Tag Archives | freedom

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.

Confession and Justice | Kent Annan

Kent AnnanConfession produces freedom and restores right relationships, which releases the river of God’s justice to roll down.

—Annan, Kent. Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, 60.

Christian Freedom | Victor A. Shepherd

Victor ShepherdFor Christians, freedom is the removal of every impediment to acting in accord with one’s true nature as a child of God. … To be free is always to have been freed— freed for the service of God and neighbour.

—Victor A. Shepherd, The Committed Self: An Introduction to Existentialism for Christians (Toronto, ON: BPS Books, 2015), 32.

Freedom & Love | Tom Smail

God’s freedom can never be understood apart from his love. When he creates us, it is in love and for love; when he judges us and rejects us in our sinfulness, it is because we are living and acting in contradiction to that love; when he redeems us it is because that love cannot in the end let us go and gives itself utterly to bring us back to itself.

—Tom Smail, Like Father, Like Son: The Trinity Imaged in Our Humanity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 155.

Loving What God Loves | William F. Orr & James A Walter

When one loves God, all things are permissible; but when one loves God, one loves what He loves. This means love for all others, for they are loved by God; and conduct will be regulated by this love.”

—William F. Orr & James A. Walter, I Corinthians, 202 in Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians, 181.

Starting from Scratch | Karl Barth

Theological work cannot be done on any level or in any respect other than by freely granting the free God room to dispose at will over everything that men may already have known, produced, and achieved, and over all the religious, moral, intellectual, spiritual, or divine equipage with which men have traveled.

—Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, 166-7.

Freedom of the Gospel | Walter Brueggemann

The gospel message is precisely an invitation and authorization to be freed from all … distorting, coercive pressures: to be freely and completely Yahweh’s own people, freed to live a life of unfettered worship, assured not only of safety from threat but assured of Yahweh’s own person, who is the true joy of life.

—Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40-66, 140.

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