Directing attention to what has become an arctic winter for truth, this article explores a distinctly Christian understanding of truth, utilizing biblical accounts, the Christian mystical tradition, and theological anthropology. Considering truth as existential, as something that emerges within life commitment to Christ, the article presents a group of strategies from theological and secular realms that prove practically suggestive for contemporary discipleship in an increasingly post-truth era.
Theological Aporia and the Cultivation of Desire: Reading Eriugena’s Creatio Ex Nihilo through an Islamic Theo-Poetics
This comparative theological article expands on John Thiel’s article on aporias in theological method. Through an Islamic theo-poetics, it complements the import of hermeneutics in theological method with poetics. In an Islamic theo-poetics, aporias are inverted: they are not impassable walls, but “liminal spaces” through which creative imagination and revelation emerge. Reading Eriugena’s Periphyseon through two Persian love lyrics by Ḥāfiẓ (and a later commentary) draws out the poetics of the former, a dialogue often described as an exercise in dialectical reasoning. Attention to the poetics of aporetics offers another way to understand the role of aporia in theology: to cultivate (infinite) desire for God. Theology is a theo-poetic reflection on the mystery of our communal theo(poïe)sis. Along the way, I indicate how theology construed as poetics—not merely hermeneutics—makes theological aesthetics possible, underscores the role of affective knowledge, and reveals how Eriugena the poet shaped Eriugena the dialectician.
Divine providence, as traditionally conceived, keeps historical time subordinate to
God’s sovereignty so that the divine plan for it is fulfilled. This article argues that
the starting point for theologizing about providence ought to be the logic of radical
generosity in play when the divine Thou creates historical time as a reality unto itself
by giving it an unprecedented future. Providence does not protect the historically
conditioned universe from this future; it draws the universe into it. The human
experience of grace offers us a paradigmatic example of this.
The Indefectibility of the Apostolic See: Was the Idea of a Heretical Pope Formally Excluded at the First Vatican Council?
During the prelude to the First Vatican Council, the idea of a heretical pope was
used as the primary argument against the solemn definition of papal infallibility.
The medieval canonists and conciliarists had allowed for the notion of papal heresy
by making a strict distinction between the apostolic seat itself and the individual
occupants of the throne of Peter. However, when we examine the text of Pastor
Aeternus in light of the contents of the official Relatio, which was drawn up at the
council to explain the meaning of this document, we find that the above distinction
used by the conciliarists was formally proscribed with an anathema. This article will
argue that in doing so, the Council Fathers definitively excluded the possibility of a
While the writings of Robert Doran exhibit significant ecological awareness, the
present paper argues that the corpus of Bernard Lonergan and Doran’s own work
have overlooked an ecological dialectic that arises naturally from Lonergan’s approach.
This article suggests there is an anthropocentric bias operating that prevents its
recognition, which needs to be identified and overcome if we are to address our
current ecological crises. To that end, this article identifies a double dialectic operating
in the social order. The first dialectic, as identified by Lonergan and expanded by Doran,
is that between intersubjectivity and practical intelligence; however, this dialectic is
embedded in a second larger dialectic between the social order itself and the order of
the nonhuman processes from which the social order itself emerges. The appreciation
of this dialectic has been blocked by our neglect of cosmological meanings and values,
as exemplified by the Indigenous peoples of our world.
The concept of purely penal law, as developed by the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suárez in the early seventeenth century, argues that promulgated law is neither morally binding upon the citizen nor conceived as a moral requirement by legislators. Rather, the law is strictly punitive in its intent and function. The theory, which grants the individual the right to determine law’s rational and moral significance, touched off a heated debate that has been renewed at various times in history yet has not resurfaced since the mid-twentieth century. This article argues for the veracity and legitimacy of the concept in light of contemporary legal and penal dynamics. It also argues that the Catholic Church should take notice of its insights in its understanding of the relationship between church and state.
This article shows how Pope Francis’s notion of “synodality” brings together central tenets of the comprehensive vision of the Second Vatican Council. The article proposes that the roots of synodality can be found, above all, in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum.
Christians ancient and modern have puzzled over the violence in the book of Joshua. Origen of Alexandria interprets this text apocalyptically, to give readers a sense of their own personal moral struggle as participating in a cosmic effort. For Origen, the central act of apocalypse is the cross of Jesus Christ, conquering evil through nonviolence and making religious violence explicitly prohibited. This is a compelling exegesis still today, since by using the cross to reinterpret Joshua, Origen presents a middle path between endorsing the violence depicted and excising or ignoring it.
This article offers a theological vision of how nonviolence contributes to Catholic social teaching, and offers a crosscutting, intersectional praxis related to two destructive waves in the US: the public health crisis of COVID-19 and systemic racism. First, this article will describe some basic intersections of these two waves, and then draw on a theological description of nonviolence to analyze their intersectionality. Finally, this article will illustrate how nonviolence offers a praxis for a more sustainable transformation.
We need a nonviolent soteriology that honors scriptural and theological traditions about enemy-love, suffering, sacrifice, and satisfaction and refuses to further harm victims of violence and oppression. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolence and Bernard Lonergan’s way of understanding Christ’s satisfaction by analogy with the sacrament of reconciliation disclose one way suffering can be redemptive: When nonviolent activists “present their very bodies,” they expose the violence latent in unjust situations. Similarly, when Christ presents his body, he exposes the violence at the heart of sin. Like Christ, activists “become sin” (1 Cor 5:21)—not because they take responsibility for the sin, but because sin becomes visible in the wounds it leaves on innocent bodies. Once visible, healing can begin. Further, both men argue for a proper unfolding of the extension of love to enemies, lest victims be further harmed and injustice ignored.
This article parallels Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for civil, economic, and racial equality in the USA with Julius K. Nyerere’s unrelenting liberation struggle for the emancipation of Southern Africa from colonial shackles. I write this article fully cognizant of King’s belief that what united the minority and colonial peoples of America, African, and Asia was the struggle to overcome the legacy of colonialism and racial injustice. I therefore argue that King’s dream was a shared dream, which I analyze through the prism of liberation theology.
To Dream in North and South America: Reflections on the Sixtieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
This article reflects on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered
sixty years ago in Washington, DC. It begins by pointing to the concept of “dream”
as it is understood in current language and how Dr. King used it in a theological way.
Next, the essay compares this with what Pope Francis has frequently said about
dreams, including his own. Reflecting on King’s words and the sense that the dream
he spoke about is still not a reality but a horizon of hope that stimulates struggle,
the article presents a comparative study of racism in the United States, according
to King, and Brazil, where structural racism permeates the whole society, delaying
indefinitely the dream of equality and justice. I also show how liberation theology has
been a helpful element in the struggle to keep the dream of equality alive. I
The year 2023 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the March on Washington that featured civil rights leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This article focuses on King’s critique of racism, poverty, and militarism, and his commitment to justice, love, and hope.
Modern theology has attended explicitly to issues concerning method, that is, how theological authors creatively offer interpretations that advance disciplinary knowledge. This article explores the role of aporias—logical impasses—in theological interpretation. After considering two philosophical paths for negotiating the aporia in the work of Nicholas Rescher and Jacques Derrida, it applies these interpretive paradigms to what it calls the central Christian aporia. It argues that mindfulness about the role of aporias in theological method enhances appreciation for the complexity of theological hermeneutics.
This article begins by suggesting a wider or more formal understanding of the movement known as ressourcement. After engaging a recent volume of essays on retrieval, the article takes up the work of one contemporary and one bygone theologian in order to highlight how their work embodies the call for a broader understanding of returning to the sources. It then uses Johann Adam Möhler’s reading of Anselm and later medieval theology as exemplary of this call.
Drawing inspiration from Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, and Thomas Aquinas, and in support of the definition of evil as the privation of being or goodness, this article proposes a complementary definition of evil. It argues that evil can be defined as the non-advancement of being, appetite, or natural inclination toward its proper perfection or completion. First, it explains what this definition entails, elaborates on its implications, and defends its plausibility. Second, it discusses typical objections to the privation account and shows how defining evil relative to appetite can help overcome them.
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis highlights the oceans as integral to our threatened common home and stresses the need for more effective ocean governance. Theologians can help to meet that need. By turning their attention to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its further development, and by practicing “ocean empathy,” they can join ocean scientists, NGOs, international lawyers, and others in caring for the oceans by shoring up the law of the sea.
Christian theological anthropology has been critiqued for its habit of sharply distinguishing the human from the nonhuman and for thereby depreciating human animality in one form or another. Within the context of modern theological anthropology, the result of this habit has often been a vision of the human according to which the less animal we are, the more self-transcendent and God-open we are. In light of recent theological and interdisciplinary interest in the Umwelt-theory of Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944), I indicate how Uexküll’s influential account of animal Umwelten can be a resource for theologians seeking to articulate human self-transcendence and God-openness in a manner that avoids the depreciation—whether explicit or implicit—of our animality.
Over the past ten years of Francis’s pontificate, a transversal axis cutting across all his writings is his appreciation for the importance of social integration in Latin America. For the pope, humanity must gradually move toward greater and better forms of encounter, integration, and inclusion—that is, toward the “Great Homeland.” His experiences in South America have led him to a contextually situated conviction about the importance of concrete encounter and inclusion that has transferred to his universal teaching and, in this sense, forged his pontifical teaching from the margins. Turning to a specific corpus of papal texts written for Latin American people, we will analyze the methodological assumptions of this whole program of integration thought for the global community.
Pope Francis, Culture of Encounter, the Common Good, and Dharma: Public Theological Conversations Today
Pope Francis is able to communicate common values across borders of religion, regions, and sociopolitical systems. Catholic social teaching on the common good, particularly as articulated and promoted by him as part of a culture of encounter, conveys a relevant message for our times. Approaching the pope’s initiative from a South Asian context, I argue that an engagement with dharma, a religioethical vision, can be part of this culture of encounter, especially in public theological conversations about the common good. Specifically, the themes of the common good, like integral ecology and care for the vulnerable, as earnestly promoted by Pope Francis, can converse with dharma for mutual enrichment, even while the basic teachings on human dignity, freedom, and inalienable rights can usefully enrich the latter.