Tag Archives | conscience

The Christian Existentialist | Bernard Häring

The cover of Härings The Christian ExistentialistThis book made me nervous. While I have been formed intellectually by many themes of existentialism (see my review of The Committed Self), the existential emphasis on individualism is troublesome, theologically. The Christian is never a mere individual, but a member of an interdependent body with Christ at the head holding his body (along with the whole created order) together.

These four lectures, from one of the formulators of the ecumenism of Vatican II, quickly put my fears to rest. The very first lecture differentiates Personalism (Häring’s viewpoint) from mere Individualism. Individualistic existentialism embraced in various forms by Heidegger, Sartre, and de Beauvoir “aims at man’s stepping out of an anonymous existence and emerging from himself in true being-one’s own” (22). Fully developed personalism, on the other hand, portrays a person who steps out of anonymous existence as a mere functionary in a technological machine into communities of love where “he once again feels himself a man in the full sense of the word, i.e., he becomes a person” (9). This Personalism is fundamentally Christian: “a personalism of encounter and community in word and love” (11).

The second and third lectures discuss the intertwined ideas of morality, conscience and freedom. “The fully developed Christian conscience,” writes Häring, “is inseparable from a loving regard for one’s neighbor and a presence before God in faith and love” (57).

The final lecture, “A Christian Existentialism in the Perspective of Salvation History,” was a compelling exposition of the Christian virtue of prudence. The word prudence today is closely associated with the pejorative epithet “prude,” as in someone who has limited their freedom. Häring takes a richer view. Prudence is “the art of adapting our action to the redemptive actions of Christ within the whole history of salvation and in the context of a present salvific community.” Prudence is nothing less than an attentive alignment with the kairos of God’s pneumatic presence in the world.

Existentialism embraces a broad gamut of thought from Nietzsche to Buber. Häring shows that existentialism and Christianity not only fit together, they enable thoughtful Christians to reflect deeply on the their existence and responsibility before God.

Häring, Bernard. The Christian Existentialist: The Philosophy and Theology of Self-Fulfillment in Modern Society. The Deems Lectures. New York: New York University Press, 1968.

The Theology of Paul the Apostle | James D. G. Dunn (§24)

I remember sitting in Pastoral Theology classes back in Bible College. The professor would offer a case study of a situation that was far from black-and-white, and we naive students would offer a solid answer. I learned then that the application of principles is a complex art. Now that we’ve studied Paul’s ethical principles, it’s time to get to the case studies.

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1 John 3:19-22 | A Clean Conscience

I remember the day I proposed to my wife. We had been dating for over a year and we both knew we were going to get married. All of our friends knew it was only a matter of time before the engagement. All that was left to do was ask.

Finally, the day arrived. I wrote a little fable/allegory about our relationship and bound it in wooden covers. I determined to read the story to her and drop to my knee when I turned the last page to reveal the engagement ring. (Corney, I know—at least it was unique.)

I spent the morning browsing second hand bookstores to calm my nerves and provide sufficient back-story for my plan. (“Look at the interesting book I found!”) After walking to her apartment, I put my intentions into action and began to read her the book. My mind was swirling. I had to wipe little beads of sweat off my forehead. I could feel my heart pounding in my throat. All sorts of completely irrational fears cycled through my mind: What if she thinks the story’s lame? What if she’s changed her mind? What if she says no?

Well, she said yes . . . a little over 14 years ago.

I still can’t explain those odd fears. To my rational mind, our marriage was a done deal. We had talked about it and were both on the same page. It was my heart that got nervous. This is where my story intersects John’s letter. To my rational mind, I know I’m “from the truth” (to use John’s language). What happens, though, when my irrational heart overrides my mind? Continue Reading →

How to Refresh Your Mind | Thomas à Kempis

I’ve started prayerfully reading through the Imitation. After a couple days, I realize that I could post almost any line from that devotional classic as a Weekend Wisdom quote. This stuff reads like scripture!

While discussing the futility of knowledge without character, he offered this:

Many words fill not the soul but a good life refresheth the mind and a pure conscience giveth a great confidence in God.

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