90 Slices
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Review Essay

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

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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Responses to Reviewers: Identifying What Matters Most

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

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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Doctores Ecclesiae

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

The Witness of Athanasius at the (Hoped-For) Nicene Council of 2025 1

Khaled Anatolios

In the spring of 2014, Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches, made a splash in the news whose ripples extended even to the secular press when he announced that he was collaborating with Pope Francis on plans to hold an ecumenical synod in Nicaea in 2025. In an exclusive interview with the website “asianews.it”, Patriarch Bartholomew reportedly said, “We agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.”2 Scholars of fourth-century theology experienced an unforeseen, if short-lived, gratification in witnessing the sudden newsworthiness of the first Nicene council of 325, as various news sites attempted to explain to contemporary audiences the import of that fourth-century gathering. For a brief period, condensed descriptions of the original Nicene council could be found in such venues as “The Huffington Post,” alongside analyses of the “budding bromance” of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew.3

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Doing Theology in the Enigmatic Rift

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

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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Medium 9781442255128

Saying and Praying: Christian Holiness and the Practice of Theology

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Saying and Praying: Christian Holiness and the Practice of Theology

Brendan Case

St. Evagrius Ponticus declared, “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you will be a theologian.”1 This maxim seems to equate the theologian’s knowledge with the knowledge embodied in the saint, which is to say, in a life transfigured by divine charity in works of mercy, fasting, and contemplation. But such a statement surely raises more questions than it answers. For instance, is saintliness a reliable marker of articulate theological knowledge? Or should we doubt or dismiss non-Christian engagements in theology? Christian thinkers in every generation have been drawn to two specifications of Evagrius’s maxim that answer both such questions in the affirmative. The stronger, which I will call the conflation thesis, treats the life of prayer as a necessary and sufficient condition for theology—sanctity and sanctity alone fits us for theologizing. Its weaker cousin, which I will call the vestibule thesis, treats the life of prayer merely as a necessary condition for theological practice; even if not all saints can be theologians, all theologians must, at least aspirationally, be saints. The first commends checking one’s doctrinal claims by finding some really holy person and asking her what she thinks of them; the second suggests that a Buddhist or an unrepentant adulterer cannot engage in Christian theology.

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