In this post, I will begin reviewing George Hunsinger’s book The Eucharist and Ecumenism by Cambridge University Press (ISBN:978-0-521-89486-9). This is one of the latest volumes in Cambridge’s “Current Issues In Theology” series, and is a welcome addition to an already well established set of volumes. It is no secret that the Eucharst and sacramental theology in general is a major stumbling block to ecumenical discussions, and Hunsinger addresses what he sees as the central issues hindering progress in this area.
Hunsinger begins his work by drawing demarcations between three types of theology: First, what he calls “enclave theology,” which is a theology that seeks to function solely within a single tradition for the purpose of defeating other traditions. Enclave theology, therefore, is polemical theology. Second, there is ecumenical theology. Ecumenical theology presupposes that every theological tradition brings something to the table even if it is difficult to discern what that exactly is. Instead of defeating and attacking these other traditions, ecumenical theology seeks to learn from them. Thirdly is modern academic theology, which lacks allegiance to confessional norms and utilizes moderist critical norms as the overriding model of engagement with the text, theology and the church. Hunsinger claims that these are not theological containers as much as “categories of discernment by which trends and tendencies in any body of work can be picked out” (6).
In developing an ecumenical theology of Eucharist, Hunsinger provides seven guidelines that should inform any ecumenical theology:
- Church-dividing views should be abandoned, especially in the form of false contrasts.
- No tradition, including one’s own, should be asked to compromise on essentials.
- Where possible, misunderstandings from the past should be identified and eliminated.
- Real differences should not be glossed over by resorting to ambiguity; they will only come back to hant theology and church.
- The range of acceptable diversity should be expanded as fully as possible within the bounds of fundamental unity.
- All steps toward visible unity should be taken which can be taken without theological compromise.
- No one church should be expected to capitulate to another or be swallowed up into it. (9-10)
What do we think about these? What should inform the “essentials” of one’s theological background?
Thanks Kyle for a great post. I am very interested in knowing more about this volume and study. I was blessed with the opportunity to investigate ecclesial theology within ecumenicalism for Dr. Webster and found it enthralling! This work seems in step with the nature of my paper – so once again, thanks.
The most difficult challenges that face your seven bullet points are numbers 3 and 4 – especially for non traditionalist movements such as protestant traditions. The dangers lie in being too revisionist or polemical in own’s rubic of evaluation. Since #4 builds off three, coming to a concensus on what is a real difference over and against an historical fallacy will be imperative around the discussion table. Essentially, Hunsinger’s task comes down to this question: Can the three main branches of Christ’s church (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant) come to an agreement on what is simple misunderstanding in history vs. real historical differences.
I look forward to any thoughts that you can throw my way Kyle – God’s blessings on you and your lovely wife!
Thanks brother, I’m glad you found the post helpful. I will be doing several more this week. It is a fascinating read. I hope you and the family are well. Send our blessings to all!
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