Thursday, May 24, 2007

More on Benedict's comments

Finally had a chance to read all of Pope Benedict's remarks in Brazil that caused the controversy. You can read the entire speech here on the Vatican Website.

Benedict's Christology (around which the whole thing revolves in my estimation) is labeled in theological inspeak as "inclusivism." According to the categorization here in Wikipedia, Benedict would be a traditional inclusivist.

Inclusivism in the Christian context grows out of the theology of the Patristic Fathers (3-7th c. CE) which stated the Logos (the Word of God, Christ) existed as a seed (spermatikoi) already inherent in the pre-Christian Greek culture. Augustine saw the seeds in Plato. Others like Clement used Stoic and Middle Platonic categories.

So Christianity by this view is not seen as an exterior culture dumped onto a group but rather fulfills their (secret and unknown to such individuals consciously) desires.

As St. Paul said to the philosophers in Athens (Book of Acts) after seeing an altar to an Unknown God, we too worship this Unknown God (the Father as Source Beyond Mystery) but we know this Unknown God in Jesus of Nazareth (The Christ).

It's a step up for sure from my religion/culture or total damnation. But the Truth is still one's own religion.

Benedict employed both Paul and the Patristics in his speech and meant the above in his comments on indigenous Amerindian traditions conversion to Christianity.

Here's the Pope (my emphasis):
Yet what did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing. It also meant that they received, in the waters of Baptism, the divine life that made them children of God by adoption; moreover, they received the Holy Spirit who came to make their cultures fruitful, purifying them and developing the numerous seeds that the incarnate Word had planted in them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel. In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.
Now it is one thing and I would say a good one theologically for a group of people like the Gentile Christians of the Patristic era to go back and as it were "redeem" their ancestral traditions, philosophically, religiously, ethically, and culturally. It makes perfect sense in that context (negate and preserve).

Where it doesn't work I think and where Benedict runs into trouble is when that vision is worked out by the Greek/Western (and later European) tradition and is then enforced aligned with colonialism onto another people who are then told they have been secretly longing for what we are giving you. Any way you slice it, the native culture and religion is incomplete without the Church and the Gospel.

As Benedict says:
If we do not know God in and with Christ, all of reality is transformed into an indecipherable enigma; there is no way, and without a way, there is neither life nor truth.
It's not that I'm totally 100% percent against inclusivism, Christian or otherwise especially of Benedict's variety. It is an appropriate response from one point of contact and development. And anyway it will always be in existence among some. As I said before it is not wrong so much as limited and Benedict I think overstepped the bounds of this theology and Christology's truth value.

And he was correctly rebuked and told where the boundary lay by others.

I have heard indigenous North American Christians quote the Gospel of Matthew: I have not come to abolish the Law but rather to fulfill it" to mean that Jesus was a son of the traditional Tribal Ways. It was not that Jesus was their secret longing all along but that he (Jesus) fits the picture and embodies the tradition they already know.

Again I don't impute bad motives to the Pope. He is a thinker and not built for the world of diplomatic language that the role requires.


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