Leo Kardinal Scheffcyk:
Christology in the Context of Experience
On the Interpretation of Christ by Edward Schillebeeckx – first publication of the Original German Text (ed. by Johannes Nebel)
(FKTh 2020-4, p. 241–261)
Leo Scheffczyk examines in detail the writings of Edward Schillebeeckx, which are relevant for Christology and were published until the early 1980s. For this purpose, he distinguishes a „pre-critical“ early phase which differs from the main Christological works. Scheffczyk then allows his observation to fade abate while concentrating on two later smaller writings. For Schillebeeckxʼ early publications, Scheffczyk acknowledges fidelity to the church doctrine according to Revelation, only placed into a new light using modern categories such as encounter, experience and humanity. In Schillebeeckxʼs post-conciliar turn to critical hermeneutics, however, human experience had become decisive, accompanied by the reference to practice. The full impact is reached in his central book „Jesus. Die Geschichte von einem Lebenden“ („Jesus. An experiment in christology“): Without any methodological legitimation, the person of Jesus is unilaterally depicted as the result of an experience of early Christian communities reconstructed from modern self-understanding. Finally, Scheffczyk summarizes that Schillebeeckx does not allow a conceptual autonomy either to faith or to revelation in relation to human experience (then as well as today‘s). He thus subjectively and arbitrarily re-embossed revelation and faith. – Scheffczyk is sensitive to Schillebeeckxʼs line of reasoning, examines mental coherence and conceptual clarity. Scheffczyk‘s analysis remains remarkable, because even today there are theological images of Jesus that depend at least indirectly on such patterns of argumentation. Above all, however, Scheffczyk‘s account shows how an author’s spiritual development is partly due to a prior omission of certain clarifications or suppression of questions. Scheffczyk‘s study also provides a benchmark for mental response to thought movements which differ from one‘s own: In doing so, legitimate concerns are affirmed, e.g. at the end of the second main part today‘s importance of experience and practice. In addition, at the very end, the critical sighting is kept open for the possibility of future positive development.