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Edward T. Oakes, sj

Christ Our Center

Joseph Ratzinger's witness.

This piece is the second in a two-part series inspired by the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation held at Mundelein Seminary (Illinois) on April 18-20, 2013. The event began with two presentations on the centrality of Christ, by Hans Boersma and Edward T. Oakes. An edited version of Boersma's paper appeared in the September/October issue of Books & Culture; here we present an edited version of Oakes' paper.—John H. Armstrong, chair of the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation and president of the ACT3 Network in Carol Stream, Illinois.

Let me begin by quoting from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, a passage that I think can explain why we are here for these conversations:

Catholics must joyfully acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. … Nor should we forget that whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian never conflicts with the genuine interests of the faith; indeed, it can always result in the more ample realization of the very mystery of Christ and the Church (Unitatis redintegratio §4).

Of course when this teaching was promulgated in 1965, nearly all Christian churches affirmed the centrality of Christ. Indeed, the World Council of Churches made it a condition of membership that the applicant church or denomination affirm both the lordship of Christ and an official belief in the Triune God. But in the intervening years, the centrality of Christ to the realization of the salvation of the world has come to be called into question across a wide spectrum of liberal church bodies and by liberal Christians in general, including by some Catholic theologians. ...

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