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The Church as Hermeneutical Community and the Place of Embodied Faith in Joseph Ratzinger and Lewis S. Mudge


Mary McCaughey

This book adds new impetus to ecumenical theology by focusing on embodied faith or the contextual interpretation of Revelation. It does so through an exploration of the insights of Lewis S. Mudge and Joseph Ratzinger. Mudge advocates catholicity as a hermeneutic which embraces the contextuality of faith in local contexts, including Christian communities and the religious practice of those of other Abrahamic faiths. Through his use of semiotics and social theory, Mudge offers novel ways to interpret faith lived as redemptive existence.
Since for Joseph Ratzinger Revelation can never be fully confined to rational statements, it is nevertheless expressed in living praxis. This relates to his view of wisdom, Tradition, truth and the sensus fidei. Ratzinger focuses on embodied faith in Christian experience, the lives of the saints, New Ecclesial Movements and the plurality of different expressions of faith in synchronic unity.
This study encourages the reader to explore the Church as a sacrament of redemption through contextuality and embodiment. Through the writings of two authors with contrasting and yet complimentary approaches, it highlights the transformative potential of Christianity which can serve as a point of ecumenical learning.
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This book is based on doctoral research that examined the place of “embodied faith” and how it contributes to the interpretation of Revelation within the Church as hermeneutical community. The study recognises that the Revelation event is the “Word” understood as the Incarnate Christ and cannot be confined to the Scriptural “word,” but that the interpretation of Revelation includes its reception in the Body/body. This reception is not merely an intellectual experience but an interpersonal encounter with Christ, the living Word of God, in the Holy Spirit and is a transformative experience of salvation. Thus the term “embodied faith” used through this book refers to Revelation received both as: (a) “Body” (the ecclesial experience) and as (b) “body” (the individual experience) as the reception of revelation by the whole person expressed in “bodiliness” and the witness of living faith. These ideas also relate to how the Church through its members is the interpreter of salvation or the Sacrament of salvation for the world and the book combines concepts both from ecclesiology and fundamental theology.

The discussion in the following pages brings two authors with very different theological perspectives into dialogue. The first, Lewis Mudge, an American Protestant of the Reformed tradition (PCUSA), a pastor, theologian and ecumenist who investigates the Church using a contextual approach, borne from his ecumenical perspective. The second author is Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, former theology professor and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We will draw...

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