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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 Eight: Embodied Faith and the Church as a Hermeneutical Community Interpreting Revelation: Sacramental and Existential Signs of Faith in Context

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The previous chapter concluded with theological keys for understanding the contribution of embodied faith to the on-going interpretation of Revelation within the living, connatural context of the Church as subject. Applying these theological principles to (1) the lives of the saints; (2) Christian communities and (3) Ecumenical and Inter-religious contexts, enables us to concretely illustrate the contribution of embodied faith to the interpretation of Revelation.

Our theological principles established through a discussion of faith in Mudge and Ratzinger, enable us to highlight how the term embodied faith holds together the objective and subjective, personal and communal, historical and metaphysical dimensions of Revelation when it is received and encountered. Embodied expressions of faith are sacramental signs of theandric communion since they testify to the unique Christological synthesis made possible between the divine and the human when faith is expressed. They also reveal the historical dimensions of faith, since they are “parables” testifying to the existential dimensions of Christian life. In their contextual variations they can be understood as non-contradictory when seen within the unity offered by the Church as subject. Faith also embodies and expresses salvation. It testifies to the transformative effects of redemption within culture. The experience of salvation cannot simply be confined to sociological and political liberation, but yet is a liberation which effects transformation at the deepest level of human existence ← 375 | 376 → including the meaning of relationships, love, suffering and death. We have also allowed a possible role for social sciences and semiotics to look...

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