S GUIDE TO COVENANTAL THEOLOGY
Thus to hundreds of years of Catholic theology, Covenantal
Theology speaks bluntly, like a child: the free Event of the New
Covenant, sacramentally re-presented in the Church's worship, and the
free response to that event, is the sole object of Catholic theology.
The word "Event" is of critical importance: the New Covenant is
'time-full' through and through. It is "radically historical." The fact that
the Risen Lord bears the marks of his Passion, so that Thomas can be
told, "Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand,
and place it in my side,"
is simply absurd within any dehistoricized
cosmology, including all Catholic versions.
No vision of 'Catholicism' as a set of time-less propositions -- or,
alternatively, as a time-less "eschatological principle," whether of The
Proper Technique, Repetitively Applied, or of Inevitable Good Things,
Forever -- can even in theory have any room for the thorough, the
"radical" (from the root), historicity of the New Covenant, in which the
Risen Lord remains scarred by his Passion. The very idea that the
Risen Lord would bear the marks of any change or 'imperfection' at all,
let alone those of his physical life, let alone those of his total
subjection in that life, is simply absurd for all 'Catholic theologies'
within whom the Lord himself must be subject to some time-less
Since also it is ancient in the Church that from those wounds, the
Eucharist flowed, we have in the Lord's radical acceptance of time and
'flesh' not only the radical historicity of the sacraments, but also the
radical historicity of the sacramental 'order' as a whole.
That sacramental 'order' of course includes magisterial definitions
of Catholic doctrine. However, if the entire sacramental 'order' is
"radically historical," then that has implications for some of our ideas
about magisterial definitions of Catholic doctrine, also. For instance,
the "development of doctrine" is the idea that Catholic doctrine can
'develop' [change], while never once -- even a little bit -- contradicting
Catholic doctrine as your grandmother believed it. This concept is very
difficult to understand, unless Catholic doctrine comes from an
historical place, not a time-less one.
Here's the problem. The "development of doctrine" is itself a
defined doctrine of the Catholic Church. For example, Dei Verbum, the
Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine
Revelation, speaks of Tradition as developing. This fact can lead
immediately to some very pretty difficulties. For instance, is the
certain truth that:
1. John 20:27 RSV
2. Though we commonly take "historical" to
mean, 'something that actually happens in
time,' this is not what Fr. Keefe means when
he uses the word. He means: 'something that
actually happens in time which is free and
responsible.' As both Ecclesiastes and Mr.
Minsky see, the fact that we only
sporadically and reluctantly grasp the fact of
our total enslavement in Cause and Chance
doesn't make that enslavement any less real,
or less total. A succession of events is not
'history.' 'History,' time that matters, simply
isn't available in the fallen Real World that
fallen Man can find on his own. The
Eucharist, and the other sacraments with it,
are the only acts in time that are perfectly
historical, perfectly free and responsible acts
in time, for they are literally the Eucharistic
Event, the re-presentation of the New
Covenant in the historical One Sacrifice. Fr.
Keefe insists that history is a theological
category -- now you know why. The only
real history is salvation history -- real acts in
time in free covenantal union with
sacramental acts in time, for the Church's
sacramental worship constitutes the only
acts in time that can be "radically"
historical, historical with no flight to the
time-less at all. There is no way 'out' of
time, but only a way 'in' to 'time-full'
existence by the free union of our acts in
time with his, in and through the Church's
historical free liturgical mediation of her
faith, in which her historical Body is 'One
Flesh' with her Head. This is not to say that
only Christ with his Bride may make
history. The intrinsically covenantal, nuptial
character of the Eucharistic Event does
mean that both St. Paul and St. Therese have
plenty to do, as we shall see.
doctrine can "develop" without ever contradicting
N.B. This is an html-ized copy of a page from the pdf file, The Knucklehead's Guide to Covenantal Theology.