February 14, 2008

Good Month for Thomists

Edward Oakes, S.J. writes in a letter to First Things:
As to the specific issue of justification, I’ve always thought that topic should be the “easiest” to solve be cause of the common roots of Luther, Calvin, and Trent in St. Augustine’s theology of grace. Then again, if Cardinal Dulles is right in his convictions, maybe the problem won’t be as easy to solve as I had first thought. Perhaps the problem is not reconfessionalization but the Western churches’ shared starting point in Augustine. (Notice how little this debate animates the Eastern churches.) So maybe this issue needs to be rethought by the churches from the ground up. Or to put my point as a counterfactual: If Pelagius had never criticized Augustine’s Confessions, would the Reformation have happened at all?
Elsewhere in the same issue from Fr. Neuhaus:
A friend who is very supportive of efforts to advance a greater measure of Christian unity, especially between Catholics and Protestants, asks me to put in a plug for Ecumenism and Philosophy by Father Charles Morerod of the Angelicum in Rome (Sapientia Press), which I am glad to do. Father Morerod persuasively argues that longstanding disagreements about nature and grace, divine initiative and human cooperation, are rooted in philosophical errors. Moderns such as Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche saw themselves as completing the work of Luther and Calvin, who set up God and man as rivals, by eliminating God altogether. Morerod urges that ecumenical efforts would be enhanced if we could all agree with St. Thomas’ understanding that grace perfects nature rather than pitting grace and nature against one another. He is no doubt right about that. While Morerod helpfully illumines the ways in which theological disagreements frequently have philosophical sources, one hopes that Catholic theological dialogue does not depend on making Thomists of its Protestant interlocutors. Although it can be helpful to bring the philosophical dimension into play, theological dialogue must continue to be focused on the theological. That having been said, ­ Ecumenism and Philosophy highlights the ways in which theological disagreements can, at times, be as much philosophical as they are theological.

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