Friday, August 13, 2010

Ramadan & Barth: Orthodox & Modern?

I am finishing up Gregory Baum's book on The Theology of Tariq Ramadan and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I really like the conversational style of the book and the openness the author has toward Ramadan while having his theology relate to specifically the Catholic theology of Vatican II.

It seems one of the problems that people have with Ramadan is that he seems to be (like Bruce McCormack labeled Karl Barth) both Orthodox and Modern. In other words, both Barth and and now Ramadan work within the breakthrough of modernity (they use context, history, critical thought) while at the same time being faithful to their tradition and its founding scriptures. In other words, they are part of the Reformist tradition. The point is not to destroy the faith of the fathers but continue to be faithful to it by always reforming.

Liberals, Fundamentalists and Radicals really despise this position because it is not "faithful" enough to their own perspective. For a fundamentalist, they are too "liberal" in buying into the modern framework. For Liberals, they are too conservative for being to faithful to the past traditions and interpretations and their religious communities (better to have a vague spirituality). For Radicals, they are too conservative because they haven't deconstructed the whole religious paradigm and embraced pure secularism or atheism.

Instead a reformist is always looking to reform the current faith to be both faithful to their sources and the community of believers while at the same time open to the voice of God for changes that should be made today especially when the tradition is either silent or not clear on a matter. For example, Barth wrote particularly to the Church because they are the witnesses of God while Ramadan targets Western Muslims; there is a clear particularity in their target audience yet not denying their general readership as well. The point is that they want to be faithful to the real communities of faith that ascribe to their faith. Thus, when it comes to modernity, it is a mixed bag of blessings and problems; it is up to the reformist to see where the faith can value modern ideas while at the same time be critical as well. It is to say, yes, some of modernity is good because of its liberating dimensions, yet modernity and secularism is not our God; there is only one God and God is one. This is what I see both theologians doing...

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