Friday 15 September 2006

On heresy

At the group-blog God as the Mystery of Theology I’ve posted some theses by Eberhard Jüngel on heresy and superstition. Here’s an example:

“A mere recitation of confessions of Jesus Christ does not preserve theology from becoming heretical, but makes it all the more heretical. The mere recitation of confessions is christological superstition.”


Anonymous said...

Absolutely! Indeed, as Rowan Williams points out in his monumental study Arius: Heresy and Tradition (1987, 2001), heretics tend to be theological conservatives who wrongly think that tradition can be preserved by repetition, as if doctrines were mantras.

Jüngel also proposes that heresy is known by its additive qualities. If by additive he means innovative (and I'm sure he doesn't) then he would be wrong, indeed self-contradictory. The genius of the early fathers was precisely their ability and courage to think laterally, indeed polyhedrally, to shake themeselves out of slumbering in the the prevailing Procustean bed of neo-Platonism (though, of course, in some respects they too suffered from a failure of nerve and imagination, for example over a radical reshaping of the divine immutability).

Another angle on this theme is to say that heretics demand closure over complexity, and straightforwardness over paradox. For as Williams demonstrates, "theological tradition that is not responsive in some ways to wider intellectual currents can become stuck;" continuity is always something that has "to be re-imagined and recreated"; the gospel has "to be made more difficult" before its simplicity can be grasped.

One of Freedom said...

Ben is that your translation? I would love to footnote that for inclusion in a short paper I'm working on. Indeed a very sweet quote!

Ben Myers said...

Hi Frank -- yes, it's my translation. If you want to quote it, the reference is:

Eberhard Jüngel, “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie,” in Unterwegs zur Sache: Theologische Bemerkungen (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1988), p. 284.

One of Freedom said...

I didn't end up using it. But I'll note the reference as it might come in useful later. I was being too antagonistic in my paper. It is the first one for a course in Foundations of Eastern Theology and so far I am learning how Western I really am in my thinking. Thanks for the quick response though, I had to tone my paper right down. I still come out swinging though.


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