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by Rev. Michael J. G. Pahls

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“Christianity appeals to history, and to history it must go.” This aphorism, attributed to the late Oxford biblical scholar, George Caird, aptly summarizes the inescapable duty of the Christian theologian to engage the chronicles of public and personal memory.[1] One might, of course, write-off Caird’s sentiments as the quaint protestations of a man caught-up in the enthusiasms of modernist historiography. This assessment would be premature, however, for Caird’s statement represents as much a theological claim as an historical claim. In the creedal faith of catholic Christianity, it is not simply that Jesus Christ was crucified, but that he was “Crucified under Pontius Pilate.” The insertion of the Roman Procurator’s name into the Apostolic Symbol commits Christianity to a public-historical specificity that cannot be sacrificed without a simultaneous forfeiture of Christian baptismal identity.[2]

Once the theological stakes for history are made clear, the question must still be answered as to precisely what one means by “history” and what one may predicate of history after the postmodern turn. Is there yet hope for the establishment of a common memory that is not a mere expression of local knowledge or of the will to power? If so, how might one commence with such a project in an appropriately chastened manner, adopting a style that is selfconsciously humbled by the hermeneutic of suspicion while yet remaining aloof to the cynicism and despair of an insistent nihilism. In what remains, I will explore the implications of post-critical history, drawn principally from the reflections of the French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur. I will then turn to consider Ricoeur’s particular value to the task of historical theology, perhaps raising the stakes of his purely philosophical wager in a consideration Christian theological doctrines of the resurrection and of Pentecost.

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by Noël Pretila, Saint Louis University

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The Mercersburg Movement came into existence nearly a decade after the birth of the Oxford Movement (1835). It began in 1844, when a Swiss-born, German-educated theologian by the name of Philip Schaff (1819-93) accepted a teaching position at the struggling Mercersburg Seminary in Pennsylvania at the suggestion of his mentor at the University of Berlin, Augustus Neander (1789-1850). After taking the post, Schaff teamed up with an American theologian on the Mercersburg faculty by the name of John Williamson Nevin (1803-86). Before Schaff’s arrival, Nevin had already been laying the groundwork for this high-church movement. After hearing Nevin preach a sermon entitled “Catholic Unity,” Schaff knew he shared a kindred spirit in Nevin: “I feared I might not find sympathy in him for my views of the church; but I discover that he occupies me in my position. He is filled with ideas of German theology.”[1] Read the rest of this entry »

by Chris Schroeder, S.J., Saint Louis University

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Contemporary religious thinking contains a variety of elements that are inimical to the idea of divine judgment and the condemnation of humanity because of sin. Given this conflict, Christian apologetics must find some way to mediate between its own teachings and contemporary values. Dialectic between Christian theology and conflicting cultural values can occur in one of two manners: Either Christianity can critique the cultural ethos and offer an alternative valuation, or Christianity can attempt to show that its teachings and values, when properly understood, are not in conflict with the broader culture. The modern emphasis on autonomy as a component of moral dignity poses strong enough challenge to Christian ideas of divine judgment to require this second method of apologetic. How can God make rules about something as arbitrary as eating from a tree and implement punishment for their trespass without this being anything but a heteronomous imposition onto individual human freedom? A sufficiently sophisticated formulation of these teachings about divine condemnation is necessary in order to show that they do not deprive humanity of the dignity proper to a legitimate autonomy. Toward this end, this paper will identify the mechanisms of condemnation present in Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and demonstrate that his position on condemnation because of trespass of divine law need not be understood as an example of heteronomy.[1]

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Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith. Introductions to Catholic Doctrine. Naples, FL.: Sapientia Press, 2007.  Pp. x + 209. $21.95

by Glenn B. Siniscalchi, Duquesne University

Avery Dulles’s Magisterium is perhaps the most clear, concise, and comprehensive introductory book to date on the teaching authority and function of the Catholic Church.  Written primarily for Catholics, it covers various aspects of the Magisterium with the theologies of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in mind.  So important are these sources for a new theology of the Magisterium that older works that do not include them “would be in serious need of updating” (viii).  Nine appendices provide the most pertinent sections of the most recent papal documents on the Church’s teaching authority.

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