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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik
Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation. The Mediation of the Gospel through Church and Scripture.
Ada: Baker Academic 2014. 384 S. Geb. US$ 45,00. ISBN 978-0-8010-4924-8.
Eric E. Hall
In his Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, Matthew Levering writes an accessible, interesting, and engaging book on the Catholic notion of revelation. His point seems a justification and clarification of Vatican II conceptions of revelation, especially propositional revelation, and the necessity of unfolding revelation through tradition and the persons attached to, and constituted by tradition. Accordingly, L. states that »we do not have revelation without faithful mediation – and the mediation of God’s word and deeds that we find in canonical scripture is inseperable from the mediation of the covenental community.« (3) His Basic argument and structure for doing so is as follows.
The book begins in earnest as any book on the question of Christian revelation ought to: with the Trinity. L. states that the true locus of revelation is the mission of the Son, as sent by the Father, and as seen in the Spirit. One could say that revelation, in such regards, is not primarily propositional but the very locus of salva-tion itself, which propositions among other mediations, will successfully participate in and emulate. And the first of these conveyers of this revelation emerges for L. in the Eucharistic Mass, which is a direct participation in the Being of God through Christ. The liturgy of Eucharist forms the structure of our access to God as a convenant people, training us in eschatological desire and prepar-ing us for the salvific agency of Christ found in Eucharist.
This revelational content is held in trust and enacted first and foremost by the covenant leader, which we call the priest, a difficult position that L. discusses and defends in a forthright and interesting manner, passed down faithfully, if not tumultuously, to all persons through the Apostolic succession of Catholic Bishops. Part of the tumultuousness stems from the real, but faithful, »development« of doctrine and revelation that emerges within the Church. While such development is no necessarily a part of scripture, faithfully expands and unfolds the meaning of the inspired scriptures as they are grounded in God.
The conclusion L. argues for thus emerges: »We have faith, then, that Christ and the Spirit are faithful in their ongoing work of teaching and sanctifying ›the elect lady and her children‹« (300), that, in other words, revelation unfolds not merely by the words of an inspired scripture but through the communion of a covenant people who »encounter Jesus Christ in the midst of […] friends«. (300)
Analytically, the argument of this book is good if not predict-able from an orthodox Catholic theologian. What positively sets this book apart are the structures of the chapters. Each chapter unfolds this broader argument by placing the reader into both his-torical and contemporary conversation with important thinkers on each matter. For instance, when discussing the role and development of priests, L. compares and contrasts both Calvin and Hobbe’s anti-clerical positions with a general vision from the Church as he believes it has unfolded from Christ’s own understanding of the phrase »the first shall be last.« In his chapter on the Gospel, he interestingly and skillfully compares and contrasts the understanding of a »Gospel community« through the Catholic and now ancient theologian, Aquinas, and the contemporary Protestant theologian, Scott McKnight. He builds his own positive positions through forthright theological dialogue and faithful exposition of all think-ers he encounters. Through this book, one enters into an entire history and tradition of the interpretation of tradition as related to divine revelation.
This person, in fact, offers no internal critique of L.’s book. It beautifully completes and achieves what it claims it will achieve. If there is any critique, it emerges only at first at the level of a question in the first, and I consider the most important chapter. L. takes special care to develop the notion of revelation as related to God in and through Christ, but only ever in reference to the mis-sion of Christ. L. indicates without saying (so far as I noticed) that the mission of God in relation to us is separable from God’s being, and I think that’s an important ultimate question to take up. If God is, in fact, God’s mission (as Rahner and Jüngel alike state it, if God’s economic activity is inseparable from God’s intrinsic activity), then the definition of revelation shifts in an important manner: God is self-revealing salvation. I believe this point is consistent with the rest of the chapters of this book in so far as it is dealing with theological anthropology as well as a theology of revelation. (The two are inseperable.) But such a question complicates the first chapter and any Eucharistic theology that must ultimately emerge Catholicly from a theology of revelation.
Such a question, however, emerges only in light of the book’s virtues: the faithful, traditional, but creatively excellent development of a Catholic notion of revelation.