Thursday, September 14, 2006

Some theses on heresy

In his “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie” (presented in Tübingen, 1969/70), Eberhard Jüngel includes a series of 30 theses on heresy and superstition. Here’s a selection:
  • There is no heresy that does not ultimately give rise to christological defects or wrong christological decisions.
  • Heresies are attempts to enrich faith illegitimately.
  • The basic form of all heresies is addition.
  • The basic heresy of addition is a denial of the particula exculsiva “solus Christus” and an attack on the particulae exculsivae “sola gratia,” “sola fide” and “sola scriptura.”
  • The cause of all heresies is the inability (i.e. the unwillingness) to let God be heard in Jesus Christ.
  • Heresies are unholy.
  • A theology that does not say No to untruth cannot say Yes to truth.
  • A merely negative defence against heresies is itself heretical.
  • A mere recitation of confessions of Jesus Christ does not preserve theology from becoming heretical, but makes it all the more heretical. The mere recitation of confessions is christological superstition.
—Eberhard Jüngel, “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie,” in Unterwegs zur Sache: Theologische Bemerkungen (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1988), pp. 283-84.

Monday, September 11, 2006

God and the Crucified

"European Christianity hsa considered itself capable of thinking of God in his being as God without thinking of him simultaneously as the Crucified... the perfection of God required by the law of metaphysics forbade imagining God as suffering or even thinking of him together with one who was dead. This prohibition and its alleged reason are seen, however, from the perspective of the word of the cross, to be the basic aporia into which European theology has blundered" (GMW, 39).

This may be one of Jüngel's most crucial insights (pun intended!), but he gets it from the Lutheran tradition, so he can't claim it as coming to him ex nihilo. He also rightly qualifies the social and continental location of theology he is criticizing, not necessarily because the criticism can't be levied against theologies in other places, but because he is mostly in dialogue with the European theological tradition.

He goes on to state that "faith in the crucified One as true God and the theological consequences of this faith do not merge easily and without difficulty." You can say that again. This is a constant challenge, danger, aporia. Nevertheless, naming the aporia goes a long way towards addressing the issue. At least the lack is now known. It has been diagnosed.

Thinking God together with the crucified is what leads Jüngel to understand God as not simply "necessary" (the traditional metaphysical understanding of God in relation to the world), but rather as "more than necessary". This is a metaphysical way of saying what can be said more precisely and yet less clearly as "God is not God without humanity." Or at least God does not desire to come to Godself without humanity. If this saying confuses you, then see, you've already started not thinking of God together with the crucified, because isn't the crucified human?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gott als Geheimnis der Welt, Marginalia, and Deus Caritas Est

Some of us read, admittedly, pretty dense theological prose. But even within the world of academic theology, Jüngel is considered a special case. I think Gott als Geheimnis ranks up there with Paul Ricoeur and a few others as a volume, and a writer, worth reading who, simply put, intimidates through their erudition.

So, I confess, I've been slow to post anything related to my reading of this book as a result of sheer terror.

I understand that one way to overcome writers block is to write about anything at related to the topic, simply to clear the air. In that spirit, I'll note to all interested readers that:

a) I purchased my copy of God as Mystery from an on-line seller through Amazon for $45. This was the cheapest copy I could find. The actual seller, Fullerstone Books, was selling it in store for $67. I'd be interested how much readers of this blog would be willing to pay for a copy.

b) My book has had two previous owners, Raymond Cannata, and W. Jim Neidhart, both of Randolph, NJ. So apparently two people in Randolph have either read or owned Jüngel.

c) My translation was done by Darrel Guder. I believe this is the only English translation. I wonder how Guder, then Director of of the Institute of Youth Ministries at Fuller, convinced folks that translating Jüngel counted as a "youth" ministry?

d) My used volume has that tacky paper around the outside to protect, and came with one used band-aid stuck inside.

e) I intend to read the book in tandem with a study of the Pope's Encyclical Deus Caritas Est with the longer view of writing a paper connecting the two as they relate to a practical issue in public theology. Ostensibly, Jüngel's book is an exposition of the statement from 1st John: "God is Love." We shall see.

Thanks for the invitation to participate in this dialogue, and I hope my contributions are, on the whole, salutary.