Rowan Williams Is No Thomas Beckett

I must admit that I do not always admire Dr. Rowan Williams even if sometimes he demonstrates the absolute candor required in leaders.  Nevertheless, this wile theologian continues to reveal a steadfastness, especially as he reveals the distinction that is Romanitas.

Recently I witnessed his interview on the TLS, I thought that the vast majority of viewers would be totally lost if not just bewildered by the sophistication of his remarks.  Certainly the interviewer was lost as he never qualified nor probed the Archbishop’s comments.  Let me do so here.

Rowan was insistent that contemporary theologians wrestle with Hegel, specifically with the implications for Trinitarian theology.  For beginners, I admit this is a deep plunge but necessary if only to point the dear Archbishop to familiarize himself again with the writings of the nouville theologians.  For Hegelian dialectic has its predecessor in both Pre-Socratic and Confucian rhetoric and logic.  Hegel has resurrected the magnificent pluralism that remained undifferentiated until revelation.  Hegel’s mein is witnessed throughout the intellectual morass that is post-modernism.  Its implications for Trinitarian theology and acculturation are nearly endless.  I shall list a few:

Law:  the contemporary confusion (historically understood as nominalism) of equating positivism with natural law.

Philosophy:  the confusion as failure to acknowledge that a definition of humanness remains outside extrinsic categories.

Medicine:  in the contemporary need to view pain as evil.

Islam:  the abdication to political correctness in failing to expound the historical relation between Monophysite Christology and Islamic ecumenism.

Rowan’s remarks must be contexualized from within Trinitarian theology itself.  The significance is this cannot be overstated, for Trinitarian theology keeps the focus on the significance of both the human person and relation as a distinct theological category, analogous to ‘interdisciplinary’.

Rowan’s most significant remark was on the difference/disagreements between Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner on the relation between metaphysics and revelation.  This difference set the best theologians of the twentieth century at odd’s with one another, a difference that continues to divide admirer’s even today.

Karl Rahner developed an epistemology, metaphysics and anthropology into which God’s revelation in Christ would then naturally ‘fit’.  Hans Urs von Balthasar was very much different.  For he embodied an anxiety in such titanic projects as Rahner’s.  He wanted to preserve the uniqueness of revelation against any too comprehensive anticipation within the structures of human consciousness or culture.

Rowan gave such cogent analysis that I remarked to myself, ‘why is he still Anglican’?

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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