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]