Speaking of Protestants.

Author:Wilson, Jonathan C.
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the editor

In "Love, the Pope, and C.S. Lewis" (January), Cardinal Dulles begins with a summary of three twentieth-century theologians' reflections on love. Two of the three were Protestants: Anders Nygren and Denis de Rougemont. After briefly highlighting some similarities and differences between these thinkers, Dulles concludes with this: "The Protestant thinkers we have examined set up an unbridgeable gulf between eros, as a passion arising from below, and agape, as a totally altruistic gift from on high. Catholicism, here as elsewhere, stands for a both/and; Protestantism, for an either/or." I was surprised to see Cardinal Dulles put forward something like a general Protestant philosophical position based on the work of two theologians. Not only that, but it is pretty clear from the language of the above quote that the Catholic camp is set up as the good guys in the argument, while the Protestants are left behind wallowing in their dualism.

If you asked a group of Protestants to name someone who has written about the concept of love, most would not be able to name anyone. But those who could would almost certainly say C.S. Lewis. Interestingly, Dulles does not mention Lewis in this part of the essay but brings him in only later. And if I read the article correctly, he is enlisted in support of the pope, presumably taking a both/and position. Lewis was a Protestant. Given this, might it be more ecumenically responsible to refrain from equating Nygren and de Rougemont--the either/or guys--with Protestantism as a whole?

Jonathan C. Wilson

Ypsilanti, Michigan

Cardinal Dulles concludes "Love, the Pope, and C.S. Lewis" with this: "One may suspect that [Benedict XVI] would be open to the idea that caritas tends to an eschatological fulfillment that, in the opinion of Lewis, transcends the earthly realizations of eros and agape alike." Dulles' suspicion is confirmed in Ratzinger's 1977 treatise Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life.

Ratzinger, wanting to ensure a proper understanding of heavenly rewards, intimates that heaven is the perfected confluence of eros and agape: "The task of enlarging the vessel of our own life is not meant to ensure that in the world to come we have the largest barn possible in which to store our wealth, but rather to be able to distribute all the more to our fellows. In the communion of the body of Christ, possession can only consist in giving, the riches of self-fulfillment in the passing on of gifts."

Thus, the greater...

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