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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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Chapter Two: Tracing a Background to the Understanding of the Church as a Hermeneutical Community: Biblical, Philosophical and Theological Perspectives

← 80 | 81 → CHAPTER TWO


This chapter outlines aspects of the nature of philosophical and theological hermeneutics in order to locate their influences on ecclesial hermeneutics. Simone Sinn points out that “theology has had a considerable impact on the development of hermeneutics: the interpretation of biblical texts has always been one of the prime points of reference for hermeneutical reflection.”1 Contemporary philosophy has taken a leading role in the development of hermeneutical thinking and insights from philosophical inquiry “stimulated theological reflection.”2 From the nineteenth century hermeneutics shifted from an approach which was mainly concerned with the interpretation of the text, the interpretandum, to one which focused on the “reader” or the interpreter.3 Our examination will focus on tracing the development of hermeneutics from reading biblical texts to its autonomous development in philosophical hermeneutics and its insights on texts and interpreters of texts. These insights will relate to our exploration of the Church as hermeneutical community in subsequent chapters.

← 81 | 82 → In this chapter we do not propose either a detailed presentation of the development of hermeneutics, nor do we propose to evaluate the different methods. There are many excellent overviews which can present such an introduction to the discipline and which highlight the development from a biblical and theological approach to a philosophical approach.4 Instead, we outline developments of certain themes in hermeneutical theory under the following headings (1) Hermeneutics in Antiquity: the “outer” and “inner” word; (2) The Enlightenment Period and the interpretation of Scriptural texts; (3) Developments in Modern...

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