Breaking the Bonds of Theological Captivity: Are We Bold Enough? Michael Morwood
Vatican II sought renewal by a return to the sources of our faith especially Scripture and early Church history.
Today a far more radical renewal is called for: to revisit the events and human experiences on which our religious faith is built and to interpret them anew, with a significantly different religious imagination.
1. to interpret the events and experiences with a notion of God that is radically different from the notion in which they were initially interpreted. The radical difference will lie in an emphasis on the everywhere nature of God rather than emphasis on an elsewhere God who oversees, plans, chooses (some people and not others), reacts, punishes, forgives - and generally behaves as any projection of the human notion of “person” would allow or even dictate “him” to do. It is time to acknowledge that the notion of God that “drives” our Scriptures and interpretation of Jesus is extremely primitive. This is not to say that we know so much better today and know just who or what God is. No, it is simply to ensure that we do not continue having recourse to notions about God that are intrinsically tied to an outmoded worldview and have God acting like a tribal Lord. 2.to interpret them with understanding of the human species’ development and place in the universe that is radically different from the understandings in place when the events and experiences were originally interpreted. The radical difference will lie firstly in contemporary understanding that the human species did not emerge into a state of paradise and that death, annihilation, and upheaval of cosmic proportions preceded us by billions of years. Secondly, it will take into account the reality of earth’s place in this universe.. Imagine this planet on the scale of a grain of sand. Imagining the next step is beyond us, but on that scale, to represent this planet’s place in the universe you would need an area covered by four billion planet earths. If this grain of sand in an area of such colossal dimensions were to disappear, would the universe shudder and shake? I doubt it. Would God notice? How? Where? At the very least we should be aware how different our understanding of earth’s place in the cosmos is from the understanding of the Hebrew people when earth was thought to be the centre of the cosmos and people thought of God as a deity intently watching over and concerned about events on this planet. That deity was manipulative and interventionist and it was easy to imagine “Him” thinking up “plans” to counterbalance the wrong humans were doing.
We also need to query the long-accepted “fact” underpinning much of our theological thinking: that the human species is the end point, the final and most wonderful jewel in the crown of all creation. Maybe something much better and far more wonderful than us is yet to come – and need it be here, on this planet?
3.Bringing 1 and 2 together: there will be a radical re-interpretation of Jesus. The radical difference will lie in Jesus being the revealer of God-in-our-midst, the God who grounds and holds everything in existence, rather than being the unique connecter or mediator between a “fallen”, exiled people and an elsewhere God. 4.This re-interpretation will inevitably raise questions that will shake the doctrinal foundations on which the Christian religion built when it encased its identity and self-understanding on Jesus as someone who uniquely gained access to an elsewhere God. It will raise questions not only about doctrine, but also about a religion that to this day insists on proclaiming itself as God’s own religion.
The renewal task is to shape a Christology for these times rather than continuing to bring one favoured Christology to bear on the world today and make everyone and everything fit with it.
We can start by acknowledging that in our Scriptures and early history there were differing Christologies. The earliest Christians, being Jewish, would never recognize nor accept the Christology of Nicaea – Jesus, for them, most certainly was not to be identified with God. Interesting, isn’t it, that the Christology that Jews like Peter, Andrew, James, Thomas etc took to their graves was more likely far closer to the Christology of Arius than Athanasius - and these apostles would have found themselves condemned by the Church in the 4th century. (Look at the speech put on Peter’s lips in Acts chapter two)
Any Christology comes from the community – from its issues, questions and concerns as it engages Jesus. The challenge facing the Church in any age is precisely how to bring the preaching and life of Jesus to this age and its questions and issues. If the Church fails to do that, it is betraying its very reason for existence.
What I immediately find quite striking about the earliest Christologies is the difference found between the preaching of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels and the theology placed on Jesus’ lips in John’s Gospel. In Jesus’ preaching about the “kingdom” in the Synoptics he focuses on God’s generosity and he urges people to recognize God’s presence and activity in their daily lives. In simple terms, Jesus wanted people to open their minds and eyes and hearts to the fact that when they lived in love, when they were being decent parents and neighbours, then God’s gracious Spirit was active in them. If they lived in love, they were to recognize that they lived in God and God lived in them. Later in the first century, though, with John’s Gospel we find an emphasis on Jesus preaching himself and his unique role as the way to God. “No one can come to the Father except through me.” Yes, to be sure, there are also in John’s Gospel statements that we are all “one” in God, but Jesus as the “I am the way” TO God understanding quickly became highlighted.
Why the significant difference in emphasis? And why was it that Church leadership would throw its weight behind one (the theology of John) and give lip-service to the other (God with us in our everyday activities?)
Doubtless it had much to do with Church identity following the split with Judaism. There was not much to be gained, apparently, by proclaiming God’s presence is in everyone, and much to be gained by claiming that this community, through Jesus and its rituals, had unique access to God.
This institutional movement mirrors the movement of the Hebrew people centuries earlier in proclaiming they were uniquely God’s people and in unique covenant with God. The claim gave them special identity, affirmation, purpose and great heart in times of oppression and difficulty. But what did it say to and about the rest of humanity?
Now, the Christian Church moved into claims of exclusivity and privilege – for the same reasons, to give itself unique identity.
This group now claimed to have unique access to God.
Soon came another significant development:
Amazingly, if we could transport ourselves back to end of the 1st century, with notions of an everywhere God, that everyone has access to God’s presence and enlightenment, that the Spirit that moves in Jesus moves in us, and that we should trust it and see where the Spirit leads – we would be condemned by Church leadership.
The claim to have direct access to God was seen to be subversive of Church authority and order, especially when Clement (writing 90 – 100) argued that God rules all things and God has delegated his authority – to bishops, priests and deacons! Anyone who refuses to obey them, disobeys God.
Here, so early in Christian history we get the clear division between laity and a controlling hierarchy who must be believed as the voice of God.
Ignatius of Antioch, in Syria, a generation later, went a step further and said the division of bishop, priest and deacon mirrors a heavenly hierarchy. And the bishop must be obeyed “as if he were God”. For Ignatius, God became accessible to humanity through the Church – and its rulers.
Irenaeus taught that just as there was one God, so there was only one Church – and the only true representative of God in the community was the bishop.
So Church practice and tradition canonized a theological schema of salvation that not only made
Jesus the unique accessor to God, it also made the institutional Church necessary for access to God.
The rift between Church teaching and Jesus’ preaching about the kingdom of God became even
bigger with the Pelagius Vs Augustine debate when the Church locked itself into the “original sin”
–everyone born into a state of separation from God – mentality. It did not matter how much anyone loved their neighbour and lived in love, if they were not baptized, they surely were not “living in God” and God, just as surely was not “living in them”. What is truly amazing about this mind set is that it so clearly contradicts Jesus’ teaching. But, ah, it made the Church necessary for “salvation”, didn’t it? It gave identity, power and authority to the institution – and it still does.
This dualistic, disconnected-from-God approach had people arguing about who Jesus had to be
in order to gain access to God’s dwelling place and came to dominate the Church’s sacramental
theology until the present time. Who, we ask, possesses the power and the correct ritual formulas to bring the sacred presence from some other place to our altars?
It is not surprising then, to see institutional Christianity, steadfastly refusing to engage any
Christological formulations that will undermine its claim to unique identity.
The Church, which has the mind of Christ, knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of Original Sin without undermining the mystery of Christ. Catholic Catechism #389
It also explains why we find intimidation, silencing, and reliance on scriptural literalism to an extent that deserves to be labeled dishonest. In the Catholic Church, Rome makes it clear that nothing, nothing can be allowed to disturb belief that Jesus is the unique savior of the world because only he gains access to heaven, to an elsewhere God, for us and he did it by a sacrificial death on a cross.
On Oct 6th, 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine and Faith addressed the world Synod of Bishops in Rome:
The central problem of our day seems to me to be the emptying of the figure of Jesus Christ. It begins with the denial of the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. It continues with the denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus … It continues with the denial of the self-understanding of the Jesus of history as the Son of God, conceding to him as authentic only those words considered possible on the lips of a rabbi of his time. In this way the institution of the eucharist is also cast as impossible for the historical Christ… A Jesus thus impoverished cannot be the one savior and mediator …
Two other topics consistently appear on the CDF’s list for testing whether theologians are “emptying the figure of Jesus Christ”:
•Jesus as founder of the Church •the sacrificial value of the death of Jesus”
On the 100th anniversary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission ,Cardinal Ratzinger gave an address titled “Relationship between Magisterium and exegetes”. It gives an insight into the man’s understanding of God as an interventionist deity:
A God who cannot intervene in history and reveal Himself in it is not the God of the Bible. In this way the reality of the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary, the effective institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper, his bodily resurrection from the dead - this is the meaning of the empty tomb - are elements of the faith as such, which it can and must defend against an only presumably superior historical knowledge.
That Jesus - in all that is essential - was effectively who the Gospels reveal him to be to us is not mere historical conjecture, but a fact of faith.
So, there you have it. God can intervene whenever “He” wants to, so these wonderful events must be literally true. And if you wonder how the Cardinal handled – and presumably would still handle - the tricky issue of mainstream Catholic Scripture scholarship being aghast at his scriptural literalism, he explained it a year later, (October 9, 2002) in a speech given to celebrate 10 years since the publication of the Catechism, Current Doctrinal Relevance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Use of Scripture in the "Catechism'
Particularly strong attacks were directed against the use of Scripture in the Catechism: as previously noted, (it was said) that this work did not take into account a whole century of exegetical work; for example, how could it be so naive as to use passages from the Gospel of John to speak of the historical figure of Jesus; it would be shaped by a literalistic faith which could be called fundamentalist, etc. With regard to the specific task of the Catechism, accurate reflection has to take place on the way in which this book should make use of historical-critical exegesis.
Relative to a work which must present the faith - not hypotheses - and which for a significantly long time must be "a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine" (as the Pope states in the Apostolic Constitution, n. 3), we must keep in mind how rapidly exegetical hypotheses change and, to be honest, how great is the dissent, even among scholars, regarding many theses.
Fear of religious relativism drives this insistence on Jesus as the “unique” saviour of the world.
If we look back over the past 40 or so years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith silencing Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, Tissa Ballasuriya, Jacques Dupuis, Roger Haight, issuing warnings to other theologians and Catholic Publishing houses, and issuing Dominus Iesus, we see Church authority paranoid about any Catholic scholar daring to publicly call into question the proposition that Jesus is the “only saviour” of the world.
The Church’s official understanding of Jesus being the “unique saviour of the world” is intrinsically linked to the notion of an elsewhere God who broke relationship with humanity because of Adam’s sin. It is linked to Jesus winning back what was lost, “meriting life for us” by his death on the cross, and being handed over to sinners by the Father in order that we might be reconciled with Him. It’s a primitive, outmoded, unbelievable notion of “salvation”. Look at the language, the ideas and the imagery in these three examples:
Dominus Iesus, informed bishops and theologians what “must be believed and taught”:
As an innocent lamb he merited life for us by his blood which he freely shed. In him God reconciled us to himself and to one another, freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin.
Pope John Paul II, in his Exhortation to the Church in Europe after the synod of European bishops wrote:
He is the Lamb standing before the throne of God (cf. Rev 5:6): sacrificed, because he shed his blood for us on the wood of the Cross.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“The Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself.”
What we are witnessing here is Church leadership locked into an outdated theological schema of salvation, and so dependent on that schema for its purpose and identity that it is fearful of any thing that will weaken or bring it down. The present Pope has clearly outlined what he is fearful of: any questioning of Jesus as the “unique saviour” of the world.
Cardinal Ratzinger was right about one thing: this is the central problem of our day. He sees it as a problem because he knows Catholic scholarship is calling into question the literalness of the virgin birth and a physical resurrection as well as the “sacrificial” value of the death of Jesus when it is spoken of in terms of a “lamb slain for our sins”.
Church leadership wants to keep us captive because the theological schema of salvation reliant on Jesus regaining access to an elsewhere God gives the institution its unique identity.
A Roman document to the Australian Church in 1998 states that “the whole of Christian life would be undermined” if Catholics lost their belief in “Jesus’ death as a redeeming sacrifice and an act… effecting the remission of sins.”
(1998, Statement of Conclusions, signed by Vatican officials and several bishops representing the Australian hierarchy after Australian bishops ‘gathering in Rome)
Careerism among bishops … who mouth the “acceptable” theology like parrots, rewarded, and in no way able to lead the Church forward:
It will be tragic for the future Church if we shrug our shoulders and do not engage the task of articulating – in the face of strong opposition from Church authority – a credible alternative to how Jesus liberates us and to why we want to hold his life and teaching up to the world as a source of good news and hope for the world.
Many of us, though, have our own particular difficulty. My sense is that the issue that presently gives the most difficulty and the most challenge is the notion of a personal God and what seems to be a very strongly felt need to relate with a personal God.
Why is the personal God an issue?
We only have to reflect on our common experience of relating with a personal God to see what the issue is. We have taken our human notion of “person” and applied it to God, while giving lip service to the “everywhere” nature of God.
God thinks, God sees, God listens, God notices, God punishes, God chooses, God sent his only son (from where?); Jesus was raised (Up) to where God is; God has a plan; God thinks about whether women should be ordained priests.
And, God loves me. God calls me by name. God has written me on the palm of his hand. God has plans for me.
We have a need to personify the mystery we call God, otherwise we sense we have nothing to relate with. The danger, however, is that we literalise our personification, so God becomes a personal deity localized somewhere in the heavens. Worse, people then literalise this deity thinking in their terms. So the God of the Hebrews really has definite ideas about whether a woman should be touched during her menstrual cycle. A strong theme in the Christian tradition is that God has a “plan of salvation” – and just where have we imagined this God to be, if not above us somewhere thinking and planning and having quite definite views. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on priesthood stated: “the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church”. The ban, he wrote “is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.” This notion of a God with a plan is a very neat controlling mechanism for institutional leadership, especially when it, and it alone, can read the mind of this deity.
Yes, let us personify and personalize the mystery we call God, but today let us ensure we are taking seriously the everywhere nature of God and not dealing with a Super Being looking down on us. Just how do we personalize God and at the same time respect and hold faithful to belief that the mystery we are personalizing is a universal presence co-extensive with the breadth of this universe and way, way beyond even that? We have to stop boxing God into constructs just because those constructs suit our needs.
There’s the challenge.
Pope John Paul II in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, wrote:
Christ is absolutely original and absolutely unique. If He were only a wise man like Socrates, if He were a “prophet” like Mohammed, if he were “enlightened” like Buddha, without any doubt He would not be what He is. He is the one mediator between God and humanity.
Here’s the absolute danger and trap of God-as-a-Person theology: it locks the imagination into notions of separation from God. We cannot be separated from God. But the “Person” theology allows us to conceive of distance and separation – and when that Person is offended and reacts we need Jesus to be “mediator” between us and God, and he has to be the only mediator.
The challenge for us today:
Can we move from this dualistic, elitist, divisive theology of “salvation” and be faithful to Jesus and what it means to be a Christian? Yes, but in the face of enormous opposition.
One difficulty we run into constantly is the charge: but you cannot question this and that, or not believe this and that, and remain a Catholic.
We can too easily allow ourselves to be intimidated - and allow Catholic “orthodoxy” control the way we think. We have become enslaved in theological bonds. We hesitate to speak up and share the doubts and the questions we have. I am reminded of John Henry Newman lamenting in the 19th Century that we Christians do not share the secrets of our hearts; we are fearful to speak honestly; “we suffer to wither and decay what would be a bond of union among us”
When we share, as many people working in the realm of adult faith development will attest, we find we are not alone in either the doubting or the questioning.
Let us stop being intimidated and let us acknowledge that most items on that list of orthodox belief depend on interpreting Jesus as someone who connects us with an elsewhere God.
The way forward is to stop doing that. That is our task, I believe: to shape a spiritual vision based on the understanding of God as a universal Presence at work in all places at all times.
How might we do this? How would we tell the story of Jesus? How would we talk about Pentecost, Church, Eucharist, Sacraments and prayer?
Four and a half billion years ago a supernova exploded in our galaxy. In the explosion were created all the elements, such as carbon and iron that make our existence and the existence of our solar system possible.
The theological question is: Where was God when this explosion took place? Will we imagine God being somehow outside it, an observer looking on, an elsewhere Intelligent Designer planning and organising from without? No, this happened IN God.
Let us think of God as that universal mysterious presence that sustains and holds everything in existence – the Ground of All Being. Let us think in God as the mysterious presence that holds all things, from the galactic to the sub-atomic spheres, in relationship and connectedness – the presence that gives existence and energy to all that is. Keep in mind, this process is going on all over the universe – and possibly other universes. And in using the language of connectedness, relationship and energy we are using language quantum physicists would appreciate – as is the language of “mystery” and wonder. We are not using this language to describe God, but rather using it as a pointer to our understanding of God as a universal presence.
This explosion happened IN God and whatever unfolded happened IN God …
Every atom in our bodies was manufactured in that explosion and has been on a cosmic journey for all that time. Scientists, such as Paul Davies, inform us that carbon atoms are recycled continuously in living organisms and that in all likelihood there are atoms in each of us that were once in the body of Jesus, or Buddha or dinosaurs.
From the planet’s beginning, God’s Spirit has come to visibility in and through whatever was there to work with. This continued with the emergence of the human species. All its development took place in God, giving God a way of coming to expression in the magnificent life-form we are and could yet be. Late in its development this life form came to serious reflection about itself, its place on this planet and whatever sustained it in existence. This was done slowly and tentatively as human minds in various parts of the planet grappled with questions of meaning, purpose and connectedness. And all the time the Spirit of God was present and active in them, coming to expression in and limited by the knowledge and the worldview of the time as well as the personal giftedness of the thinkers. Gradually religion became an important factor for the human species because religion attempted to give answers to these questions.
We can imagine the Spirit of God active in all parts of the world coming to expression in the great religious leaders – working in and through cultural and religious thought patterns, the knowledge of the time, worldview and particular personalities. India, Egypt, China, American Indians, Australian aborigines etc – the same creative spirit at work in all places, in all peoples.
Then, in Jesus of Nazareth, the same Spirit burst forth in someone gifted enough to give that Spirit extraordinary expression both by the way he lived and by what he taught.
Jesus’ basic insight has to do with LOVE giving the best possible human expression to God – relationship, connectedness, energy – because that is what love is all about. He could talk with a quantum physicist in a way ID’s cannot.
What did Jesus want people to believe about their relationship with God and how this relationship impacted with their daily life?
I think Jesus wanted people to believe that God is gracious. God is forgiving beyond imagining.
This is the central in some of Jesus’ parables, eg the vineyard workers who all receive a generous wage; the return of the wayward son.
I think Jesus wanted people to discover, joyfully, that God is actually present to them in the everyday present events and responsibilities of life.
Jesus wanted people to recognize that presence, name it and allow it to transform the way they viewed themselves in relationship with God.
Where could they recognize it?
Jesus pointed them in the direction of the time-honoured Hebrew tradition of being neighbour; in visiting, caring, clothing, sharing and forgiving.
I think the fundamental insight of Jesus’ preaching about the “reign of God” in our midst was that we have to be the human expressions of God’s presence in the world; we have to allow that presence have its way with us in unselfish, generous love. We have to be the presence, for there is no other way God’s reign or kingdom of peace, truth justice and love can be established.
People saw themselves, as they still see themselves today, disconnected from God, as if God really dwells in a far away place. Jesus urged them to look closer to home: The stables of our own lives actually contain the sacred presence we seek elsewhere.
Jesus sought to connect people with God, not by re-establishing a broken connection, but by turning their minds to see where the connection always had been. This is a crucial point in understanding Jesus’ ministry. I do not think Jesus was driven by the thought that he had something new to give people. Rather, he wanted to draw attention to what was already there.
He never proclaimed that God had locked people out or somehow broken the connection of friendship with people. Never. In his preaching about the kingdom of God, he never proclaimed that he and he alone had access to God’s grace, presence and favour. Never. That claim would only surface years after he died when a struggling church community sought to establish its claims to unique access to God.
Jesus urged people not to live in fear of God. They were to live in a relationship of trust and closeness – like a child in relationship with a most loving parent.
Jesus wanted to “save” people, not from actual disconnectedness from God – because such a state is never a possibility – but from the religious mentality that nurtured images and thoughts of distance and fear. He wanted to free them from what held them back from believing good news about themselves. He wanted to move them forward to taking responsibility for giving expression to God’s presence in human activity.
I imagine Jesus had his own vision of what the human community could look like if his dream had been realized. What strikes me about this vision is its universality and its inclusiveness.
Jesus’ message is not just for Jews; it is invaluable for the entire human community. It is always relevant, whatever time in history, and in whatever culture. It is summed up well in the words we know so well: if you live in love, you live in God and God lives in you.
Let us note once again: Jesus did not cause this to happen. No, he simply named the universal connector. Anyone who lives in love, lives in God and God in them.
The Spirit of God was always present and active in all the people Jesus addressed. The Spirit was always present and active in the apostles - but limited by the religious conditioning, by the lived situation, by individual personalities and by images and ideas that told these people God was not with the likes of them.
It was not till after the death of Jesus that the Aha! moment dawned, when minds were opened – by thinking about Jesus – and understanding came. Then, the Spirit that had always been present in these people was able to come to expression in a new way. But it did not come from somewhere else.
The New Testament writers presented Pentecost in terms of the Spirit coming “down” from elsewhere, like a first-time event. They also presented the Spirit’s coming being dependent on Jesus’ resurrection and his ascent into heaven. This made eminent sense to them and fitted with their understanding of the cosmos and God’s place in it.
If we reflect on Pentecost in terms of God being always and everywhere present and active on earth, then God’s Spirit has always been here. Its presence is not dependent on Jesus doing anything. It is the awareness of that presence that the teaching, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus alerted people to.
If we could personify the Spirit of God, we could imagine that Spirit saying. “At last! At last they have seen what human life is all about! At last they have seen how everyone is connected! At last they have seen the dignity of all people! At last they have a language and the insight to transcend the religious language of choice, elitism, distance and separation, us and them. At last fear and division are cast out! At last, if this message spreads, all people will know and walk in a trusting and loving relationship with the Presence that holds them all in existence.”
Pentecost is a great story! The story conveys what could have been the most wonderful breakthrough in human development: a clear articulation of our common connectedness with one another and the Source and Sustainer of all. This story transcends languages, cultures and religions. This is a story of healings, of breakthroughs in understanding, of what the Spirit of God can do in people when they open their minds and hearts to the power that is within them. This is a universal story, for all people. It set hearts and minds on fire. It was Good News. It demanded to be proclaimed as such and to be told over and over again because it would set people free from resorting to magic and superstition and dependence on people with special powers to access the sacred. The sacred was accessible to everyone.
Recently, in Melbourne, I heard a talk on religious tolerance given by the Japanese Consul. He shared a quote he learned as a boy from his Japanese English teacher:
Down below the stirring waves of difference and dissimilarities there lies a deep sea of humanity that unites us all.
That’s where Jesus went with “the crowd”…
That’s where the original Pentecost was meant to take us…
- to be with the “deep sea of humanity” and to affirm the presence of God in the midst of the struggles, the joys, the development, to affirm the bonds that unite all people.
Yet, incredibly, within the space of several hundred years this reading of the story would be neglected and almost abandoned in favour of Christian insistence that a story of separation and exile from God be the story on which its doctrine, its ritual, its prayers, its spirituality, its identity and its sacramental life be based.
Then traditional Christian theology sought to answer the questions:
Who must Jesus be in order to get us into heaven?
Who/what must God be like if Jesus has to be an incarnation of God?
And now Christian theology must
1.be aware that what was proposed arose from particular questions and the religious worldview of a specific time and not from direct revelation from an elsewhere God. 2.be open to the reality that the questions and issues which grounded creedal statements about Jesus needing to be a unique incarnation of God are no longer our questions and issues. Who here believes in a deity in the heaven who closed access to himself because of the sin of the first humans?
1Revelation. An everywhere God coming to expression in and through what exists Vs notion of an elsewhere interventionist Deity speaking to a chosen group. 2Jesus as revealer of God in our midst Vs mediator between us and an elsewhere God. Crucial issue for present Pope and his insistence on Jesus as “unique saviour” 3Pentecost: Spirit always there bursts through Vs beams from heaven 4Sacraments: making visible the mystery in which we live Vs bringing a presence 5.Baptism; eucharist; marriage; priesthood. Controlling mechanisms 6Prayer, rituals. Not for the sake of an elsewhere God. 7Who are we? Affirmation Vs Augustine’s original sin/exiles etc.Institutional identity. 8To do what Jesus did in the way he did it Vs exclusive claims 9Inclusive language for all to hear. Vs elitist religion’s claims + wars, divisions.
Karl Rahner: The Shape of the Church to Come 1974
[The Church’s public life] “is dominated to a terrifying extent by ritualism, legalism, administration and a boring and resigned mediocrity along familiar lines.”
We are in a time of transition, he wrote; “to a Church made up of those who have struggled with their environment in order to reach a personally clear and explicitly responsible decision of faith. This will be the Church of the future or there will be no Church at all.” P 82
“The devout Christian of the future will either be a “mystic”, one who has “experienced” something, or he/she will cease to be anything at all.”
Reform will never get off the ground until the theological schema of salvation that gives power and authority to ecclesial leadership is challenged and undermined.
That’s the task Vs getting hooked into particular issues.