Saturday, July 28, 2007
Mission is not about a project or a budget, or one-off event somewhere; it's not even about sending missionaries. A missional church is a community of God's people who live into the imagination that they are, by their very nature, God's missionary people living as a demonstration of what God plans to do in and for all creation in Jesus Christ. (p. xv)
Friday, July 27, 2007
The dialogue between Gregory and Macrina is one of the gossamer threads in Christian tradition. Unlike Soul, much of Christian theology emphasized distinctions between humans and animals, rather than stitching connections between aspects of creation (indeed, Macrina even develops a connection between humanity and plant life). Dividing creation into superior and inferior ranks
served as an excuse for rampant injustice on the part of Christians toward the rest of creation—and, sadly enough, toward other human beings (for example, women denied the priesthood or race-based slavery). What if instead of organizing humans and animals into hierarchical ranks, Christians had theologically developed the commonality of creation so tantalizingly suggested
in the fourth century?
It’s no secret – the Mainline has suffered dramatically in membership losses and influence these past few decades. Where once Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Disciple, UCC, American Baptist, Reformed Church in America, and ELCA were the dominant forces American religious life, others have taken place. Whether or not that is to change is yet to be seen.
Evolutionary biology has demonstrated how great a role random violence has played in creating our current nature's order, however beautiful it is. We are a part of this natural world. It is this essential connection to the natural order that makes it intelligible to us. We can come to understand it better if, to our ape brethren, we may be brave enough to say: I will praise thee, for I too am fearfully and wonderfully made.
The website of the Jane Goodall Institute can be accessed here:
Jane Goodall's article "Rain Dance" (Science and Spirit) can be read at: http://www.science-spirit.org/article_detail.php?article_id=229
Information about the Lincoln Park Zoo's "Mind of the Chimpanzee" conference can be found at:
Christian Sheppard holds a doctorate in divinity from the University of Chicago, and is working on a book about "King Kong" and religion after Darwin.
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Earlier in the evening I had the opportunity to hear and then meet Krista Tippett, whose book I've reviewed on this blog. It was a great message that encouraged us to share our faith in the world with humility and grace.
Yesterday was taken up with business sessions (the afternoon of which I attended). The issue that divided us concerned the Iraq War and a call to oppose it. The measure passed despite some maneuvering to get it thrown out, but the passage was fairly narrow. I was impressed by our moderator's actions after the vote. Bill Lee called us to prayer, a prayer for discernment and healing. It took the rancor out of the issue, I thought.
I didn't get to offer any reflections on Tuesday, but here are a few thoughts.
1. Went to the Northwest Christian College luncheon and was impressed by the vision of the new president of my alma mater. NCC will soon become NCU. It is growing and we'll see where it goes.
2. Transformation Seminar
I took part in the two day Transforming Congregations seminar, which had as its Tuesday leader Alan Roxburgh. Allen is a leader in the Missional Church movement. What I gained from this two day session was that we are called to be missional-- focused not inward but outward, focused on discerning God's direction not planning programs -- and that being missional doesn't happen over night. I hope to blog more on this later.
3. Tuesday Worship.
If the very famous Jim Wallis was the preacher last night, on Tuesday evening we were treated to the wonderful words from the Boston Women. The Disciples are not strong in New England, especially Massachusetts, but three women there have worked to start a new church, two have been working at Harvard (Belva Jordan and Stephanie Paulsell) and the third, a young woman named Elizabeth Meyer Boulton, is the founding pastor of that church. Elizabeth is a profound and powerful preacher who can dig deep into the emotional and spiritual depths of our lives. The theme of the message centered on water -- baptism -- and calling. It spoke of change and dreams.
Worship every night, led by Bill Thomas was simply grand. We may be small in numbers, but we have a group of musicians that is simply wonderful!!!
So, off I go today, after lunch with my friend Mark Toulouse of Brite Divinity School, back home to California. I will enjoy being home, even if only for a short period because I'll be soon heading off on vacation, but I will go home empowered and encouraged and hopeful. I got to see old friends and make new friends -- and as clergy that is always the high point of any assembly!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
More reporting on important things later.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
July 22, 2007
Summer is going by fast, but there's still time to do a little summer reading, and I have a book to recommend. It's not light beach reading, but it has an important message about how people understand and live their faith. It's the story about a religious pilgrimage informed by conversations with people of faith, some who are Christian and some who are not.
Krista Tippett is the host of Public Radio's Speaking of Faith and author of a book by the same name. “Speaking of Faith” (Viking, 2007) is a relatively brief book, but it allows this theologically-trained (Yale Divinity School) journalist to share with us a model of listening to people as they share their stories of faith in ways that are humble and authentic.
In the course of six chapters that range from the auto-biographical to the analytical, she talks about how she grew up in a fairly rigid Christian setting, abandoned that faith, and then rediscovered a broader more open Christian faith.
Her book helpfully shows us what it means to be religious and what the consequences are of our beliefs and practices. We hear a lot about fundamentalism these days, but what is it? Tippet offers one of the best definitions I've seen yet. It is “that defensive grasp at certainties stoked by the bewildering complexity of the age we live in” (p. 15). Instead of offering a defensive grasp at certainty, she offers a positive, forward thinking, open vision of faith that should be attractive to many who are looking for an anchor in difficult times.
Witnessing the hollowness of East German life in the late 1980s was the trigger that brought her back to faith. Discovering a barrenness of the spirit in her own life, she returned to the Christian faith of her youth, but with a difference. This time she would take her faith journey in conversation with theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She found a model for faith in the Genesis story of Jacob wrestling with God. In this story, she discovered that being a person of faith, indeed, to be a Christian, is to wrestle with God. Certainty might be nice, but the search for certainty leads to a rigidity that limits our questions and makes it difficult to deal with real world issues.
One reason why I recommend this book so highly is that she offers us a model of listening to people of other faith positions.
Too often we decide for others what they believe, but Tippett encourages us to let people speak for themselves. It is the skills necessary to be a good radio host that offers us a way of looking at life through the eyes of others who might not share our religious beliefs. A lesson learned in her own conversations is that while different religious groups all seem to have aspects of the truth, they tend to take those pieces of truth and then absolutize them (p. 179). Too often we settle for a faith reduced to a formula - believe this and you're in - when what we need is a religion able and willing to look honestly at one's own self. Such a faith is better able to inspire us to repairing the world rather than turning to violence - whether physical or verbal.
People seem a bit apprehensive about entering into open-ended conversations with people of other faith traditions, fearful that such conversations will undermine their faith. But, as Tippett demonstrates, true dialogue doesn't require us to give up our distinctives. It does, however, mean that we must look honestly at our beliefs and we must listen respectfully as others share their beliefs with us. As Tippett points out, we don't have to have all the answers, we just need to have questions. In our search for truth, we must, she insists, do so with humility. Then, when we speak of faith “we speak because we have questions, not just answers, and our questions cleanse our answers and enliven our world” (p. 238).
As I said, this isn't light beach reading, but it's an important word about living one's faith in public. Gracious and inviting, the tone is personal and style is eloquent. Not designed to offer answers, it shows us how to ask useful and productive questions on matters of faith, and if we wish to live our faith in public then this is the kind of book we need to read.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Looking forward to the General Assembly -- all those hours sitting in hard seats. Oh, yeah! But will be good to be together with my fellow Disciples. Had lunch with an old friend today -- hadn't seen him in about 11 years. That's what Assemblies are for!
Friday, July 20, 2007
I'm off to the 2007 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For a few days we'll gather in Fort Worth to worship, study, do some business (nothing earth shattering -- except we'll vote to end the war). Last time we made history by electing Sharon Watkins as General Minister and President.
I'll spend some time learning about church transformation, hear Krista Tippett speak at a banquet, and on the last evening hear Jim Wallis. I'm going to a Texas Rangers/Cleveland Indians baseball game (skipping the GMP's state of the church address, but I couldn't turn down front row behind the umpire tickets).
So, my blogging for the next week will likely be intermittent, but I'll be back soon!
|You scored as Albus Dumbledore, Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.|
Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
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Thursday, July 19, 2007
Impeachment is the politics of retaliation, a tool of political violence that should be used in the most extreme of circumstances (and something that was wrongly used against President Clinton). Religious progressives should not practice tit-for-tat politics. We are supposed to be peacemakers, agents of forgiveness, and those who build bridges across human divides. Drawing from this disposition, we are called to practice reconciliation—to create restorative possibilities for trust, healing, and shalom where no such hope currently exists.
Like many Americans, I am angry. And I am not particularly in the mood to forgive an administration that has endangered the course of human history for the next century. As much as I hate to say it, I am called to love George W. Bush and I do not think impeaching him serves that end. As a Christian, and as a religious progressive, I must move beyond revenge politics to reach deeply for spiritual dispositions and practices that nurture God’s dream for shalom. And I
fear that if the religious left only becomes part of the “base,” our desire for a wiser and more just America will fail before it even begins.
If this is Bush's theological perspective, then our nation is being lead by a Christian crusader, not a commander in chief. And that is a very dangerous place to be. Good democracies go bad when governed by theocrats.
If the president is theologically right that God wills the war in Iraq, what does that say about the moral reflection of the broad sweep of Catholic bishops, Methodist bishops, mainline Protestant clergy and other Christian leaders who hold the view that the war is morally wrong?
University of Chicago Ph.D. candidate Elizabeth Musselman wrestles with the moral qualities of one Severus Snape, Harry Potter's apparent enemy at Hogwarts, and yet perhaps not. Musselman explores the question of appearances and moral ambiguities. We like things black and white, good and evil, clear and not ambiguous, but Snape's character reminds us that all is not as it seems.
So, with the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the theaters (I see it tomorrow) and the final installment of the Harry Potter series due in our mail boxes on Saturday (I pity the poor mail carriers or UPS carriers) -- one busy and heavy day -- Musselman's thoughts are worth pondering!!!
And yes this preacher is a Harry Potter fan!
One of the most contentious questions in the online world of textual interpretation (blogging, fan fiction, and the like) concerns the moral status of Severus Snape, Harry's "Defense Against the Dark Arts" teacher. Snape is the only character whose moral status has remained unknown through the series: while this greasy-haired teacher appears on the surface to be more evil than good, by the end of the sixth book the reader is still left questioning Snape's motives and disposition.
The fact that so many people are so profoundly invested in the Snape question also matters deeply. Many of us desperately want Snape to be good not only because we believe that fiction has the power to reflect and to shape reality, but also because we hope on some level that people have the capacity to be better (as well as worse) than they appear; we know that the legacy of sin hanging over us calls for humility in our assessment of what is good and what is evil; and we believe that we will live less dangerously and more ethically if we acknowledge this fact.
Dan P. McAdams, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Links to images of the February Borders marketing campaign may be found at http://blogs.nypost.com/potter/archives/2007/02/snape_--_the_ma.html.
The current shape of the Borders Snape marketing campaign may be seen at http://www.bordersmedia.com/harrypotter/.
Elizabeth Musselman is a PhD candidate in theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
As he often does with ideas he opposes, Ratzinger painted liberation theology in stark tones that distorted the movement's tenets beyond all recognition. Whatever the undeniable excesses of some proponents of liberation theology, Ratzinger was in reality criticizing a movement that did not exist. But the tactic also made liberation theology -- and other deviations Ratzinger perceived -- much easier to condemn since they were made to seem so patently corrupt. This is in keeping with Ratzinger's grim, purist theological outlook, which sees even the slightest deviation from his view of tradition as tantamount to despoiling the entire theory or movement or person, a seduction so subtle we may not ever realize it is happening. (Gibson, 193).
[T]he (blogs) that had the biggest and most loyal readerships -- always had a few consistent qualities. They were topically focused, often in niche areas. They published regularly and frequently, typically during office hours and several times a day. They published content that was original or difficult to find, from breaking news to proprietary photographs to obscure links that readers are unlikely to find on their own. They were usually well-written, which has its own intrinsic appeal for anyone who prefers to enjoy what they're reading. And lastly, they engaged their readership by soliciting feedback and responding to it, in the form of asking for tips, allowing comments or otherwise demonstrating some level of interest in their audience's preferences.
by Kim Fabricius
1. Let’s face it: the Bible is not exactly a barrel of laughs. In the Old Testament the Lord laughs a few times in the Psalms – at the nations’ rulers in Psalm 2:4, at the wicked and godless in Psalms 37:13 and 59:8 – but it is a disdainful, derisive laughter. As for human laughter, the preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:2 calls it “foolish” (GNB), “mad” (NRSV), even if it does have its “time” (cf. 3:4); while Job’s so-called comforters Eliphaz and Bildad console their friend with the promise of laughter if he repents (5:22, 8:21) – but we know what God thinks of them (42:7).
2. Is Sarah an exception? She laughs when God promises her a child in her dotage, but beneath her breath (Genesis 18:12). But the Lord hears her giggling – “Yeah, right!” she is thinking – and he is not amused at her doubt, so in fear she denies that she laughed (18:15a). “Oh yes you did!” the Lord replies (18:15b). We should remember that Abraham laughed too when told that Sarah will bear him a child (17:17), but evidently our (sexist?) Lord was more indulgent with the old man than with his old lady. One thing is for sure, juxtapose the two scenes and you have the stuff of situation comedy!
3. And then there is the name “Isaac” – “the one who will laugh.” Does giving the child of promise such a sobriquet suggest that God has a sense of humour after all? And perhaps we should not overlook the additional syllables that God adds to the names Abram and Sarai: they become AbrAHam and SarAH. “An onomatopoeic ‘Ha-Ha’”? (Simon Critchley).
4. There are three explicit references to laughter in the New Testament. In James 4:9 the complacent laughter-become-mourning of repentance; in Matthew 9:24 (par. Mark 5:40, Luke 8:53) the dismissive laughter of the crowd at a funeral that Jesus crashes; and in Luke 6:25 the smug laughter of the powerful – and in Luke 6:21 the eschatological laughter of the powerless. The eschatological laughter is promising, even proleptic. For if the verbal abuse of Jesus’ enemies at the foot of the cross surely included cruel and mocking laughter, may we not suggest an Easter laughter – risus paschalis – that rings out with resurrection joy?
5. Did Jesus laugh? The fictitious dispute in Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose “is more than fiction. It reflects a line of tradition which really existed, from John Chrysostom through Augustine to Bernard of Clairvaux and Hugo of St Victor, of the Christian denunciation of laughter” (Karl-Josef Kuschel). Nor is such a “theology of tears” limited to the world-denying, death-obsessed zeitgeist of the Middle Ages. John Wesley once disciplined a preacher on the charges (in ascending order?) of heresy, adultery – and the man’s proneness to “break a jest, and laugh at it heartily.” Here, from Beckett’s Molloy, Moran debates the issue with Father Ambrose, who sides with Eco’s Jorge (a Dominican – who is blind):
“What a joy it is to laugh, from time to time, he said. Is it not? I said. It is peculiar to man, he said. So I have noticed, I said. A brief silence ensued. […] Animals never laugh, he said. It takes us to find that funny, I said. What? he said. It takes us to find that funny, I said loudly. He mused. Christ never laughed either, he said, so far as we know. He looked at me. Can you wonder? I said.”
6. You laughed, right? Christ, I reckon, would have cracked up too! Did he not have a Beckett-like sense of the absurd (gnats and camels, logs and splinters), the ironic (calling Simon a Πετρος, telling fishermen where to fish), and even the coarse (suggesting that one go starkers in court [Matthew 5:40], insinuating that the Pharisees are full of crap [Mark 7:15]). And is anyone going to tell me that a man who likes to party, with a reputation to go with it, doesn’t like a laugh? So with many a Renaissance Humanist, Eco’s William of Baskerville (a Franciscan, one of God’s “merry men” – who can see because he wears spectacles) was surely right: of course Jesus laughed!
A limerick comes to me:
In the O.T. our God the Most High
in his folk put timor Domini,
but in Jesus his Son
he earthed Word-play and pun:
like a mushroom,
he was a fun-guy.
7. The only serious theological question is not “Did Jesus laugh?” but “Did Jesus laugh in his divinity as well as his humanity?” As with suffering, the doctrine of the divine impassibility would suggest not. If, however, revisionists like Moltmann and Jüngel are right, then, if God can suffer, surely God can laugh. The resurrection event is crucial, as it identifies, even defines, if it does not constitute, the very being of God. In any case, the grammar of faith allows, and (I submit) the substance of faith demands the statement: “God laughs” – and not only with scorn for his enemies but, above all, with joy for his friends.
8. Ergo, an Easter people cannot act like lemon-suckers. Chesterton said that “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly,” and no less an authority than the Angelic Doctor himself “leaves the Christian with a wide field for his fun. He does so on the authority of the Philosopher” – revelation and reason in perfect harmony – “who, we are reminded, ‘posits the virtue of eutrapelia, which in Latin we call jucunditas, enjoyment.’ His conclusion rejoices smiling Christians” (M. A. Screech). Alas, St Thomas set limits to Christian frivolity: no dirty jokes! Calvin agreed – but not scatologically-minded Luther. And Erasmus, while keen on wit, disapproved of tickling – which, in my view, comes close to advocating child abuse!
9. There is a political dimension to laughter, namely laughter as protest and resistance, disarming tyrant or terrorist with ecstatic power. “Laugh and fear not, creatures,” declares Aslan. “For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.” Humour has been particularly important in sustaining the children of Moses in the wilderness of oppression, not least in the face of Christian anti-semitism. Hence the extensive corpus of Jewish jokes about Christians, doleful and yearning, yet also acerbic. Like this one:
The priest says to the rabbi: “There are three things I can’t stand about you Jews: you wander about the synagogue, you pray noisily, and your funerals are chaotic.” The rabbi replies: “We wander about the synagogue because we feel at home there. We pray noisily because Yahweh is old and hard of hearing. And as for funerals, we too prefer the Christian ones.”
And there is the Jewish character, figure of fun, known as the schlemihl: a rather weak, inept, and vulnerable guy who takes on the chin whatever goys throw at him, who gets knocked down again and again, but who always gets up, dusts himself off, and gets on with life without a grumble. There is a Christian version of the schlemihl: his name is Charlie Brown. In the schlemihl, laughter is not only polemical critique, it is also therapeutic self-critique lest the oppressed becomes an oppressor.
10. Finally, the liturgical dimension of laughter: is there a place for laughter in worship? W. H. Auden suggested that “The world of laughter is much more closely related to the world of prayer than either is to the everyday secular world of work,” and Reinhold Niebuhr actually said that “Laughter is the beginning of prayer.” But Niebuhr also said that “there is faith and prayer, and no laughter, in the holy of holies.” So it’s okay to crack a joke in the pulpit perhaps, but not at the altar? But who has not laughed during the scrum that can be the passing of the peace? And if there are children at the table, well, as Art Linkletter famously put it on his American TV show, “Kids say the darndest things!” And although the eucharist as anamnesis of the meal “on the night he was betrayed” is certainly a solemn moment, does not the eu-charis-t as anticipation of the Messiah’s wedding feast invite making merry? Donald MacKinnon rightly pointed to the tragic elements in the Christian story, but his mentor Kierkegaard, depressive Dane that he was, called it “the most humorous point of view in the history of the world.”
A personal anecdote. During my training for the ministry I was leading morning worship at Mansfield College, Oxford. Lesslie Newbigin was present, so I wanted to be word perfect. The Old Testament lesson, from I Samuel 14, was about Saul slaughtering the Philistines. I came to verse 15, which reads: “There was a panic in the camp.” But this idiot read: “There was a picnic in the camp.” As I prayed for the earth to open, all eyes turned to the great man. How would he respond? He laughed, of course!
St Theresa prayed well: “Lord, preserve us from sullen saints.”
Labels: doctrine of God, humour, Kim Fabricius, Scripture
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Yet there is a consistent thread to his thinking, which runs counter to the optimism of the Second Vatican Council and which grew more defined in later years. Indeed, the aftermath of the council only reinforced his suspicion of man's seemingly unending capacity to go wrong and betray himself by believing he can accomplish things by himself. It also confirmed his view that returning to the sources, stripping away and simplifying and sanctifying rather than moving into uncharted territory with newfangled ideas, holds the true promise for faith. (Gibson, p. 172).
Monday, July 16, 2007
More than the other Democratic candidates for president, Obama has made faith a centerpiece of his campaign.
He has warned the left against ceding the mantle of religion to the evangelical right. He speaks of the church as an abiding force in American public life, from the Boston Tea Party through the abolitionist and civil rights movements. He suffuses his speeches with biblical allusions – "I am my brother's keeper" is a favorite phrase. And he has cast his generation of black leaders as modern-day Joshuas, after Moses' successor, who led the Israelites to the Promised Land.
Many of Obama's political views are "an outgrowth of his reading of some of the seminal parts of the Bible about doing unto the 'least of these' just as we would have done unto Christ," says Joshua DuBois, the campaign's director of religious affairs, paraphrasing verses in the book of Matthew. "He takes very seriously the numerous passages in the Bible that talk not only about poverty, but of people of faith taking God's words and extending them beyond the four
walls of the church."
But as Obama promotes faith as a means of uniting a diverse America around a shared set of values, he has at times found himself in a political minefield. To the left are liberals uneasy with religious intrusions into politics; to the right, conservatives who have questioned his Christianity and denounced his ties to Wright's Afrocentric church.
The fine line here has to do with authenticity and recognition of the diversity of religious views in the nation. I think the reason people are fed up with the Religious Right is that it's so exclusivist and dogmatic. But, if the Religious Left is to find its voice it must be open while at the same being seen as believing in something -- wishy-washy won't cut it. But, whatever happens come November 2008, this election cycle has certainly turned things upside down!
I've known Susan since way back when we served together on the Adult Nurture Committee for the Region. Back then she and Don served the La Mesa church in the San Diego area. Later on I served as Juniors (4-6 grades) co-camp director with Susan at Loch Leven, our regional camp. Don and Susan have friends, confidants, encouragers over the past 9 years of ministry in the local area. So, I am excited for them and know they will be a great asset to the Region and to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
I talked this morning with Susan and she's excited -- so I'm excited for them and the broader church!
Let me also say thanks to Don Shelton, our outgoing Regional Minister. Don has been very helpful to me over the years and he has demonstrated extraordinary leadership these past 12 years.
Last Monday's column ("Campus Funding Frays," July 9) incorrectly stated that the Rosenberger case was decided in 1991. The case was decided in 1995.
For more information about the Wisconsin Council of Churches and other agencies, please visit: http://www.ecumenism.net/agencies/usa.htm.
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.
The current Religion and Culture Web Forum features "Christian Responses to Vietnam: The Organization of Dissent," by Mark Toulouse. To read this article, please visit: http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/webforum/index.shtml.
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Malcolm X is not as honored a Black leader as Martin Luther King, but as Malcolm seems to understand himself, his radicalism made Martin look more palatable to whites. It's quite possible that Malcolm's vision scared White politicians to agree to Martin's demands.
The movie itself, which is based on Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X, brought Oscar nominations to Spike Lee and Denzel Washington in 1992. It is a long but powerful portrayal of Malcolm's journey from a young man caught up into a life of crime to a convert to the Nation of Islam in prison, on to leadership in the Nation and finally a break with the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad shortly before his assassination in 1965, at the age of 39.
Denzel Washington has done a great job in bringing to life Malcolm's life, and it is a life that needs to be attended to. As a white Christian, I'm of course, closer in philosophy to Martin Luther King, but Malcolm's message was a powerful one. That he lost his life so young, before he could fully develop his philosophy is a shame.
If you've not yet seen it, get the DVD and pay close attention. If you're interested in listening to Malcolm X the speaker click here.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Faith is a given for Ratzinger, a gift from God (and one that he apparently has enjoyed since birth), and the dogmas and doctrines of the church are not up for debate. Theology and the powers of the intellect are not to create but to conserve -- a task that requires just as much energy, as he would discover -- and to illuminate avenues to the depositum fidei, the deposit of faith for the faithful. This is His church and not a laboratory for theologians," as he put it. (Gibson, The Rule of Benedict, 158).