Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Eden and West, an example

One commenter said: “You insinuate that there is reason to believe that Dawn's assessment of West is inaccurate and yet you don't even begin to suggest why that might be the case.”

He evidently didn't read what I already wrote. But I will give more examples, taking one point at a time for discussion.

Under theme 1, which is that TOB is an all-encompassing theology, Dawn brings up the idea of locating the imago Dei not only in the individual person, but as John Paul said, “through the communion … which man and woman form right from the beginning.” This important idea says that we image God not just because we are rational, but through the communion of persons.

Dawn says that “In West’s view, this [the imago Dei as communion] means that the male human body and the female human body, understood within the call to marital union, contain within themselves the entire content of the mysteries of the Christian faith.” That’s her interpretation of West. Notice she says that West places this content in the body itself. To illustrate this she quotes from West:

“This is to say that everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, as well as our ultimate destiny, is contained somehow in the meaning of the human body and the call of male and female to become "one body" in marriage.”

Two points here. First, West says all this is contained in the meaning of the human body, not simply the body. This is an important distinction, but Dawn is simply equating the two things.

Second, what West is actually referring to in this paragraph (“this is to say”) is not the imago Dei. Instead, he is referring to the call to nuptial love inscribed in our bodies. Dawn doesn’t quote what he says immediately before the above paragraph, which places this quote in its proper context. Here it is:

“As John Paul shows us, the question of sexuality and marriage is not a peripheral issue. In fact, he says the call to "nuptial love" inscribed in our bodies is "the fundamental element of human existence in the world" (General Audience 1/16/80). In light of Ephesians 5, he even says that the ultimate truth about the "great mystery" of marriage "is in a certain sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality" (General Audience 9/8/82).”
"This is to say...." (as above).

So this is an example of what I mean by saying that Dawn does not always accurately represent West’s thought. By quoting him out of context, she’s suggesting that his thought about the nuptial mystery actually refers to the imago Dei. And in an academic thesis, that's sloppy.
But there’s one more thing. What does Pope John Paul say about this issue? Referring to the spousal analogy in Ephesians 5, he says: “Given its importance, this mystery is great indeed: as God’s salvific plan for humanity, that mystery is in some sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality. It is what God as Creator and Father wishes above all to transmit to mankind in his Word” (TOB 93:2)

The claim to the centrality of this mystery (the spousal analogy) is actually coming from John Paul.
The West article can be found here.

3 comments:

Kevin said...

Having read Dawn's thesis, I think perhaps you might be taking her out of context as well.

Did not West say:

"“What is marital spirituality? How does the family become authentically spiritual? For John Paul II, the
answers to these questions ‘of the spirit’ are revealed in the body.”"

She provides a source where he says that. Reading the first quote alongside the second, it's VERY easy to come away with exactly what Miss Eden is saying.

Perhaps it is good to mention that part as well, if only out of full disclosure.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Kevin, what exactly is the reference you are referring to?
However, in the section of the thesis I was referring to, Dawn is speaking of how West views the imago Dei. That's different from the topic of marital spirituality and the nature of the family.

You actually proved my point, because you are confusing these various topics and conflating them into one thing. Besides, in an academic dissertation, even if only for a master's degree, the person writing it can't presume anything but has to be very careful in the use of sources, and make sure that he or she presents accurately the thought of the person being critiqued. The example I used still holds. If she says something somewhere else, it's not a clear use of sources.

Kevin said...

The "second" quote comes right after the paragraph talking about the imago Dei. it's right within the context of the citation you gave I would state.

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