Discernment, Incarnation, and Inculturation…and Jungle Theology??

Part three of Gerhard Cardinal Müller’s On the Concept of Revelation as presented in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) for the Amazon Synod

  1. The Difference between Incarnation of the Word and Inculturation itself as a Way of Evangelization

The “Theologia indigena and the eco-theology” (IL 98) is a brainchild of social romantics. Theology is the understanding (intellectus fidei) of God’s Revelation in His Word in the Faith-Profession of the Church, and not the continuously new mixture of world feelings and world views or religious-moral constellations of the cosmic feeling of all-in-one, the mixing of the feeling of one’s own self with the world (hen kai pan). Our natural world is the creation of a Personal God. Faith in the Christian sense is thus recognition of God in His Eternal Word which became Flesh; it is illumination in the Holy Spirit, so that we recognize God in Christ.  With the Faith, the supernatural virtues of hope and charity are communicated to us.  That is how we understand ourselves as children of God, who, through Christ, say to God in the Holy Spirit Abba, Father (Rom 8:15). We put our whole trust in Him, and He makes us His sons, who are free of the fear of the elementary forces of the world and of the demonic appearances, gods and spirits, which maliciously await us in the unpredictability of the material forces of the world.

The Incarnation is a unique event in history which God has freely determined in His universal will of salvation. It is not an inculturation, and the inculturation of the Church is not an incarnation (IL 7;19;29;108). It was not Irenaeus of Lyon, in his 5th book of Adversus haereses (IL 113), but Gregory of Nazianzus who formulated the principle: “quod non est assumptum non est sanatum – that, which has not been assumed, is not redeemed either.” (Ep. 101, 32) What is meant here was the completeness of human nature against Apollinaris of Laodicea (315-390) who thought that the Logos in the Incarnation only assumed a nature, without a human soul. That is why the following sentence is completely abstruse “Cultural diversity calls for a more robust incarnation in order to embrace different ways of life and cultures.” (IL 113)

The Incarnation is not the principle of secondary cultural adaptation, but concretely and primarily also the principle of salvation in the “Church as Sacrament of salvation of the world in Christ” (Lumen Gentium 1:48), in the Church’s Profession of Faith, in her Seven Sacraments, and in the episcopacy with the Pope at the head, in Apostolic succession.

Secondary rites from the traditions of the peoples can help to ingrain in culture the Sacraments, which are the means of salvation instituted by Christ. They may, however, not become independent, so that, for example suddenly marriage customs become more important than saying “I do” to the very Sacrament of Matrimony itself. The sacramental signs, as they have been instituted by Christ and the Apostles (word and material symbol), cannot be changed at any price. Baptism cannot be validly administered in any other way than in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with natural water, and in the Eucharist, one may not replace with local food the bread made of wheat and the wine from the vine. That would not be inculturation, but an inadmissible interference with the will of Jesus as founder of the Church, and also would constitute a destruction of the unity of the Church at her sacramental center.

When inculturation here is referring to the secondary external celebration of divine worship and not to the Sacraments – which is ex opere operato, through the living Presence of Christ, the founder and true giver of Grace in these sacramental signs – then the following sentence is scandalous, or is at least thoughtless: “Without this inculturation the liturgy can be reduced to a ‘museum piece’ or ‘property of a select few.’” (IL 124)

God is not simply omnipresent and equally present in all religions, as if the Incarnation were merely a stereotypically Mediterranean phenomenon. In point of fact, God as Creator of the world is present as a whole and in each individual human heart (Acts 17:27seq) – even if the eyes of man are often blinded by sin, and his ears are deaf to God’s Love. But He comes by way of His Self-Revelation in the history of His chosen people Israel, and He comes very close to us ourselves in His Incarnate Word and in the Spirit which has been poured into our hearts. This self-communication of God as a Grace and life of each man is spread in the world by way of the Church’s proclamation of her life and her cult – that is to say, by way of the mission for this world according to the universal mandate of Christ.

But He already works with His helping and prevenient Grace also in the hearts of those men who do not yet know Him expressly and by name, so that, when they hear about Him in the Apostolic proclamation, they can identify Him as the Lord Jesus, in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3).

  1. The Criterion of Discernment: the Historical Self-Communication of God in Jesus Christ

What is missing in the IL is a clear witness to the self-communication of God in the verbum incarnatum, to the sacramentality of the Church, to the Sacraments as objective means of Grace instead of mere self-referential symbols, to the supernatural character of Grace, for which reason the integrity of man does not just consist in communion with biological nature, but in the Divine Sonship and in the grace-filled communion with the Holy Trinity and for which reasons eternal life is the reward for the conversion to God, the reconciliation with Him, and not only with the environment and our common world.

One cannot reduce the notion of integral development to merely mean the provision of material resources. For man receives his new integrity only by way of perfection in Grace. We receive it presently in Baptism, whereby we become a new creature and children of God, and one day in the Beatific Vision in the community of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and in communion with His saints. (1 John 1:3; 3:1 seq).

Rather than proposing an obscure approach comprised of vague religiosity and a futile attempt to turn Christianity into a science of salvation by sacralizing the cosmos, nature’s biodiversity and ecology, one must turn to the very center and origin of our Faith: “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature.” (Dei Verbum 2)

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You can read Cdl. Müller’s remarks as reported by the Catholic News Agency in their entirety here:   https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-cardinal-muellers-analysis-on-the-working-document-of-the-amazon-synod-78441