The Christian Hope and Christian Dialogue with Jews – a ACCJ Conference Paper 2013

I have just added an article to my “Other Stuff” pages, which I promised Stephen K some time ago in reply to his comment on this post about Jewish/Christian theologies of one another. The comment was unrelated to the post, but rather related to a tweet I tweeted on Twitter

cardinal koch tweetStephen questioned the need for any such theologies – suggesting that we already have theologies of one another:

Namely, that in Jewish eyes, Christians have made a god of a 1st century Jewish eccentric and indeed committed the blasphemy of equating him with the Yahweh of their special covenant? Namely, that in Christian eyes, the Jews have failed to see in Jesus the fulfilment of their special covenant in a larger more generous direction?

This essay is not exactly a response to Stephen, but is an instance of a need for a somewhat more nuanced theology of one another’s theology – at least for the sake of our mutual dialogue. I wrote in response to an editorial that appeared in the Australian Council for Christians and Jews newsletter. It was sparked by the continuing argument over the Extraordinary Rite’s Good Friday “Prayer for the Jews”.

Of course, this essay barely opens up the whole can of worms. I had the opportunity recently of spending a bit of time with Fr John Pawlikowski OSM. Fr John is a proponent of the “two covenant theory” of Jewish Christian relations, a theory that was put forward by a subcommittee of the USCCB some years back. Eventually the USCCB came out quite strongly against this theory but the question continues to be asked: What is the authentic relationship (in Catholic theology) between the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Church’s affirmation of God’s on-going commitment to the People of the First Covenant?

It is a part of a much wider question, affecting two expressions of the Church’s mission at this point in time: the New Evangelisation and Interfaith Dialogue. There are some proponents of Interfaith Dialogue who are very wary of Pope John Paul’s / Pope Benedict’s / and (now) Pope Francis’ enthusiastic endorsement of “The New Evangelisation” because they see it as a call to go out and convert everyone to Catholicism – something which Interfaithers have (for decades) been assuring other religious communities with whom we are in dialogue that the Church has no such intention!

Well, I am not about to solve that little debate right here – but I hope that my essay will start some discussion.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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8 Responses to The Christian Hope and Christian Dialogue with Jews – a ACCJ Conference Paper 2013

  1. Stephen K says:

    As I said over at the other link, I found it a clear and concise essay, and lucid. It’s a thoughtful piece and in every good sense irenic. I think it requires a few readings and some careful thought and reflection before I could make further comment though. Thank you, David.

    • Stephen K says:

      It may still be early days, but I find it sad that no-one appears to wish to discuss – or comment on at least – aspects of this essay, which in my view offers rich pickings for thought: the proposition that proselytism is a fundamental element of Christianity – that Benedict XVI’s Good Friday prayer is not supersessionist – or that in any case since it is only said in restricted circumstances it doesn’t matter – that praying for Israel’s salvation does not mean praying that our agendas will be successful etc.

      Over the years I’ve formed the view that, at least as a minimum, and on a purely philosophical level, Jesus was a Jew with particular and fresh ideas about the secret of the good life – eudaimonia – in terms of relationship to God-as-Father-through-the-prism-of-relationship-with-each-other. However we frame him as Son or Revelation of God – Joannine, Arianist or Augustinian etc – he was in human terms a Jewish man and not a Christian, a moniker reserved for those who see him as the Christos. He is God in the sense and to the extent we see God in him. It is not a case of watering down Christianity to accommodate how we imagine or know Jews might see him but of understanding Jesus in a way that makes sense of the diverse experience and history of humankind and the cultural and historical diversity of humankind’s search for contact with an ineffable God.

      Anyway, for the record, I liked your essay.

  2. Stephen K says:

    Dear David, I am going to attempt to be provocative – as an experiment – to test an hypothesis of mine. That hypothesis is that you have been abandoned by the more purist or prejudiced of your former commentators, because they are either impatient with your idealism and proclivity in always trying to find the best and most oecumenical in events and situations or embarrassed by what I might term your “convert” determination to be as Catholic as the Pope.

    Of course your preference for twittering over blogging may have something to do with it: it may be that your regulars have simply moved on and I notice that Father John, Country Priest, has dropped you from his blog roll.

    I always enjoyed engaging with your topics. I also always detected an intellectual and religious sincerity in the way you treated your subjects. I was edified by your honesty and openness in your account of your religious journey (though mindful of how we are so prone to cast antecedent events in terms of later ones). I respond to what I think is your irenicism.

    But in a kind of way, despite your über-ergebenheit towards your conception of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope(s), I suspect you are not fully accepted by the fraternity to whom you address much of your analysis. You are at once too ready and able to draw on your scripturalism and wider Lutheran background, and too emotionally committed to the concept of the Vicar of Christ. (I think most traditionalist Catholics are as selective in their ultramontanism as liberals.) I don’t press this as anything other than a personal suggestion, but I suspect – or at least wonder – that the equivalent of anti-Semitism in WASP circles is “anti-convertism” in conservative or traditionalist Catholic circles: you know, once a Protestant, always a Protestant.

    It is of course an attitude I have no truck with. Speaking of trucks, I have long formed the view that though the Roman Catholic Church is the notionally biggest piece of the debris from the wreck of Christendom, it remains simply a piece and not the whole. And when we dig deep down, like the universes we discover in the atom, it seems we see that nothing is as it seems on our surface, and that diversity is the rule.

    Whilst I do not agree with many of your conclusions, I do genuinely appreciate and respond to the spirit in which you arrive and express them. I think you have lots of value to share. I think you’re a hopeless idealist but that’s never an unpalatable mode to one who understands that sort of thing. It’s certainly a contrast to those who, traditionalist or progressive, operate by rigid and pragmatic regulationism.

    Not that I deny that the weight of institutional history is against me. Not for me the millenialist hope that an institutional saviour will come to put things right: the responsibility and challenge is from first to last a battlefield within one’s own soul.

    One final thing: I always sensed that Peregrinus was slightly embarrassed by my appreciation of his posts, and would have preferred not to have me as any kind of ally, but I have to say I do miss reading him, as, indeed, I do you! And wherever Catherine is – she always made lots of sense – I sincerely wish her well.

    • Schütz says:

      Golly, Stephen. There’s a lot there to parse out, but I am flattered to have been the object of your analysis! I think I might ponder what you have written, and reply on the main blog page later during the week (I am having a few days off and will have time to think about this).

  3. Mark Henderson says:

    I recently read that the traditional Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews has been dropped from the Roman liturgy. Is that true, David? If so, what, I wonder, is the theological basis for that? You will recall, no doubt, that the prayer is included in the Worship Resources of the Lutheran Church of Australia and I dare say that many pastors (myself included) still pray it on that most sacred day.

    • Schütz says:

      The situation is exactly as I describe it in this essay, Pastor Mark. There have been no developments since Pope Benedict rewrote the prayer for the 1962 Missal. The Prayer in the current missal, the Third Edition of the Roman Missal of Paul VI, is the same as it was in the first edition, and is translated now as I have rendered it in this essay. You are quite correct that the Lutheran Church of Australia order for Good Friday has a prayer for Jews. I can humbly say that I put it there. Well, if I were a little more humble, I would say that I had some influence on the committee that prepared the Triduum Orders for the LCA.

      • Mark Henderson says:

        Well, that’s a relief, David.
        Whatever I read was either wrong or ambiguous.
        Sorry, I haven’t yet had time to read your essay.

  4. Mark Henderson says:

    “I have long formed the view that though the Roman Catholic Church is the notionally biggest piece of the debris from the wreck of Christendom, it remains simply a piece and not the whole. And when we dig deep down, like the universes we discover in the atom, it seems we see that nothing is as it seems on our surface, and that diversity is the rule.”

    Good observation, Stephen.
    In fact, there was always more diversity in ‘Christendom’ than the official history, so to speak, of Rome would allow. Roman Catholicism (permit me to use this term David here, for it is germane to my argument -descriptive and not pejorative) begins with Aquinas’s monumental attempt to synthesise the patristic and early medieval heritage into a coherent whole, a foundation if you will, upon which was erected the definitive form at the Council of Trent. Newman’s theory of development was an apologia in the face of modern historical consciousness which was exposing the faults in the foundations of this otherwise imposing edifice. Vatican II was the official attempt to effect some repairs. It is interesting to follow, from a distance, the present discussions about Vatican II representing ‘rupture’ or ‘continuity’ with the past; quite clearly there is something of both.

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