Thursday, October 12, 2017

Can the Churches Be Reunited?

From Commonweal-

In 1967, when Joseph Ratzinger was a thirty-nine-year-old professor at Tübingen, he was the guest of honor at a doctoral colloquium held in Basel by Karl Barth. The topic for discussion was the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum). Barth and his students devised two main questions for their distinguished visitor. Both concerned how, according to the council, the transmission of the Gospel was dependent on the church.

From a theological standpoint, was it really true, the Protestants wondered, that the Gospel depends on the church if it is going to be preserved and actualized, as suggested by the wording of the dogmatic constitution? Weren’t matters really the other way around? Wasn’t it really the church that depends on the Gospel—if the church is to be truly apostolic? In other words, didn’t ecclesial life and witness always need to be tested against the living word of Scripture? And didn’t that word remain sovereign as a critical norm over against the church and its traditions? The priority of the Word over ecclesial tradition was a traditional Protestant concern.

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