Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dulles on Doctrine and Division

One of the most significant Roman Catholic theologians writing in English in the last century was Avery Dulles. One cannot consider oneself abreast of recent theological developments without at least being familiar with several of Dulles' books, notably Models of Revelation, Models of the Church, and The Catholicity of the Church. Apropos the recent 10th anniversary celebrations connected with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, I appreciate his thoughts on the lifting of the mutual condemnations (more impolitely known as 'anathemas') issued by Lutherans and Roman Catholics against each other's positions on justification during the Reformation,which was one of the goals of the discussions leading up to JDDJ:

"In the present atmosphere, Christians find it all too easy to
declare that the doctrinal disagreements of the past have lost
their church-divisive character. Pervasive though the present
climate of agnosticism and relativism may be, Lutherans and
Catholics must resist it. One of the most precious things we
have in common may be our conviction that pure doctrine is
crucially important and that ecclesial unity should not be purchased at the expense of truth."
Cardinal Avery Dulles, On Lifting the Condemnations, Dialog, Summer 1996, p.220.

I couldn't agree more. In the end, I wonder if Roman Catholics like Dulles and confessional Lutherans who maintain their reservations about JDDJ don't have more in common with each other than with the gushing ecumenists in their own communions?

Here's a pic of the late Cardinal, whose father was John Foster Dulles, one-time US Secretary of State and namesake of Dulles Airport in Washington. I note he's wearing a beret, too. Might be a Catholic convert thing?

5 comments:

christl242 said...

In the end, I wonder if Roman Catholics like Dulles and confessional Lutherans who maintain their reservations about JDDJ don't have more in common with each other than with the gushing ecumenists in their own communions?

Good point, Mark. Dulles, of course, joined the preconciliar Roman church and although he was an obedient son at all stages I don't think he was always delighted about the way VII played out.

Christine

Mark Henderson said...

Christine,
Was anyone ever delighted about the way VII played out? ;0)
Bad time to call a council, at the beginning of the 1960s! There was some good theological work done and great promise, but it was all distorted by the times. But you know all this, I'm sure! Thanks for your comments, please keep them coming as your experience sheds an interesting light on these subjects.

christl242 said...

Was anyone ever delighted about the way VII played out? ;0)

Touché, Mark. I often wondered if John XXIII had lived longer what he would have thought about how it all unfolded.

The 60's were definitely not a good time for aggiornamento!

Christine

Anonymous said...

Are you also aware that he wrote that their is no salvation to be found OUTSIDE of the "catholic" church.

And thus that all efforts at ecumenism were essentially a waste of time--we possess the one "true" faith/way/revelation" so what is there to talk about.

Of course non-christian religions were/are thus completely beyond the pale.

Such statements were made in essays published in First Things.

Never mind too, that two thirds of the worlds population is not christian.

acroamaticus said...

As you may know, anonymous, that is an old saying - actually it is extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the church there is no salvation - that is variously interpreted depending on one's theological presuppositions on what and where the church is to be found. I'd be grateful if you could provide more exact references to where Dulles wrote this so that I can follow it up.

The question of the fate of non-Christians is indeed an urgent and profound one.

Thank you for your comment.