Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lohfink Reflection #2... mind dump!

Final thoughts on Lohfink and class…

Lohfink does a wonderful job of underlining the importance of a visible church with offices and ministries within it. He totally debunks the notion of an invisible church or the idea that the Church benefits from the diversity of division. He debunks these effectively with scripture itself. He also does a nice job of underlining the point that the old and new covenants are not different; the new covenant in jesus is simply a fulfillment of the eschatological people of God, and the covenants are not different at all. He spends a lot of time connecting the Jews to Christianity and to the Gentiles as the vehicle by which they bring them into the ecclesia. This is great. Lohfink also wonderfully addresses the importance of freedom of God’s people as well as the importance of the Torah as a social construct for God’s visible people as well as honoring God’s will and being the foundation of their life. Very powerful is Israel’s self-criticism; it could only have occurred if they really encountered God in the Torah; no people could be so critical of itself and sense such an importance of being in ‘exodus’ unless God had really revealed his divine will to them. This is amazing stuff. Lohfink also does a good job defending things like infant baptism and the petrine authority. He also addresses very well the fact that Christian life is radical and is a calling to a life that is more than other-worldly, but the world itself: as God intended life to be- a witness to Truth in a sense. Memory and identity also play an important role in the Church as well as the material world. Lohfink cites the disturbing quote about how the Jews were concerned with even how to deal with excrement, and Nietze cynically claims: “God should have been more concerned about spiritual matters rather than how to go to the bathroom.” This anti-semitism combined with a theology that blames the Jews for the death of Christ miss the point and contribute to the holocaust. Also, this misses the point that nothing in creation is below the God of Israel; even going to the bathroom is dignified to YHWH. Amazing stuff.
So in sum, Lohfink defends the Church well against protestant ecclesiology as well as liberal views of modernizing or changing the church’s hierarchy or visible structure.

What Lohfink does not do well is discuss Scripture and the Sacraments and their connection to the visible structure of the Church. Also not address are Traditions, miracles, revelation, Resurrection of human life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I almost forgot that Grace was totally ignored. These are big things to simply gloss. To me this shows an emphasis on the people and the people’s work. This is to anthropocentric and borders on heresy. God needs the people as a community to do his work in the world. The ‘miracles’ that we see are because the community provides for one another, not because a miracle happened. I would also argue that Lohfink only believes that the sacraments and tradition are only part of our identity, reminding us that we are in exile, like Israel did way back then. That is why he does not discuss them at all with regard to the hierarchical ministries of the Church; they are not essential, but good and helpful. What is most important is the organization of community and the work that we do; everything else is secondary. The way we are organized as a people is almost more important than what we believe. The book also uphold the early Church as a sort of apex of the Church as a reality in the world. This is putting on rose-colored glasses however. The Church is richer because of its development of doctrine; we know more about how to live well and be a people and how to worship than they did back then in many ways. Lohfink’s view is otherwise. He, as he clearly states in the book, views the Church’s moving through time as stumbling on error after error. He never mentions, in this context, that the Church even in the beginning when Christ was here, had problems. Some argue that he is a NT theologian and he cannot do all things, but there is quite a bit to talk about between Constantine and today that he does not even attempt; he does however make sure to touch on the clichĂ© issues as the Crusades, “book burning” by the Church, and the ever-evil Church and state connection of the horrid middle ages.... blah, blah, blah. So, it is clear that Lohfink has a vision of the Church, and that he’s not simply bound to Scripture in the analysis; the fact is that he (clearly as can be shown in the text) does not honor what comes after the Scriptural model of the early Church. This is my argument. The Eucharist is most commonly referred to as “table sharing” and “supper.” This is very problematic.
Robotically quoting Ratzinger here and there (and this is clearly forced and stuffy with random, pointless quotes of zero weight or value to the discussion), as well as pointless quotes of Vatican II (which he admits was “not enough”), and the dedication to Ratzinger; these all seem to be simple assurances that he’s still orthodox. That does not deal with the issues unaddressed. He spends a large portion of the text moralizing about how the Church should behave, as opposed to discussing ecclesiology. He also spends oodles of time flogging his German guilt about the holocaust by discussing and over discussing and over-defending the Jews to an exhaustive, but interesting point… still, no ecclesiology per se. (Obviously the Jews need to be discussed in ecclesiology to some extent). Lohfink even suggests that Christians and Jews not ‘getting together’ is the cause of the rise of Islam… this is just weird. How are the two religions to ‘get together’ as independent entities when they are completely incompatable? Let’s face it, the two, although one is a fulfillment of the other, don’t mix nicely; hence, the historical animosity.

Very frustrating is that when I address these in class, Cavanaugh brushes them aside. It is clear that he does not want to go there. Instead we discuss Baptism and infant Baptism; the course is clearly a waste because poorly formed Catholics are arguing about things we should already assume. The class is fascinated with the parts of the book we should be taking for granted, and thus my classmates are annoyed and dismayed when I attempt to question Lohfink and his ideas. They are poorly catechized so these ideas of discipleship or a counter-cultural life are new to them and they focus on that rather than the doctrinal and theological import of his sloppy remarks.

This is frustrating!

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