309 Articles
Medium 9781538114001

The Sacramentality of the Church in Dumitru Stăniloae’s Theology

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The Sacramentality of the Church in Dumitru Stăniloae’s Theology

Viorel Coman

The question of the Church’s sacramental nature has received significant attention in the bilateral and multilateral ecumenical dialogues over the last six decades. As Emmanuel Clapsis noted, the question itself was raised “because for some Christian churches and ecumenists (primarily Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians) the Church is the sacrament of God’s presence in the world, while others (especially Protestant theologians) believe that while Christ is the sacrament of God’s grace in the world, the Church must not be called a sacrament. The Church is only a privileged instrument of God’s grace that leads to the unity in the Church of the whole world with Christ.”1 As was expected, the 1982 Munich document issued by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church found therefore no difficulty in affirming the Church’s sacramental role: “The Church manifests what it is, the sacrament of the Trinitarian koinonia, the ‘dwelling of God with men’ (cf. Rev. 21:4).”2 When it comes to Protestant theologians, their reluctance to adopt the language of the sacramentality of the Church springs from their conviction that such an understanding of the ekklesia leads to triumphalism, obscures the distinction between Christ and the Church, and overlooks the sinfulness of those who make up the Church. In spite of that, a certain level of consensus on the theme of the Church’s sacramentality has been reached so far in the reports of the WCC Faith and Order Commission (Uppsala 1968; Accra 1974; Bangalore 1977; Chantilly 1985),3 as well as in the bilateral dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and the Churches issued from the Reformation: “Towards a Common Understanding of the Church” § 94–113 (Reformed–Roman Catholic Dialogue, 1984–1990);4 “Church and Justification” § 118–134 (Lutheran–Roman Catholic Dialogue, 1993).5 The 2013 Faith and Order convergence text “The Church: Towards a Common Vision” § 25–27 constitutes another important example in this regard.6 However, the topic of the Church’s sacramental role needs further reflection, for it remains still an unresolved theological issue in the ecumenical discussions.

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Scriptural Completion in the Infancy Gospel of James

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Scriptural Completion in the Infancy Gospel of James

Markus Bockmuehl

Every authoritative text—perhaps any significant text—involves its hearers and readers in a process of engagement that invites or even requires the filling of gaps or breaks in what is written.1

In communities committed to canons of Holy Scripture, this engagement may at times appear to outsiders as little more than rationalization—the exposition of a static document in the service of a concern for authorized meaning. Closer observation, however, tends instead to uncover a complex, historically self-renewing process of relating text to intertext; of nuancing the tensions and suspensions of law and poetry and prophecy differentially; of continually rereading multiple senses of the text in light of each other; of the interplay of memory, retrieval, and aggiornamento within an interpreter’s living community of praxis, study, and worship.

At the same time, this process sometimes gives rise to a further stage of engagement with authoritative texts, more liminal and yet in other respects more generative than the picture just described. The very genesis of the scriptural texts themselves bears witness to a dynamic process of reception, appreciation, and transmission. In so doing, the sacred page gives rise to new, epiphenomenal text that may either become an integral part of the emerging scriptural voice or alternatively attain an independent authority of its own as a metatext that nevertheless remains associated in some sense with the generative personality of a Moses or an Ezra, a Paul or a John. This process has long been of interest to students of inter-textual and inner-biblical interpretation, of reception history and effective history, in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

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Transfiguring Doubt: A Retrieval from Augustine’s Meta-Apologetic in De Trinitate

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Transfiguring Doubt: A Retrieval from Augustine’s Meta-Apologetic in De Trinitate

Clifton Stringer

Part I. Apologetic Contexts

1.1. Necessary Uncertainty?

In 2011, the late journalist Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011) debated John Haldane at Oxford on questions related to God, faith, and public policy. Hitchens began his opening statement by describing a curious fact about the death of American President Abraham Lincoln, as Lincoln expired in a room in Petersen House not far from Pennsylvania Avenue. Hitchens:

We still don’t know, when his cabinet gathered around him and saw him die . . . either [his cabinet member Stanton or Herndon] said, “Now he’s with the angels” or “Now he’s with the ages.” We still don’t know [which was said]. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. There were eyewitnesses, literate men, practically contemporaries of ours. They were in the age of print, in the age of photography, and yet nobody knows which thing Stanton or Herndon said.

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Martin Luther after 500 Years

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Martin Luther after 500 Years

Bruce D. Marshall

Five hundred years ago this past October, on the eve of All Saints—what we call Halloween—a young theology professor at a provincial German university posted a set of theses for academic debate.1 The university was in the northeast German town of Wittenberg, and the professor was Martin Luther, a monk and priest two weeks shy of his thirty-fourth birthday. His aim was a standard academic exercise, a public disputation on a series of contested points, so his theses were written in Latin, the universal academic language of Europe at the time. The subject of his theses was the theology and practice of indulgences. Indulgences had been a standard part of Western medieval religious life for several centuries, one part of a much larger picture about sin, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God and one’s community. Luther was moved to post his “Disputation to Clarify the Power of Indulgences,” to recall its formal title, by his lively irritation over the way a particular indulgence tied to the building of the new St. Peter’s basilica in Rome was, with papal approval, being preached and sold in north Germany at the time. But the proper understanding of indulgences, of what they could and could not do, was already a topic of running controversy, and a good deal of what Luther had to say in his ninety-five theses had already been said by others.

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Grace and Gratitude: A Reply to Bruce Marshall

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Grace and Gratitude: A Reply to Bruce Marshall

Michael Allen

“The spirits divide in manifold ways, and the division reaches even to the description of Protestantism’s iconic founding incident.” These words of Professor Bruce Marshall not only help us realize the challenge as we assess the events of October 1517, but, more broadly, as we consider the persona and witness of Martin Luther. Some take Luther’s significance to be political, and Marshall alludes to the significance of his support by “the Elector of Saxony Frederick the Wise” for turning him from a mere reformer to a founder of German Protestantism. Others highlight the ways in which Luther confronted the economic exploitation of German peasants for the aristocrats and the foreign powers of Rome, to which Marshall also nods in his comments on the popular awareness of the ways in which indulgences could fleece the least of these. While treating the political and the economic aspects of reform as bearing significance, however, Marshall reminds us of the abiding theological character of his witness and the specifically pastoral shape of his reforms.

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