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Saturday, April 25, 2009

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Evan

So, if I'm reading you correctly, Benedict and Williams can be contrasted, therefore any comparisons made between them are "shallow"?

?!?!?!

Merely pointing out differences doesn't make a comparison untrue or simplistic. I think this is actually quite a good comparison, and theologians have been making it from the beginning. It's rather uncommon to have two high-level churchmen that are at the same time so well respected in the realm of academic theology, and it's also true that both Williams and Benedict are out of sync with modern secular liberalism in a way that raises the ire of public opinion often enough.

I disagree with a good deal of how Williams has handled matters in the Anglican Communion, but I'd be careful about abandoning charity and the benefit of the doubt by simply accusing him of playing politics. Many people said the same thing when Benedict began a process of reconciliation with SSPX. Simply because political lines can be identified, however, doesn't mean that political motives are the source of ecclesiastical action.

Another similarity between Williams and Benedict worth pointing out is Augustine, from whose thought both of them draw to a significant extent. This is also why you'll see Radical Orthodoxy folks publishing in Communio... the movement has genealogical ties to Williams, the periodical has genealogical ties to Benedict, and they mesh quite well together.

Achilles

"So, if I'm reading you correctly, Benedict and Williams can be contrasted, therefore any comparisons made between them are "shallow"? ""

No Evan, the comparison is shallow because it is shallow.

Evan

"No Evan, the comparison is shallow because it is shallow."

Um... I countered that it's not shallow and gave some reasons for it. Carl goes with caricatures, you go with tautologies... and as far as I can tell my point remains.

I needn't deny difference to acknowledge a deep similarity. But to say something's shallow you have to explain why the similarities aren't significant, you can't just state that there are significant differences. I'd say that if anything the analogy between Benedict and Williams is much deeper than any reporter could even understand.

Building off of my last point in the other post, Benedict and Williams can both be described as "post-secular". See here and here... the common denominator on the contributors list is Hent de Vries, of all people. Just read the two of them on their vision for Europe. They disagree fundamentally on a number of things, to be sure, but there's an obvious family resemblance to the sorts of leaders and thinkers that they are. One needs to step out of culture war mode, see things in a little bit more than a left/right binary, and the connection between the two becomes pretty obvious.

Carl E. Olson

Evan: Re-reading the article and my piece, I'll admit that my post was a bit reactionary. But for you to say that I go "with caricatures" while ignoring the shallow "analysis" in the article is, I think, just as reactionary. My point, which could have been better expressed, wasn't that a comparison can't be made, but that the way the piece handled any such comparison was shallow and unhelpful; no substantive comparison was actually made. If the author had bothered to made a meaningful and valid comparison, I wouldn't have reacted so. My point (if you can see past the flames) is that any such comparison, to be helpful in any real way, would need to recognize what is very different about the men, not just what is similar. It's like saying, "An easy comparison can be drawn between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who are both basketball legends and who both remain active in the NBA," without pointing out that what is most interesting in comparing the two men is how very different they are in approach, style, story, skills, and personality.

One needs to step out of culture war mode, see things in a little bit more than a left/right binary, and the connection between the two becomes pretty obvious.

Well, that's the problem: the connections are obvious (doesn't everyone know they are both prominent Christian leaders and well-known theologians? I sure hope so) so why not actually dig deeper and look at what distinguishes them? And please spare me the condescending canard about "culture war mode" and seeing things in simplistic "left/right" mode. If you expect more from me, fair enough; I ask for better from you as well.

Evan

"And please spare me the condescending canard about "culture war mode" and seeing things in simplistic "left/right" mode. If you expect more from me, fair enough; I ask for better from you as well."

Better from me? But I'm your man, Carl! I can't imagine you'll find another reader of this blog that offers the sort of mixed reception that I do... you won't find me nodding in approval of all or most of what you say, nor will you find me the consistent thorn in your side, often as I am one. I'm the quintessential Ignatius Scoop non-binary thinker! :)

I suppose that my frustration comes from the fact that just as you see Benedict as unfairly characterized ("exclusive, rigid, triumphalistic, medieval, backwards, insulting, narrow-minded, and dogmatic"), I think the same is the case of Williams' media portrayal ("wishy-washy, indecisive, vague, politically expedient, confusing, muddy, and mushy"). Neither set of descriptors is characteristic, and in fact the two men are much more similar than is commonly portrayed in settings public or private where the works of both are not commonplace. Where Williams and Benedict are both engaged with carefully, their similarities tend to come into rather sharp relief. So I agree with your assessment except to the point where you seem to think that common portrayals of Williams are generally accurate. I think that general accounts from the public sphere get both of them rather wrong, whereas you think they only get Benedict wrong. And therein lies the similarity that I think presents itself and you think doesn't.

Randy

The title says a lot. He does not seem to realize that a pope is truly different from a politican. He seems to know that technically a pope does not have "terms". But he fails to grasp the deep reality behind the fact that pope's don't run for re-election. They are not political. They serve an audience on one. That is God. It is difficult for modern minds to grasp how much that changes your thinking.

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