Edvard Schillebeeckx: All Humanity is the Elect People of God

The following interview is taken from http://www.geocities.ws/marc_batko/allhumanity.html


All Humanity is the Elect People of God
An Interview with Edward Schillebeeckx


[This interview from May 1997 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.DiePresse.at. Edward Schillebeeckx is a dominican theologian from Holland who has written seminal books and essays on systematic theology.]


Die Presse: Your theology avoids confrontation with secular culture and shares in the human search. Edward Schillebeeckx: To me what is central is a theology that develops a living sensitivity for the integrity of the human in allits anthropological dimensions, in the social and cultural areas, in theory and praxis and in the utopian and religious horizons.  What holds together the culture of the modern world is the striving for whole integrated humanity and life worth living.  Why has God become a problem for western people!  Firstly, there are outward factors.  Sociologists of religion speak today of social credibility structures of faith in God in a secularized world.  In such a society, personal convictions no longer have a social confirmation.  The inwardness of the person is no longer strengthened or encouraged by the concrete society but rather is alarmed and unsettled.  Since modern times, every western citizen speaks of the inner side of the person and the more superficial side of human existence, namely its conditioning by social and economic situations.  The individual ego appears in dominant western philosophies of subjectivity and most forms of modern sociology as something outside society while society on the other hand lives in an inner space, sometimes hostile and outside individuals: as two independent greatnesses which have contact with each other.    The critical question is whether one is burdened with a distorted view of the person.  The picture of the autonomous “complete individual” glorifying himself is found most clearly with Immanuel Kant.  Kant didn’t regard the person as capable of advancing from his interior to a person independent of reality.  This modern subjectivity is presented as constant human nature.  For Christians, this was often a dogma of faith.  In reality, this picture reflects a new time created by western people.  It is a human interpretation which is facing more and more resistance.
Life is pluralized Whatever the problems of faith in God in the pre-modern age, people live, marry and die differently today.  What was experienced as socially inevitable was interpreted as necessary.  In contrast, modern life is pluralized.  This multiform nature appears in a great variety of institutions.  The modern person encounters a world with many elective possibilities and is thrown back more than ever on his own inwardness.  How long can one maintain a protected milieu in a pluralist society without falling into a ghetto?  For every person sharing and really participating in a modern society, the other possibility is a fragment of his own personality structure: an undisturbed security of remaining in truth while others err.  This doesn’t exist any more.  That modern persons including believers spontaneously reject the theory that “salvation is found only in the church” points to a spontaneous opinion and a particular personality structure.  Modern people think pluralistically and know that no one owns the truth.  Indifferentism – everyone has his own truth – threatens.


Die Presse: Modern persons live in a world of uncertainty which only occasionally is interrupted by a new philosophical construction or by new religious movements.  They emphasize the contemporary “world context” of faith in God very vehemently.  Can you explain that?
Schillebeeckx: Yes.  As recognized at conferences of Third World theologians, believing and exploited people in the Third World face the secularized and exploiting West.  Both problems are connected and cannot be separated.  The existence of the “non-person” of the poor and the oppressed in a subcontinent like Latin America or in countries which for centuries have been under the rule of Christians is a scandal for all faith in God.  This scandal makes faith in God incredible for many people.  Therefore we in the West can no longer speak of God without relating our ideas of God with the massive suffering of people anonymously among us and elsewhere.  Western believers have often joined this pressing problem with an appeal to the coming and different better world and with the so-called mantel of love which doesn’t dare take sides but through a false concept of reconciliation sides in reality with the oppressive system which is at best disqualified by words, not by deeds.


Die Presse: Edward Schillebeeckx, you recently explained in a lecture at the Catholic Academy in Bavaria: “We must seek clarity with the history of encounters between religions or religious persons, with a history that is full of disgraceful violence for the sake of an `ideal’ cause, a proclaimed truth.  Is violence in the name of religion inhuman and evil from a Christian perspective?
Schillebeeckx: I think so.  I know that this answer involves a critical questioning of our traditional interpretation of Christianity’s so-called claim to absoluteness with terms like election and covenant in Judaism and Christianity.  However I also know that the idea of election by God includes mediation and universality without any partiality threatening humanity.  This means that the election and creation intention of God who seeks the salvation of all people are subordinated.  All historical forms of religious election must stand in a serving function to the universal election of all humankind.  If not, threat, danger and violence toward people of a different faith are inherent to the self-understanding of being elected of individuals, peoples and communities of faith.  Christian-religious imperialism should be radically condemned for humane reasons.  The argument that accepting a certain religion is the first civil duty because the God of the confession is an immediate guarantee for the well-being of human society leads to religious violence.  In the 4th century, after the fall of the Roman empire, when Christianity was a state religion, the Roman term “religio” was applied to the Christian relation to the absolute.  For centuries, the God of Christians in the West was the preserver of the socially established state order with all the consequences resulting for those regarded as heretics or schismatics.  The adoption of the ancient Roman term “religio” later made the crusades possible.  Thus my thesis is that the claim of an immediate connection between an established reason for the state and the religious relation to the absolute mystery should be rejected for human-ethical reasons.  Christian churches should ignore the claim of being the one true religion as ideology and bid farewell to the Roman term “religio” with which they operated for centuries up to Vatican II.


Israel’s Election Die Presse: Is the election of Jesus on the line of Israel’s election?
Schillebeeckx: Israel’s election and Jesus’ election serve the universal salvation which God intends for humankind.  Compared with other religions, every religion is unique.  `There is no second one like this!” is true for the confessing member of every religion.  As a result, it is meaningful to speak of absolute singularity or uniqueness.  Then one falls back into the old categories of religious imperialism in claims of absoluteness.


Die Presse: Does the gift of the Holy Spirit subordinate all election to the universal alliance of creation?
Schillebeeckx: Thanks to the sending of the Spirit, there is salvation for all people apart from personal, Jewish or Christian election.  During my whole theological life, I have fought inwardly against the Christian term “salvific significance of Jesus’ death”.  I reject the interpretation that Jesus’ death represents universal salvation.  Jesus’ message and conduct must be included in his life.  Within the context of a violent evil world, Jesus’ death was in fact the supreme consequence of his life, message and praxis, his charity and service in his sending by God.  The assertion of faith that Jesus is the universal Redeemer implies that Christian actually produce the “fruits of God’s reign” in our history through their praxis.  Otherwise the so-called objective redemption is a speculative slogan or cliche.  We must go Jesus’ way of life ourselves if our proclamation is to be credible for others.  Jesus’ way of life is marked by two characteristics which must be found in his disciples to make his message and praxis concretely universal.  the first is that Jesus resolutely refused the way of life proposed to him in three temptations as a form of triumphalist messianism and chose the way of vulnerable solidarity with threatened people.  As a second characteristic, Jesus’ way of life includes the cross and is a way of the cross.  “The cross” is not cherished in itself.  On account of his solidarity with violently threatened persons, Jesus was expelled by the world powers and accepted by God as a permanent presence on account of his solidarity with rejected persons.  Such a way of life has God’s blessing.

Links to my site:

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