ORGAN OF THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 68||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||January 1997|
by Brian W. Harrison(This article is an amplified version of Fr. Harrison's presentation of his
[Hick and Knitter] appeal to exegesis in order to justify their destruction of christology: exegesis has supposedly proved that Jesus did not consider himself the Son of God, God Incarnate, and that only subsequently was this status bestowed on him by his followers. Both authors - although Hick more clearly - also appeal to philosophical evidence. Hick assures us that Kant has irrefutably demonstrated that the absolute, or He who is absolute, cannot be known in history and as such cannot be found in history. Given the structure of our consciousness, according to Kant, the affirmations of Christian faith cannot be possible: miracles, mysteries, and the means of grace are all an illusion. . . . I think that these two problems - exegesis and the limits of the possibilities of human reason, that is, the philosophical premises of faith - in fact constitute the real 'sore point' of modern theology. This is why faith - including to an increasing extent the faith of ordinary people - finds itself in crisis. 3His Eminence went on to claim that these of two factors in the crisis of faith - rationalistic exegesis of the Gospels and Kantian philosophical premises - the first in fact depends on the second. Noting a study by M. Waldstein showing the overwhelming extent to which Rudolf Bultmann's ideas on what is possible or impossible were based on the neo-Kantianism of Marburg, Cardinal Ratzinger added: "Other exegetes may not always have the same clarity of philosophicalconsciousness, but the presuppositions deriving from Kant's theory of knowledge come through just as clearly, even if only in the background, like a spontaneous hermeneutical key which guides the course of their criticism." 4
There is a rupture between Bible and Church, between Scripture and Tradition. . . . In the name of science, many exegetes no longer wish to interpret Scripture in the light of faith, and the end result is that doubt is cast on essential truths of faith such as the divinity of Christ and his virginal conception in the womb of Mary, the salvific and redeeming value of Christ's death, the reality of his Resurrection and of his institution of the Church. The results of this so-called scientific exegesis are being diffused in seminaries, [theological] faculties and universitites, and even among the faithful, also by means of catechesis and sometimes even in preaching. Dei Verbum recommended scientific exegesis, but within the bounds of the faith, since the historical-scientific method alone is not sufficient in this field. 5I have dwelt on these penetrating observations of the Cardinal Prefects of two key Vatican Congregations, because I believe they serve well as a context for presenting my study of Pope Paul VI's teaching on the interpretation and use of Scripture, and for pointing out the far-sightedness and continuing relevance of that teaching. For, as I have shown in my thesis, the roots of the faith-crisis which Cardinals Baum and Ratzinger have pinpointed in the 1980s and 1990s were repeatedly identified in very similar terms back in the 1960s and 1970s by Paul VI. His warnings, however, seem to have fallen largely on deaf ears.
Above all, the exegesis of the original sense of Sacred Scripture, which is strongly recommended by the Council (cf. DV 12) cannot be separated from the living Tradition of the Church (cf. DV 9), nor from the authentic interpretation of the ecclesiastical magisterium (cf. DV 10). 9II. SOURCES
. . . It is of the greatest importance to realize that beyond that observable level which is the object of scientific investigation, our God-given intelligence is capable of attaining that which is, and not only the subjective notions of the so-called "structures" and evolution of human consciousness. Moreover, it must be stressed that this applies to interpretation or hermeneutics: so that after having observed the words enunciated in a certain text, we must strive to discern and understand the text's own intrinsic meaning, rather than somehow altering that meaning to suit our free speculation. 17The necessity of the general and fundamental principles of the 'perennial philosophy,' with its epistemological realism, was stressed by Paul VI in many other documents of greater or lesser gravity. Two Apostolic Exhortations stressed the stability or continuity of meaning in the truths taught by the Church, and warned against a "radical demythologization" of Scripture. 18 Then, in a good number of less formal statements, Pope Paul pointed out how the decline of metaphysical thinking and the retreat to an analysis of empirically observable phenomena alone has given an exaggerated prestige and an unwarranted extension to the methods proper to the physical sciences.
Since, therefore, everything affirmed by the inspired authors, or sacred writers, must be held as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must in consequence acknowledge that the books of Scripture teach the truth firmly, faithfully, and without error, keeping in mind that it was for the sake of our salvation that God wanted this truth recorded in the form of Sacred Writings. 21During the Council Pope Paul also intervened in order to clarify the teaching of Dei Verbum 9 on the second of the aforesaid revealed premises for authentically Catholic biblical interpretation: the bond between Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. He requested an explicit reference in the text to the effect that "Scripture alone" is not sufficient to provide the Church with a certain knowledge of all aspects of the revealed deposit. In personal teaching throughout his pontificate, the Pope often returned to this theme - the inseparable bond linking Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. He recalled in particular the centrality of Christ as the leitmotif of Sacred Tradition in a Catholic interpretation of both Old and New Testaments, and reaffirmed more openly than the Council itself that the proximate norm of biblical interpretation is not that individual or 'private' judgement which has fragmented Christians since the Protestant Reformation, but rather, the Church's Magisterium. This charism of unfailing truth, the Pope recalled, remains in organic continuity with the Apostolic Tradition which was itself the earliest exercise of the Magisterium, and which predated the New Testament writings themselves.