Ways Toward Renewal

Reinhard Hutter, a professor at Duke Divinity School and a leading light of “ressourcement Thomism,” penned a piece for First Things several years ago entitled “The Ruins of Disconunity.” It is an essay I have returned to many times and recommended relentlessly to anyone interested in the state of Catholic theology following the Second Vatican Council.

Lewis Ayres, a professor of historical and Catholic theology at Durham, has since penned a lengthy response to Hutter, one which was only brought to my attention today. Entitled “The Memory of Tradition: Post-Conciliar Renewal and One Recent Thomism,” Ayres calls into question some of the critical points advanced in Hutter’s essay, particularly his commitment to a “ressourcement Thomism” which is inextricably linked to the high point of the Church’s Scholastic tradition. Various duties will likely keep me from commenting on Ayres’s reply in depth for some time, but out of fairness to those interested in the direction of Catholic theology and renewal in general (whether traditional or not), I wanted to bring it to your attention.

As always, combox thoughts are most welcome.



  1. Bo
    June 7, 2016

    Huetter was one of my professors, and he is simply put a master. I side with him in thisbdebate for one main reason: the creeping Hegelian “concern” with history that Congar bleeds into the conversation. It is one thing to say with Ratzinger something in tune with the Regensburg address, that the Word became Incarnate in order to draw from the Wisdom of the Jews, Greeks, and Latins. It is quite another to say all Theology is a historical unfolding a la Congar. “The Lord of History” is a frightening term in my book.

  2. William Tighe
    June 7, 2016

    Hütter was a Lutheran before he became a Catholic, Ayres a (Scottish) Episcopalian. One wonders to what extent their formation in their notably different Protestant theological traditions has influenced their subsequent views on this question.

    1. Gabriel Sanchez
      June 8, 2016

      I didn’t realize Ayres had converted until I read this piece. Hmm, do you have any insight?

  3. Samuel J. Howard
    June 7, 2016

    I think this conversation goes back further at least to RR Reno’s “Theology After the Revolution” in the May 2007 First Things.

  4. Tomas
    June 8, 2016

    I’m still reading through this, but I’ve got a comment.

    I’ve stayed mostly ignorant of these “theology of history” type controversies because they sound simply bonkers to me. The impetus for the question seems like the main problem: some sort of existential notion that we are “trapped” in history and theology and dogma are lifelines thrown to tie us to an eternity which we can’t approach, thus leaving us wondering how these dogmas interact with an ever changing history. If it does come from such an impulse, it is concerning – arguably an interrogation of faith (or worse…).

    The following quote, from page 22, seems to take this even further:

    “…while the theological and the dogmatic are distinguished for good reason, the latter is nurtured by and flourishes within the former; the dogmatic is best comprehended not in abstraction from the work and controversy that was the context of its birth. Rather, we
    should see the dogmatic as, in part, a recalling to us of the Spirit’s work in enabling the particular works of handing-on that gave it birth.”

    Dogma, from my reading of this, seems to be a conclusion of theological thinking. Now, one could give Ayres a more charitable reading – he meant “linguistic formulation” when he said “gave it birth.” However, let’s take it at face value (especially in context): this is implying that dogma is something we create out of some basic resources – revelation is like the whole cloth which is put through our looms to become the rugs of dogma.

    I’m definitely not okay with that.

    And I don’t want to reduce everything to “DeLubac was wrong about the grace-nature debate” but historicist concerns seem to be tied strongly to that: grace and nature are on the same field, but God is still separate (they still understand the basic scholastic dictum, but have mangled it), becoming a strong Deus-Absconditus. So strong that we are left wondering what God’s relation to history is.

    And for the record, I’m an amateur Theologian with only an MA and been outside academic circles for two years. If anyone wishes to pull big guns and take out my interpretation, I would welcome the opportunity for humility.

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