Wednesday, April 30, 2008

For the theologically inclined, a pop quiz: Whose theology does the following sentence describe?

"The human person only understands his or her identity to the extent that he or she is open to a relationship with Christ. Christology is deemed necessary for any adequate anthropology."

Hint: The name starts with "B".

ANSWER: Les jeux sont faits. (Bueller reference: drink!) The sentence is a description of current papal theology from the book nicely encapsulated here by Ryan Anderson.

The quotation is curious because the sentence sounds like it was pulled straight from some Barth 101 lecture notes. Open up his Church Dogmatics to III.2, the section on anthropology, and there in boldface are the words: "As the man Jesus is Himself the revealing Word of God, He is the source of our knowledge of the nature of man as created by God." What follows is a lengthy unpacking of the idea that only through Christ can we know what we, as humans, truly are. This in contrast to the notion that we first go to external anthropologies and attempt then to blend them with Christian faith.

In the long run (face it we must), most people aren't going to read Karl Barth. On a popular level, however, the way most people will make contact with Barth's ideas may, ironically enough, be thanks (via Balthasar) to Pope Benedict XVI. Is it possible, as some at the analogia entis conference seemed to cautiously imply, that the safest place to be a Barthian today is the Catholic church?

Conversely, for popular level Protestantism, consider one de facto Protestant spokesperson Anne Lamott in a mock - but nevertheless real - Sunday School teacher showdown with Catholic Colbert.