Spring 2009

Introduction: The Entrance Into Jerusalem

David M. McCarthy, in “Scripture and Ethics: Bearings From Balthasar,” takes the theme of modernity and Christian humanism in a different direction: his article shows how modernity’s fragmentation takes form in moral theology and scriptural studies, which, he says, are characterized by a tendency to avoid theories of atonement, on the one hand, and attention to the Old Testament, on the other. McCarthy’s proposal takes Balthasar’s theo-drama and theological aesthetics as a way of correcting the “fragmentation of practical reason and the breaking up of the Bible into discrete texts,” by overcoming christologically the modern divorce between subject and object, and by approaching the times and places of Scripture on their own terms.

Rodrigo Polanco picks up the theme of the Incarnation sounded in our articles on the Entrance Into Jerusalem in an essay on the role that Irenaeus plays in the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar. In “Balthasar and Irenaeus: The Total Glorification of God and of Man in God,” Polanco shows how the theological centers of these two thinkers converge. Balthasar develops the thought of Irenaeus in part with the help of modern concepts—especially Goethe’s notion of Gestalt—and in relation to contemporary concerns, but according to Polanco he does so in a way that is surprisingly true to Irenaeus’ own self-understanding. The heart of the matter is a christological interpretation of the analogy of being as the ultimate answer to gnosticisms both ancient and modern: the Incarnation has implications for the meaning, not only of human nature, but of all nature and indeed of all time and space. And yet, in this mystery, God crosses the infinite abyss that separates him from the world without for all that eliminating the difference.

Martin Rhonheimer returns to the question of the relationship between the religious and the political in his “Response to David Crawford,” in which he replies to a critical assessment of an article of his that Crawford offered in the Fall 2007 issue of Communio. Rhonheimer argues that Crawford failed to realize that Rawls’ later work took a distance from the “pure liberal proceduralism” that some read as a “comprehensive doctrine” in his original Theory of Justice. The “second Rawls” presents public reason “as a way of reasoning about political values shared by free and equal citizens that does not trespass on citizens’ comprehensive doctrines, so long as those doctrines are consistent with a democratic polity.” Rhonheimer believes that such a notion of reason is the very one implied by the natural law tradition embraced by Catholic teaching, and claims that Crawford abandons this tradition insofar as his approach, by contrast, “is essentially theological, founded in a trinitarian-christological doctrine, and thus based on Christian revelation.” Crawford will answer Rhonheimer’s charges in an upcoming issue.

Finally, Notes and Comments closes the issue with Andrew Hofer’s “Amalek and the Early Christian Battle for Scriptural Interpretation,” which takes up again our opening theme of the relation between the Old and New Testaments. Hofer gives examples of three early authors, Marcion, the author of Barnabas, and Justin Martyr, to show how their commentaries on the battle with Amalek in Exodus 17 presuppose and argue for a christological reading of Israel’s scriptures.