Monday, December 06, 2010

Benedict XVI: Christian Radical

Samuel Gregg writing Ratzinger's telling us to quit over analyzing Jesus. Jesus was what he said and the message pretty simple.

Read the whole thing, but here's Gregg's conclusion.

There's a Humanist and Pagan response here, but I don't think much of a Christian one that withstands Ratzinger's Radicalism.
But why, we might ask, does Benedict belabor the point? One reason is surely the damage done to Christian faith by scholars parading various pet theories as “facts.” Another reason, however, may be Benedict’s sense that even many faithful Christians have forgotten the radical implications of accepting Christ as whom he says he is.

First, such an acceptance rescues Christianity from becoming what the German philosopher Rüdiger Safranski calls “a cold religious project”: a “mix of social ethics, institutional power thinking, psychotherapy, techniques of meditation, museum curation, cultural project management, and social work.” That’s a concise description of the “liberal Christianity” that’s helped empty Western Europe’s churches, particularly in Benedict’s German homeland.

Second, it forces us to take seriously aspects of Christianity that have disappeared from public view over the past forty years.

In recent decades, Benedict claims, Christian preaching has stopped mentioning the Last Things revealed by Christ: i.e., heaven, hell, and the fact that all of us will be judged. Instead, preaching has become “one-sided, in that it is largely directed toward the creation of a better world, while hardly anyone talks any more about the other, truly better world.”

For confirmation, just look at the websites of those religious orders which talk endlessly about social justice without relating it to Christian belief in the limits of earthly justice and the reality of divine justice. This diminishes Christianity to either what Benedict calls “political moralism, as happened in liberation theology” or “psychotherapy and wellness.” It also, some might interject, encourages us to conjure up secular messiahs who, not being God, cannot possibly fulfill religious-like expectations of hope and change.

In the end, it results in the same thing: practical atheism, at the heart of which is a teddy-bear Christ who, as Benedict wrote years ago, “demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us.”

And therein may be the essence of Benedict’s Light of the World. Yes, Christ always offers us forgiveness. Nonetheless, Benedict adds, Christ also “takes us seriously.” Having stated who he is, Christ leaves us free either to accept him as he really is and order our lives accordingly, or to construct what another Christian scholar, Thomas More, called “worldly fantasies” of our own making.

More radically different paths are hard to imagine.

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