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Catholic University of America Press
The Eyes of Faith: The Sense of the Faithful and the Church's Reception of Revelation

The Eyes of Faith: The Sense of the Faithful and the Church's Reception of Revelation

by Ormond Rush


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ISBN-13: 9780813215716
Publisher: Catholic University of America Press
Publication date: 03/01/2009
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ormond Rush is lecturer of theology and former president of St. Paul's Theological College in Banyo, Australia, and is president of the Australian Catholic Theological Association. He is the author of Still Interpreting Vatican II: Some Hermeneutical Principles and The Reception of Doctrine: An Appropriation of Hans Robert Jauss' Reception Aesthetics and Literary Hermeneutics.

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The Sense of the Faithful & the Church's Reception of Revelation

The Catholic University of America Press
Copyright © 2009

The Catholic University of America Press
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ISBN: 978-0-8132-1571-6

Chapter One The Holy Spirit and Revelation

Lumen Gentium 12 teaches that all believers possess "a supernatural sense of the faith" which enables an infallibility in believing. This supernatural sense of the faith is "aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth." A theology of the sensus fidelium must begin by attending to the role of the Holy Spirit in divine revelation. It is central to the belief of Christians that God is fully encountered in Jesus Christ, the Crucified and risen one; that salvation from God is mediated through him; and that, within that salvific encounter, God is revealed to humanity. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in that process of revelation? How might a trinitarian theology of revelation be constructed that gives appropriate emphasis to that role?

In this chapter, we begin our exploration of the sensus fidelium by firstly highlighting the witness of Scripture to the enlightening role of the Holy Spirit, as but one of the many interrelated dimensions of the Spirit's assistance in empowering Christians to appropriate the salvation Jesus Christ offers. This chapter therefore does not attempt a comprehensive exploration of the role of the holy spirit in the Christian life. After examining the scriptural witness to this Christian experience of enlightenment by the Spirit in the economy of salvation, this chapter then proposes a trinitarian theology of revelation in which the Holy Spirit is seen to be "the principle of reception" in the process of divine revelation.


Jesus was being interpreted from the moment his public ministry began, yet being misinterpreted. The four Gospels consistently preserve the memory that, during his ministry, the earliest disciples misunderstand Jesus. This misunderstanding is later corrected by three decisive "events": Jesus' death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, and the early disciples' experience, after the resurrection, of being given an ability to understand aright the meaning of Jesus' teaching and ministry, of his death and resurrection, and of his identity as God's bearer of salvation. In this section, it is this gift of an ability to understand Jesus that I particularly wish to focus on, without wanting to reduce the Spirit's work to a purely cognitive dimension.

For the early Christian community, after Easter something dramatic happens. They are given a power beyond them not only to understand Jesus' teaching, his actions, the significance of his death and resurrection, and his identity, but also a power to live out the divine salvation he offers. The nature of the God of Jesus Christ and its implications for human living are now comprehended in a new light; the way of life Jesus taught is now able to be put into practice; how Jesus acted now becomes a way of life that can be imitated; the reign of God that Jesus preached and embodied is now able to be made real for them and by them in diverse ways in diverse contexts. This dramatic change is experienced in the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Crucified and Risen One gives them the power of the Spirit who empowered him. The whole of the New Testament witnesses to a rich variety of metaphors for expressing the difference Jesus Christ brings, through and because of the coming of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who now makes possible the living out and the understanding of the salvific revelation that Jesus Christ has incarnated. Life in Christ is life lived in the power of the Spirit.

Chronologically, the gift and reception of that enabling and enlightening Spirit is narrated in different time frames by the New Testament writers. Luke's narrative places that dramatic event fifty days after the resurrection, on the feast of Pentecost; John narrates how Jesus hands over the Holy Spirit to his disciples from the cross and during his appearance immediately after the resurrection. But, according to the salvation history narrated across the whole Bible, the history of the Spirit does not begin with "Pentecost." Throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit of God is depicted as a personification of God's activity from the time of creation and throughout the history of God's relating with the chosen people. in the New Testament, the Spirit is depicted as being involved in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Walter Kasper asserts:

[A]ccording to the scriptures, the Spirit of God is present and effective as the breath of life in the whole of creation and history, which it leads towards their eschatological goal. It reaches this goal by enabling the incarnation of the Son of God (cf. Luke 1.35), in his anointing (Luke 4.18) and, finally, in the cross and resurrection (Rom. 1.4). The entire life and work of Jesus is brought about and accompanied by the Spirit.

The Spirit is involved in the conception of Jesus, comes upon him at his baptism, and anoints him as he begins his teaching and ministry. Jesus is the Christos, the anointed one, because of this anointing by the Spirit. after the resurrection, it is this Spirit which the risen one sends upon the community of his disciples, anointing them.

Not only are there different time frames, but there are different emphases discernible in the new Testament's presentation of the Holy Spirit. 5 There is a common thread within these different approaches. All witness to the empowering role of the spirit in the appropriation of the salvation mediated through Jesus Christ. Rich metaphorical language is used of the saving work of Jesus Christ and of the Spirit's role in that salvation process (justification, adoption, sanctification, enlightenment, etc). In this first section, without wanting to reduce the manifold activity of the Holy Spirit to only a cognitive dimension (that of enlightenment and inspiration), my narrower focus will be on the enlightening and revelatory role affirmed of the Spirit by the early Christian communities. I will limit my examination to the three main witnesses to this conviction of the early church-Paul, Luke, and John. I will give greater attention to the Johannine pneumatology because of its distinctive emphasis on the revelatory and interpretative role of the Spirit.

For Paul, "both the understanding of the gospel and the event of preaching, including the hearing that leads to faith, are the work of the spirit." For example, throughout his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul affirms the revelatory role of the Spirit who knows the depths of God, and because believers are taught by the Spirit, they now have the mind of Christ, enabling them to understand the gifts of God. While affirming that the Holy Spirit graces particular individuals with particular charisms, Paul also affirms that communal discernment of the experience of charismatic individuals is necessary; an individual perspective has no independent authority. His image of the community as a body emphasizes both the diverse contribution individuals make, and also that individual charisms are given by the Spirit for the sake of the whole community.

Paul also witnesses to the graced quality of his re-reading of the Jewish Scriptures; it is the Holy Spirit who enables him to properly interpret them. He believes that his proclamation of the Gospel is a divinely assisted interpretation of the tradition. For example, in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, he writes of understanding the reading of Scripture in the light of Christ, and of the Spirit's role in removing the veil that would prevent proper interpretation. Paul is here naming the Christian experience of the Holy Spirit as the source of the capacity to interpret the new in terms of the old, and the old in terms of the new.

In the letters of the later Deutero-Pauline communities, Paul urges Timothy to "guard the good treasure [the Gospel] entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." In Colossians and Ephesians, without mentioning the Holy Spirit specifically, there are prayers for enlightenment in the understanding of Christ. This divine enlightenment is elsewhere named explicitly as the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit appears prominently in Luke's portrayal both of Jesus in his Gospel and of the life and mission of the early church after Pentecost. His narrative account of the Pentecost event in acts 2 evokes the wind of the creational Spirit in the paradigmatic creation story. This experience of the whole Christian community, not just select individuals, being gifted with the Spirit gives them a boldness (parrhesia) for proclaiming the Gospel: "When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the holy spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness." Luke later depicts this boldness as characterizing their preaching the Gospel in new situations. The words "boldness" and "witness" appear regularly throughout the Lukan narrative: the boldness is founded on an assurance that their witness will be faithful to what they have received, an assurance that they have the capacity to address the Gospel to new situations as the church expands, and an assurance that they will indeed be effective in opening their hearers to the Gospel they witness to, according to Jesus' promise: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After Pentecost, it is baptismal initiation into the koinonia of the community which assures them that they continue to be gifted with the Spirit of Pentecost.

Throughout Acts, the revelatory/interpretative role of the Holy Spirit is depicted in several ways. The disciples experience guidance from the Spirit when having to make choices and when taking new direction in their missionary work. The Holy Spirit, for example, influences the decisions of Paul regarding a certain course of action; the Holy Spirit guides the community in the appointment of leaders. The paradigmatic event for receiving guidance from the Spirit in Luke's pneumatology is the so-called council of Jerusalem, where the final decision is founded on the experience that "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us."

Thus, every essential step in the acts story of how witness was borne to Christ from Jerusalem to the end of the earth is guided by the Spirit, whose presence becomes obvious at the great moments where human agents would otherwise be hesitant or choose wrongly.

Thus Luke's vision of the Holy Spirit is that of a director and guide for the community in its mission. However, there is a mechanism that is recognized as necessary for interpreting the direction and guidance of the Spirit, that of community discernment. Just as the Pauline letters highlight the need for the community to discriminate and come to a judgment when there are conflicting interpretations of the Spirit, so too Luke narrates how the community would come together in council in order to discern the assistance of the Spirit. "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" sums up the three-way Lukan vision of the working and interpretation of the Holy Spirit: individual interpretation, the community's judgment, and the Holy Spirit working through both.

According to Johannine pneumatology, Jesus promises another Paraclete, the spirit of Truth who will enable the community to understand the meaning of Jesus. Helmut Gabel neatly summarizes the Johannine vision:

In the view of the Gospel of John, the word of the eye-witnesses of Jesus and that of the future disciples is work of the spirit. The entire tradition process is a process enabled by the Spirit. The spirit is, as it were, the "interpreter" of Jesus, who leads to the true understanding of the Christ event and reveals the event in its deepest sense.

The Johannine vision can be outlined in four points. Firstly, the Johannine literature emphasizes that the Spirit/Paraclete is given to all individuals in the community. Secondly, Jesus promises another Paraclete who will take the place of Jesus; nevertheless, although the Spirit/Paraclete takes the place of Jesus, the Spirit/Paraclete does not supplant or negate Jesus. The "secessionists," according to the author of 1 John, are wanting to give independent authority to the Spirit over against Jesus, thereby severing the necessary element of continuity with Jesus. The Johannine literature emphasizes that it is the role of this Spirit/Paraclete to ensure continuity with Jesus. A phrase recurs: "from the beginning." The Spirit ensures continuity with the pre-Easter Jesus. Thirdly, the Johannine literature emphasizes that it is the role of this Spirit/Paraclete, not only to ensure continuity with Jesus, but also to enable the community to interpret the word of Jesus for a new context, ensuring faithful adaptation and innovation. Fourthly, the Johannine literature emphasizes that it is the role of this Spirit/Paraclete to indeed further the teaching of Jesus beyond what Jesus was able to teach, speaking a new word of the glorified Jesus.

Several issues need to be highlighted before we continue our investigation of the Johannine literature. The first is the relationship between the spirit and the Paraclete. The word parakletos appears only in the farewell discourse of the Gospel (chapters 13-17) and is not used in the later Johannine epistles. The title parakletos can be interpreted as a synonym for the pneuma title in the rest of the Gospel and the later epistles. The role of the Spirit/Paraclete should be interpreted within a courtroom forensic model and its notion of witness. Here the two parties on trial are God (the Father) and the world. Jesus is a witness giving testimony for the side of God; the Spirit takes Jesus' place in his witness role when he is gone. Historically, two factors are at play in the desire of the author to assure the Johannine communities of the Spirit/Paraclete's continuing role as witness: the apostles who were the original eyewitnesses are now dead, and the coming of the parousia has been delayed. Jesus, however, the author assures them, is still present; the Spirit has taken his place. Continuing access to Jesus is assured.

The Fourth Gospel portrays Jesus giving his disciples the assurance that the Spirit/Paraclete will, in the future, be the teaching voice of Jesus himself.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the advocate, the holy spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

The spirit/Paraclete will bring the past to memory, but the Spirit/Paraclete will be the voice of the glorified Jesus teaching in new situations in the present. However, this new teaching will be anchored in the Jesus of the past, because the Spirit/Paraclete will be speaking anew on behalf of the glorified Jesus.

It is this claim of access to new teaching that becomes problematic within the Johannine communities. The controversy lurking behind the themes of the first epistle is the divergent reception of the fourth Gospel. The author claims that the group emphasizing its pneumatic authority and an access to the new teaching of the glorified Jesus is losing its grounding in the tradition and the teaching of the pre-Easter Jesus. Thus there is a tension within the communities between those emphasizing the tradition (anamnesis) and those emphasizing the creative voice of the glorified Jesus going beyond the teaching he had given before the resurrection (inspiration). The writer of the epistle claims that both anamnesis and inspiration are demanded. It is a tension that will mark the history of the Spirit not only throughout the Johannine communities, but throughout the history of the church. In summarizing the Johannine vision, Felix Porsch speaks of the Spirit/Paraclete as the one who brings to realization the revelation of Jesus:

Behind the presentation of the Fourth Gospel stands simply the experience of the church. The Spirit had introduced it to the revelation of Jesus and this Spirit was even the "Spirit of Jesus" (cf. 2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 12.3) whose work entirely referred to the person and work of Jesus. Consequently he appeared as the one who continues the revelation of Jesus. Or better still, he is the one who realizes Jesus' revelation.


Excerpted from THE EYES OF FAITH by ORMOND RUSH Copyright © 2009 by The Catholic University of America Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgments....................ix
ONE. The Principle: The Holy Spirit, Faith, and Sensus Fidei 1. The Holy Spirit and Revelation....................15
2. The Holy Spirit and the Church....................37
3. The Holy Spirit and a Sense for the Faith....................63
TWO. The Norm: Sensus Fidelium, Tradition, and Scripture 4. Receiving Jesus Christ in the Spirit....................91
5. Authority and the Canon of Scripture....................116
6. The Inspiration of Scripture....................153
THREE. The Task: Sensus Fidelium, Theology, and Magisterium 7. The Threefold Teaching Office of the Church....................175
8. Sensus Fidei and the Individual Believer....................215
9. Sensus Fidelium and Teaching the Faith of the Church....................241
Epilogue: Ongoing Conversion of the Ecclesial Imagination....................293

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