Joseph Ratzinger’s Trinitarian Theology of Culture

Tracey Rowland

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (1975), Paul VI famously declared that “the split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time” (20). He added that “the modern world seems to be forever immersed in what a modern author [Henri de Lubac] has termed ‘the drama of atheistic humanism’” (55). Almost half a century later nothing much has improved. Indeed, the world appears to be taking the presuppositions of an atheist humanism to logical extremes most would never have imagined in 1975. During these five decades the subject of the relationship between faith and culture was much discussed, and pastoral projects were set in motion to bridge the gap. Many of these were based on the ideas of the Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx (1914–2009). As Lieven Boeve and Ben Vedder explained,

Schillebeeckx was particularly concerned about the obstinate maintenance of traditional formulations, practices and structures. In his opinion, they impede the unlocking of the basic Christian experience. This position frequently led him to be sharply critical both of the Church and of the tradition.1

Schillebeeckx believed that the faith needed to be correlated to the culture of modernity. Correlationism became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in Belgium and Holland, and it was “exported” to other first world countries whose most talented students undertook their doctoral studies in Europe, many at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.2 When they returned home, they brought correlationism with them.

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