Winter 1984

Introduction: Sin and Forgiveness

Marguerite Léna introduces the first of three articles in this issue on the theme of sin and forgiveness with a beautifully sensitive treatment of the place of the sense of forgiveness in education. She argues that it is not sufficient that Christian educators concern themselves with forming this sense only in the way, for example, that they concern themselves with forming a moral or aesthetic sense. Rather they must, at once as Christians and educators, make an effort to bathe their whole educational practice in the mystery of forgiveness. Only when this happens can they deal properly with such problems as the conflict of generations, social marginalization of the young, emotional emptiness, and the loss of the sense of paternity and maternity. In a second article, Hans Urs von Balthasar sets the theme of sin and forgiveness specifically in the context of the Biblical religions with their personal God. He argues that the indications of God's forgiveness which Jesus made even before Easter differ profoundly from those of the prophets: Jesus "does not merely point to God, does not merely transmit his Word (as in the prophetic 'thus says the Lord'), but rather he represents this Word." In our final article on sin and forgiveness, Stephen Maddux, through a reflection on Ruby Turpin, heroine of Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation," treats of how the virtuous soul, when forgetful of the source of virtue which is the merciful love of God, becomes in a profound sense as pitiable and lost as the very last of sinners.

In his article, "Faith, Philosophy, and Theology," Joseph Ratzinger discusses briefly how the distinction between philosophy and theology has in recent centuries become one of opposition, to the serious detriment of both philosophy and theology. As an alternative to this understanding, he argues for a retrieval of a perspective consistent with that of the Fathers of the Church: a positive, internal relation between philosophy and theology precisely makes it possible for both philosophy and theology to be true to their tasks. Ratzinger concludes summarily by pointing out that "faith does not threaten philosophy but defends it against the persuasive threat of gnosis"; and that the obstacle to faith is "not questioning but that closed-mindedness which refuses to  question further and considers truth to be unobtainable or not even worth searching for."

Brian Benestad and Manfred Spieker deal with current social issues. Benestad, drawing on the Thomistic tradition and recent papal teaching, argues that the prevailing concern for social justice needs to be balanced by a more explicit concern for the development and practice of virtue. Spieker provides a comparative look at the pastoral statements on peace and nuclear weapons made recently by the West German, French and American Bishops' Conferences, focusing three profound dilemmas which emerge for any Christian in attempting to face up to all the problems involved in trying to secure peace.

In our Notes & Comments section, we are pleased to offer an informal discussion, given by Karl Rahner shortly before his death, on what he calls "The Experiences of a Catholic Theologian." Above all, he urges the centrality of the incomprehensibility of God and the consequent need for the theologian to take analogy seriously in all his or her statements: analogy is the fundamental structure of human knowledge. In the final note, we provide a brief look at two books which may be of interest: the new biography of Christopher Dawson and what seems to us a creative and helpful seires of booklets in science education, which is intended to supplement the currently prevailing approach by situation science education in an explicitly Christian context.