Friday, July 24, 2015

Radner on Freeman's Contesting Catholicity

First Things has posted on its web site a two-paragraph teaser snippet from Ephraim Radner's review of Curtis Freeman's book Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists (Baylor University Press, 2014) in the magazine's August 2015 issue. Non-subscribers and those without library access to First Things may purchase the full article for $1.99. Here's part of the review preview:

When I’m in a gloomy mood, sometimes I’d like to be a Baptist. Instead of all the venal bishops, political synods, and ignorant commissions, I’d have some controllable integrity to my church life: a good congregational polity with the folks in the pews in charge, Bible reading and preaching at the center, no-apologies evangelism and church planting, a limit on the intrusion of self-important experts and their crazy ideas, no liturgy to mess up, and (unlike their Pentecostal brethren with their shamanistic temptations) good old-fashioned fundamentalist biblical rationalism that makes it easy for most people to smell a pastoral rat in their midst when they have one....(continue reading at First Things)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Looking toward 2017

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of one of the key events in the complex of 16th-century Protestant and Catholic reforming movements, the posting of Martin Luther's 95 Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg (traditional site in photo at left). The cover story of the July 8, 2015 issue of the Christian Century addresses well the ecumenical issues at stake in how the whole church and its divisions choose to mark this event. In "Repent and celebrate: The Reformation after 500 years," co-authors Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, assistant research professor at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, and editor of Lutheran Forum, and Thomas Albert Howard, professor of history and director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, cite as a way forward the paradigm of "receptive ecumenism" that I've found fruitful for my own work in ecumenical theology:

What we are looking for is an elimination of the necessity of enemies, not an elimination of the necessity of arguments. We look forward to a multiplicity of purged confessional theologies, maintaining the particular gifts and insights on all sides while remaining open to the truly Christian insight of the other, even of the old enemy. In the words of the Catholic ecumenist Paul Murray, we propose a "receptive ecumenism" and encourage all parties to ask: What can we offer and what can we receive from others to foster a deepened communion in Christ and the Spirit?

The whole article is available on the Christian Century web site. In this connection I also commend From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, a resource issued jointly by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation based on five decades of bilateral international ecumenical dialogue between the two communions. From Conflict to Communion offers helpful guidelines for ecumenically responsible observances of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (available online in PDF; click on hyperlinked title). Baptists and others in the free church tradition will find an account of Baptist/free church identity in ecumenical perspective that resonates with what Wilson and Howard propose in Curtis Freeman's book Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists (Baylor University Press, 2014).