Last month, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, who is also a Catholic, came to Taipei for two interesting talks. In one of them Taylor laid out two models of secularism that in his naming are « the American model » and the « the French model. » Gauging each model by how faithfully they correspond to the democratic spirit of modern pluralistic society respectively, Taylor favors the formal and holds his critique of the latter.
In this interview La Croix conducted (my summary of it in Chinese here), you can clearly see how Pope Francis echoes Taylor’s call in his rejection of the French model of laïcité, namely, the political understanding of the government as the embodiment of the « counter-church, » whose role is to keep all pubic religious exercises at bay so as to minister to a « religionless » public square.
So as the French model prevails there, Pope Francis is also daring enough to call the French [Catholics] « the eldest daughter of the Church, but not the most faithful, » whose republic nowadays has downgraded itself to a « mission country, » rendering the land « a periphery to be evangelized. »
But he is convinced that there isn’t necessarily « a need for priests in order to evangelize. » Baptism, and the Holy Spirit whom the believers received upon baptism, should provide the motif to evangelize, which means « to go out, to take the Christian message with courage and patience. »
« The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of whatever happens in the Church, its motor. Too many Christians are ignorant of this (in their false reliance on and espousal of ‘clericalism’). »
If then God gave them the same gift He gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?
When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way’… and Peter in that first diocese – the first diocese was Antioch – makes this decision: ‘Who am I to admit impediments?’
A nice word for bishops, for priests and for Christians. Who are we to close doors? In the early Church, even today, there is the ministry of the ostiary [usher]. And what did the ostiary do? He opened the door, received the people, allowed them to pass. But it was never the ministry of the closed door, never.
既 Pope Francis 上週以彼得被上帝挑戰的救恩論想像為例，表態「願為火星人施洗」後，幾天前他說明「沒有教會就不成基督徒」。
One cannot « understand a Christian alone » any more than « Jesus Christ alone » can be understood.
Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us. No. Jesus Christ has a history. And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history. So a Christian without history, without a Christian nation, a Christian without the Church is incomprehensible. It is a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life.
Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church . Without this, we are not Christians. We entered the Church through baptism: there we are Christians.
And for this reason, we should be asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made; also of personal memory: What God did for me, in my life, how has he made me walk … Ask for the grace of hope; ask for the grace to renew the covenant with the Lord who has called us every day.
May the Lord give us these three graces, which are necessary for the Christian identity.
In the starting pages of the recently-released biography of Steve Jobs, there is an intriguing (yet saddening) passage on Jobs’ early interaction with Christianity:
Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Jobs’s parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end when he was thirteen. In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?” The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.” Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this…
I wonder if the situation would change had the Sunday school teacher been trained to think through God’s middle knowledge. But IMO, the biggest issue about the Sunday school teacher is the lack of empathy.
1949年中國共產黨取得中國大陸政權後，使馬克思主義意識形態成為本質上的國家宗教（state church），而對基督教和其他宗教，使其成為了國家宗教的附屬宗教。當局扶持的三自教會（所謂的自治、自養、自傳的基督教會），本質上是國教的附屬宗 教。以吳耀宗、丁光訓為首的新派神學家在神學理念上完全認同共產主義意識形態，他們強調「因愛稱義」、「耶穌無神性」、「人無罪性」，人可以建立地上天國 —共產主義社會，他們只不過用基督教的名詞來闡述共產主義理念而已。在形式上，三自教會的牧者們全部受到官方培訓、官方控制。可見，三自教會實質上就是國 家宗教，這與清教徒時代英國國教聖公會有極大的相似性… (full article Part 1 and Part 2)
Kimlym J. Bender, “Christ and Canon, theology and history—the Barth-Harnack dialogue revisited” in Theology as Conversation: The Significance Of Dialogue In Historical And Contemporary Theology: A Festschrift For Daniel L. Migliore, Bruce McCormack and Kimlym J. Bender eds., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009, pp. 3-29
Because of the diversity and heterogeneity of the books in the Bible, Harnack insisted historical knowledge and critical reflection on necessary to understand its content. Without these faith would advance an unchecked speculative fantasy at best and at worst a theological dictatorship that “seeks to culture the consciences of others with its own subjective experience”.
Barth responded to the criticism with an emphasis on unity [between Christ of faith and Jesus of history]. For Barth, the Jesus of Nazareth no much historical science fails to display Jesus true identity is abstracted from the confession of him as the risen Lord. If Christ is the Lord of history, any historical reconstructions are his earthly life that ignores his Lordship can at best be an abstraction.
Historical science alone is unable to move beyond speculative reconstruction to confession.
Indeed, the precise determination of the Christian canon’s development is in a large part lost to history. But the question of its subject matter is clearly shown to us to be the God to whom the canon witnesses and the contemporary confessions of faith profess.
It is the unity of the Lord that grounds the unity of Scripture and the makes it a unified witness. To understand Scripture rightly entails that one read it as a participant in its truth. (For Harnack, this emotional attachment risks of loss of scientific objectivity and responsibility.)
Barth’s commitment to a different kind of objectivity and the responsibility is expressed in his third edition of the Romans commentary where he insists that we must think not so much about Paul but after and with Paul towards the subject matter with which he himself was concerned. (For a discussion of what exactly Barth takes to be historical science positive and preparatory function, which Barth has only alluded to but never fully explains, see Burnett, Karl Barth‘s Theological Exegesis, pp.230-240)
However, Harnack score a point. While the exact genetic history of canonical development may ultimately be unanswerable, we are still left with the canonical question concerning its composition and the parameters, which is not solved by the ultimate definition of the canon’s theological and the Christological nature. For example, shall we be siding with Luther’s (and thus Judaism’s) version of the Hebrew OT or the Catholic Church’s (and thus the engine church’s) LXX OT? Whose canon? Whose Scripture? (the same question needs to be posed against Childs.)
Latter Barth is clearly in his mature reflections aware of the historical messiness of canonical development in the contested boundaries, is refusing all the way the [confessional] church any final authority. He deems that the revelation of God which comes through Scripture is the ultimate basis and criteria for the canon, which must overrides even historic usages and past decisions of councils. But paradoxically, if anyone today wants to challenge particular books of their canonical status or revelatory significance, Barth would give precedence to the Church’s past decisions by aligning them with the obedient hearing of God’s voice.
Barth views the Scripture through a single lens of Christology, whereas Harnack employs multiple lenses, including a Kantian universal rationalism modified in light of Schleiermacher, a modern Lutheran law and the gospel dichotomy modified by Ritschl, and his spiritual moralism alike. Though he still attempted to preserve the uniqueness of the person of Jesus against Troeltsch’s appeal for a more consistent/critical historicism, he is separating the message of Jesus from his own historical [i.e., Jewish rabbinical and first century eschatological] roots in favor of a universal moral message that it can be extracted from both Testaments. Barth on the contrary is classically orthodox—he sees Christ foreshadowed in the old and attested in the new (But still, in various fronts, he has been criticized for having not taken the Old Testament on its own terms).
In the end, if Barth really needs to be faulted in his open confessional position, it was in his ready acceptance of the findings of radical biblical criticism, telling to criticize not only its presuppositions but also its findings. This was due in no small part to Barth’s early liberal inheritance [from Hermann]: his early ambivalence toward history and a dialectic of contradiction that has only to be overcome in time with a dialectic of correspondence.
But no doubt, what intrigues many of us today in the Harnack/Barth dabate, is Barth’s hermeneutics of trust and the canonical richness, rather than Harnack’s hermeneutics of suspicion and canonical reductionism.