by Carl E. Olson | CWR Blog
Although he might not be well known outside of certain theological circles, Dr. Hans Boersma is one of the finer young Evangelical theologians writing today. He is the J.I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College, one of the best Evangelical schools in Canada, and he is the author of some books that engage deeply and thoughtfully with Catholic theology, notably Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery (Oxford, 2009), and Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry (Eerdmans 2011). As his bio on the Regent website states, Boersma's "main theological interests are Catholic thought, the church fathers, and spiritual interpretation of Scripture." (And in the words of a snide Amazon.com reviewer, he is "A Roman Catholic in evangelical clothing".)
In the September/October 2013 edition of Books & Culture: A Christian Review, in an article titled, "The Real Presence of Hope & Love" (subscription required for full article), Boersma praises the "Christocentric legacy" of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and touches on how it should help fruitful ecumenical conversation between Catholics and Evangelicals. He notes that far too many discussions of theology begin with premises about "conversative" and "liberal," which often derail matters before anything of substance is actually discussed. "With regard to Benedict," writes Boersma, "what stands out is not his alleged 'conservatism' but his focus on Christ in matters both theological and moral. That is what will render him relevant for many years to come." He then writes:
Protestants have long been afraid that Catholics take their starting-point in human realties. Human merit before God, Mary and the saints as objects of our adoration, the concrete materiality of Baptism and Eucharist—these, and other aspects of Catholic theology and spirituality, seem to Protestants attempts to place ourselves in the position of the risen Lord, as a move from Christocentrism to anthropocentrism. Oakes' insistence, therefore, that Ratzinger's theology is marked first and foremost by its Christocentrism, should make Protestants sit up and listen. And I think there is a sense in which it should make both Protestants and Catholics sit up and listen. If, after all, [Fr. Edward] Oakes is right that Christocentrism lies at the heart of Ratzinger's thought, then this is the key also to how we can deconstruct the relativism of our culture that thinks only in terms of the binaries of "conservative" and "progressive." To place Christ at the center is to gainsay the need to be "up-to-date" or "relevant." To place Christ at the center is, therefore, also to stab at the heart of the relativism that underlies this division between "conservative" and "progressive." There is good reason, I think, why Ratzinger's most stringent rejection of relativism comes under the title of Dominus Iesus (2000). It is the Lord Jesus who sent us on a mission in the world, and it is his Lordship and the definitive character of his revelation that are " 'the true lodestar' in history for all humanity," as the document's concluding paragraph puts it. Evangelicals and Catholics should be drawn together by this theological—that is to say, Christological—focus, which is the real antidote to so much non-theological humbug that typifies most media interest in Catholic thought and in the Christian faith in general. The insistence that Christ is the beginning, the center, and the end of theology has always served as reminder that in terms of theology and morality there is something more important to worry about than God's relevance to us, namely, our relevance to God.
Beorsma then focuses on Benedict's first two encyclicals—Deus caritas est (2005) and Spe salvi (2007)—highlighting "Benedict's insistence that the love of God has become incarnate: