Thinking Anglicans

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Julian Coman The Observer Should the church be a radical voice in politics?

Diarmaid MacCulloch talks to Ralph Jones for New Humanist The Church rejected me because I’m gay.

Giles Fraser The Guardian Arguments over Greek debt echo ancient disputes about Easter

Some Easter Day sermons

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JCF

Julian Coman The Observer “Should the church be a radical voice in politics?”

The Church should be a GOSPEL voice in politics. If that seems radical, so be it.

[Good insights by Giles Fraser. I was aware of the differences in soteriology between Eastern and Western Christians, but had never considered how that might be applied before.]

John
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John

Something in what Giles Fraser says, perhaps, but if he’s ever participated in a Greek Orthodox Good Friday service, he’ll know that there is excruciating focus on the bleeding,crucified Jesus and mass weeping.

I’ll always suspicious too about campaigns against ‘substitution’/’debt’ doctrines: such doctrines may take crude forms but are in some form or other surely intrinsic to Christian notions – and perhaps Jesus’ own notions – from the very start.

But I do agree that the greater message of the Passion is life out of death.

Felix
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Felix

As Diarmaid MacCulloch is a professor of Church History it might seen disingenuous of me to accuse him of ignorance but I cannot really think of any other explanation for his very odd claims in that article. Is he aware of the research done in the last 20 years or so into the origins of priestly celibacy? Has he read Christian Cochini’s “Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy”? If he had he would know that priestly celibacy has *always* been considered the ideal and that the 11th century reformers largely saw themselves as restoring ancient rigour, not enforcing a new discipline.… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

1) To get to the Resurrection, one has to confront the Crucifixion, but to focus too exclusively on the Crucifixion (Mel Gibson, anyone?) diminishes the message of the Resurrection. 2) I have never understood “substitution theory”. It baffles me. For people to say Jesus of Nazareth died for all the sins of humanity, to me, is arrogance, and conveniently escapist or denialist. It’s a way to diminish one’s own responsibility. If I have sinned against people, only those people can forgive me, and they will presumably forgive me easier if I have shown true contrition and recompense. True atonement. If… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Surely, the whole idea of Soteriology is that Christ died in order to defeat to power of eternal death as the consequence of sin. The link, for us humans, is that the Incarnation of Jesus linked God permanently with our human state. If Jesus ‘died for our sins’ – a Gospel concept – then he must have, in some way, ‘absorbed’ our sins; past, present and future; through the kenotic experience of his crucifixion. God did not crucify his own Son. That was carried out by fellow human beings. Herein lies the difficulty of the attribution of the words ‘penal… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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re the account by Diarmaid McCulloch; the scandal is that he should have felt the need to withhold himself from priestly ordination – as an undoubted person of faith, in the Church of England – because of the attitude of the Church towards his intrinsic homosexuality. Perhaps the C. of E. needs to change its out-dated understanding of sexuality, before more gay people are dissuaded from pursuing what might be an authentic call of God into ministry in the Church of England.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Looking over several, though not all, of the Easter sermon texts, there arises the question of the proclamation of the resurrection to the outside world. Some of the sermons appear to be very good messages for the faithful who came to church to hear them; but there are further questions about the nature of a resurrection message to the contemporary world. The gospel texts talk about empty tombs, rolling stones, stigmata, eating fish, and in so doing are contending with a mythology that spoke to the issues of audiences in antiquity. What message might there be for folks who tag… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
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Forgiveness and atonement. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. “Whoever’s sins you forgive, those sins are forgiven; whoever’s you retain, they are retained.” These two statement are saying the same thing: that forgiveness is in our own hands. If we forgive other people then they are forgiven; if other people forgive us, we are forgiven. Jesus not only told us this, he lived it, and he died it too, saying, ‘Father forgive them’. By living a life of forgiveness we are freed from the penalty of our sinfulness. By living in a community of… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Simon Kershaw, wonderfully stated.

John
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John

Rod Gillis asks a very important question which many liberal Christians have asked themselves over the centuries and which is ever more pressing. My answer would be that Christianity has to maintain a degree of belief in metaphysical realities, otherwise it has nothing very much to offer (something – but not very much), but shouldn’t insist too much on specifics. So proclaim Jesus’ resurrection, as historically believed in by a majority (not all) of his disciples and as showing that death is not the end but avoid hanging everything on the empty tomb, the witness of the women, the eating… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
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Rod Gillis asks all the important questions, and, in doing so, implies (though he does not state this explicitly, being more kindly than I), that the sermons linked for our delectation, neither ask the right questions nor provide the right answers for the twenty-first century. Indeed, browsing through the sermons myself, I was horrified at the mediocre quality of what was said from British pulpits on Easter Day (and especially, I must say, from the pulpit at Canterbury, where the archbishop seems to have forgotten that the passage from First Peter about living stones is explicitly anti-Semitic). I cannot think… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Simon Kershaw is surely correct, when he says that the charism of forgiveness has been handed to us – to be dispensed in the lives of our fellow human beings.

For too long perhaps, the clergy alone have been seen to be the purveyors of forgiveness; whereas, the Gospel clearly is speaking to the whole Body of Christ; that forgiveness is our main gift from God – to be handed out to others. Judgement is not ‘in the gift’ of the Church. Forgiveness may be its only ‘grace’.

Charles Read
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Charles Read

So Simon and peterpi – do we need a saviour or not? You seem to imply we can save ourselves. Is that really what you are saying o have I missed something?

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Charles Read: deep question! Depends what you mean by ‘ourselves’. I’d rather start from a different angle: Jesus brings us ‘life: life in all its fulness’. Part of that fulness is freedom from the consequences of our sinfulness. Jesus teaches us how to be free. We can only be wholly free (in the economy that I briefly sketched out) in a community of forgiveness — in other words if we live fully in the kingdom of God: where Love reigns. We can try and do that if we let the Divine, the Spirit of God, live in us. So, yes,… Read more »

John
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John

So, Simon, where does that leave you on the question of ‘myth’, in which Rod and Eric MacDonald seem to include any substantive resurrection? I think the whole package, however constructed or understood, has to include that, otherwise there isn’t really a distinctive package. So the ‘freedom’ includes freedom from death – not least, of course, for those lives have been horribly curtailed, though not only for them.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re John, ” myth…to include any substantive resurrection..” There is a very interesting useful section of Bernard Lonergan’s, Insight (XVII Metaphysics as Dialectic) that considers metaphysics, mystery, and myth. Cannot resurrection be considered under not just one but all three of these categories? The issue is not the dismissal of resurrection as mere myth; but rather how does one transcend the mythic presentation of resurrection in NT texts? Preachers have options. They can engage in naive literal-ism. Or, they can simply replace the message with some other message. Some of the preachers cited above opt for one or the other… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

apropos 0f Rod’s comment, following on those of others, that I find most intriguing and quite challenging – which, I guess, is what theological speculation is really all about. It seems to me that the Resurrected Christ met each of those privy to His resurrection with the right conditions for them, personally. He was not immediately recognised by any of the disciples – male or female. He WAS recognised by a familiar act of kindness: Mary Magdalene, perhaps by the gentle way in which he spoke her name. Had any of her lovers spoken to her in that caring way?… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
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Any talk about “appearances” of the risen Jesus raises the problem, immediately, of the point made by Rod Gillis. Much better to follow Mark here. The question is not whether someone from the dead appeared to them, but how the experience of the man Jesus, and of his death, resonated with those who were left after the crucifixion. The gospels are trying to give life to an eschatological experience, something transcendent, that cannot be made of flesh and blood. The men on the road to Emmaus, for instance, do not have an experience of the risen Jesus as a resurrected… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Eric MacDonald is spot on when he writes, “The gospels are trying to give life to an eschatological experience, something transcendent, that cannot be made of flesh and blood.” He is likely right, as well, regarding both Emmaus Road and Thomas in John. The relationship between appearance narratives and the original ending of Mark’s gospel is interesting. The late Dr. R. Rhys Williams, an episcopalian academic, put forward an interesting theory about Mark’s version of the empty tomb. I think its available in his little book, Let Each Gospel Speak For Itself. Williams theory has it that the promise to… Read more »

John
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John

I think it’s clear that the Road to Emmaus is fiction (in fact, I have an academic paper on that narrative which supports this though it is not the only point). So consign it (and some obvious other narrative wrappings of the resurrection) to the category of ‘myth’. Beyond that, though, I find Rod’s and Eric’s language rather slippery. What does ‘risen Jesus’ mean if there’s no (in however attenuated a sense) resurrection? How can God’s love flood the hearts of the disciples if they’re not brought – after Jesus’ death and their own flight and despair – to some… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
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John, you ask the question: “How can God’s love flood the hearts of the disciples if they’re not brought – after Jesus’ death and their own flight and despair – to some sort of conviction of some sort of resurrection?” But of course the answer is staring you in the face. Take the Emmaus story. Why would you take it as fiction, instead of an account of how followers of Jesus actually responded to his life and death? Think of the enormous impact that individuals can have on others, and then multiply that by any factor you like. That’s enough… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Even Saint Paul, whose original deadly opposition to any belief in Jesus as the Messiah, risen from the dead, had to be convinced by a real awareness of the Risen Christ – on the Road to Damascus! After a time of epic discipleship of the post-Resurrection Christ, he was led to the statement, in his first Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, speaks of the ‘resurrection body’ as being different from ‘flesh and blood’ which “Cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. Therefore, whatever Jesus disciples experienced of him at his resurrection – this may not be true of us. “The… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

John asks, “What does ‘risen Jesus’ mean if there’s no (in however attenuated a sense) resurrection?” Interestingly, my initial post critiques some several sermons (above) on precisely this point, i.e. the preachers attenuate the message of resurrection for a contemporary audience, especially one outside church-land. There are points of concurrence with John’s post, particularly on this point, “most NT scholars accept that most of Jesus’ disciples thought that Jesus [was] resurrected.” Agreed. However, there are further questions including: what did the disciples understand “risen” to mean; how did they express what they thought this meant? One must distinguish, at least… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

John asks, “What does ‘risen Jesus’ mean if there’s no (in however attenuated a sense) resurrection?” Interestingly, my initial post critiques some several sermons (above) on precisely this point, i.e. the preachers attenuate the message of resurrection for a contemporary audience, especially one outside church-land. There are points of concurrence with John’s post, particularly on this point, “most NT scholars accept that most of Jesus’ disciples thought that Jesus [was] resurrected.” Agreed. However, there are further questions including: what did the disciples understand “risen” to mean; how did they express what they thought this meant? One must distinguish, at least… Read more »

John
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John

Because it is fiction, one of whose points is to show that the Eucharist works. In this as in other ways it’s an extremely manufactured narrative. The answer isn’t staring me in the face, because you (including you) have to explain why the disciples changed. Nor do I claim a ‘bodily’ resurrection: I don’t care about the form, nor do I even care about the term: I do care (and think foundational) that the disciples thought (rightly or wrongly) that they received proof that Jesus survived beyond the grave. And – completely obviously – I’m not committed to the fishy… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
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First of all, John, the disciples were already changed. That is not in question, but it happened well before the supposed events on Easter Day. To those who had followed the trajectory of Jesus’ ministry, dejected though they may have been, the sense of the presence that they experienced in the context of the breaking of the bread was quite enough to convince them that Jesus had prepared a place for them. Rod claims that “some of the sermons in the list above go from biblical text to communication without passing through systematic theology.” I should argue that most of… Read more »

John
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John

I wonder if I could make just one point but let it stand in all its eloquence for the standard of debate here: neither on this thread nor anywhere else have I written of a physical resurrection.

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Yes, by all means, John, let that stand it all its eloquence (though I’m not sure what you are suggesting by ‘the standard of debate here’). If you are going to call the experience of the men on the road to Emmaus a fiction, then what else have you but something physical? What would such confirmation look like, if the overwhelming experience of the men at Emmaus is to be dismissed as fiction? Remember that you found my language “slippery”. But isn’t your language a bit slippery too? You want some kind of confirmation, but it can’t be a physical… Read more »

John
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John

Pretty clear what I’m suggesting here, Eric. Persistent misrepresentation/caricature indicates poor standards of argument.

Father Ron Smith
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Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
He is risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!
We are a Resurrection People!

Eric MacDonald
Guest

I thought that was your intended meaning, John, but I thought you should come right out and say it. I fail to see how I misrepresented or caricatured your position. And you did not respond to my last comment, which directly addresses your point of view. Two can play the slippery word game, you know, and it is especially difficult when we come to speak about the resurrection. Moule basically accuses Cupitt of misrepresenting him too. It’s one of the perils of theology!

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

If I may reprise the end of a previous post, referencing one of John’s points, “How can God’s love flood the hearts of the disciples if they’re not brought – after Jesus’ death and their own flight and despair – to some sort of conviction of some sort of resurrection?” John poses a very good question. Asking it is a good start in refusing to relegate a transcendent experience to a merely mythological paradigm from antiquity. The enigma, what kind of resurrected Christ (?) remains an problem since the Corinthian correspondence. Like the is/ought bifurcation in moral theology, it remains… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Rod, Jesus agrees with your thesis, when he says: “They will know you’re my disciples by your love”. There really is no other way. At a Requiem Mass today, evidence was give of the great love with which Elaine, the Departed one, loved both God and her family. The very mixed congregation – of Baptist and anglo-Catholics – were invited to experience something of that love in the Eucharist. I suspect some partook, who had never done so before. The influence, I believe, came directly from Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist.

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Very good question or no, Rod, John’s remark (which you quote) — “How can God’s love flood the hearts of the disciples if they’re not brought – after Jesus’ death and their own flight and despair – to some sort of conviction of some sort of resurrection?” — and his use of the word ‘proof’ — seem to me to cast the whole question in the wrong light, for what it does is precisely to relegate a transcendent experience (not to a mythical paradigm of antiquity — there should be no problem with the idea of myth, if we are… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I wonder if I could again point out just one thing, which again I take to be supremely eloquent of the standard of debate of some participants here: I used the word ‘proof’ of the disciples (they thought they had received it). ‘Proof’ itself is a good word, because as ‘pistis’ it is all over the NT (one believes in Jesus because one has ‘proof’: no great interpretative subtleties required). But I didn’t say the disciples’ experiences or their interpretation of them were ‘proof’ of Christian claims that Jesus resurrected. I do of course think they should be given some… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Eric, I may have stepped in it by prefixing “merely” to “mythological paradigm”. What I am attempting to get at there is the not uncommon notion that once something is deemed to be myth it becomes banished as fanciful with any sense of the transcendence the myth attempts to speak to sent off with it. So, of course mythology may be pregnant with meaning from the Greeks to Jung and beyond. How otherwise would we be able to read scripture? Definition of terms is important, which is why I flagged my appreciation for Lonergan’s treatment of myth, metaphysics, and mystery.… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

πίστισ Well, then, John, I am tempted to reply by saying: “Let the following stand as eloquent testimony to the standard of politeness in debate of some of the participants here.” However, I will forbear casting such aspersions, for, as I suggest later, we are either disagreeing over a substantive point, or we are trying to express the same thing in different ways. The word ‘pistis’ is certainly, as you say, all over the NT (35 times to be exact), but it almost always refers to faith or trust, or even a pledge or oath, but not proof as such.… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Rod, I guess I worry about the context of Lonergan’s expression that ‘faith is knowledge born of religious love,’ for a few pages later he says that ‘Among the values that faith discerns is the value of believing the word of religion,’ and that is related, much later, to ‘the permanence of dogma,’ of which he says that ‘Human understanding of it has ever to be in eodem dogmate, eodem sensu and eademque sententia.'(352; the Latin is in italics in the original, which I cannot reproduce here) That dependence of the knowledge born of religious love on what amounts to… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Can’t you see, Eric, your third paragraph misrepresents me? ‘But the problem with using the resurrection stories as proofs in this sense (as underlying “some sort of conviction of some sort of resurrection”), is to throw the experience of resurrection onto something already in the past rather than understanding it as something that is a present possibility.’ You keep talking as if I am arguing that the fact (as I do believe it to be) that most of Jesus’ disciples thought that they had received proof of his resurrection is ‘proof’ for us. I don’t argue that. As for ‘tone’,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Eric, Lonergan’s project had as one of its central concerns what he saw as the grave problems facing Catholic theology. See for example, Dimensions Of Meaning in ‘Collection’. His interest in the magisterium is hardly surprising. The Latin citation ” Eodem dogmate…etc.” ( same doctrine …mind …judgment) appears to be from Denzinger Enchiridion Symbolorum. Again, hardly a surprise as Lonergan was looking at the question of continuity in cultural shifts. However, I’m not following your navigation out into deep water. Lonergan’s work is very user friendly from both ecumenical and inter-faith perspectives. Instance his final chapter in Method, ‘Communications’. Besides,… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Well, I’m sorry John. If you think I am misrepresenting you, I am certainly not doing so deliberately. It seems to me that the only reason to suppose that the first “witnesses” of the resurrection had “some kind of conviction of some kind of resurrection” — whatever that means — and here perhaps is the main problem — is to provide in some sense the basis (the foundation) of faith for those who came later. They certainly did have experiences which launched the Christian faith, and without them we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. But do those experiences… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Rod, I won’t answer at any length. I have always found Lonergan somewhat rebarbative. I found his “Insight” as hard to finish as Joyce’s “Ulysses”. And I have often felt that Camus was more than half right (if what you are referring to is his claim that the main philosophical question is the question of suicide). What I find difficult to understand is why you won’t allow the life and death of Jesus to be the divine initiative. If the Centurion was right, then that is in fact what constitutes the disclosure experience, and when the disciples came to their… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Are the bones of Jesus somewhere on earth?

It is interesting that no premodern Christian interpreter would have answered that question Yes.

I suspect that had to do with a pre-Kantian philosophical position that allowed for people to have particular epistemic perspectives on time-space occurrences, not available to all, which the NT record itself emphasizes (‘not to all, but to only select witnesses’).

When one accesses language like ‘interior experience’ we are in the land of universals a la Kant or Troelsch.

One of the important intellectual developments of post-modernity is the sympathy with pre-modern epistemic perspectives.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Verzeihung.

Ich habe ‘Troeltsch’ nicht richtig buchstabiert.

John
Guest
John

You’re still doing it, Eric. I have explicitly said here (and frequently elsewhere on TA) that I think that acceptance (to whatever degree) of the Jesus story (in some form) has to be held in balance/tension with general arguments for the existence of God and with experience (‘it works’). I know ‘pistis’ is generally translated ‘faith’: as a Classics professor I think the translation is wrong/misleading – the basic thing to grasp is that such vocabulary is judicial/legal. cseitz’ question reminds me of a TV debate between NT Wright and David Jenkins years ago concerning claimed bones of Jesus: for… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Well, John, I think that is unfair. What you say in your latest comment is not obviously related to what you have said elsewhere in this particular comment stream. For what you say here, that “acceptance (to whatever degree) of the Jesus story (in some form) has to be held in balance/tension with general arguments for the existence of God and with experience” is really shifting your ground from other things you have said here, and it is something with which I would not disagree. However, remember that you began thus a few days ago:”My answer would be that Christianity… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re C. Cseitz on Kant and pre-modern epistemic perspectives: One wants to be careful, or at least nuanced, about drawing the same kind of line between modernity and post modernity as one draws between pre-modernity and modernity. Lonergan noted that Kant’s Copernican revolution marks a diving line (Method). However, from the get go Lonergan, in his introduction to Insight states, ” In a sense somewhat different from Kant’s, every insight is both a priori and synthetic. It is a priori for it goes beyond what is merely given to sense or to empirical consciousness, It is synthetic for it adds… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I want to ‘keep communion’ with the reception history of the church (prior to modernity) and its own philosophical bearings. If NT Wright and David Jenkins want to imagine modernity as an advanced terrain, and to struggle away on it, fine. I’d prefer to learn from the sophistication of earlier ages.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Eric, regarding the “rebarbative” Lonergan, as a preacher confronted with foundational texts from a strange world not my own, I have found ideas from thinkers like Lonergan a good basis for developing working solutions. There is the caveat, of course, that enthusiasm is not expertise. Scholars have spent their whole careers focused solely on a Lonergan or a Kant, just as Lonergan spent a career “reaching up into the mind of Aquinas”. With regard to the resurrection appearances as interior appearances, what I find a helpful borrowing from Lonergan is the notion of self-transcendence, that there is simply more to… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Certainly, Rod, the writings of others (Tillich, Küng, Gordon Kaufmann, Cupitt etc.) are helpful in developing “homiletic solutions” when faced with foundational texts from the distant past. I have never found Lonergan helpful. Küng more so, since his theology does in fact run “counter to … classical expectations,” which is what Lonergan desiderates in “Dimensions of Meaning.” I don’t think Lonergan achieves anything like this (though my knowledge is limited). Lonergan’s language is much more convoluted (rebarbative, as I said). “Dimensions of Meaning” less so, but then, in that article he steps out of theology altogether. Regarding the resurrection narratives,… Read more »