Genevieve Kineke and Heidi Saxton have published in interesting conversation about Heidi’s article on Alice von Hildebrand’s critique of Christopher West.
I think Heidi goes too far in attributing the controversy to differences in background and the difference between the work of a philosopher and that of and evangelist.
The fact that AVH took such exception to CW describing TOB as “revolutionary” is a good example of the tension between ideas and finding points of connection. She interpreted “revolution” to mean a destruction of past Church teaching—which I do not believe CW believes.
Actually, from a philosophical point of view, I think that AVH has shown West to mean exactly what he says he means. “Revolution,” “theological time bomb” may be the terms of an evangelist, but they have implications in matters of truth. Either the philosophy and the popular message work together or they do not, and then one of them must be false. In any case, whether Heidi wants to believe that West sees TOB as a destruction of earlier Church teaching or not, both AVH, Dawn Eden and others have shown West to be innovating in ways that have no basis in the tradition. Hence when she says the following:
There is room for both schools of thought—so long as each is willing to be led by the Spirit, with humility and openness to change. . .
I have to say that she is ignoring the evidence, humility and openness to change notwithstanding.
I will agree that manner and content will differ to some extent between philosophers and evangelists, but the difference between AVH and West cannot be reduced to that or to differences in background. Put bluntly, West is inventing and AVH is not.
Interestingly, Christina King has attached an irrelevant comment to the discussion in opposition to Dawn Eden, for some reason, trying to distance the Theology of the Body Institute from Christopher West. That is a tough one to sell. I would like to know, how many of the speakers or board members of the Institute have spoken or published a critique of West’s work. On the other hand, how many speakers and organizers at the recent conference have publically defended his teaching?
I saw this same post over at “Air Maria,” and with your indulgence wish to post my response here as well:
None of us writes — or thinks — in a vaccuum. All of us have a tendency — for better or worse — to interpret that which is unfamiliar through the lens of association: that is, through the experiences and beliefs of trusted sources. Mentors, if you will.
The difficult thing about mentors is that they, too, are human. That is why taking second- and third-hand information is problematic. We cannot take unquestioningly how others interpret CW (or Dr. AVH); we need to read the original sources for ourselves.
What I find most regrettable about this whole scenario — and my purpose in writing the article in the first place — is to point out that there is room for multiple approaches in addressing a topic as important as TOB. Those approaches may need mid-course corrections at times — and I sincerely hope that all those will come through this firestorm having learned something from the exchange.
I acknowledge that I, too, am far from perfect. I had several individuals (including two whom I knew were more closely allied with the AVH “camp”) read my article prior to publication. It is so important that, whenever possible, we work from a presumption of charity. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world …”
Let us continue to pray for one another!
I appreciate your comment. I would just say that while there is much about both approaches that is commendable, the approach of AVH does not include substantial errors, while that of Christopher West does. This has been going on for more than a year, and still no one in West’s camp has admitted that anything substantial is in need of change.
For example—and this is a comparatively small matter—there really was never anything behind the Paschal Candle theory. It was a puff of smoke. It has been thoroughly debunked as a complete myth, and to this date there is still no acknowledgment of that fact from the West camp.
There is some serious need of revision and some of us are a bit weary of being called on our manners when those who cry foul do not seem to be listening. At some point when a person realizes he or she is wrong, even if that person thinks his or her critics are jerks, it is just time to admit it and make some revisions. That time arrived long ago.
Perhaps someone like yourself might be able to get through to them. I have nothing personal against any of them.
God bless you.
I think if one makes a “course correction” in teaching TOB (or any topic, for that matter), then one is obliged to point that out and to retract one’s errors. It may (for example) be that Christopher West has honed his message and delivery (as Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve stated on her blog) over the years so that many of the criticisms made by Fr. Angelo, Dawn Eden, and Alice von Hildebrand (to name three critics) don’t apply to his current work. However, even then his prior work is fair game for criticism unless he explicitly repudiates it.
One should not be so full of pride that one can’t admit when one makes a mistake. This isn’t a class on history or mathematics. The stakes here are really high.
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