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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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