Monday, August 20, 2012

Ratzinger the Scotian Pantheist?

In the comment box of the Greenbaggins blog, John Bugay has provided some material from Ratzinger/Benedict XVI that seems rather pantheistic. Naturally, some of the CtC crowd have taken offense at this, and have responded. While there is something amusing about watching the defense of Ratzinger by those who serve him, the matter is not quite as cut and dried as they may like to believe.

On the one hand, Ratzinger has (on a variety of occasions) identified pantheism as an error. He used the word "pantheism" to do so (an example is present in my comments below). So far so good. But what does he consider to be heretical pantheism? One can engage in the word-concept fallacy on either side of the orthodox-heretical divide.

So, it would be helpful to see whether he has embraced any teachings that have already been condemned as pantheistic. Thankfully, we don't have to a detailed comparison of his teachings to see if they line up with someone like John Scotus,

After all, Ratzinger/Benedict XVI characterized John Scotus thus: "In fact, John Scotus represents a radical Platonism that sometimes seems to approach a pantheistic vision, even though his personal subjective intentions were always orthodox."

He goes on to state: "John Scotus, here too using terminology dear to the Christian tradition of the Greek language, called this experience for which we strive "theosis", or divinization, with such daring affirmations that he might be suspected of heterodox pantheism."

And not only was Scotus (whom Ratzinger defends) suspected of heterodox pantheism, after his death his work was condemned for this heresy by a regional council and Honorius III in 1225 ordered all copies of the offending book (the very one that Ratzinger goes on to quote with approval from) to be burnt. He even described it as “swarming with worms of heretical perversity” (see here).

So, perhaps papal defenders can explain to us why we should accept the teaching of Benedict XVI as orthodox, given that it seems to endorse the teaching of John Scotus, condemned by Honorius III. (The quotations above are from Benedict XVI's general audience June 10, 2009.)

And then, and perhaps this is key, the advocate of the papacy can explain why we are able to judge the orthodoxy of Scotus based on his writings (praised by one pope, condemned by another), but we lack the authority to judge what doctrines the Bible teaches.

- TurretinFan

P.S. If Honorius III can be forgiven for seeing pantheism in Scotus (assuming he was wrong to do so), perhaps Bugay can be forgiven (same assumption) for seeing pantheism in Benedict XVI (since at least he would seem at least to have Honorius III on his side).

UPDATE: Bryan Cross responded to the comment above. His response and my reply are inter-mixed:
The aspects of Scotus which Pope Benedicts commends are not the errors for which his work was later condemned. So in no way does his general audience on Scotus call his [i.e. Pope Benedict's] orthodoxy into question.
a) Yes, they were ("... daring affirmations that he might be suspected of heterodox pantheism ... ").
b) If my above demonstration was insufficient, note that he goes on to state, in so many words: "In fact, the entire theological thought of John Scotus is the most evident demonstration of the attempt to express the expressible of the inexpressible God, based solely upon the mystery of the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth."
c) Praising a work that was condemned by his predecessor would be enough to call his orthodoxy into question, even in the absence of specific praise of his apparently pantheistic teachings and of his "entire theological thought."
I don’t assume that you are able to judge rightly concerning the orthodoxy of Scotus. I don’t assume that apart from the Church I could rightly judge such a thing.
Your church provides contradictory guidance. Honorius III condemns and insults the book, Benedict XVI praises and quotes the book. Which pope will you pick?


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