Monday, September 10, 2018

Enclave theology or ecumenical theology?

Thanks to a recommendation here a post or five ago, I am dipping into a beautiful book on eucharistic theology, The Eucharist and Ecumenism: Let Us Keep the Feast by George Hunsinger (Cambridge: CUP, 2008). A Reform theologian builds bridge towards a way for our eucharistic theology to unite us across our differences. Brilliant. A man after my own heart.

Hunsinger captures something which I have never quite expressed in my own mind about theological difference by invoking the concepts of "enclave theology" and "ecumenical theology." It is worth thinking about. Here is some of his explanation, pp. 1-2, 8-9 .

"By "enclave theology," I mean a theology based narrowly in a single tradition that seeks not to learn from other traditions and to enrich them, but instead to topple and defeat them, or at least to withstand them. Enclave theology is polemical theology even when it assumes an irenic facade. Its limited agenda makes it difficult for it to take other traditions seriously and deal with them fairly. Whether openly or secretly, it is not really interested in dialogue but in rectitude and hegemony. It harbours the attitude that the ecumenical movement will succeed only as other traditions abandon their fundamental convictions, where they are incompatible with those of the enclave, in order to embrace the enclave's doctrinal purity. ... Enclave theology makes itself look good, at least in its own eyes, by making others look bad. ... [p. 1] 
Ecumenical theology takes another approach. It presupposes that every tradition in the church has something valuable to contribute even if we cannot yet discern what it is. The ecumenical movement will succeed not when all other traditions capitulate to the one true church - whether centred in Geneva, Constantinople, Canterbury, Wittenburg or Rome - to say nothing of other symbolic locales like Lima, Cape Town, New Delhi, Canberra or Beijing. On the contrary, it will succeed only by a deeper conversation of all traditions to Christ. Ecumenical theology, though properly grounded in a single tradition, looks for what is best in traditions not its own. It seeks not to defeat them but to respect and learn from them. It earns the right to speak only by listening, and it listens much more than it speaks. When in the midst of intractable disagreements, it searches for unforeseen convergences. Its hope for ecumenical progress means that no tradition will get everything it wants, each will get much that it wants, none will be expected to make unacceptable compromises. Each will contribute to the richness of the whole, and all will be expected to stretch to accept some things that at first did not seem possible. Ecumenical theology, while unable to avoid speaking pointedly at times, seeks a charitable spirit which "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7)." [p. 2]

30 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, I think your final paragraph, repeated here provides the only viable solution to all our differences with 'Unity in Diversity':

"Ecumenical theology, though properly grounded in a single tradition, looks for what is best in traditions not its own. It seeks not to defeat them but to respect and learn from them. It earns the right to speak only by listening, and it listens much more than it speaks. When in the midst of intractable disagreements, it searches for unforeseen convergences. Its hope for ecumenical progress means that no tradition will get everything it wants, each will get much that it wants, none will be expected to make unacceptable compromises. Each will contribute to the richness of the whole, and all will be expected to stretch to accept some things that at first did not seem possible. Ecumenical theology, while unable to avoid speaking pointedly at times, seeks a charitable spirit which "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7)." [p. 2]"

Thank you for this thoughtful summation of current difficulties.

Liturgy said...

Thanks, Peter.

This sounds like a book I need to read.

It sounds akin to "Receptive Ecumenism" usually attributed to Paul Murray (Durham) and already seen in the work of ARCIC III. It recognises that structural union isn't happening in a hurry.

And so Receptive Ecumenism is a shift from “What do others need to learn from us?” to asking instead, “What is it that we need to learn and can learn, or receive, with integrity from others?”

Blessings

Bosco

Glen Young said...


Peter,
Wow!!! So I now have another banner to carry.A narrow minded,Sola Structuralist,enclave theologist legalist. Or perhaps a man who is not into intercultural fancies of the Inner Circle.

Unknown said...

Or even, Bosco, "When others do learn from us, what can we learn from the theology on their side that enabled them to do so?"

For example, why do confessionally Reformed Baptists with a Federal Vision (aka Auburn Street theology) value a frequent eucharistic liturgy close to the BCP so much more than some Reformed-ish Anglicans down under that you often mention? (Calvin himself, those Baptists like to say, would be too ecclesially-minded to be ordained today in most other confessionally Reformed churches.) In this instance, there is zero prospect of the structural reunion of, say, Nelson Anglicans and Idaho Baptists, but a comparative inquiry that explained the latter might narrow such mild theological differences as there are between Nelson Anglicans and Christchurch Anglicans. And even SMAA's customary could turn out to have a sound Reformed rationale (cf Mercersburg Theology). Ecumenical dialogue that does not reunite two or more churches may still help to better unify each within itself.

BW

Unknown said...

No, Glen, if Douglas Campbell is right (Deliverance, p. 3) you probably have only two banners-- four, if you prefer that-- to carry.

"A single culprit seems to generate our (three major difficulties in interpreting St Paul-- BW), namely a particular *individualist*-- and so possibly also rather modern-- reading of Paul's justification terminology and argumentation that devolves into a *conditional* understanding of salvation (that is, salvation is granted in relation to individual actions). It therefore also construes Psul's soteriology-- at least as it is articulated in these texts-- in fundamentally *contractual* terms."

Of course, Professor Campbell does not know that you are also a wise and experienced *horticulturalist*.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
My point in publishing the citations is that they help me, and therefore may help others, to better understand the big picture of what is happening in our debates. I have found the enclave v ecumenical distinction helpful, especially as an overview of comments made here.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with "enclave theology" - after all, it may turn out that a particular enclave theology is correct! But enclave theology generally sees little or no good in rival enclaves and that is certainly a feature of discussion here. While ecumenical theology attempts to see the good in each and every one of the enclaves. That also happens here, especially and quite obviously in Bowman's contributions.

Unknown said...

BTW Peter,

I doubt that a C21 ecumenical theology has any need for JH Newman's pre-ecumenical notion of the development of doctrine. There is nothing new under the sun, and we learn most from adaptive retrieval and reception. Unless it is to defend the papal magisterium, there is no reason to prefer his grand theory to the Orthodox arguments we engage ecumenically.

There is a sort of dialogue between speculative theology and dogmatics (eg personal eschatology), but that is not what he had in mind, and anyway the canonical scriptures seem wilder than our speculations.

BW

Unknown said...

And, Peter, western societies may be in the beginning stage of a century-long Great Sort in which religious affiliation is determined less by locale and family and more by personal attrait. In that context, ecumenical theology could anchor Christian identity whilst some enclaves may particularly appeal to constituencies influenced by missionary forms of Atheism, Buddhism. Hinduism, Islam, etc. Support for the missional resilience of front-line enclaves may supplant the reunion of Christendom as the chief concern of ecumenical theology. If so, then Jenson's theology will be seen as anticipating that work.

BW

Father Ron Smith said...

Bowman said:
"....the canonical scriptures seem wilder than our speculations".

Certainly, Bowman, but also WIDER than our individual speculations.
A bit like the Father Faber hymn: "There's a wideness in God's mercy - like the wideness of the sea..."

Glen Young said...


Hi Bowman,

I left off the usual "white,heterosexual male from the list but it strikes me; that with apologies to Solomon, there is something "new under the sun". Academics with too much time on their precious and tender hands have made a very simple living experience rather complicated. St. John writes: "For God so loved the world,that He gave His Only Begotten Son, so that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting Life". But the FAITH of the everyday believer has, [like the Temple], been turned into a multi-million dollar business. One thing my horticulture has taught me is that wisdom lies in the eyes of the beholder and that our experience can be very subjective. A rose by any name is still damn prickly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glen

No, academics are no more immune to the human stain than acrobats, dog-walkers, golfers, plumbers, real estate agents, viniculturalists, etc. People are people.

On reflection though, I am gratified that so much of the work that I notice actually does enrich the "very simple living experience" of faith.

BW

Glen Young said...


Hi Bowman,

Yes, people are people, but like the ruling class of the Temple; some are inclined to forget their humble beginnings,forgetting that the food they eat is put on the their table by those with dirty fingernails. The Universities around the world need to step out of their "ivory towers". Words are cheap, but food and whisky cost money.

Bryden Black said...

Your binary of “enclave/ecumenical” is just that, Peter - too binary! Even Hunsinger places the academic school among these two in his analysis, wishing to distinguish this academic factor from the necessarily confessional ones (as if the Academic itself has no prejudices...!). In addition, he deliberately writes this essay from the perspective of the ‘enclave’ of his own confessional Reformed Tradition, speaking in the first place into it, while also necessarily again attending to both the Academic and those other Confessions he seeks to gather around the Table to Eat the Feast together with.

In the end, I suggest we may all only speak out of our own (complex) traditions. And yet all of us also require thereafter some lode star by means of which to navigate the shoals of discernment as well as division, as we encounter alternative traditions. And frankly, I am still persuaded the Holy Scriptures are the only genuine means to offer that. What matters thereafter is our attitude towards them: are we still seeking to master and so control them; or are we approaching them with “loving attention” (Karl Barth - GH is a wonderful expositor of the same; pace Bruce McCormack, who actually IMHO has it over GH re this: http://www.faith-theology.com/2016/03/jenson-about-barth-on-jenson-on-barth.html); and so, are we humbly submitting ourselves to them, and so to our Lord, Whose Voice they truly convey. [H/T John Webster re Holy Scripture ...] Our own local ‘disputes’ illustrate brilliantly the ‘dilemmas’ these two contrasting approaches throw up ...

You might wish to look up this Book Symposium re Hunsinger’s text from Pro Ecclesia XIX, 3/2010, 247-84. Delightfully confessional and robust ...!

Father Ron said...

Bryden's argument: "Your binary is 'too binary'.
Hmm! Just like some people's understanding of humn sexuality, then? - Too binary!

Anonymous said...

"Male and female He created them." Nah, too binary! Fortunately we know better than the Incarnate Son.

William/ Wilhelmina / Willtopower

Glen Young said...


Hi Ron,

could you please update us on this amazing discovery you have become aware of that; there is more than XY and XX genes. My understanding is that any mutation to this binary combination leads to medical issues.

Liturgy said...

two binary?!

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bryden
Causa brevitatis I was unable to devote time/space to H's "academic theology"!
Is not our attention to Holy Scripture always driven by a theological outlook, with academic, enclave or ecumenical?
How do you determine that McCormick is better than Hunsinger? (Holy Scripture itself is not your lodestar at that point!)

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Recent Commentators,
It is a well-known theological proposition that all theological issues are either binary in nature, or not!

I suggest on matters of sexuality and gender that a binary approach suits us very well ... until it doesn't.

Bryden Black said...

Naturally your time is pressing these days Peter!

Secondly, I sense you and I are in heated agreement re what might (initially) “drive” one. See again my second sentence and the first of the second para.

Thirdly, I sense too the point of GH’s exercise is that the fruits of any cross-fertilization thereafter may be offered writ large in ways the various reviews I mention from Pro Ecclesia delightfully manifest. Not least, they also just throw up additional necessary exercises on the way towards Celebrating the Feast Together. There’s serious work still to be done ...

Lastly, and most vitally, divine freedom - for that is the lode star around which the debate between GH and BMcC orbits. While the details may be found in Dempsey’s collection (Trinity and Election in Contemporary Theology, Eerdmans, 2011), the thing is here we have the lode star of all stars! And if that is not Holy Writ writ large, then we’re in deeper trouble than I ever imagined! I even saw something of the debate play out before my very eyes once, between Paul Molnar and Bruce McCormack. Personally, I find two features of the debate vital: (1) If it’s not in the end all about the sovereign grace and mercy of the Covenant God, then please become a neo-pagan hedonist yesterday, and damn the consequences, for there are no consequences; (2) While sympathetic with what PM and GH are doing/trying to do, the actual exercise of the divine freedom (what is called the divine decree and its expression in Jesus) is surely what we concretely encounter - and all the rest is speculative kabbalah, as it were, however seemingly laudable. And I’d hoped by now something of the Jenson quote in the link might’ve rubbed off on you Peter, what with your reading RWJ’s two volume Systematic Theology ... Perhaps we live only in hope though ...!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Time is precious these days and I tend not to look up links ... but I have now done so, but I need your help to work out what is meant to "rub off on me" about the election of Jesus Christ ...

Anonymous said...

http://www.faith-theology.com/2016/03/jenson-about-barth-on-jenson-on-barth.html

https://youtu.be/jRcMsqCbzWk

BW

Bryden Black said...

Apologies Peter; blogs are hardly the best media for subtleties, especially surrounding rich complex debates. I’ll do my best at a summary however.

The Divine Election of Jesus Christ has to do with God’s identifying himself by and with this particular human being, Jesus. Viz this tenet of Jenson’s: ‘God’ is “whoever raised Jesus from the dead.” Yet that very person also has a human means of identification, as a most particular heir of a Jewish, indeed the entire Israelite tradition. Jesus’ resurrection displays him as Messiah, Son of God, and Supreme Servant of YHWH - all anticipated titles from what the Church terms her OT Scriptures. ‘Thus “the one who rescued Israel from the Egypt” [Jenson’s summary depiction of YHWH] is confirmed as an identification of God in that it is continued “as he thereupon rescued the Israelite Jesus from the dead.”’ (ST1, 44)

Yet all this displays an uncanny sovereign freedom: “How odd of God to choose the Jews!” A deep probing of this ‘choice’ throws up - eventually - an even odder thing: “Let there be light” is itself a decision of uncanny freedom. For the God of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, simply has no need of a created world. One of the real victories of the Early Church Fathers was the notion of creation ex nihilo. A key to RWJ is therefore also this: “God does not create a world that thereupon has a history; he creates a history that is a world, in that it is purposive and so makes a whole.” (ST2, 14) Yet that “whole” is NO STATIC thing, as so often depicted in the ancient world (and explored again nowadays). Just so, another key:

“Gods, whose identity lies in the persistence of a beginning, are cultivated because in them we are secure against the threatening future. The gods of the nations are guarantors of continuity and return, against the daily threat to fragile established order; indeed, they are Continuity and Return. The Lord’s meaning for Israel is the opposite: the archetypically established order of Egypt was the very damnation from which the Lord released her into being, and what she thereby entered was the insecurity of the desert. Her God is not salvific because he defends against the future but because he poses it.” (ST1, 67, emphasis original)

All of which leads us to that wee thing in the link: “In it I argued, as bluntly as possible, that his doctrine of election in II/2 upended traditional understandings of the relation between time and eternity and thus inaugurated an innovative ontology, and that this complex was then—for better or worse—the ruling center of his subsequent theology.”

The “innovative ontology” initiated by Jenson way back in his thesis became the key to his life’s work. The central Actor of the beginning, middle, and end of the biblical narrative of the economy of salvation is not merely to be appropriated to each of the triune identities respectively: these identities are respectively the beginning, the middle, and the end—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “The Lord’s self-identity is constituted in dramatic coherence” as displayed in this entire economy. Yet, “it is established not from the beginning but from the end, not at birth but at death, not in persistence but in anticipation.” (ST1, 66) There’s more to come within that very economy - even if Jesus’ own resurrection IS definitive.

Bryden Black said...

The squabble between the likes of GH & PM on the one hand, and BMcC & RWJ on the other (as different as these last two may also be) pivots around trying to get a handle on what (the freedom of) God looks like. From one point of view, such an enterprise is doomed from the start. Job 38 onwards, our present OT reading, is pertinent! Yet from another angle a vital feature of any Christian theology seeks to preserve the grace and mercy of the Gospel of Jesus. Lose that and all is lost, frankly! The content of any doctrine of election is God’s determination to establish this covenant of grace. Yet Barth did place this very thing in his volume two after all: on God! So; if that very covenant shows itself in the end as the revelation of a God at both ends of the covenant, as it were, then what might be the implications - notably, for Who God Is?! Election therefore reveals simultaneously God’s self-determination to be very God in himself yet also God-for-us. In fact (!), there’s no ‘going behind’ such a God; God-in-Christ-Jesus is ever and always and only such a covenant deity. This is the beef between the two camps: GH & PM seem to be viewing any ‘divine freedom’ in the speculative abstract, while McC and RWJ say “Nein!” - nur in dem Christ/only in Christ may we say such and so. [Behind my post too is btw GH’s own review of RWJ’s ST: see SJT 55 (2002), 161–200]

Full circle. If GH were to dig more deeply still into the Eucharist and propose a fuller ecumenical theology for the 21st C and our divided church, he would have to probe the significance of the eschatological nature of the Feast. But THAT would mean to revisit the likes of Jenson’s theology, notably around temporality, of which he’s critical - just as he is critical of the one key feature where BMcC and RWJ overlap. That is, this ‘technical’ debate after all has immediate relevance to the Eucharist - for those who are aware of recent stuff! Not least, on how such celebrations of the Eucharist are intimately tied to the Cross itself and the One True Sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world.

Bryden Black said...

Jeez Bowman; play it again Sam!

Anonymous said...

Often, though not always, fairly simple theological matters are described as "technical" when they are either peripheral to or subversive of the speaker's own theology. "Too difficult for me..." Indeed. "...But not important." How does one know that if one will not understand it?

BW

Bryden Black said...

As usual Bowman, you offer some helpful advice. In response, I pass on Robert Jenson’s own response to a certain Timo Tavast, who is Finnish and who gave a lecture on Jenson’s work in 2009, at which Jenson was also present to give his reactions. Here is the most pertinent part for our discussion here on ADU.

“First, faith is directed to God. It therefore belongs to the very truth of Jewish or Christian faith that we be faithful to the way Scripture portrays its God. The doctrine of the Trinity is not so much a specific body of propositions, as it is the church’s continuing effort to conceptualize such faithfulness. So whether or not that effort has been well done so far matters quite a lot. Through the church’s history some theologians have hoped to further the effort, and recently a few of us have tried it again. And so also whether we have done well or been misguided in that matters quite a lot. If the church is misled about the Trinity, the very possibility of faith is wounded.

“Second, it seems to me incontestable that the general Western tradition has in fact been in some part misguided, in that it has made the triune reality of God into a mere puzzle that is just so irrelevant in the life of the church. To assure yourself of that, attend church on Trinity Sunday and listen to the preacher moan about having to preach on it. But if trinitarianism is a mere puzzle for us, then the way Scripture portrays God must at the very best be badly obscured.” Pro Ecclesia XIX/4 (2010), 369-70.

Just so, it is more than helpful to ensure our own portrayal of God, the triune God, is utterly faithful to his sovereign gracious freedom both in creating us and even more so in redeeming us, broken, wounded, rebellious creatures that we are. Grace alone demands it! Which very freedoms are themselves reflections of that singular freedom all his very own in God’s own Life. And thereafter, how the sacramental link between the original mission of Jesus and our anamnesis of the benefits of that mission is conceptualized similarly demands a due faithfulness. And while some elements of both might remain a due mystery, given these very remarks of Jenson’s, it also behoves us - and notably western Christians - to better learn to understand and articulate all this. Not least, since the very notion of things trinitarian emerged from the Early Church’s celebration of the Eucharist as this evolved, especially in the Great Thanksgiving Prayer itself.

Anonymous said...

How To Get By In Brydenian

Peter and Nick,

Here's an even better restatement of the flaw in Hume's Fork from that proudly Catholic pugilist, Edward Feser.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/09/reply-to-blackburn-on-five-proofs.html

From the other side of the ecumenical hedge, Robert Jenson explained this to Princeton undergrads in roughly this way. The Church at first summoned the observable order of nature to explain the faith, but moderns, who understood that order anti-metaphysically, could not see why their anti-metaphysic should not be the criterion of faith, and on that criterion attenuated or lost it.

So we now have three kinds of Christians. Some stand with Feser on the old ground restated for a post-modern world. Others accept the anti-metaphysical temper of modernity high and late, and so warrant faith, if at all, from some kind of existentialism. And finally, some triangulate to a third view that the original alliance of faith and reason was awry, and hence vulnerable to the modern critique, but that the implicit metaphysic of the scriptures, although somewhat akin to the first, is superior to both, and the only reasonable way to explain the faith.

This third group is a diverse crowd from every body in the Body-- eg Left Barthians, Nouvelle theologians, Radical Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Canonical Theists, neo-Anglicans, NPP, EHCC*, etc. But to get by speaking Brydenian, you have to know that Bryden is by my count in at least four of those groups.

So when traveling in the western villages of Cockaigne, where most people speak Brydenian with a certain hauteur, keeping this firmly in mind can help one avoid ordering a slice of pizza with espresso but having one's luggage taken to the laundry instead. For best results, avoid all the expressions in your vocabulary from either anti-metaphysical rationalism (eg in most contexts, "pluralism" as more feasible and desirable than just knowing and living the truth) or existentialism (eg appeals to feeling, terribly DEEP feeling, because there is nothing else on which one can rely). If they pay attention to you all at all, waiters in cafes on the strand-- they have names like Maximus, Bonaventure, Hegel; their dogs have names like Descartes, Dewey, Sartre-- will call you a "bastard stepchild of the Enlightenment" and play subtle pranks on you for hours.

* The Early High Christology Club (EHCC) are those scholars of Christian origins who implicitly or explicitly reject Adolf von Harnack's contention, seconded by Rudolf Bultmann, that belief in the divinity of Jesus could not and did not emerge from the Judaic worldview, but was a product of the mission to the Gentiles fully articulated only in the series of councils that began in Nicaea in 325 and ended in Constantinople in 781. In contrast, the EHCC not only have widely coveted coffee mugs, but pursue the implications of Martin Hengel's discovery that the worship of Jesus as Lord began in C1 Palestine and of E. P. Sanders demonstration that the Judaism of Jesus and S/Paul was not the legalistic religion of works that Protestant exegetes have usually assumed. Although not usually metaphysicians, the EHCC are committed to a retrieval of the Judaic worldview as the primary heuristic for the New Testament.

BW

Bryden Black said...

Delightful piece of mapping Bowman! And a delicious response by Feser! And to follow up that piece of Feser’s, you (and other ADU readers who enjoy this sort of thing) might like to dig out this resource: Neil B. MacDonald, Karl Barth and the Strange New World within the Bible: Barth, Wittgenstein, and the Metadilemmas of the Enlightenment. Paternoster, rev. ed. 2001.

The metadilemmas are of course on the one hand Hume’s Fork, Kant’s attempt at creating a third option, and Wittgenstein’s PI later philosophy that nails dear Hume (for some of us), and then on the other hand Barth’s ‘overcoming’ of Overbeck’s own sawn-off limb re theology (with its denial of ‘true theology’, reducing it all to other species of human study instead), thus creating what MacDonald calls its own metatheological dilemma (parallel to Hume’s). Just so, Barth’s solution by the positing of a sui generis historicality within the strange narrative of the Bible itself, which may then be viewed as the ‘object’ of true theology—God the Subject speaking in and through and as the Word-made-flesh, a quite particular human of space-and-time in 1st C Israel, as attested in the written witness of the word, OT & NT.

But I guess all this just continues to expand “Brydenian” speech yet further! Taking up such “an innovative ontology” as Jenson’s, which is similarly displayed via “the Strange New World within the Bible” after Barth [Jenson’s opening chapters of his Systematic Theology are sensationally seminal], I too wish to probe all this more deeply via a specific Trinitarian model, reflecting an explicit Trinitarian metaphysic. (Amazingly folks, 13 year old school girls even get it - to some degree!) And of course, it relies upon what Bowman is calling EHCC [Hengel, Hurtado, Bauckham, Hays], which frankly I find pretty well nigh irrefutable now ... I’m really looking forward to NT Wright’s final volume of his God Question!

So; thank you folks - indeed: “avoid all the expressions in your vocabulary from either anti-metaphysical rationalism (eg in most contexts, "pluralism" as more feasible and desirable than just knowing and living the truth) or existentialism (eg appeals to feeling, terribly DEEP feeling, because there is nothing else on which one can rely).” Otherwise, you might get a Kelpie cattle dog snapping at your heels at best; or at worst, just doing what any dog does against a table leg when you’re trying to sip your latte of a Sunday morning in Spring! [Should have been in church then, hey!] And either way, you might thereby be tempted to call it something other than Dewey!

Bryden Black said...

PS: Kelpies BTW are real Ozzie dogs - with naturally binary squared legs for hoofing around cattle yards ...