at Vatican II, and offered many of the same answers.

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Walking Home Together: John Bunyan and the Pilgrim Church

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Walking Home Together: John Bunyan and the Pilgrim Church1

Philip H. Pfatteicher

From the seventeenth century to well into the twentieth century two

books could be found in nearly every English-speaking home. One, of course, was the King James translation of the Bible (1611); the other was John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (first part 1678; second part 1684). The presence of Bunyan’s book is noted even by Huckleberry Finn, who tried to read it. Huck says, “There was some books too, piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table. One was a big family Bible, full of pictures. One was ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ about a man that left his family it didn’t say why. I read considerable in it now and then. The statements was interesting, but tough.”2 Huck is right: Pilgrim’s Progress is in many ways a tough book, but it is nonetheless fascinating and even, for all its seriousness, frequently amusing.

The book is indeed tough from the start. The opening scene is deeply disturbing, and Bunyan clearly intended it to be so. A man “clothed with rags” and “a great burden upon his back”3 and “a book in his hand” is standing “in a certain place” with his back to his house. The man was reading the book, weeping and trembling, and at length he cried out, “What shall I do?”

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