264 Articles
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Continuing Conversion: The Reform of the Church as Ecumenical Task

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Continuing Conversion: The Reform of the Church as Ecumenical Task

John Vissers

My assignment today is to respond briefly from my perspective as a Reformed Christian to Ephraim Radner’s very thoughtful and provocative paper. I stand in the Reformed tradition, among the Churches and the theological tradition that emerged from the sixteenth-century Swiss Reformation, from the work of John Calvin and other Reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger. The Reformed tradition stands in contrast not only to Roman Catholicism but also to the Lutheran Reformation and to Anabaptism. The Reformed tradition, so named, also goes by the name of Calvinism and in a more restricted ecclesial sense is embodied in those Churches named Presbyterian.

This is the ecclesial and theological neighborhood in which I live and work. I was baptized in a Dutch Reformed congregation of immigrants meeting in a Canadian Presbyterian Church. Years later, at my ordination as a Presbyterian minister, my grandfather teased me about the fact that the baptism took, just not in the way the family expected. It turns out, he said, that buildings matter (although the line between Dutch Calvinism and Scottish Presbyterianism is a thin one indeed!). I came to personal faith in Jesus Christ as a teenager in a lively evangelical Presbyterian congregation. I received a call to ministry there and was educated in two Reformed theological institutions: Knox College in Toronto and Princeton Seminary. I have exercised my vocation as pastor and theologian and denominational leader within the Reformed and Presbyterian theological neighborhood. It is difficult, therefore, if not impossible, for me to understand my identity as a Christian apart from this specific ecclesial and theological context. I am a child of the Reformation five hundred years on. The theological themes of the Reformed faith—God’s sovereign grace, the authority of Scripture, the centrality of Christ, the Reformed confessions—these things matter to me.

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Saint Paul At Sea: A Mystical-Political Reading of Moby Dick via Stanislaus Breton

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Saint Paul At Sea: A Mystical-Political Reading of Moby Dick via Stanislaus Breton

Travis Kroeker

I recently taught a graduate seminar on Leviathan, with the two primary texts being Hobbes’s political philosophical classic and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The Ignatius Critical Edition of Melville’s classic includes three essays in “Contemporary Criticism,” which begins with Robert Alexander’s “Apocalyptic Readings of Moby Dick: What Ishmael Returns to Tell Us” and ends with Stephen Zelnick’s “Moby Dick: The Republic at Sea.”1 Alexander’s apocalyptic reading opposes the dominant view (at least since Lawrence Thompson’s 1952 Melville’s Quarrel with God) that Moby Dick is an ultimately despairing nihilistic novel. He argues that Ishmael in the end bears witness, Jonah- and Job-like, to an apocalypse of divine mystery in nature, in a spirit of humility that saves him from the “degraded view of both the human person and nature that entered Christianity in the Reformation” (669). What is unveiled is a prophetic return to the “medieval sacramental world view” of Dante’s Commedia that may save modernity from its impersonal, disembodied, and disenchanted Calvinist iron cage. So far, so Weberian—except for, you know, the salvation part. Salvation will come from medieval Catholicism. How apocalyptic is that??

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An Agenda for Evangelicals and Catholics

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An Agenda for Evangelicals and Catholics

William M. Shea

Conflicting horizons of meaning have been the central interest of my professional and personal life: Jews and Christians; naturalists and the supernaturalists; Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Catholics; right-wing (Ultramontane and Integralist) and left-wing (liberal and modernist) Catholics; America’s constitutional tolerance and its unofficial and historical anti-Catholicism; the nation’s unusually religious nature and its recent disturbingly antireligious culture; and the tug-of-war among Catholics as to the nature of authority and Catholic identity. This interest in cultural and theological dialectic began in 1951 in college, where I wrote a senior thesis on Franco’s rebellion against the Spanish Republic in 1936. To me the murderous republican anticlericalism and equally murderous fascism of the Catholic right was each a mysterium tremendum et fascinans.1

I’ve tried to understand differences, looking for a way of coping with them intellectually and practically, and looking for common ground. I’ve occasionally found ways of speaking constructively about differences and even some ways of living with the differences and getting beyond them, and that in spite of the fact that temperamentally I’m a divider rather than a healer. David Tracy thirty years ago said of me that I have a Catholic mind and a Protestant psyche, and so an inner dialectic was noted. My brother once remarked that I am emotional man trying to be reasonable.I think they are making the same point: my own struggle for personal unification makes me alert to the tug of opposites, especially in religion and culture. For me the personal tension has always been to understand the “others” and at the same time remain faithful to my own people. How to achieve unification and how to cope with difference are the ordering questions for me. Perhaps practical unification is the outcome of a plethora of copings rather than a Hegelian third position that subsumes the two “others.”

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Ivan Illich, Catholic Theologian (Part I)

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Ivan Illich, Catholic Theologian (Part I)

Colin Miller

Ivan Illich is best known for his work as an iconoclastic social critic in the 1970s with his critiques of modern schools, medicine, and transportation. Yet when Monsignor Illich died in Bremen in 2002, he was, and had always been, a Catholic priest in good standing with the Vatican, as Cardinal Ratzinger had verified a few years earlier.1 Throughout Illich’s life, people remarked on the piety and solemnity with which he participated in Mass. Though he had, with permission, withdrawn from the public exercise of the priesthood in 1969, he did not thereby count himself free of priestly office. To the end of his life he said his Offices, attended Mass, and went to Confession regularly.2 Though he has been read episodically as a modernity basher, what he in fact did was to devote the last three decades of his priestly life to a sustained theological account of modernity as the corruption of Christianity, by which he means the corruption of Catholicism. This account deserves a place beside the better-known work of scholars such as MacIntyre, Taylor, Pfau, and others.3 In the following I only begin to forge a few of these connections and, in an introductory way, claim Illich as an unusual yet distinctly and consciously Catholic theologian particularly relevant at this point in time for Catholics and non-Catholic Christians alike.

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The Naked Christian: Baptism and the Broken Body of Christ

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The Naked Christian: Baptism and the Broken Body of Christ

Ephraim Radner

I

I am deeply thankful that so many of you chose to come to this talk and set of responses—not for any personal reason, but because the topic of the Reformation is indeed something we need to grapple with.1 I don’t usually wear a collar for a public talk like this, but today I want to be clear that, in what I am going to say, I am saying it as an Anglican priest who is deeply committed to Anglican teaching and tradition—and even to the sacramental elements my priesthood is wrapped up in. Likewise, I am deeply respectful of the analogous commitments of Christians from other Churches and traditions here. And I mention this because there will no doubt be some who will question that commitment and respect on the basis of my remarks; but that will be mistaken.

No one doubts that the Reformation of the sixteenth century profoundly changed all kinds of things in Western Christian life. But are we today actually identified by or with the Reformation and its forms? It is true that you can go to Madagascar today and the Lutherans there are eagerly studying the Augsburg Confession. And you can go to the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in Australia, and they are steadfastly proclaiming their adherence to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and encouraging others in the Communion to do the same. And there are not a few younger Catholic priests in North America and France who have taken up the Council of Trent with a new enthusiasm. But my argument will be that this is all epiphenomenal: these post-Reformational echoes, and the many websites associated with them, are but the debris, the flotsam, left behind by a tide that has long since been sliding back out into the ocean of God’s providence. What the new tides will bring is another question, and I will speak to that as well.

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Doctrine, Ecumenical Progress, and Problems with Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist

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Doctrine, Ecumenical Progress, and Problems with Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist

Christian D. Washburn

In a time in which some have begun to speak of the beginning of an ecumenical winter, it is always a pleasure to see new attempts to promote and advance Christian unity. As we approach the five hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting his Ninety-Five Theses, a new document, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist, surveys the ecumenical dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics of the last fifty years. Based on this survey, the document presents thirty-two “Statements of Agreement” that demonstrate the many points of convergence between Lutherans and Catholics on Church, ministry, and Eucharist. The intention of the authors is that those “at the highest level” of our two communions will receive it formally. The document also contains a section titled “Remaining Differences and Reconciling Considerations,” which examines fifteen historically divisive doctrines still unresolved by the various dialogues. The authors argue that some of the doctrines prove, “after consideration,” either not to be Church-dividing or to be less Church-dividing than previously thought. This article will argue that the Declaration’s treatment of some of these historically divisive doctrines, such as the sacramentality of ordination, the ordination of women, and the sacrifice of the Mass, is at best misleading and in some cases is seriously flawed doctrinally. To this end, this article will begin with a brief examination of the history of the text of the Declaration on the Way. The article will then examine the sacramentality of ordination, the ordination of women, and the sacrifice of the Mass from a doctrinal and ecumenical perspective.

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What’s to Celebrate?

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What’s to Celebrate?

Robert W. Jenson

Since it is commonly supposed that the Reformation began in 1517 with Luther’s debate theses on penance and the fuss they occasioned, people are looking to celebrate its five hundredth anniversary in 2017. And there you have it, the inevitable word, celebrate. For it is also commonly supposed that what happened back there rightly occasions celebration: large gatherings, encomiums, cheerleading, processions/parades, that sort of thing. Like the Fourth of July used to be in the United States.

But celebrate what, exactly? And how are we to do that? (The “we” here are the Protestants, including those reluctant to be so labeled.)

We can hardly now celebrate the eventual separation itself, since Protestant churches in the ecumenical movement spent decades lamenting and working to overcome it. Protestants could praise God for the supposed gift of churches liberated from papacy, so long as we thought that the papacy was an aspect of Satan’s tyranny, doomed to destruction with Islam and the like. For many good reasons, most of us have given up that doctrine. And getting along simply without a universal magisterium has in the meantime proven easier said than done.

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Not Only Luther: The German Debate over the Reformationsjubiläum

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Not Only Luther: The German Debate over the Reformationsjubiläum

Michael Stahl

Thanks for the invitation to speak on this panel. I would like to respond to Professor Radner’s paper from a specifically German perspective.

There is an ongoing debate in German Church and society of how to approach the upcoming five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation.

For nearly a decade the Evangelical Churches have prepared for 2017; also cultural, political, and touristic institutions are doing so.

To describe all ongoing activities in my country would fill the time we have this afternoon. However, one thing can be said for sure: There is no common understanding of the current relevance of the Reformation. While some see the anniversary as an opportunity to affirm ecclesial or even denominational identity, some focus on a dogmatic approach, and others see the Reformation rather as a historic phenomenon or even a touristic challenge.

Let me illustrate with one example. To answer the question what to commemorate in 2017, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) recently published a pamphlet titled Justification and Freedom.1 In this text some theologians outlined what theological insights of the Reformation era they would consider still relevant to our present context. They showed that the Reformation has significantly changed private as well as public life and that this still has an impact on our lives today. For instance, the authors mention the impact of the Reformation on educational achievements, on the development of basic rights like religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and on the modern idea of the state.

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Reformation and Recusants: Christian Unity and the Communion of Saints

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Reformation and Recusants: Christian Unity and the Communion of Saints

Gill Goulding

I have to thank Dr. Radner for a very stimulating paper. He roamed widely and provocatively across the last five hundred years and I think in his own inimitable style effectively raised some clearly essential issues. I found it a very challenging paper ecumenically. Some of his comments reminded me of an incident I read about before Vatican II, when, as I understand, Patriarch Athenagoras and now–saint Pope John XXIII are reported to have said jokingly that only the hairsplitting and obstinacy of theologians maintains the division between the Churches: the learned will not agree among themselves and project their dispute over the whole of Christianity, though they cannot make any sense of it anymore. In the meantime, of course, some theologians have addressed the same reproach in all seriousness to holders of office. Only the Church authorities, they say, have an interest in division, which is kept in existence by them for the sake of their own survival. Regarding the three questions cited as important for this gathering—Do we celebrate the Reformers’ renewal of the Church in light of the Gospel? Do we mourn the division of the one, Catholic Church? Or have events like the globalization of Christianity and the rise of Pentecostalism made the sixteenth-century debates irrelevant?—I am tempted to say both Yes and no to the first two and Somewhat to the third.

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In Search of a Congruent Ecclesiology

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In Search of a Congruent Ecclesiology

John Rempel

Professor Radner is never boring in his thinking. He is always challenging and occasionally elusive. Two realities related to the legacy of sixteenth-century reform seem to haunt him. One of them is the “indifference” and “disdain” in which non- or nominally religious people hold the doctrines of all the Reformation-era movements. The second reality that haunts him is that these movements have left us with “many Churches and many divided Christians.” From a conventional Protestant viewpoint, this is a bleak reading of the legacy of sixteenth-century reform.

Radner insightfully expands his critique beyond European Christianity. He attributes the phenomenal growth of Pentecostalism to the fact that it is untouched by the “cognitive and doctrinal aspects of post-Reformation institutions.” This could also be said of some kinds of megachurches in North America. If so, is Ephraim simply putting brackets around the Reformation and its five hundred years of tradition? Is there no evidence that the Holy Spirit was at work there?

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CHRIST’S “SYMPHONIC” OBEDIENCE: EXPLORING HANS URS VON BALTHASAR’S ARCHETYPAL EXPERIENCE THROUGH HAN CONFUCIANISM

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CHRIST’S “SYMPHONIC” OBEDIENCE: EXPLORING HANS URS VON BALTHASAR’S ARCHETYPAL EXPERIENCE THROUGH HAN CONFUCIANISM

Joshua R. Brown

INTRODUCTION

This essay explores how Hans Urs von Balthasar’s conception of Christ’s archetypal experience involves the exemplarity of his filial obedience.1 I argue Balthasar develops an implicit taxonomy of obedience with Christ as the apical “symphonic” obedience in contrast to creaturely and covenantal forms of obedience. By “symphonic,” I mean the attunement of all the parts within a whole—within Jesus, his obedience, his love of God, and existence are all perfectly attuned to one another. Thus, Jesus’s life shows us a “symphonic” obedience wherein all the parts are distinct, yet “sound together” in seamless harmony. Moreover, I mean to show how Balthasar’s attention to this aspect of Jesus is particularly steeped in the filial nature of the Incarnation, and hence his filial obedience is the uniquely symphonic form.

Joshua R. Brown, Loyola University Maryland, Dept. of Theology, 4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210. E-mail: jrbrown@loyola.edu.

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ORIGEN AND THE COUNCIL OF YHWH: A CASE STUDY IN THEOLOGICAL–CRITICAL INTERPRETATION

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ORIGEN AND THE COUNCIL OF YHWH: A CASE STUDY IN THEOLOGICAL–CRITICAL INTERPRETATION

James W. Haring

AN UNLIKELY PARTNERSHIP

Modernity typically casts critical biblical scholarship and “pre-critical” biblical exegesis as antagonists. These stock characters have begun to disintegrate, and here I offer an example that rescripts them as unwitting partners. Both, in fact, have a substantial commonality: they confront modern readers with something foreign. If early Christian biblical interpretation is foreign to modern sensibilities in its use of allegory and its detection of spiritual meanings, modern biblical scholarship often brings into relief just how foreign the Scriptures are when understood on their own terms and in their own context. Thus, it is ironic, but perhaps unsurprising, to find that when biblical scholars uncover the strangeness of the (often implicit) worldview of the authors of the Hebrew Bible, it sometimes cancels out the strangeness of early biblical interpreters. What emerges is that the strangeness of these early interpretations was sometimes linked not to a failure to read the biblical texts perceptively, but to the cultural and intellectual proximity of early interpreters to the very strangeness of the biblical texts themselves.

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AQUINAS AND SUPERSESSIONISM ONE MORE TIME: A RESPONSE TO MATTHEW A. TAPIE’S AQUINAS ON ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH

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AQUINAS AND SUPERSESSIONISM ONE MORE TIME: A RESPONSE TO MATTHEW A. TAPIE’S AQUINAS ON ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH

Matthew Levering

In his Aquinas on Israel and the Church: The Question of Supersessionism in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas, Matthew Tapie examines my work first in a section on pages 30–38, then in an excursus on pages 41–47, and finally in a section on 158–163.1 Indeed, his book functions in large part as a critique of my writings on the topic of Thomas Aquinas and supersessionism. Among other things, he suggests that I “only . . . pay lip service to the call for the renunciation of harsh Christian supersessionism.”2 Given the significance of the topic, it seems appropriate for me to engage his criticisms, especially since this engagement provides a chance to clarify, rectify, and extend my long-standing interest in Aquinas and supersessionism. In addition to underscoring my firm “renunciation of harsh Christian supersessionism,” the present essay argues for the importance of Aquinas’s commentary on Gal. 5:3 for understanding the full contours of Aquinas’s theology of the Jewish people. Although in the body of the essay I focus upon Tapie’s concerns, and therefore do not discuss Messianic Judaism (which was in the foreground of my earlier engagements with Aquinas and supersessionism), I clarify and further develop my position on Messianic Judaism in the footnotes of the essay. Thanks in significant part to the efforts of Mark S. Kinzer, with whom I have been in dialogue for a number of years and who kindly read and criticized a draft of the present essay, Messianic Judaism has become an increasingly important topic in recent years within the Catholic Church.3

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READING THE TRINITY IN THE BIBLE: ASSUMPTIONS, WARRANTS, ENDS

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READING THE TRINITY IN THE BIBLE: ASSUMPTIONS, WARRANTS, ENDS

Brad East

INTRODUCTION

The one God depicted in and by the Bible is the Holy Trinity. Christians therefore read Scripture well when Trinitarian faith is operative in their reading and, in turn, when their reading leads them more deeply into the triune mystery. These claims are either unremarkably traditional or immediately implausible, depending on the audience in question. The disjunction is partly historical—that is, the claims’ purported implausibility appeared on the scene and thence became thinkable around, say, three centuries ago—but mostly it is regional, cultural, disciplinary: a certain pedagogical and scholarly tutelage has reinforced and maintained the in-principle improbability of Trinitarian interpretation of the Bible, not least among Christians, and it continues to exert a widespread influence. Whatever the factors and reasons informing such a view, however, whether ambivalent or antagonistic, I will not make it my task to sort them out or assign them to particular periods or persons. My aim in this article is more constructive, less polemical—though it unavoidably contains a polemical edge.

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CREATION AND CROSS IN THE ANGLICAN SPIRITUALITY OF THOMAS TRAHERNE

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CREATION AND CROSS IN THE ANGLICAN SPIRITUALITY OF THOMAS TRAHERNE

William Witt

In the following paper, I intend to examine the relationship between theology and spirituality in the theology of Thomas Traherne. I proceed with three assumptions.

First, there is a direct relationship between doctrines or beliefs and practices, including spirituality, worship (or liturgy), and ethics. This has been a common theme of much theology in the last half century, but it is almost always worthwhile to examine how this works out in the writings of a particular theologian.

Second, there is such a thing as the subject matter of Christian faith, and this has both a center and a periphery. The center is expressed in the Trinitarian and incarnational structure of the Rule of Faith appealed to by second-century Church Fathers like Irenaeus, and in the ecumenical creeds of the patristic era. This center is an essential summary of and hermeneutical guide to reading the normative text of the Christian Scriptures. Historically, the most enduring and helpful theologies have been those that have placed their focus on this center. We continue to read the works of Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Richard Hooker, Karl Barth, and C. S. Lewis for this reason.

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