Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Benedict: A pope against religion

From an interview with Augustinin Scholar John Kenney at Zenit. This is really an idea, not expressed exactly in these terms, that I've encountered in Benedict's writings all throughout.
Q: Where do you think Benedict XVI is trying to point the Church and the world right now?

Kenney: He's pointing us away from religion -- in the modern sense of the term. Religion is a category of modernity, usually understood to mean either individually authenticated spiritual experiences or else a particular type of collective ideology based on socially defined values.

To think of Christianity in such terms is to drift toward the relativism that Pope Benedict has so famously decried. Hence Benedict XVI has insisted that personal spiritual experiences can only become meaningful within the shared context of a lived theology. And the collective life of the Church is far more than a form of social or political association. Christianity is not an ideology.

These modern representations of religion can constitute a reduction of Christianity to psychological, sociological and political categories and can result in a denial of its claims to transcendent truth.

Benedict XVI has a masterful grasp of all these reductionist tendencies and he has pushed back hard in order to restore recognition of the richness and depth of Christianity.

So one might say that we have a Pope who is opposed to religion -- and in favor of Christianity. Thank God for that.
(This almost sounds like some non-denominational evangelicals who talk about chosing faith over religion. Phillip Yancey comes to mind. Then there is the thought that a lot of how Christians actually understand and live Christianity is like "religion" in the sense used above, but also in the sense of some kind of manipulative/superstitious relationship with God. The rest of the interview is interesting as well, delineating some outlines of Augustinian thought in Benedict.)

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