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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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← 438 | 439 → Conclusion


In concluding, we summarise what we have discussed in each chapter. Our particular concern was how “embodied faith,” understood as the reception of Revelation contributes to its ongoing interpretation. We explored faith as personal, ecclesial, contextual and existential in both Lewis S. Mudge and Joseph Ratzinger. We concluded our discussions by drawing up theological principles for understanding how embodied faith interprets Revelation and how it is part of the nature of the Church as hermeneutical community.

In Chapter One, we firstly explored contemporary theological literature to present an analysis of the place of embodied faith in the Church’s interpretation of Revelation. This exploration was set in the context of the Second Vatican Council and its openness to recognising the subjective and historical dimensions of Revelation. A review of the theological literature on the subject revealed how in contemporary biblical hermeneutics there is a focus on the subjective dimensions of Revelation in the attention to the “world beyond the text” or the Word given in “praxis” in the existential unfolding of everyday life. Secondly, we explored the use of semiotics and signifying practice to capture meaning in non-verbal, embodied domains of embodied faith as testimony to the Incarnation. Thirdly, we saw how the interpretation of Revelation includes acknowledging Tradition and the wider participatory, intersubjective reality of all in the Christian community.

Our literature review in Chapter One also highlighted a trend toward contextual theology which aims to read God’s presence in concrete situations as part of the...

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