Foundational Theology

Egan, Robert J.

Books: FORWARD TO BASICS FODNDATIONAL THEOLOGY JESUS AND THE CHURCH Francis Schiissler Fiorenza Crossroad, $22.50, 326 pp. Robert J. Egctn SOMEDAY we will have in English a good one-volume...

...It is essentially a book about' 'fundamental theology," and the three major issues of traditional fundamental theology: the resurrection of Jesus, the founding of the church, and the mission of the church...
...Until then we are all, intellectually and pastorally, a little in the dark about what has been happening to us...
...Each of these," he says, ' 'must be brought into critical and reflective equilibrium with the others since they may not only support but also critique and modify each other...
...For me the heart of the book is in the superb constructive proposal Fiorenza makes on the foundation of the church, and his masterful argument on the church's mission...
...But this is a rich and strongly writ-(Continued on page 56) ten book, and even disagreeing with it is instructive...
...the second about the foundation of the church...
...To each major topic Fiorenza brings an enlightening precision of language and an imaginative use of hermeneutic theory...
...Now, with the publication of Foundational Theology, his work will come to the attention of a wider audience...
...It is difficult for us to develop among ourselves a shared understanding of the profound renewal of Catholic theology that has happened in the last forty years...
...A basic rule can be proposed: the more the social or political ministry of the church is related to Christianity's interpretive and practical function as a religion to exhibit and to proclaim Jesus as the power and wisdom of the universe, the more constitutive, essential, and distinctive this ministry is...
...For myself the tasks of foundational theology must somehow be connected more directly to the ordinary life experience of believers, to our own stories of faith and struggle, and our own search for holiness...
...Robert J. Egctn SOMEDAY we will have in English a good one-volume history of Catholic theology in this century...
...In a series of articles, introductory essays, and major addresses, he has explored many of the most hotly contested points in contemporary theology with clarity, modesty, and unusual historical erudition...
...Readers will find serious and sustained critical reflection on the theology of Karl Rahner, the her-meneutic theory of Hans-Georg Gadamer, the method of correlation common to David Tracy, Edward Schil-lebeeckx, Langdon Gilkey, Schubert Ogden, and others...
...Many of us know bits and pieces of this history...
...It is as though the entire edifice of faith had to be disassembled and relocated...
...In the years since the Second Vatican Council, several American Catholics have made outstanding contributions to this wide-ranging conversation about theological foundations and methodology...
...In the first two parts of this book readers may discover how Commonweal: 52 Sheehan's questions might be answered from the vantage point of Catholic faith...
...Various developments in biblical and historical studies, and various kinds of criticism, have leveled this traditional fundamental theology...
...Anyone perplexed by the current conversation about religion and politics, anyone who feels that our bishops' recent involvement with the issues of nuclear weapons and strategic policy, and of Catholic social teaching and economic justice, is a good and important thing for them to be doing, but who doubts that this involvement has yet found adequate theological expression, anyone wondering how a concern for suffering people and a love of justice may be more intelligently related to the foundations and methods of theology, anyone in this situation would want to read and think about this book...
...Fiorenza's critique of these categories should be required reading in all seminaries, rectories, and chancery offices...
...Fiorenza examines this dichotomous model and three theological strategies that have been developed to qualify it...
...This is an important and original book...
...The institution of the church of Jesus was not a matter of belief but an historical fact that could be proved...
...Finally, the purpose and mission of the church was conceived as wholly supernatural and spiritual...
...He describes his own method as a "reconstructive her-meneutic" with three phases: a reconstructive interpretation of the Christian tradition or of a Christian belief, an analysis of the "retroductive" warrants in support of that tradition or belief, and a discussion of relevant "background theories...
...A wide and thoughtful discussion of this book among American Catholics would advance our understanding of ourselves, our purposes, our institutions, and our possibilities...
...These theologies see the church's involvement in social activities thrpugh the categories of "substitutive mission," "unofficial mission," and "partial mission...
...Each chapter surveys a broad range of theological literature...
...But until now he has not been widely known outside of professional circles...
...the third about the mission of the church...
...In this traditional theology the Resurrection was not viewed as an object of faith, but as an ascertainable fact that grounded faith...
...It will have a dramatic story to tell...
...Sooner or later we are going to have to face this and talk about it: How are we to imagine the relationship between Jesus and the church...
...Different readers will want to make different suggestions...
...This was one of the main issues raised by Thomas Sheehan's recent piece in the New York Review of Books that caused such a spirited response in Commonweal and elsewhere...
...This sensible and useful suggestion is clearly explained in the chapters on fundamental theology which Fiorenza, following the advice "of several readers," has placed at the end of his book rather than at the beginning...
...This revolutionary change of mind in the church has affected everything about theology its foundations, its motives, its methods and justifications, its relationship to urgent human problems of war, poverty, hunger, and oppression...
...He has emerged as one of the most compelling Catholic advocates of apolitical theology...
...I would place more emphasis on the need for a "hermeneutic of suspicion" in our retrieval of traditions and beliefs, and on personal spirituality as a factor in arriving at an understanding of Christian faith...
...Fiorenza's book is divided into four parts: the first about the resurrection of Jesus...
...I think this was a mistake, and many readers may want to begin with Part Four, to clarify certain terms, and get a clear view of the structure of inquiry that is involved...
...In addition, readers will find new resources for "picturing" the founding events of Christianity, new ways of thinking about Jesus and the church...
...I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that the major contribution of this book will be its analysis of what is meant by eccle-sial mission...
...It is no longer possible to imagine the church's origins in the same way...
...Even today the proper''supernatural'' purpose of the church is set over against its social and political ministry, as though "the spiritual" were something that could be contrasted with feeding the hungry, liberating the captive, loving the neighbor...
...An adequate theology, in Fiorenza's judgment, will have to "show why care for the sick and poor and why education have always been integral to the church's mission," and why today the same reasons demand a social and political mission that is central to the religious identity of the church...
...Several different specialized disciplines, as well as every contemporary school of philosophy, have been brought into the conversation...
...and the fourth about the nature and method of foundational theology . In each part he begins with an historical investigation, then surveys current options, and finally makes a constructive proposal of his own...
...They produced a kind of Catholic that put a lot of stock in rational arguments and confident facial expressions...
...The discussion of the founding of the church has significant implications for our understanding of church order and the meaning of ordained ministries, of the character and appropriate exercise of authority in-the church, and of the way the purpose of the church may be disclosed in history...
...Questions have been raised about everything...
...These attitudes and strategies of argument are familiar to many of us from youthful encounters with them...
...But few of us have a clear sense of where these ideas and images came from...
...Different readers will find different things to admire and argue about in this book...
...25 January 1985: 53...
...Some of the most distinguished work of this kind has come from Francis Schiissler Fiorenza, associate professor of theology at Catholic University and currently president-elect of the Catholic Theological Society of America...
...All of us have lived through this history, which affected the catechisms we used, the devotions we practiced, the sermons we heard, the way we answered certain kinds of questions...
...For the average Catholic who has lived through these changes it can seem very bewildering...
...They also involved a certain "picture" of how things happened in the life of Jesus and the earliest years of the church...
...This is hard even for professional theologians to keep track of...

Vol. 112 • January 1985 • No. 2


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.