Theology - Collected Works

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    Wrestling with holiness: sharing in the travail of creation
    (Australian Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, 2011) Novello, Henry Leonard
    The purpose of this essay, which is a sequel of an earlier essay titled ‘The New Creation and Doing the Truth’ (Novello, 2010), is to show that the idea of the holy contains a surplus of meaning above and beyond the meaning of moral goodness, and that an ontological view of holiness is required to acknowledge and safeguard this surplus of meaning. It will be argued that moral commands can be fulfilled only if we are united with the reality that commands them; that is, ‘Only if being precedes that which ought-to-be, can the ought-to-be be fulfilled’ (Tillich, 1959, 142). The essay will begin by presenting Rudolf Otto’s idea of the holy as coming to awareness in the human subject through the ‘numinous’ experience of boundless awe and wonder, which has roots both in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. The second part will then discuss Christian responsibility and self-sacrifice, and will highlight in particular Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the cost of discipleship. The final concluding section will assert the need to appreciate knowledge of holiness as ‘connatural,’ not natural, and will refute an Aristotelian view of morality and justice which is based upon the principle of proportionality.
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    The new creation and doing the truth: Christianity as more than a religion
    (Australian Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, 2010) Novello, Henry Leonard
    The purpose of this essay is to review Paul Tillich's understanding of Jesus Christ as the One in whom has appeared the New Being, and to examine Tillich’s conception of Christian truth as ‘saving truth,’ from which it will become apparent in what manner it can be said that Christianity is to be regarded as more than a religion. The first part of this essay will examine Tillich’s understanding of Christ as the New Being, the second part will discuss the meaning of doing the truth, and the conclusion will highlight two fundamental pitfalls to be avoided in respect of Christianity’s relation to contemporary culture. In particular, the intention will be to caution against an overly ‘integralist’ portrayal of Christian faith, which is a perennial tendency in Roman Catholicism. In the presentation of Tillich’s thought the essay will draw from his two works The Shaking of the Foundations and The New Being, which belong together as one piece.
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    Grace in evolutionary perspective: the furthering of nature
    (Australian Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, 2009) Novello, Henry Leonard
    The aim of this short reflection is to consider the fundamental issue of grace from the perspective of evolution: What light does an evolutionary view of the world shed on this problematic? If God creates through the evolutionary process, then clearly the rethinking of the doctrine of creation will also inform a theology of grace. Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, Denis Edwards, and George Coyne are examples of Catholic thinkers committed to doing theology in an evolutionary perspective by building on the concept of God’s continuous creation (creatio continua) that belongs to the Catholic theological tradition. They draw upon scientific knowledge of our evolving world, but they approach the scientific data as theologians seeking greater understanding of the faith. This is to say that they do not substitute science for religious faith, but they do see a legitimate dialogue between the two disciplines, each of which has its own realm of applicability. And with regard to this dialogue we must keep in mind that just as scientific theories are always incomplete, our religious understanding of God is also always incomplete, as the apophatic tradition of theology, represented by Pseudo Dionysius, makes abundantly clear.
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    Participating in the new creation: a theological appreciation of work
    (Australian Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, 2010) Novello, Henry Leonard
    The purpose of this essay is to offer an appraisal of John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens (LE) by bringing his understanding of the meaning of labour into dialogue with Miroslav Volf’s proposed theology of work which is set forth in his book Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work. The essay will show that there is a significant degree of overlap between these two thinkers on the subject of human work, but it will also seek to highlight some weaknesses in the encyclical that are overcome by Volf’s explicitly eschatological and pneumatological perspective of human work.
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    Lack of personal, social and cosmic integration: original sin from an eschatological perspective
    (Pacifica Theological Studies Association Inc., 2009) Novello, Henry Leonard
    This essay critically examines traditional formulations of the doctrine of original sin in Western theology and the contemporary “situationist” and “personalist” reformulations of the doctrine in the search for an adequate understanding of original sin that acknowledges both the evolutionary view of the world and Jesus Christ risen as the new “emergent whole” in evolutionary history. The negative portrayal of original sin as a situational privation of sanctifying grace and the positive portrayal of original sin as rebellion against God are both held to be valid and complementary, but it is argued that only a thoroughly eschatological perspective can illuminate the state of the human condition which is destined for a supernatural end in the Risen One. The essay concludes with the proposition that original sin is best thought of in terms of the lack of personal, social and cosmic integration that humans invariably experience in this life, and that the person of the risen Christ saves us from this complex state of privation by elevating us to a “higher nature” that represents a “new creation”.
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    Looking unto the hidden Zion: a Christian appreciation of the Holy Land
    (Australasian Catholic Record, 2010) Novello, Henry Leonard
    The intention of this essay is to contend that the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ does not make Judaism and the 'mystery of Israel' redundant. On the contrary, it will be suggested that the glorified Body of Jesus Christ cannot be properly thought without reference to the chosen land and the city of Jerusalem which Jesus acknowledges in the Gospel story as the place associated with the destiny of Israel (Lk 13:33-34; 19:41). Once it is appreciated that Jewish Scripture has the character of 'storied place', that is, a place which has special meaning because of God's history of covenant lodged there, which is captured by the name 'Zion', then Jewish Scripture must not be regarded merely as background to the Christian story but rather the concrete ground in which it takes root and is continually nourished.
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    Religious life after Darwin : some novel suggestions
    (Australian and New Zealand Society for Theological Studies, 2009) Downs, Stephen
    The central idea in this paper is that works of fiction can illuminate religious life in our post-Darwinian world. To this end the author considers themes addressed by several novels of the last ten years or so. The author also presents some reflections on how literature and theology are connected.
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    Receptive ecumenism and the charism of a partner church : the example of justification
    (Australasian Catholic Record, 2009) Edwards, Denis
    The notion of ecumenical receptivity is an invitation and a challenge to our churches. It proposes that the ecumenical encounter with another church tradition is an event of the Holy Spirit. In the otherness of the other tradition, the Spirit of God offers us a gift. In this understanding a central dimension of ecumenical action involves a stance of openness to the Spirit and the attempt to discern the Spirit. Paul Murray has pointed out that ‘receptive ecumenical awakening is properly a matter of the heart before it is a matter of the head; a matter of falling in love with the experienced presence of God in the people, practices, even structures of another tradition and being impelled thereby to search for ways in which all impediments to closer relationships will be overcome’. Ecumenical receptivity encourages a stance before the other tradition that expects to find this tradition a place of grace. And the gift of the Spirit is to be found not only in the personal, but also in the structural and institutional dimensions of the other tradition.
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    Living in an age of authenticity: Charles Taylor on identity today
    (Australasian Catholic Record, 2009) McEvoy, James Gerard
    Studies of contemporary Western culture, and of the conceptions of human agency which inform it, almost invariably identify an increasing emphasis on the individual as a principal theme. For some this individualising tendency is a matter of loss or decline: they believe that ours is a decadent age, a narcissistic culture, built upon corrupted views of the human. Others offer a decidedly more up-beat evaluation of the individualising shift, prizing such fruits as the development of human rights and the capacity to mobilise sentiment in response to tragedies like the South East Asian Tsunami of 2004. For Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, neither the outright knockers of contemporary culture nor the straight boosters have plumbed the depths of our age; and nor will a simple trade-off between advantages and costs do justice to the transition taking place. In his view, a new understanding of human identity, that of authenticity, has permeated Western culture since the 1960s, with its own insight into the human good as well as its own debased forms.
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    Proclamation as dialogue : transition in the church-world relationship
    (Theological Studies, Inc., 2009) McEvoy, James Gerard
    Vatican II's Gaudium et spes sees the church-world relationship in dialogical terms. This article argues that conceiving the church-world relationship as a dialogue is an important element in the council's recognition of what Charles Taylor calls the "modern social imaginary". The article defends the council's view of dialogue against the argument that contemporary Western views of dialogue are inherently relativist. It concludes by investigating the rich implications of this dialogical view for the church's primary task of proclamation.