Friday, October 3, 2008

The Nature and Mission of Theology (J. Ratzinger)

Some excerpts from the book (San Francisco, 1995):

p. 5 The most ancient Christian… iconographical canon comprises three figures: the shepherd, the orans and the philosopher.
––cf. F. Gerke and F. van der Meer

6 It is not the universe of the Bible and of sacred history which is the focal point of the most ancient Christian works of art but rather the philosopher, who is interpreted as the prototype of the homo christianus who has received the revelation of the true paradise through the Gospel."
––F. van der Meer, Die Ursprünge christlicher Kunst (Freiburg, 1982), S. 6

23 Death, the one question which it is impossible to ignore forever, is thus a metaphysical thorn in lodged in man's being. … questioning founders where there is no hope of finding an answer.

24 To the extent that the prophets see in the God if Israel the primordial creative ground of all reality, it is quite clear that what is taking place is a religious critique for the sake of a correct understanding of this reality itself.

26 The logos must be so intimately their own that it can be come apo-logia; through the mediation of Christians, the Word [Wort] becomes response [Antwort] to man's questions.

28 Otto Michel has pointed out that the Gnostics avoided the word "philosophy". With the term "gnosis" they expressed an even loftier claim. … Authentic philosophy, with its uncertainty, disgusts us. We want, not philosophy, but gnosis, that is, exact, verifiable knowledge. Moreover, philosophy is to a great extent weary of itself. It shares the impatience to become like the other academic disciplines both in nature and in worth. It wishes to be just as "exact" as they are. Yet it purchases exactitude at the price of its greatness, for in so doing it is no longer able to pose those questions which are proper to it alone. It becoming "exact", it joins the other disciplines in taking, no longer the whole, but the particular as its object.

37 The choice of our time has become that between the freedom of production and the freedom of the truth. But the freedom to produce, unchecked by truth, means the dictatorship of ends in a world devoid of truth and thus enslaves man while appearing to set him free.

38 "I maintain that in the long-run only a truth-oriented society, not a happiness-oriented society, can succeed."
–– H. Dietzfelbinger, "Dimension der Wahrheit", in Kath. Akademie in Bayern, Chronik, 1980/81, 150, citing Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker

39 Truth, in fact, is the medium in which men make contact, whereas it is the absence of truth which closes them off from one another. … Hermann Dietzfelbinger has pointed out that the depressing thing about Pilate's question ["An sit verum? What is truth?"] is that it is not really a question at all but an answer.

46 [The subjection of evangelical Christianity in Germany under the Nazis and Heinrich Schlier's resistance thereto] revealed plainly that there can be no office of teaching theology if there is no ecclesiastical magisterium, for in its absence theology would enjoy no greater certainty than any of the liberal arts, that is, the certainty of hypothesis, which may be the subject of debate but which no one can stake his life on.

48 …a church without theology impoverishes and blinds, while a churchless theology melts away into caprice.

52 Because Christian conversion throws open the frontier between the "I" and the "not-I", it can be bestowed upon one only by the "not-I" and can never be achieved solely in the interiority of one's personal decision. It has a sacramental structure. The "I no longer live" does not describe a private mystical experience but rather defines the essence of baptism. What takes place is a sacramental event, hence, an event involving the Church. The passive side of becoming a Christian calls for the acting Church, in which the unity of believers as a single subject manifests itself in its bodily and historical dimensions.

54 …according to Paul, the Church is in no wise a separate subject endowed with its own subsistence. The new subject is much rather "Christ" himself, and the Church is nothing but the space of this new unitary subject, which is, therefore, much more than mere social interaction.

56 For theology, in the strict sense of the word, is an exclusively Christian phenomenon, which has no exact equivalent in other religions. … Thus, faith concerns what we must do to attain the rectitude of our being. … Whereas myth, whether in Greece or India, does no more than multiply images of the truth, which for its part always remains incomprehensible, faith in Christ, as it is expressed int its basic assertions, is never interchangeable. … analogy is not the same as metaphor. … In this sense, rationality belongs to the essence of Christianity in a way which the other religions do not claim for themselves.

57 …theology is based upon a new beginning in thought which is not the product of our own reflection but has its origin in the encounter with a Word which always precedes us.

59 Conversion… is delivery into the pattern of doctrine…, or… entrance into the "we" of the Church. … "There is no 'easy access' to God. In contrast to the pretension of the autonomous search for God, … he is the unknown God, who 'dwells in unapproachable light' (I Tim 6:16)."
––R. Guardini, Berichte über mein Leben, 71ff.

60 The one who became flesh has remained flesh. He is concrete. … Obedience to the Church is the concreteness of our obedience. The Church is that new and greater subject in which past and present, subject and object come into contact. The Church is our contemporaneity with Christ: there is no other.

61 Faith is always a participation in a totality and, precisely in this way, conducts the believer to a new breadth of freedom.

62 [The claim that the pastoral office of the Church teaches to the faithful but not to theologians] merely rehashes that division between psychics and gnostics. … [The faith of "babes" in Mt 11:25] establish Christianity as a popular religion, as a religious creed without any two-caste system. … life itself is no hypothesis.
––cf. R. Spaemann, "Die christliche Religion und das Ende des modernen Bewußtseins", in IKZ Communio 8 (1979): 251–270.

65 …the [historical-critical] dismemberment of the Bible has led to a new variety of allegorism [vis-à-vis the Scriptures as mere allegories for the early Church's actual status/aims]

68 The highest ranking good, for which the Church bears responsibility, is the faith of the simple.

79 The reorientation of the idea of truth toward praxis, which occurred under the influence of the Frankfurt school and of the entire neo-Marxist movement, called the old [historicist] positivism thoroughly into question. … Truth is thus no longer excluded but produced by a method of praxis.

80 In the last analysis, the concept of a theology in which praxis has succeeded to the truth makes no provision for pluralism at all, just as little, in fact, as does the Marxist conception of itself. … there can be only one option, that is, only one praxis and, consequently, only one theory to serve it as well. In the long run, the renunciation of truth has no power to liberate. On the contrary, its final result is uniformity.

81 …the Church is not a state. … Pluralism in the interplay of Church, politics and society is a fundamental value for Christianity. It arose from the teachings of Christianity, which inculcates the relative value of all political and social achievements by shifting theocracy, the consummated form of God's rule and reign, into the eschaton.

83–85 the patristic concept of symphonia was four-fold [nach den Vätern]: 1) the unity of the OT and NT, "a structure enriched by manifold tensions"; 2) the unity of Christians with one another; 3) the unity of men with God; 4) man's oneness with himself in Christo.

86 … just as Christ is not half but wholly present, the Church is wholly present wherever he is. … The unity of the universal Church is in this sense an inner moment of the local church.

87 … the monarchical episcopate should rather be termed the principle of personal responsibility. The Church becomes tangible and answerable in real persons; these persons cannot make decisions arbitrarily but only insofar as they are bound in conscience to the faith of the universal Church. … The papal primacy has no real place if it finds no counterpart on the preceding levels––the personal responsibility of a bishop, which this latter cannot delegate to a conference, however important this institution may be to concretize his link to the whole body.

89 …the universal Church could be active in the local church only, and in this fashion contribute to a pluralistic, though ultimately unified, pastoral effort, only if there was a bond to a concrete, theologically grounded organ of the universal Church, the office of Peter.

90 Only the universal Church is capable of safeguarding the distinction of the particular churches from the state and society.

91 …Albert Görres… speaks of a "Hinduization" of the faith, "in which faith propositions no longer matter because the important thing is contact with a spiritual atmosphere which leads beyond everything that can be said."
––A. Görres, "Glaubensgewißheit in einer pluralistischen Welt", in IKZ 12 (1983): 129.

92 …faith… furnishes him [man] with a knowledge which alone makes sense of everything else which he knows.

93 Faith and theology differ in the same way as text and interpretation. Unity rests in faith, while theology is the domain of plurality.

94 The "I believe" of the Creed refers, not to some private "I", but rather to the corporate "I" of the Church. Faith is possible in the measure that I become one with this corporate "I", which does not abolish my own "I" but broadens it out and, in this way, brings it to itself for the first time.

95 The tendency to search for what is most ancient and original behind present developments is the logical conclusion of the loss of the binding element which holds history together and unifies it in the midst of its contradictions. Theology becomes archeaology….

96 …natural science… has achieved its greatest successes thanks, not to a free-floating creativity, but to the strictest adhesion to its object.

97 …pluralism happens, not when we make it the object of our desire, but when everyone wants the truth with all his power and in his own epoch. … The truth is never monotonous….

103 Faith reveals to us that eternal reason is the ground of all things or, put in other terms, that things are reasonable from the ground up.

104 …two roots of theology in the Church. The first is the dynamism toward truth and understanding inherent in the faith; the second is the dynamism of love, which desires to know the beloved more intimately.

112–113 More important than the concept of infallibility is therefore that of auctoritas, which, nevertheless, has well-nigh disappeared from our thought. Yet in reality it can never be wholly absent, because it represents a basic presupposition of community life. What would be the result if from now on the state were to enact as universally binding norm only what can be considered the infallibly correct solution to a given problem?

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