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

← 336 | 337 → CHAPTER SEVEN


This chapter asks what we can learn by bringing Joseph Ratzinger and Lewis Mudge into dialogue on embodied faith and its contribution to the interpretation of Revelation. We do this by bringing together insights from both authors firstly, on how the Church provides the hermeneutical context for understanding embodied faith in the context of modernity; secondly, by discussing embodied faith as empirical and/or sacramental signs; thirdly by examining the multiplicity and unity of embodied faith. We explain their respective understandings of fourthly, the place of authority and fifthly, Tradition in the Church as hermeneutical community. Finally, drawing from both author’s approaches, we discuss the place of social sciences in furthering a hermeneutical interpretation of Revelation.

We draw out our conclusions using the work of other writers which help clarify the distinctiveness of Ratzinger and Mudge’s approaches and we go beyond this dialogue to formulate theological principles. A focus on embodied faith is an attempt to recognise the place of metaphysical, historical and existential analyses of Revelation and whether social scientific approaches have any place in this work of interpretation.

For both Mudge and Ratzinger, acknowledging the Church as a hermeneutical community is a way to move beyond rationalistic approaches to knowledge. Such rationalistic knowledge is rooted in a narrow scientism which confines explorations of reality to what is empirical and what can be broken down into component parts. It is what Charles Taylor characterises as the “impersonal order,” influenced by the universal reason of the Enlightenment...

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