Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Asian theologies" and the Nouvelle trend

Singapore Nouvelle theologian Simon Chan has written a book on Asian "Grassroots theology," which I have just began to read. Right at the beginning we already see the beginnings of a shipwreck and the clear influence on this man's theology. Let me quote a bit from the beginning:

...Putting it another way, any healthy theological development requires holding together two processes in a healthy tension: ressourcement and aggiornamento. Ressourcement is not merely a return to the past; rather it is a creative engagement with earlier sources, the fountainhead of spiritual life. Only in this way can we begin to engage in the work of aggiornamento, or adaption and updating in light of the new situations in which the church finds itself. Without the prerequisite of ressourcement, aggiornamento could easily end up with the church capitulating to the spirit of the age. (p. 8)

Tradition implies a community with a history. For Christianity, the history of the church is a continuation of the history of Jesus Christ. ... Church and tradition, therefore, need to play a more critical role in the development of local theologies. We can no longer speak in terms of sola scriptura, at least not with qualification. (pp. 11-12)

— Simon Chan, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the faith from the ground up (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014)

The terms ressourcement and aggiornamento are terms derived from the Nouvelle Theologie, a theological movement especially within northern European Roman Catholic (especially France) that seeks a new way of doing theology in the turn of the 20th century. It was censored by the Roman curia for a long time before it triumphed at Vatican II. The terms themselves look sound: Ressourcement is a French word which roughly means return back to the (past) sources, especially patristic sources. Aggiornamento is an Italian word which simply refer to the updating of theology, based upon the insights gained from ressourcement. Who doesn't like the idea of going back to the original sources and reforming the church accordingly? But all is not as it seems. As I have critiqued before, ressourcement is not the same as the Reformational principle of ad fonts. Rather, this sort of "return" and "reform" is a back door for smuggling all sorts of philosophies into both Scripture and the patristic and medieval writers through the back door, under the guise of reading these original sources.

We note here that Chan rejects the basic Christian principle of Sola Scriptura. This is despite the fact that the patristic sources held to the principle both formally and materially (See David King's and William Webster's three-volume work Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith), and that the necessity of Scripture necessarily leads to the sufficiency of Holy Scripture. To claim otherwise is to say that the Scripture themselves were wrong when they proclaim its own sufficiency. So what kind of ressourcement is this when one claims to return to the Patristics yet deny what they teach?

We note also the absolute nonsense that "for Christianity, the history of the church is a continuation of the history of Jesus Christ." This is a blatant denial of the change in redemptive-historical eras between the apostolic times and our times. The closing of the canon and the cessation of special revelation implies a change in redemptive-historical eras. The Church is not Christ, the Church does not incarnate Christ, and the "body" language is federal language, not physical or essential language. The believer's union with Christ is mediated by the Holy Spirit, not an essential (i.e. esse, being) identification. In the times between the already and the not-yet, there is a real absence of Christ, so that believers yearn for the return of Christ. Maranatha (Our Lord come)! (1 Cor. 16:22) It is not "our Lord is already here." So much for Chan's ridiculous and unbiblical idea of tradition.

This attack against Scripture can only come about primarily by an attack on the sufficiency of language to convey truth, which is what I will discuss in my next post.


Larry said...

Another place the idea of aggiornamento shows up is in the preface to the English translation of the 1966 edition of the Jerusalem Bible, which is translated with the Catholic imprimatur from the French. The date fits with your research, and the Roman Catholic use of the word at the time.

Daniel C said...


not surprised about the term's usage