Eschatology and personhood : Alexander Schmemann and Joseph Ratzinger in dialogue

by Andrew T. Kaethler

Institution: University of St. Andrews
Year: 2015
Keywords: x, 226 p. ; Theological anthropology ; Eschatology ; Alexander Schmemann ; Joseph Ratzinger ; Ontology and history ; Temporality ; Personhood ; Time ; Eschatology ; Theological anthropology – Christianity ; Schmemann, Alexander, 1921- ; Benedict XVI, Pope, 1927- ; Time – Religious aspects – Christianity
Record ID: 1396620
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10023/6526


This thesis explores the extent to which eschatology shapes temporal existence. The interlocutors are Alexander Schmemann and Joseph Ratzinger. The first part of the thesis examines (1) Schmemann’s account of eschatology, (2) how this shapes temporality, and (3) what it means to be a person in time. Schmemann’s account is based upon a dualistic conception of temporality in which ‘this world’, the ‘old’ aeon, finds its meaning and life in the ‘new’ aeon. Thus, meaning is found anagogically and teleologically, and human persons are called not only to ascend and leave the ‘old’ aeon but, as priests, to instil meaning into the world by offering it to God. It is argued that although Schmemann’s anthropology is Christocentric and relational, it remains, like his view of temporality, teleologically unidirectional. The second part of the thesis addresses the same questions as are raised in part one but of Ratzinger’s theological approach. For Ratzinger eschatology is absorbed into Christology, and thus it is understood relationally as is also the case with his account of history. The Logos as dia-Logos works within history ‘wooing’ humankind into relationship with the trinitarian God. As a result of Ratzinger’s relation vision, history is undivided––there is no ‘old’ and ‘new’ aeon––and history succeeding Christ continues to be Advent history. As historical creatures, human persons are relational beings who must be understood as both ‘with’ and ‘for’ the other. Temporality as relational ‘space’ is central to his account and interpreted as grounded in the eternal being of the relational God. The thesis concludes that for Ratzinger God’s triune relationality shapes eschatology and what it means to be a person in time. Whereas, for Schmemann, the converse is the case: eschatology informs his conception of relationality, temporality, and personhood. As a result of the primacy of eschatology in Schmemann’s theology human temporal existence is ultimately denigrated.