Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

So we have a new pope, and it's the last pope's enforcer. I don't know a great deal about him, but care of Russell Brown, I have read an interesting article on Cardinal Ratzinger by New Zealand theologian, Mike Riddell. Mike is catholic layman in Dunedin and a very good friend of my old pastor.

Some of the points of note include:
Everyone knows that the Catholic Church has a long-established franchise on The Truth, and any attempts by lesser brands to trade on its hard-won market dominance will be vigorously resisted. There is no surprise in the fact that Ratzinger, the Vatican's Schwarzenegger of doctrine, should come out with a statement reasserting Catholic monopoly on divine revelation.


The tone of Cardinal Ratzinger in Dominus Iesus brings to mind the attitude of the alleged patriarch of the Catholic Church, the apostle Peter, before he had a conversion experience described in chapter 10 of the book of Acts. Peter too was of the entirely orthodox opinion that there was no salvation outside the Church; only his Church was that of Judaism. It took a mystifying and subversive vision, followed by raw experience, to help Peter understand that God's intentions were wider than anticipated, and that the Gentiles had a place in the scheme of things.

At least Peter and the early Church took history and culture seriously enough to know that they needed to allow its creative encounter with their tradition. Perhaps it is time for Rome to acknowledge that not only did the Reformation happen, but that there was significant error on both sides. The arrogance of current claims that the only way forward is for errant Protestants and Orthodox to return to mother is as spectacular as it is repellent.

I particularly resonate with this:
But if faithfulness to God was as simple as "reconfirming" that which had been handed down in the past, then the Pharisees would be right and Jesus wrong. We can no more give allegiance to a dead tradition than to a Jesus who remains in the tomb. The affirmation of Christian faith is not just that God acted in the past, but that God continues to act in history. Faithfulness demands more than a routine recounting of received orthodoxy; it requires the encounter of a living tradition with a continually changing culture.

My faith is about a fundamentally living and changing experience with a living and active God. To say that the church should fight against the pressures of modernity and not change seems to be self-defeating. I would never say that as a church it should give up its core and I don't see that it is. After all, isn't the fundamental message of the church the message of Christ; that there is a risen and living God and that salvation can be found through him? At the risk of heresy, to me the rest of it is just window dressing.

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