Friday, 13 November 2009

Happy birthday, Edward Schillebeeckx

A reader informed me that today is the 95th birthday of the great Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx. So in his honour, I'm re-posting a short piece from a couple of years ago:

Among modern Catholic theologians, there’s no one I like better than Edward Schillebeeckx. I pay visits to Rahner and Balthasar and Ratzinger, but I come home to Schillebeeckx.

Why do I love Schillebeeckx? There are many reasons. His whole theology is worked out amidst a momentous wrestling with the biblical texts. He has an extraordinary way of perceiving exactly what Christian faith and practice really mean, what they really demand. In contrast both to unthinking conservatisms and sentimental progressivisms, he forged a profound and unflinching christological revision, issuing in a rigorous and tough-minded theology of liberation.

Besides that, he also has the most delightfully cumbersome name in the whole history of theology – his full name is Edward Cornelis Florentius Alfonsus Schillebeeckx (and, as a novice of the Dominican Order, he added Henricus as an additional name). No one with fewer names could have written so many – or such gigantic – books.

I leave you with this quote from the Birthday Boy himself:

“The crucified but risen Jesus appears in the believing, assembled community of the church. That this sense of the risen, living Jesus has faded in many [churches] can be basically blamed on the fact that our churches are insufficiently ‘communities’ of God…. Where the church of Jesus Christ lives, and lives a liberating life in the footsteps of Jesus, the resurrection faith undergoes no crisis. On the other hand, it is better not to believe in God than to believe in a God who minimizes human beings, holds them under and oppresses them, with a view to a better world to come.”

—Edward Schillebeeckx, The Church with a Human Face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry, trans. John Bowden (London: SCM, 1985), p. 34.

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