Monthly Archives: January 2006

N.T. Wright’s NT Theolgy

For those who like a challenge, get a hold of N.T. Wright’s New Testament theology. It is a five volume job (I’m not sure if it’s complete yet), and I am only half-way through the first volume.

Bishop Wright, as opposed to a number of previous Bishops of Durham, believes in the Resurrection of Jesus, and his theology is aimed at showing why you can believe in it too. Its not easy going conceptually (although it reads very well; he has a preacher’s facility with language) because he starts at first principals (eg. “How do we know anything at all?”) and builds from there. For instance, the second part of his first volume (“The New Testament and the People of God“) deals with the following topics:

  • Knowledge: Problems and Varieties
  • Literature, Story and the Articulation of World Views
  • History and the First Century
  • Theology, Authority and the New Testament

Read Mark Mattison’s review. Are you ready for that? Take the plunge!

Comments Off on N.T. Wright’s NT Theolgy

Filed under Uncategorized

Walter Kasper, N.T. Wright, and Bill Bryson

What have these three got in common: Cardinal Walter Kasper, Bishop N.T. (Tom) Wright, and Ango-American travel writer Bill Bryson?

They were all at Durham University for the mega-pow-wow of mega-ecumenists last week (read John Allen’s report in the National Catholic Reporter or in Word from Rome and another report in the Tablet).

Bill Bryson, who just happens to be the Chancelor of Durham University conferred an honoury doctorate on the good Cardinal, and Bishop Wright (Anglican Bishop of Durham) conferred a blessing upon the same at an Anglican Eucharist. Cardinal Kasper addressed the crowd. I emailed him in Rome today requesting a copy of his address, or alternatively that he may be able to publish it somewhere on the ‘net for us all to see, so when I have a reply I will let you know.

(What? Yes, I do regularly correspond with the Vatican. Cardinal Kasper doesn’t personally answer his own email, but Archbishop Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Interrelgious Dialogue, does. I have had the pleasure of meeting both gentlemen. Please keep them both in your prayers. Cardinal Kasper is working very hard, and he isn’t young any more. He is off to Armenia and Georgia next week for the first meeting of the new round of Catholic/Orthodox talks. And I rather hope that Bish Fitz–as he once told me he was known around the office–gets a red hat at the next consistory.)

Comments Off on Walter Kasper, N.T. Wright, and Bill Bryson

Filed under Uncategorized

Word and Sacrament…AND Charity!

While we’re on the topic of the Encyclical, there’s another surprising thing that should not miss our attention. We are used to talking about the Church in terms of the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. But Papa Benny emphatically adds a third essential duty and mark of the Church: Charity!

“The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word. ” (para. 22)

“the exercise of charity is an action of the Church as such, and that, like the ministry of Word and Sacrament, it too has been an essential part of her mission from the very beginning.” (para. 32)

Strong stuff!

Comments Off on Word and Sacrament…AND Charity!

Filed under Uncategorized

New Encyclical doesn’t mention "sin"

Here is a curious thing that no-one has commented on. In “Deus Caritas Est”, the Pope doesn’t mention “sin” once. Check it out yourself. Do a search. I’ve checked the Latin too, so it isn’t the fault of the translators. Even “grace” only gets two mentions. What does this mean? Is this the explanation for his rather positive take on eros?

But he does use the word “purify” a lot. Two things come up for “purification” in this encyclical: eros and reason. Both “purifications” indicate that there is something amiss in the human exercise of these passions/faculties. So sin is there after all, lurking just behind the text.

I think this explains some reactions to the “eros” part of the Encyclical:

In the New York Times: “The Encyclical…did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce.” Gee, they must have been disappointed!

Dr Janice Crouse, of Beverly LaHaye Institute: “When a pope defines love and sex in terms of a married husband and wife, there’s going to be plenty of controversy.”

Father Joseph Fessio, SJ: “What is he doing here? He is saying no divorce. He is saying no promiscuity. He is saying no multiple wives. No homosexuality. He’s completely positive, but if you accept the teaching, consequences follow.”

And what about the “purification of reason”? Lutherans (hullo to you all out there!) have always distrusted human reason–not so much because they doubt the powers of reason, as that they do not underestimate the power of human sin to sully the waters of rationality.

When the pope talks about the need to purify reason in the realms of politics and the media, however, one is tempted to ask “What reason?”. Have you noticed how many people today are content to say “That’s what I think” or “That’s my opinion” without applying any reason or logic to their statements at all? Before we can “purify reason” there has to be some rationality there in the first place…

Comments Off on New Encyclical doesn’t mention "sin"

Filed under Uncategorized

Cardinal Schönborn’s Creation Catechesis

Cardinal Schönborn’s July 7 2005 article in the New York Times caused a stir last year (“Finding Design in Nature”) especially in the context of the Intelligent Design debate. While the debate rages across the world (and you can read some very considered Australian essays on the subject in the latest edition of Ethics Education), the editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has begun a series of catechetical lectures on the subject of Creation in his archdiocese of Vienna (that’s something you don’t see every day, a bishop, ordained to teach, actually teaching!). So far he has produced three such addresses, and they have all been “provisionally” translated into English because there is such a high demand for them. If you can read German, have a look at his other catechetical material on the site. The new Panzer Cardinal? Perhaps not (was there ever an old one?), but if the Church can ever see its way to having two German popes in a row, he could have a great responsibility ahead of him…

Here are the lectures. Read, learn and inwardly digest:
Creation and Evolution: To the Debate as It Stands
“In the Beginning God Created…”
“He created each thing according to its kind”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Christian Responses to Muslim Questions

One of the recent presenters at Pope Benedict’s meeting with his past doctoral students was Dr Christian W. Troll, S.J. The private meeting addressed various aspects of Islam, and raised questions about the pope’s own view of the Qu’ran. You can read more about it here and here (and Spengler’s view here) if you haven’t caught up with this story yet.

In any case, Dr Troll has a really useful site called Muslims Ask, Christians Answer from which you can download a really useful little book called “Christian Responses to Muslim Questions”. This excellent book grew directly out of many years of face to face Muslim Christian dialogue. The presentation is very clear, and strives first to understand exactly what the Muslim question or criticism of Christianity is before jumping in with the Christian response. There are lots of Christian apologetics books addressed to Muslims, but none as good as this from the dimension of serious engagement. Christians reading it will learn a great deal about Islam.

I am currently reading a book that faces similar issues, called “No God but God” by A. Christian van Gorder that’s also fairly good, from an Evangelical perspective rather than a Catholic one. You can read a review of it on the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue site.

Comments Off on Christian Responses to Muslim Questions

Filed under Uncategorized

Paul VI’s Encyclical "Mysterium Fidei"

For those who have finished B16’s Encyclical and are hungry for more, may I suggest that you dig up Paul VI’s encyclical “Mysterium Fidei”? It was written just after the promulgation of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy in 1965. As the title suggests, it is about the Eucharist. Paul had noticed that the infamous “Spirit of Vatican II” was making an early and unwelcome appearance and that some theologians were ditching the traditional teaching of the Eucharist, so he wrote this as sort of “memo” to remind Catholic theologians, priests, bishops and faithful of what its all about. It is a very short encyclical by recent standards, but it is a real corker.

I came across “Mysterium Fidei” while in discussion with a priest who asserted that the “The Church does not teach that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist”. I acknowledged that the Church usually prefers to speak of a “substantial”, “ontological”, “bodily/corporeal” presence, rather than a “physical” presence per se, nevertheless, I wondered whether his assertion was correct. He quoted Aquinas who taught that Christ was not present in the Eucharist “per modum loci”–ie. as if Christ was “located” in the Eucharistic elements, and asserted that Christ was only “physically” present in heaven. That seemed a little close to the old BCP “Black Rubric” for my taste, so I went searching. Here’s what I found in PVI:

“Once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and wine except for the species–beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in his physical “reality”, corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.” (MF 46)

So, Thomas A. was right, but Father was wrong: The Church does teach that Christ is physically present, but not “per modum loci”.

Read the whole thing here: Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei

Comments Off on Paul VI’s Encyclical "Mysterium Fidei"

Filed under Uncategorized

"Anti-Culture of Death"

Has anyone else noticed that Pope Benedict XVI has been using the term “
Anti-culture of death” rather than John Paul II’s term “culture of death”?
He has done so repeatedly in his homilies (eg. at the Baptisms in the
Sistine Chapel) and again he has used this term now in the new encyclical.
It seems as if he is slightly adjusting the way we view the relationship
between this and the “Culture of Life”; as if to say, they are not two
opposite but true cultures, but rather that the “anti-culture of death” is
a false culture, destructive of anything that might rightly be called a
“culture” at all.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Stephen Crittenden Show is back!

Stephen Crittenden is back on ABC Radio National’s “Religion Report”. I’ve
been a great fan of the Religion Report for ages. Although I usually miss
it (unless I am in the car instead of on my motorbike on the way into town
on Wednesday mornings) I always catch up with it on the podcast. To one who
attempts to “think with the Church”, Stephen Crittenden can sometimes be
very annoying–too much Stephen and not enough Religion! A friend of mine
calls it “The Stephen Crittenden Show” with good reason. Nevertheless, the
world needs more programs like this that put the religious issues of the
day (which affect a very large percentage of us) up front for all to become
aware of what is at stake. In their own way John Safran and Fr Bob do it
with “Speaking in Tongues”.

Comments Off on The Stephen Crittenden Show is back!

Filed under Uncategorized

Umberto Eco vs Dan Brown

By the way, a much better novel than “The Da Vinci Code”, but on the same topics, is by Umberto Eco (of “Name of the Rose” fame). It’s called “Foucault’s Pendulum” and it is a ripper. Here are some snippets to give you a taste. Also, you may wish to read Eco’s own take on “that bloody book” in an article called: God isn’t big enough for some people…

“What if, instead, you fed it a few dozen notions taken from the works of the Diabolicals…and threw in a few connective phrases like ‘It’s obvious that’ and ‘This proves that’? We might end up with something…”
“An idea of genius… let’s start straight away.”
“Joseph of Arimathea carries the Grail into France.”
“Excellent… I’ve written it. Go on.”
“According to the Templar Tradition, Godefroy de Bouillon founded the Grand Priory of Zion in Jerusalem. And Debussy was a Rosicrucian.”
“Excuse me, but you have to include some neutral data—for example, the koala lives in Australia.”
“Minnie Mouse is Mickey’s fiancée?”
“We mustn’t overdo it.”
“No, we must overdo it. If we admit that in the whole universe there is even a single fact that does not reveal a mystery, then we violate hermetic thought.”
“That’s true. Minnie’s in. And, if you’ll allow me, I’ll add a fundamental axiom: The Templars have something to do with everything.”
“That goes without saying.” (FP, p375)

“But look…do the Rosicrucians exist?”
“Whether you call them Rosicrucians or Templars, they protect themselves through secrecy. And that is why anyone who says he is a master, a Rosicrucian, a Templar, is lying.”
“But what do they want people to know?”
“Only that there is a secret. Otherwise, if everything is as it appears to be, why go on living?”
“And what is the secret?”
“What the revealed religions have been unable to reveal. The secret lies…beyond.” (FP, p208)

A plot, if there is to be one, must be a secret. A secret that, if we only knew it, would dispel our frustration, lead us to salvation. Does such a luminous secret exist? Yes, provided it is never known. Known, it will only disappoint us. …
Yet someone had just arrived and declared himself the Son of God, the Son of God made flesh, to redeem the sin of the world. Was that a run-of-the-mill mystery? And he promised salvation to all: you only had to love your neighbour. Was that a trivial secret? And he bequeathed the idea that whoever uttered the right words at the right time could turn a chunk of bread and a half-glass of wine into the body and blood of the Son of God, and be nourished by it. Was that a paltry riddle? And then he led the Church fathers to ponder and proclaim that God was One and Triune and that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, but that the Son did not proceed from the Father and the Spirit. Was that some easy formula for hylics? And yet they, who now had salvation with their grasp…turned deaf ears. Is that all there is to it? How trite… The mystery of the Trinity? Too simple: there had to be more to it.
Someone—Rubenstein perhaps—once said, when asked if he believed in God: “Oh, no, I believe…in something much bigger.” And someone else—was it Chesterton?—said that when men stop believing in God, it isn’t that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything. (FP, p.620)

Comments Off on Umberto Eco vs Dan Brown

Filed under Uncategorized