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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read replete with ratzinger themes, 15 Sep 2009
This review is from: Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (Paperback)
In this book, Ratzinger tackles the big issue of the end times and all those issues which go with it:

i) including the seriousness of history and the development of doctrine given the biblical data provides a sketch of life after death but hardly explains in toto what happens to those who die before the parousia, there is an excellent overview of the data of the Old Testament which clearly shows a development in understanding

ii) the importance of philosophy and the breakthrough made by St Thomas Aquinas in fusing platonic and aristotleian thought so as to arrive at the conclusion that the soul is the form of the body,

iii) the immortality of the soul, which curiously underpins the resurrection of the body;

iv) the rejection of resurrection into death as contrary to the facts and also contrary to taking history seriously; curiously embracing such a docrine imperils resurrection itself as resurrection then becomes a new name for the soul! Also, look at the pastoral effect of telling the mourners at the funeral that the man lying in the coffin is risen despite the evidence!

v) the apparent rupture in catholic theology, which discarded many long held beliefs including immortality of the soul - a change in attitude towards tradition;

vi) the reasonableness of belief in heaven, hell and purgatory.

vii) the importance of faith being in harmony with reason and vice versa ( aver important theme for B16 - Regensberg address for one.

viii) Liturgy as anticipated parousia - the Eucharist, God with us but not yet

ix) christology as key to the evolving doctrine of life after death

But, the key point one comes away with is the centrality of communion to Ratzinger's thought - for Ratzinger, everything hangs on communion - God is communion, we are made in his image and are thus orientated to communion - there cannot be eternal bliss until all the body of Christ are gathered into communion at the end of time where God will be all in all.

"But his final place for us in the whole can be determined only when the total organism is complete, when the passio et action of history has come to an end. And so the gathering together of the whole will be an act that leaves no person unaffected. Only at that juncture can the definitive general judgement take place, judging each man in terms of the whole and giving him that just place which he can receive only in conjunction with the rest (Ratzinger, Eschatology, 190)

Finally, if this book has been to your liking, I would also recommend "Introduction to Christianity" and "The Spirit of the Liturgy" and his "Jesus of Nazareth" (as Benedict XVI) - these represent Ratzinger at his best.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Sep 2009 19:48:52 BDT
You wish for history to 'conclude' with a final and universal recognition of Christian Truth. Does this involve an orgy of mega destruction at the End of Time a la Book of Revelation? DOes your reason tell you that the nasty bits of the CHristian End of History myth are silly and not to be taken literally, but the equally silly notion of history's end per se, is quite an agreeable fantasy. It defies reason, but as it's nice, I'll call on faith and decide to believe it, just like the Pope?

The portentous language, of both you and Ratzinger, lends no weight whatever to your absurd arguments.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Sep 2009 20:46:25 BDT
Aquinas says:
Rowland - thank you for your comments. The Book of Revelation (I know that it is very important for the JWs) is a book of apocalyptic literature - its not a kind of cinematic trailer of the end times. In fact, a lot of the language of that book is liturgical - we are dealing with all kinds of cosmic imagery - also it is undoubtedly influenced by the Christian persecution under Nero. Do I then dismiss it but I take it as true in the context of its type of literature. Do I believe God will come at the end of time to destroy all the miscreants and bring Christians to heaven? I don't see it that way - the apocalypse is not something God does to us, but what we will do to ourselves if we do not seek to build a civilisation of love. God is not only one but an interrelationship of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are made in his Image; we are made for a network of love - we can not be ourselves until we live for others. The apocalypse will happen when I suppose on a massive scale, humanity decides en masse: "we do not want to live for others". We can see these syptoms aleady in the rights culture gone mad. My friend I wish you well and you will be in my prayers. Perhaps you would care to put me in yours. I may be terminally ill but my heart rejoices and my soul is glad because I am transfixed by hope - not hope that I will suddenly become better but that I will see God face to face in the communion of saints where God will be all. And, yet, even then, there cannot be ultimate joy until all are gathered for the eternal banquet where the only persons who won't be attending are those who have decided that being in the image of God, being a relational being made for love, is not something they can bear. God bless you!

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Oct 2009 08:30:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Oct 2009 11:29:11 BDT
Thanks for your reply, Aquinas. You certainly highlight the problem that is the Bible. Interpretations of the violent imagery of Revelation (and, to a lesser degree, in the Gospels and Epistles) and the racism, genocide and weird sexual practices of the Old Testament vary considerably.

Those who are determined to see a God of Love (with or without a Trinity) are, like yourself, forced into semantic gymnastics. Those who are of a self righteous and world hating nature (like the JWs) can take the violent imagery at face value. God's driving out of the Amalekites and other baddies from the land of the Jews is cited as proof of title to the entire Levant for militant Zionists.

If the Bible is an inspired work of God, then surely God needs to brush up his communication skills. His principal work has divided humanity. Those who assert that God's final revelation came c. 600 years after the muddled and muddling old Bible point to another work stuffed with blood curdling imagery about the End of time. The Koran is obsessive about the extermination of unbelievers at the Day of Judgement.

I can understand why those for whom the Church has meant companionship, social support, charitable works, beauty in buildings, painting and music will want to see some sort of truth in its foundation literature. The tortuous and tortured language of the Pope and others shows what a difficult task you have.

I have no beef with Church people. I sing in a cathedral (c. o e.) choir myself, and enjoy the company. It is the adherence to dangerous, contradictory and largely dated, Holy Books that I find dangerous.

Best wishes,


In reply to an earlier post on 7 Oct 2009 16:25:07 BDT
Aquinas says:
Let me just comment on this phrase from your comment: "If the Bible is an inspired work of God, then surely God needs to brush up his communication skills."

There is one point I would like to make. It is abundantly clear from the Biblical text that an evolution in thought is happening. Ratzinger deals with this in conisdering the question of eternal life - we have a progression from belief that God rewards his faithful with lenght of life (but thats it) to a dawning realistion that this can't be it. Whats the point in being faithful and suffering martyrdom, if thats all there is to it. But, even so, in the time of Christ, the Sadduces still did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. It seems to me that there is an evolution in religious thought which mimics evolution in the biological sphere.

Essentially, what you appear to wish for is: a God who, like the Muslim Allah, just gives us the Divine text without us getting in the way and confusing our historically conditioned ethics with the Love of God. But, this is not how I believe God operates: he always respects man's otherness and freedom - he is Gentleness, par excellence. May I suggest that you read: "Violence unveiled" by Gil Bailie, he popularises the work of the French Anthropologist, Rene Girard.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Oct 2009 20:03:52 GMT
No Aquinas - I do not wish for a God of any sort. The concept has proved divisive, and no longer answers our curiosity about mankind's origins. It certainly provides no clue to our behaviour as it exists, and sends out confusing and contradictory moral values. The Bible has served its purpose. There are afew poetic gems and moral pointers for those who care to look.

There is a pathetic attempt amongst some churchmen to assert Christianity's 'green' values. Green ethics demand that man recognises his dependent status in the world and the universe. The Church is saddled with a book compiled in the days when it was thought that 'Creation' was man centred and the Universe earth centred. Thought of any sort cannot 'evolve' if it is hobbled by adherence to antique, irrelevant man made texts from a pre scientific age.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2009 15:03:30 GMT
Aquinas says:
And yet, you cannot give the subject up, if your reviews tell us anything about you! The philosophical question about the origin of the Universe remains: how can this vast mind boggling Universe complete with its own universal laws spring up ex nihilo? The Universe exhales rational "Mind". Science does not answer this question. The Big bang theory does not explain where the something which was the subject of the big bang exploded.

I am not sure which particular churchmen you refer to, but, as a catholic, I believe that it is Man's divine role to lead creation to God. Man's role is a cosmic one; when death is destroyed at the end of time, creation will share in Man's theosis so that God will be all in all (I am referrring to St Paul's famous passage about Creation in eager longing).

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Sep 2010 12:06:13 BDT
'And yet, you cannot give the subject up, if your reviews tell us anything about you! '

Too right. The origin of the universe and the origin and purpose of mankind are of universal interest. I simply find it tragic that so many otherwise thoughtful people seem hobbled by the traditional God centred traditions which formed the basis of their upbringing.

Perhaps I am fortunate that I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. For all that it is a despicable and revolting cult, it did at least give me an awareness of more than 'Moses in the bulrushes' and 'Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild'. Those cutesy stories typified the Sunday School fare of my contemporaries.

Those whose religious development took place in an organisation that was charitiable, cultured, sociable and welcoming may have greater difficulty in seeing the dangers of the whole notion of 'divinely inspired' books. They will tend to dismiss as extremist and irrational those who actually believe them, and on that account, demand, for example, that Israel's borders be exteneded to conform with God's promise to Abraham or that all true Muslims engage in violent Jihad.

New Testament followers should concentrate their time and effort not on 'The Kingdom of this world' but spread the Good News of the forthcoming Kingdom which will be heralded by an orgy of destruction of unbelievers.

ANglicans have, in the main, junked theology for all practical purposes. It is merely a specialist interest, like bell ringing or flower arrangng.

There is another group in CHristendom, however, with its HQ in ROme, that imagines its boss to be the successor of St. Peter and thus Jesus' earthly standin until the Parousia. Rejecting reason and evidence in favour of 'Divine inspiration' or authorship leads to dangerous absurdities in thought and action.
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