Thursday 12 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.


Anonymous said...

I love Schillebeeckx! Anyone who survives 3 Vatican inquisitions deserves to be celebrated. I recently found a few of his writings in the Concilium series from the 1960s-80s at Gould's (hectically messy) bookshop at Newtown.

My favourite quote from him: "The Vatican would love for Hans Kung to become a protestant... but he has remained in the Roman Catholic Church."

Good post!

Joshua L. said...

Are there any particular books of his you would recommend for those who, like me, have not read him?

Anonymous said...

The above quote could have been written by any good Protestant theologian. Seems very much like something Hans Kung would write. I don’t think that quote would show up in the CCC or EWTN.

John David Penniman said...

He also boasts the greatest book title in the history of theological studies:

"I Am A Happy Theologian."

Would that we could all make that claim!

David said...

"Anyone who survives 3 Vatican inquisitions deserves to be celebrated". True :)
But if the CDF examined his work 3 times and didn't find any heresy then they just weren't trying hard enough.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who survives 3 Vatican inquisitions deserves to be celebrated". True :)
But if the CDF examined his work 3 times and didn't find any heresy then they just weren't trying hard enough."

Actually, they probably did, they just didn't want to do the paperwork because nobody could spell Schillebeeckx's last name. (Yes, they do quite a bit of paperwork for heretics. Everything must be thrice notarized in triplicate, you see.)

David said...

Ah, well that explains it. I'd hoped it was something like that :)

Fat said...

"Edward Cornelis Florentius Alfonsus Schillebeeckx"
"How do you spell that?"
"My Mum helps me"

Anonymous said...

re: Joshua L's question. I came across continuum's sexy re-print of 'God is new each moment' while on holiday a few weeks ago. it's basically a wide-ranging interview that tries to capture the contours of his work. Otherwise, I personally liked 'The Church with a human face' and 'Christian faith: the spiritual, ethical and political dimensions'

Ben Myers said...

Joshua, T&T Clark also has a Schillebeeckx Reader — it's very good, although I find it a bit heavy on the philosophical/methodological stuff. Personally, my own favourite of his smaller books is Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God: this gives you a good picture of some of his central theological commitments, and it also gives you an idea of the deep exegetical underpinnings of his theological thinking.

kim fabricius said...

Edward Schillebeeckx,
despite critiques,
kept his head,
avoided bans.
The same cannot be said
for Hans.

steph said...

Schillebeeck's mum spells his name with a kiss.

Fat said...

That's beautiful Stephanie

steph said...


steph said...


steph said...

:-) sorry - I smiled at Fat and then I smiled again but I was sad really because I can't set my google account up so it clicks back to DunedinSchool. So final test...

andrew jones said...

thanks for the recommendation. never heard of this guy and i cant spell his name but i will look out for his writings. thanks.

Joshua Blanchard said...

It would be fun and worthwhile to develop sophisticated techniques for scamming scammers. As with hacking, I bet the pros would be ex-scammers themselves.

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