My friend Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute is one of the smartest writers, commentators I know.
He has a very good piece on the blog of the Acton Institute about Pope Benedict’s book-length interview which goes beyond the Condom Conundrum.
Gregg says that the image of Benedict that emerges from the interview is that of a “Christian radical”, properly understood.
Here is a taste… with my emphases:
At Christianity’s center, Benedict states, is the person of Jesus Christ. But this person, the pope insists, is not whoever we want him to be. Christ is not the self-help guru proclaimed by the charlatans of the Prosperity Gospel. Nor is he the proto-Marxist beloved by devotees of the now-defunct liberation theologies. Still less is Christ a “compassionate, super-intelligent gay man”, as once opined by that noted biblical scholar, Elton John.
According to Benedict, Christ is who Christ says he is: the Son of God. Hence, there is no contradiction between what some call “the Christ of faith” and “the Christ of history.” In Light of the World, Benedict confirms that underscoring this point was why he wrote his best-selling Jesus of Nazareth (2007). “The Jesus in whom we believe,” Benedict claims, “is really also the historical Jesus.”
But why, we might ask, does Benedict belabor the point? One reason is surely the damage done to Christian faith by scholars parading various pet theories as “facts.” Another reason, however, may be Benedict’s sense that even many faithful Christians have forgotten the radical implications of accepting Christ as whom he says he is.
First, such an acceptance rescues Christianity from becoming what the German philosopher Rüdiger Safranski calls “a cold religious project”: a “mix of social ethics, institutional power thinking, psychotherapy, techniques of meditation, museum curation, cultural project management, and social work.” That’s a concise description of the “liberal Christianity” that’s helped empty Western Europe’s churches, particularly in Benedict’s German homeland.
Second, it forces us to take seriously aspects of Christianity that have disappeared from public view over the past forty years.
In recent decades, Benedict claims, Christian preaching has stopped mentioning the Last Things revealed by Christ: i.e., heaven, hell, and the fact that all of us will be judged. Instead, preaching has become “one-sided, in that it is largely directed toward the creation of a better world, while hardly anyone talks any more about the other, truly better world.”
For confirmation, just look at the websites of those religious orders which talk endlessly about social justice without relating it to Christian belief in the limits of earthly justice and the reality of divine justice. This diminishes Christianity to either what Benedict calls “political moralism, as happened in liberation theology” or “psychotherapy and wellness.” It also, some might interject, encourages us to conjure up secular messiahs who, not being God, cannot possibly fulfill religious-like expectations of hope and change.
In the end, it results in the same thing: practical atheism, at the heart of which is a teddy-bear Christ who, as Benedict wrote years ago, “demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us.”
Dr. Gregg doesn’t pull punches.
Do go over there and read the whole thing.