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99 Wolfhart Pannenberg’s book, Jesus – God and Man, is one of the most excellent contributions in the history of modern existentialist christologies. In this book, Pannenberg believes that Christians know and discuss about God only as he has been revealed in and through Jesus. Hence, “theology and Christology, the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Jesus as the Christ, are bound together” (p.xxviii). He tries to locate his Christology between two polar ends in the history of Christology. The first is the view that has arisen out of the illuminist rationalism of the modern era, which holds that Christ is only human and that his being, life and mission had no messianic or divine significance. Therefore, the proponents of this view insist that that the task of Christology is to search for the historical Jesus. The second is the view that does not see any need in going back to the historical Jesus. What matters for theologians of this group, like Bultmann, is the Church’s kerygma about Christ. For them, the task of Christology is to investigate how the Church’s preaching about Christ challenges Christians to a life of commitment in faith. Pannenberg’s Christology, therefore, stands between historical and kerymatic Christology. In seeking to take this middle position, Pannenberg decided to start from the historical Jesus and moves forward to prove his divinity and his relation to the Father therefrom (Christology “from below”). This is because it is in it that one discovers the decisive factor in Jesus’ life and proclamation upon which faith is founded. Thus, he succinctly states: “Christology is concerned, therefore, not only with unfolding the Christian community’s confession of Christ, but above all with grounding it in the activity and fate of Jesus in the past. The confession of Christ cannot be pre-supposed already and simply interpreted” (p.10). Now, though Christology must begin with the man Jesus, “its first question has to be that about his unity with God. Every statement about Jesus taken independently from his relationship to God could result only in a crass distortion of his historical reality. The modernistic presentation of Jesus at the height of the quest of the historical Jesus offers enough examples of this” (p.19). In trying to investigate the basis of Jesus’ unity with God
“from below,” most groups have taken the lead from the claim to authority in Jesus’ proclamation and work. But there is no reason for the assumption that the foregoing taken by itself justified faith in Jesus. On the contrary, everything depends upon the connection between Jesus’ claim and its confirmation by God. God’s confirmation of Jesus’ pre-Easter claim happened in Jesus’ resurrection. However, the verisimilitude of Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event has been seriously argued and debated. For Pannenberg, the resurrection of Jesus would be designated as a historical event “only if one examines it in the light of the eschatological hope for a resurrection from the dead, then that which is so designated is a historical event, even if we do not know anything more particular about it” (pp.94-5). At this juncture, a problem crops up because the significance of Jesus’ resurrection was originally bound to the fact that it constituted only the beginning of the universal resurrection of the dead and the end of the world. Again, Pannenberg rightly noted that the delay of the end events, which now amounts to almost two thousand years, is not a refutation of the Christian hopes and of revelation as long as the unity between what happened in Jesus and the eschatological future is maintained. Having stated this, he turns to examine the Christologies of the Church on the basis of Jesus’ unity with God as shown in his resurrection. An impasse becomes manifest here: Jesus’ unity with God himself was expressed in different ways in primitive Christianity, not only in a multiplicity of traditional titles, but also in such a way that these titles were connected with definite events in Jesus’ destiny to be the future, eschatological Son of God. Now, did Jesus become the Son of God only at his baptism, or through the particular event of transfiguration, or through his resurrection, or that he already was the Son of God from the beginning, from his birth or even as a pre-existent being before his earthly birth? Can a material relationship among all these conceptions be shown? In Pannenberg’s view, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the decisive point in the history of Jesus’ relation to God. Nevertheless, this does not imply that Jesus received divinity only as a consequence of his resurrection. Jesus did not simply become something that he previously had not been; rather, his pre-Easter claim was confirmed by God in his resurrection. This confirmation, the manifestation of Jesus’ “divine Sonship” by God, is the new thing
brought by the Easter event. However, as confirmation, the resurrection has retroactive force for Jesus’ pre-Easter activity, which taken by itself was not yet recognizable as being divinely authorized. How, now, did Jesus, exalted through the resurrection from the dead, become the pre-existent divine being descending from heaven? According to Pannenberg, in view of God’s eternity, the revelatory character of Jesus’ resurrection means that God is always one with Jesus, even before his earthly birth. Jesus is from all eternity the representative of God in the creation. Were it otherwise, Jesus would not be in person the one revelation of the eternal God. Having established Jesus’ divinity, Pannenberg sets out to establish also the basis and significance of Jesus’ humanity. Responding to views that hold Jesus’ humanity as a myth, he avers, “If Jesus lived at all, if his existence is not to be counted as a matter of spiritistic mysticism, then he was a man like us. The only question is where the uniqueness of this man in distinction from other men is to be seen” (p.207). What constitutes Jesus’ uniqueness is that in him that which is man’s destiny as man has appeared for the first time in an individual and thus has become accessible to all others only through this individual. In this light, the essence of man becomes revealed through Jesus, the Son of God, in a twofold way: “first, through Jesus’ deeds in that Jesus grants or promises community with himself and thus participation in eschatological salvation; second, in Jesus’ fate insofar as man’s destiny in the resurrection life has been revealed in Jesus himself” (p.211). At this juncture, Pannenberg entered the insuperable problem of the doctrine of the two natures. From the very beginning Christian theology has been forced to say that Jesus is both truly God and, at the same time, truly man. What constitutes the real distinction between the two-sided statement vere deus, vere homo concerning the one man Jesus? The doctrine about the two natures does not take the concrete unity of the historical man Jesus as its given point of departure, but rather the difference between the divine and the human, creaturely being in general. Various attempts were proffered towards resolving this dilemma. The two cardinal ones are: Antiochene Christology and Alexandrian Christology. However, the two attempts historically proved implausible and none was fully adopted by the Church.
For Pannenberg, this dilemma results from a Christology which begins with the assertion of incarnation in order to attain, by argument, the unity of the man Jesus with the eternal Son of God. This is because the incarnation “is itself an expression of this unity, which must be explained and established on other grounds” (p.367). Furthermore, “the unity of the man Jesus with the eternal Son of God results rather only by the way of a detour.... It is a detour by way of Jesus’ relation to the ‘Father’ i.e. to the God of Israel whom he called Father. Only the personal community of Jesus with the Father shows that he is himself identical with the Son of this Father” (p.382). From the perspective of Easter Jesus is revealed as the one obedient to the Father in his mission and Fate, and as such he is the revelation of the Father, and as the revelation of the divinity of the Father is himself one with God and thus himself belongs inseparably to the essence of God. Thus is he Son. The designation of Jesus as “Son” is justified only as a statement about the whole of the course of his existence. But within the course of his life, this fact is apparent only from its end. If one neglects this distinction, the full humanity of Jesus’ earthly way is lost from view. Thereby, the man Jesus indirectly shows himself to be identical with the existence of the Son of God. His humanity is not synthesized with a divine essence, but it involves two complementary total aspects of his existence. Nevertheless, with the special relation to the Father in the human historical aspect of Jesus’ existence, his identity in the other aspect – that of the eternal Son of the eternal Father – is given. “Thus the perception of Jesus’ eternal Sonship as dialectically identical with his humanity is based noetically upon the particularity of just this human being in his relation to the divine Father; ontologically, the relation is inverted, for the divine Sonship designates the ontological root in which Jesus’ human existence connected with the Father and nevertheless distinguished from him, has the ground of its unity and of its meaning” (p.385). While one cannot fail to laud Pannenberg’s genius in this book, it must be admitted that the tendency to equate a Christology that starts from history with theology is not altogether a healthy development. Often, such a Christology ends up developing theologies that are constructs of human reason. Furthermore, the pivotal function which resurrection plays in his scheme is problematic. If his Christology is that which is found
within the process of divine revelation, it should be progressive rather than retrogressive. The resurrection, thus, should not be the decisive point of manifestation of the deity of Christ but the climatic point. It could be noticed, also, that Pannenberg was a child of the existentialist system. He consciously omits the Passion and the Cross. His Christology could not demonstrate how Christ’s divinity would be revealed in the assault of the cross. So he prefers to locate such a father/son relationship in the triumph of the story of the resurrection than in the scandal of the passion and cross. Unfortunately, here he misses the kernel of Christianity by a leap. In fact, even though the value of the cross was confirmed by the resurrection, it is by the cross that Christ relates himself to the will of God. It is because of this that the Church persistently talks of the Paschal mystery as the passion, death and resurrection. It is a single reality that is at the same time a continuum that cannot be separated. All in all, Wolfhart Pannenberg is really a household name in dogmatics. He masterfully wrote Jesus – God and Man in a lucid but erudite mode with sustained arguments. No one will read Jesus – God and Man without having awe for the refined and fine mind of the author. His characteristic way of stating, in brief, the theory he is about to expound in a particular chapter aids a lot in comprehending the book. Save for few delicate topics, like his views on Mary’s virginal birth and Jesus’ meritorious freedom, his thoughts were quite orthodox. One expresses nothing but admiration in Pannenberg’s style of highlighting a theological problem, bringing in various authors’ view on the particular issues, countering them where necessary, and then resolving the problem. Furthermore, an unusual consistency and coherency ran through the work. In fact, Jesus – God and Man, in words of critics, is a “must” for all serious students in contemporary theology.
JESUS OF NAZARETH. By Pope Benedict XVI. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Pp. xxvi + 355. U.S. $24.95.
Perhaps, as an allusion to the rich and scholarly content of Jesus of Nazareth, the Pope in his very first sentence in the “Forward” remarked that the book has had a long gestation, which started when he was growing up in the 1930s. This book is an attack against an extreme type of modern historical exegesis which in its search for the historical Jesus denies the divinity of Christ and can only grant that Christ is God if such a claim would be taken as a latter interpretation of the post-resurrection Christian community. The Pope lauded the remarkable achievements and contributions of historical-critical scholarship in making the life of Jesus of Nazareth very accessible to the modern mind; yet, he lamented gravely that “it led to finer and finer distinctions between layers of tradition in the Gospels, beneath which the real object of faith – the figure of Jesus – became increasingly obscured and blurred” (p.xii). Furthermore, as historical-critical scholarship advanced, it culminated in this bizarre conclusion: the faith in the divinity of Jesus was only a later result of the believing community. This impression has by now penetrated deeply into the minds of the Christian people at large. This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at the thin air. From this background, the Pope hopes to counter these foregoing implications of the conclusions of historical-critical scholarship about Jesus. He hopes to rediscover the real Jesus in the light of his communion with the Father, which is the true centre of his personality. However, beyond contemporaries who have also taken this route, like Schnackenburg, he believes that the details of the real historical Jesus recorded in the Gospel are not the dubious insertions of the proclamations of the early Christian community. In so doing, the Pope asserts his trust that the Gospel can render the real Jesus: “The main implication of this for my portrayal of Jesus is that I trust the Gospel” (p.xxi). Having stated this, he goes on to categorically state the import of his work: “Of course, I take for granted everything that the Council and modern exegesis tell us about literary genre, about authorial intention, and about the fact that the Gospels were written in the context, and speak within the living milieu, of communities. I have tried, to the best of my
ability, to incorporate all of this, and yet I wanted to try to portray the Jesus of the Gospels as the real, ‘historical’ Jesus in the strict sense of the word” (pp.xxi-ii). From the Gospels, the Pope firmly stated, Jesus is the only true revealer of the Father (God), because he is the only one who has seen the Father (cf. Jn.1:18). To expatiate on this foregoing point, he contrasts Jesus with Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, of whom it was reported in Deut. 34:10: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face.” Earlier in the same book, Moses prophetically consoled the Israelites thus: “The Lord your god will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you” (Deut.18:15). In the bid to understand what Moses meant by a prophet like me, the Pope drew out the most distinctive character about the figure of Moses: “... whom the Lord knew face to face.” Yet, there is a limit to Moses’ intimacy with God. When Moses asked God, “I pray thee, show me thy glory” (Ex.33:18), God refuses his request: “You cannot see my face” (Ex.33:20). This shows how far Moses’ intimacy with God can go: “You shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen” (Ex.33:23). This request, which was refused Moses can be granted only to the Son: “No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (Jn.1:18). It is in Jesus that the promise of the new prophet is fulfilled. “What was true of Moses only in fragmentary form has now been fully realized in the person of Jesus: He lives before the face of God, not just as a friend, but as a Son; he lives in the most intimate unity with the Father” (p.6). Therefore, the Pope went further to draw the implications of this unity of Jesus with the Father in his life and teaching. For him, Jesus’ teaching is not the product of human learning, of whatever kind. It originates from immediate contact with the Father, from “face-to-face” dialogue – from the vision of the one who rests close to the Father’s heart. It is the Son’s word. Without this inner grounding, his teaching would be pure presumption. From here, the Pope went on to demonstrate how this inner grounding and unity of Jesus in the deep communion with the Father was manifested throughout his major events as recorded in the Gospels. During his baptism, the Father himself acclaimed Jesus as his only begotten-Son. Jesus’ Sonship was also very manifest in his temptations
and his proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Cross-dimensional reading of the Gospel will show that Jesus himself is that Kingdom of God which he preached. In the Sermon of the Mount, Christ’s position of authority vis-a-vis the Torah alarmed the Jews, because he did what was reserved only for God. And, it is only God who can do what Jesus Christ has just done: “You have heard that it was said..., but I say to you....” Moses brought the Old Law, now, Jesus – the new Moses – brings the New Law, which is not meant to abolish the old but to perfect and fulfil it to the fullest. Furthermore, in the Lord’s Prayer, the character of the new religion instituted by Christ becomes evident: invitation to share in the Sonship of Jesus Christ. The Jews revere and respect God, but none dare address him as Father, as Abba, only the Son can do this; it is only the Son who comes to reveal the Father can invite us to address God as Our Father. This novel and original concept of Sonship ran through Jesus’ choice of his apostles, which he did after having communed with the Father in the mountain, the messages of his parables, the principle images of Jesus in John’s gospel, to Peter’s confession at Ceasarea Philippi and the Transfiguration of Jesus at Mount Tabor. Finally, Jesus’ divine Sonship was shown very brilliantly in the various self-declarations of his identity, especially under these three basic terms: “Son of Man,” “Son” and “I am he.” The fundamental, focal question that reverberated throughout the work was: “Is Jesus Christ really God and not one of those enlightened individuals that history occasionally witnessed. The Pope dramatically demonstrated this in the dialogue between Jesus and the Rabbi Neusner. The latter followed and agreed with Jesus’ teachings until the point when Jesus asserted himself to be God. For the Pope, this is the decisive point in the contemporary world. Today, many accept Jesus’ teaching as inspiring but shrink back at his claim of unity with the Father. At best, the historical-critical scholarship projects that Jesus’ claims of being of God in the Gospel were just the latter developments of the early believing Christian community. They try to demonstrate that the historical Jesus never understood nor proclaimed himself as one with God. In addition to the numerous proofs and convictions in the pages of his work, the Pope strongly asserts there are direct declarations of Jesus’ unity with God in the Gospels which were original only to Jesus
himself, without any former appearance in the contemporaneous Jewish milieu. Among others, these three stand prominent: “Son of Man,” “Son (of God)” and “I am He”: “All three of them bring to light Jesus’ originality – his newness, that specific quality unique to him that does not derive from any further source. All three are therefore possible only on his lips – and central to all is the prayer-term “Son,” corresponding to the “Abba, Father” that he addresses to God. None of these three terms as such could therefore be straightforwardly adopted as a confessional statement by the “community,” by the Church in its early stages of formation” (p.354). Actually, in Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI has done a lot to bridge the gap between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. One significant fact from this critical work is that the author intends to beat his opponents in their own field. He approaches the verdict in Christology by historico-critical exegesis from a historical point of view and yet grasps what eluded the historic-critical exegetes – the duty of the Son of man. However, it is at this decisive point that the Pope’s loophole became obvious: the evidence and authority of the Pope seems not fully capture the length and breadth of the liberal thesis and agenda. The point is that not even the Gospels are free from the attack of historicocritical exegetes. This is largely because, for the historico-critical exegetes, the Gospels do not present an objective history one can rely on. They feel that the Gospels are articulated statements of the Church that has a historical structure that is aimed at proving the divinity of Christ and the messianic vision of Christ’s mission. This is the point the Pope did not actually grasp; otherwise, it is either that he would not have used the Gospels as his authority or that he would have attended to a more basic issue in proving the historical basis of the Gospels’ claim on Jesus Christ. Finally, it must be noted, according to the Pope, that “this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord.’ Everyone is free, then, to contradict me. I would only ask my reader for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding” (p. xxiii-xxiv). “The Emergence of African Theologies.” By Justin S. Ukpong in Theological Studies, Vol. 45, no. 3 (September 1984): 502-529.
Contextualization of theology has, within the last few years, become a major theological orientation of contemporary age whether in the North Atlantic region or in the South. It is within this framework that three major theological currents have emerged in Africa in the last two decades. The first and oldest of these is African inculturation theology, simply referred to as African theology. Briefly stated, this theology is an attempt to give African expression to the Christian faith within a theological framework. The second is South Africa black theology. This takes after the American black theology and aims at relating the gospel message to the social situation of segregation and oppression in which the blacks in South Africa find themselves. The third is African liberation theology, which is becoming very popular in most parts of Africa. There are three sub-currents in this theology. One is based on the indigenous socioeconomic system, the second takes after the Latin American model, and the third involves a combination of elements from both approaches. They seek genuine human promotion in the context of the poverty and political powerlessness of Africa, and take the form of Christian reflection within the context. These three theologies are based on three different issues which, though separate, are nevertheless related: the issue of culture for African inculturation theology, and the issue of colour for South African black theology, and the issue of poverty for African liberation theology. According to Ukpong, many authors in discussing African theology consciously or unconsciously tend to take one or other of these issues as basic and then attempt to integrate the other issues into the framework elaborated for the basic issue. However, these approaches are inadequate for articulating the different concerns raised by these three strands of African theology and the Christian response to them. Consequently, Ukpong approached these issues by acknowledging each of these issues as different in nature from the others and as such, demand a different theological approach. At the same time, he recognised also that these issues and the theologies based on them are seen to be interrelated. Before carrying out the foregoing, he highlighted the factors that made these African theologies possible at the time they appeared. Firstly, he noted the cultural factor: African inculturation theology, being a phenomenon of the Christian religion in Africa, is a function of the process of the
interaction over the years of African traditional religion and culture with Christianity presented through European culture. This interaction has produced two things: the selection and integration of elements from both sides as well as cultural tension. Secondly, the historical factor: the history of Christianity is replete with milestones of inculturation, which can be interpreted as supporting the drive for inculturation theology in Africa. Thirdly, the socio-political factor: During the colonial era African culture suffered disdain at the hands of the colonizers. After independence, however, an all-out attempt was made to reaffirm its identity and integrity, as true selfhood was seen to include cultural identity. The wave of this cultural revival did not leave Church practices unscathed. There was a great desire, among African intellectuals particularly, to show a positive attitude towards and an appreciation of African culture. The same philosophy also inspired the search for political and economic identity expressed in liberation theology. Black theology of South Africa arises, too, from a reactionary sentiment and has as its point of departure the social discrimination practiced against the blacks in that country. Fourthly, in the light of the contributions from the social sciences, culture came to be defined in terms of differences in existing societies rather than in terms of one society taken as a paradigm. Researches along this line have led to the realization that African culture has a great potential in the process of evangelization. This was the beginning of African theology. Finally, the theological factor: the theology of the Second Vatican Council has influenced the rise of African theologies. The entire orientation of the Council was marked by an updating of the Christian life in all its forms. This alone was enough to inspire in African theologians a certain questioning and creativity as to the mode of presentation of Christianity in Africa, including the presentation of theology. That the above three theologies are different on the basis of the issues they treat seems clear enough from the foregoing discussion. But they are also related. This is because all these issues have to do with the fundamental concepts of freedom and life. Negatively put, these issues express reactions to negations of freedom and of life’s meaningfulness at different levels of the African’s existence. Positively, they articulate certain phases in the process of Africa’s search for freedom and for meaning in life.
African theologies have a basic feature with other third world theologies, which are distinguished from traditional Western theology: they are a response, in the spirit of the gospel, to the cultural, religious, social, economic, and political concerns of the different Third World peoples. Furthermore, African theologies do not oppose but complement Western theology. Western theology is basically an attempt to give a systematic presentation of Christian doctrine. It treats, therefore, of the basic Christian concepts, beliefs, and doctrines and presents these in terms of a human thought-system. African theologies are also concerned with the presentation of the basic Christian faith. However, they differ significantly from Western theology because they have as their basic constraints an African world view, an African religious thought-system, and an African way of apprehending reality. These theologies naturally depart in context from the traditional Western theology. They are situational theologies. From this, according Ukpong, it is clear that while African theologies are new ways of doing theology, they are not opposed to Western theology; they are meant to complement it. Ukong has really done some noble work here that demands much praise. Nevertheless, the aforementioned African theologies are at the same time assumed to be Christian. In my view, what the three strands of African theology set out to achieve are not in consonance with the modus operandi of theology in the Christian sense. Theology should be a discourse on God and his relationship with man. But what is set here as African theology can best be classified as theories of liberation and inculturation, but never theology, especially in the Christian milieu. African theology can emerge when African gods and religious objects are brought to the level of critical approach.
“The ‘Incarnation’ of the Holy Spirit in Christ.” By David Coffey in Theological Studies Vol. 45, no. 3 (September 1984): 464-488.
Orthodox Christian faith understands the high point of God’s presence to man in terms of “incarnation” i.e. the assumption of a human nature by God the Son, who had existed from eternity in the divine nature. Faith further understands this presence of God as radiating out from the Incarnation and being shared in by all who make the submission of faith through Christ. This is accomplished through the Holy Spirit, who, also existing from eternity, is now sent by Christ to men and women, to unite them to himself and ultimately to the Father. According to Coffey, “this entry of the eternal spirit into God’s plan of salvation happens through Christ and in dependence on him.” (p.466) Therefore, he calls it an “incarnation” of the Holy Spirit in Christ. In the light of the above, he aims to explore the nature of this “incarnation” of the Holy Spirit. To do this he took the Christology of Rahner as his point of departure. Rahner’s basic Christological insight rests upon his philosophical and theological anthropology: philosophical anthropology because he understands human nature in terms of transcendence; and theological anthropology because he sees the term of this transcendence, which is realized perfectly only in the case of Jesus, as hypostatic union with the divine Son. For Rahner, the incarnation of God is the unique, supreme, case of the total actualization of human reality, which consists of the fact that man is in so far as he gives himself up. Consequently, he draws two cardinal implications: first, the divinity of Christ is not something different from his humanity; it is the humanity, i.e. human nature at the peak of its possibility, which is the achievement of God’s grace, to which the human efforts of Jesus are subordinated. Second, to say that the divinity of Christ is his humanity is not to say that the divine person of the Son comes to perfect expression in the human nature of Christ. It is only to say that he comes to the most perfect expression of which humanity is capable, which is different from the expression which he has in his divine nature in the eternal Trinity. Rahner’s Christology made it possible for Coffey to understand the divinization of the humanity of Christ as the work of the Holy Spirit. In the one act of nature and grace the humanity of Christ was created by the triune God and so radically sanctified by the Holy Spirit, sent thereto by the Father, that it became one in person with the eternal Son, and so Son of God in humanity. This theology of Incarnation, with its central role for the
Holy Spirit, does not harmonize with the doctrine of the immanent Trinity in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The solution lies in recognizing that tradition offers not just one but two models of the immanent Trinity. Though the second is far less well known that the first. The first had to do with the processions themselves and the second with the manner of the processions. It is with the second model of the Trinity that Coffey’s theology of Incarnation harmonizes. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit is the mutual love of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not the result or term of this mutual love; He is the love itself. The Holy Spirit is an operatio subsistens, and in this respect is to be contrasted with the Son, who is the subsistent term of an immanent operation in the Trinity. Coffey calls this model of the Trinity the ‘bestowal model’ because according to it, the Holy Spirit, as mutual love of the Father and the Son, is the love which the Father bestows on the Son and the answering love which the Son bestows on the Father. This model stands in distinction to the “procession model” in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. This love of Jesus for the Father, which is the Holy Spirit, is infinite. Yet, given that even the actualization of the infinite divine Sonship in humanity is not just possible but verified in the case of Jesus, this love is not beyond the obediential potency of human nature. In Jesus there was a progressive actualization of the divine Sonship. This does not mean that God underwent change in Himself. It means rather that the humanity of Christ had a normal history of development from birth through death. In this growing maturity it became an ever more apt medium for the actualization of the Divine Sonship. Parallel to the progressive actualization of the divine Sonship, there was a progressive actualization of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ transcendental love of the Father. Hence, as love follows knowledge, with the dawn of consciousness in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, as his transcendental love of the Father, began to assume the characteristics of his very personal and individual love of God, and this process continued throughout his life, coming to its completion in his death. But further when Jesus died he was admitted to “the beatific vision.” In his case this can only mean that the direct presence of the Father, which he experienced throughout life, was now apprehended with full intellectual clarity. This means that the Holy Spirit, as
Jesus’ transcendental love of the Father, become fully “incarnated” in his human love, since his love must follow the new intellectual presentation of its object. Here, then, we have the perfect “incarnation” of the Holy Spirit in Christ. It is the incarnation of divine love in human love. Consequently, two things from the Scriptures are now explained. First, the Holy Spirit bears the Christological character or impress. The Spirit touches us first as the fraternal love of Christ, and in its unitive character unites us with him, so that with Paul one can say “Christ lives in me” (Gal.2:20). Second, one can now understand why the sending of the Spirit on the Church after the death of Jesus presents not just a factual but a necessary sequence, for it depends on his attainment of the beatific vision. For this the Holy Spirit has to be seen as the return of the Father’s love by Jesus and his sending of the Spirit upon the Church as the obverse of this love. Coffey wrote like a master in the field. His work, however, has a bent towards the rejection of the mystery of the distinct persons of the Trinity as held by the Catholic Church. The ‘bestowal model’ which he employed implicitly denied personhood to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was presented merely as the operatio subsistens, a term which he used to explained the manner of processions in the immanent Trinity. The Church, on the contrary, holds that the three persons of the Trinity are distinct and equal. Furthermore, he opined that there was a progressive actualization of the Holy Spirit in Jesus as he was growing up. This reached its apogee with Jesus’ admission into the beatific vision. This raises serious question about Jesus’ eternity. With the admittance into the beatific vision, did he acquire a knowledge which he never had before or which he had forgotten, as in the Plato’s ‘world of Forms’?
“The Vocation of the Theologian.” By Mary Ann Donovan in Theological Studies, Vol. 65 no. 1. (March 2004): 3-22.
Before this contemporary era, the study of theology and the vocation of theologians were reserved in the Church. Then, theologians were bishops, priests and religious. The vocation of the theologian in the Church then was very clear. His vocation is to pursue in a particular way an ever deeper understanding of the word of God found in the inspired Scriptures and handed on by the living tradition of the Church. The theologian does this in communion with the magisterium, which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith. Today, however, society, culture and worldview are changing very swiftly. Significantly, nowadays, theologians are as often lay as clerics. The vocation of the theologian seems to be blurred. The fact that theologians are increasingly lay, that their preparation for their work is predominantly academic, and that theological work is increasingly done outside institutions which are juridically controlled by the Church pose a potential threat to faith and suggest a re-examination of this vocation of the theologian. As a historical theologian, Donovan thinks that an investigation in the history of the theological vocation, and the impact in it of recent developments in theology, may shed light on the joy and hope to be found in following such a call. Before Vatican II, theologians were mainly bishops and the vocation of the theologian was still within the cloister of the Church, it has not yet been secularized. This is why Vatican II reserves a great significance on the common theological vocation of laymen and clerics. In the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, the council rooted the infallibility of the magisterium in the entire people of God: “The whole body of the faithful who have received an anointing which comes from the holy one cannot be mistaken in belief. It shows this characteristic through the entire people’s supernatural sense of the faith [sensus fidei] when, ‘from the bishops to the last of the faithful’ it manifests a universal consensus in matters of faith and morals.... The people unfailingly adhere to this faith, penetrates it more deeply through right judgement, and applies it more fully in daily life” (LG no.12). It is, therefore, the entire people, united with the bishops, who “cannot err in matters of belief.” However, the last sentence quoted summarizes not only the task of the whole people, but equally, if not indeed especially, the task of the theologian – “the people
unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply through right judgement, and applies it more fully in daily life.” Much of this text can surely be understood as applicable to the theologian’s work. Furthermore, the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes no.44 states that the purpose of the work in which theologians are to engage is in relation to the Word of God, the revealed truth. Gaudium et spes no.62 noted the evident fact that harmonizing culture with Christian thought can be difficult, but stresses that, far from having the faith, the difficulties can “stimulate a more precise and deeper understanding of that faith.” In this light, the council exhorts theologians to be ready to respond to new problems from researches and discoveries in various disciplines that have important bearing on life itself. They are also asked to find new ways to present their teaching, ways that will at one and the same time respect the limits of their science, and the situation of their students. In pastoral care, theologians are asked to make use not only of theological principles but also of the findings of secular sciences, especially psychology and sociology, to assist others to come to a more mature faith life. All of this calls for collaboration with experts in many fields. Gaudium et spes encourages such work in the hope that theologians will then be able to present the Word in a way more suited to our contemporaries. On another note, the document expresses the explicit hope that more of the laity would become theologians. This move is a clearly intentional shift in direction considering the long history of fear of lay theological teaching. The laity has responded well to this call and their presence as theologians faces the Church with a new situation and challenge. In no. 62 of Gaudium et spes, the council concludes that theologians should be accorded a lawful freedom of inquiry, of thought, and of expression for the proper exercise of their vocation. However, the revised Code of Canon Law qualifies this freedom in Canon 218 by adding “...while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church.” How the theologian can enjoy academic freedom while giving appropriate submission to the magisterium had been hotly debated. Surely, to insure sound teaching is a primary episcopal responsibility. Yet, since teaching is the primary gift of the theologian, it is inevitable and necessary that the two offices relate to one another. It is the same Holy
Spirit that endows the people of God with the teaching office exercised by the hierarchy, and also bestows the vocation of the theologian on others for the better service of the one same people of God. Hence, fundamental contradiction between the two cannot continue, because the Spirit cannot and does not work against Itself. But, in Donovan’s view, disagreements continue to arise. They are unavoidable. God’s gifts pour into the Church both through office-holders and through members who hold no office. Only God, the gift-giver, knows where these gifts are leading. Rahner suggested that the only thing capable of bringing unity to the Church on the human level is love, that “love which allows another to be different, even when it does not understand him.” Conclusively, Donovan firmly stated that when it comes to testing the validity of a gift, office-holders should not extinguish the Spirit, but should test all things and hold fast to what is good. This is because history is already replete with attempts made by some office-holders to thwart the work of the Spirit. Nevertheless, she admonishes that every charism involves suffering because it is painful to fulfil the task set by the gift and, at the same time, to endure the opposition of another within the Church. Such is the anguish and joy in following the vocation of a theologian. Donovan raised a very topical issue here. Yet, it must be noted that the freedom which she is seeking to the theologians is not a feasible one. This is because the vocation of the theologian could not be likened to those of other secular sciences. Though theology is not being read and taught by many of the laity, and even outside the institutions governed by the Church, the fruits of these are, in the final analysis doled out to the members of the Church. Therefore, the Church reserved the right to vouch for the safety of the faith of her members. Theologians may be free to think and inquire about whatever, but not so free to express whatever strange doctrines they deem fit because the recipients of these doctrines are adherents and members of the Church.
“Toward Full Communion: Faith and Order and Catholic Ecumenism.” By Jeffrey Gros in Theological Studies Vol. 65, no. 1. (March 2004): 23-43.
At the time of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church launched on a renewed self-understanding of herself as Church and its relationships to other churches and ecclesial communities. She has moved irreversibly into the path of dialogue with other Christians with the goal of the restoration of full visible unity. In pursuing this goal, the Catholic Church encourages collaboration, spiritual solidarity, common witness and mission as well as careful dialogue to resolve those elements that still divide the churches. The most widely known results of these dialogues are the bilateral agreements that have involved the Catholic, Orthodox, and Reformation Churches on key issues such as justification, Christology, the Eucharist, and ministry. These dialogues and proposals between two church bodies provide careful and measured steps toward that visible unity to which the Churches are committed together. However, a forum for multilateral dialogue in the Faith and Order movement also exists and encompasses the full range of Pentecostal, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic, and Evangelical churches. Thus, Gros reviews the contribution of this latter dimension of the Catholic ecumenical program. The movement that encouraged the return to the Christian sources and a revaluation of the divisions in Christianity are rooted in the 19th century. Before that, Catholic scholars had been drawn, from time to time, to a reconsideration of other churches. In 1919, Pope Benedict XV met with a Faith and Order delegation, but declined to permit Catholic participation in the organization. The 1928 encyclical of Pius XI, Mortalium animos, set a negative tone to Catholic approach to Faith and Order and ecumenical work in general, until practically the eve of the Vatican II. The threat of indifferentism and relativism plagued Catholic leadership. The Holy Office, by 1950, acknowledged that the ecumenical movement derives from the aspiration of the Holy Spirit while reasserting Catholic exclusivist claims. On the eve of the council, Catholics were present at the 1957 North American Conferences on Faith and Order as well as the 1960 World Council of Churches meeting. Many of the observers sent to represent their churches at Vatican II were from the Faith and Order movement. In 1968 the Holy See joined the Commission on Faith and Order and appointed official representatives. From this period onwards, some observers
have claimed that Catholic collaboration reflects a firmer commitment than that of many full member churches of the World Council. Various elements of internal renewal laid the ground work for the entry of the Catholic Church into the Faith and Order discussions. Vatican II opened the way for dialogue and encouraged it as the method to move toward that unity for which Christ prayed and to which the Catholic Church is committed. The commitments of the council and subsequent reaffirmations by Popes have not allayed all fears of the “return” motif in Catholic ecclesiology. However, after Vatican II, the Pontifical Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity quickly laid out principles of dialogue. These principles follow closely the experience gained in the Faith and Order Movement. Initially, the approach of Faith and Order was in comparing and contrasting positions on the sacraments, formulations of the faith, and contrasting positions on the sacraments, formulations of the faith, and ecclesiology. Nevertheless, at Lund in 1952, a shift occurred from the earlier comparative ecclesiology approach to a Christocentric methodology with a strong emphasis on the common sources of Scripture and Tradition. The second methodological consideration that needed to be clarified was the distinction between convergence and consensus. Both are not synonymous. On the one hand, consensus means that sufficient agreement has been reached so that a doctrinal issue, such as justification, is no longer church dividing. On the other hand, convergence provides a framework of agreement within which more work is necessary for full unity to be achieved. The third methodological consideration that emerges is that of “reception.” As trust builds and common programs of dialogue become possible, the ‘dialogue of love’ passes to the ‘dialogue of truth.’ The third phase occurs when churches move from dialogue to evaluation and action, the reception stage. Now, what are the theological contributions of Faith and Order movement on the pilgrimage toward visible unity? Faith and Order movement have awakened in the churches the desire and need for koinonia ecclesiology, for a full communion in faith. Also, it has contributed towards this full communion in faith by its theological proposals on the Tradition and its articulation in a common expression of the Apostolic Faith. Furthermore, the most widely known work of the modern ecumenical movement is the
contribution to convergence in the churches’ understanding of baptism, Eucharist, and ordained ministry. These efforts enabled a deepening of convergences. Bilateral dialogues can build on these convergences producing sufficient consensus for specific churches to act toward full communion. Finally, the question of authority may be the most challenging doctrinal issue in the ecumenical movement. For the moment, ‘patient and fraternal dialogue’ are offers from Faith and Order. Vatican II’s promise of ecclesiological renewal by return to the sources, openness to ecumenical dialogue and attentive listening to the signs of the times has been productive for the renewal of all Christians, Catholics included. The work of Faith and Order has been a key component of this expansive program. Scholarly work on both sources and new contexts will surely serve the unity of the Church in its task of renewing the human community. The aim of Faith and Order movement is, indeed, a heroic one. It is a response to the prayer of Jesus Christ, ‘that they may be one.’ Yet, the pertinent question here is whether the aim of this movement is a feasible one, especially with the Catholic Church. Anyone who knows the Catholic Church well will easily acknowledge that she believes that she is the authentic and correct Church founded by Christ. As she enters into dialogue with other Churches, she usually does same in order to make her truth evident to these; in order to bring them from dim light to the full-blossom light in a way. She is not too ready to compromise her doctrine and faith just to be in communion with one Church or the other. She sees herself as the guardian of the truth founded by Christ. In this light, then, one seriously doubts the physical possibility of the efforts and purpose of the Faith and Order movement. Will the Church forgo her revered Sacraments or will she compromise the supremacy of her Roman Pontiff? In fact, what does she go into dialogue to achieve, if not to win other to her side? From this vantage point, it can be quickly grasped that the purpose of the Faith and Order movement is a physical impossibility.
“Is Creation Eternal?” By Ilia Delio in Theological Studies, Vol. 66, no. 2 (June 2005.): 279-302. The question of whether or not creation is eternal is certainly not a new one. From earliest times, the idea of an eternal creation was favoured by pagan philosophers and mystics alike. The Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo was formulated in the second century to warrant against such an idea and to affirm God’s transcendence. The question arises anew today in light of the current scientific worldview, marked by evolution, which has impelled new models of divine action to emerge. For Ilia Delio, though contemporary models of divine action address the question “how” God creates, and less attention is directed to the question “why” God creates, yet the philosophical enigma should always prevail, “why something and not nothing?” Therefore for her, the centre of concern should be the “why” and not the “how” of creation. She thinks that finding out the “why” of creation will aid in understanding whether divine action in creation is eternal or not. Consequently, using Bonaventure’s theology, she argues that divine action occurs within the context of relationship, grounded in the Trinitarian relationships of the Father, Son and Spirit. Delio highlighted creatio ex nihilo and its full import. This doctrine of ex nihilo was formulated in the second century A.D. and emerged because of the early Church’s battle against Marcionism and Gnostic dualism, both of which proposed the formation of the material universe by a demiurge. Creation “out of nothing” has the merit of excluding both the dualistic idea that matter is eternal, intractable and probably unredeemable and the pantheistic idea that everything is divine, emanating from the divine Being itself. The term ex nihilo underscored the idea that God creates a world truly distinct from God himself. However, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo posed a problem of an ontological gulf between God and creatures and, a fortiori, between God and the soul. Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria attempted to bridge this gulf by explaining the Incarnation as kenosis, as the self-emptying of God. This gave rise to Kenotic theology. However, contemporary theologians are revisiting kenotic theology less in terms of its Christological formula in the Incarnation than in a Trinitarian understanding of God whereby God empties himself to
make room for another. An understanding of God as kenotic love gives rise to a view of divine action that is relational. God could not share love in a finite way if he were not infinitely communicative within himself. God, therefore, acts not as an actor but as a lover in relationship. Love not only indicates to us what God is but who God is for us. Since love can never be isolated or autonomous without in some way sharing itself, Delio argues that love is the basis of divine action because it is the basis of the Trinity. The question of divine action is the question of the divine itself. When one speaks of God’s action, what kind of God is one speaking of? If God is love and if love by nature involves a relation to another, the highest perfection of love demands that each of the two persons in love shares that love with yet another. It, therefore, takes three to love. Hence, the basis of the Trinity for Bonaventure resides not in substance but in the person of the Father. The Father is without origin and thus the fountain fullness of goodness; thus, the Father is primal and self-diffusive. It is the person of the Father as self-communicative love who communicates himself in a personal way to one other, the Son. The love between the Father and the Son is expressed in the person of the Spirit. The key to Bonaventure’s Trinitarian theology lies in self-expression. The Father completely expresses himself in one other than himself, namely, the Son. As the expression of the Father, the Son is Word or exemplar of all the divine ideas. The Word, therefore, does not exist as a self-sufficient entity but precisely as the expression of the Father. When one says that “all things are created through the Word” (Jn.1:3) one is saying that the Father expresses himself in the Son and this self-expression is the basis of the infinite Word as well as finite existence. According to Delio, therefore, “God creates because God is freedom-in-love and desires to share love in a finite way as a more perfect expression of the infinitely fecund divine life” (p. 295). The integral relationship between the Trinity and creation, seen through the lens of Bonaventure’s theology, raises the question: “was there ever a time when creation was not? While it is true that God does not need creation since fecundity is realized within the Godhead, still without creation there would be no means for God’s goodness to be expressed. It is only because of creation that God’s goodness is good. In this respect, God did not “decide” for creation once upon a time. Creation is neither
chance nor necessity but a fundamental expression of God as love. Here, Delio departs from Bonaventure, who opposed the eternity of creation. For Delio, creation is eternal when one considers the primacy of Christ and the self diffusive nature of the love of God since creation is the infinite expression of God’s love for the Son in a finite way. Thus, with an air of finality she firmly stated: “Since God’s love is eternal and eternally expresses itself in a finite other, indicated by the primacy of Christ, we may suggest that creation too is eternal.... God’s eternal act of love yields to an eternal act of creation. For God is an outgoing, dynamic, Trinitarian communion of love, and God simply would not know what to do without a lover who could respond in love not only infinitely but finitely for that, indeed, is the perfection of love” (pp. 301-302). Just as it was noted in the beginning, the question about the eternity or temporality of creation has long occupied the interest of both theologians and philosophers. This goes a long way to show the gargantuan work done by Delio here. Notwithstanding the foregoing, she left some questions unanswered. Firstly, though borrowing the theory of the Trinity of Bonaventure, she indirectly subordinated the Son to the Father, for she believes that the Son, the Word, is not a self-sufficient entity but exists only as the expression of the Father. This goes contrary to the Catholic belief about the co-equality of the persons of the Trinity. Secondly, to consider creation as a necessity emanating from the inner nature of the Father’s love is to deny God’s freedom to create and to make his a slave of his love. There is creation because God thought it wise to create or willed to create, not because the nature of his love compulsively demands creation. At this point, one will not be too quick to assert the eternity of creation.
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