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Religions 2017, 8(4), 45;

Poor, Wayfaring Stranger: Erik Peterson’s Apocalyptic and Public Witness against Christian Embourgoisement

Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology, 200 Hill Drive, St Meinrad, IN 47577, USA
Received: 3 February 2017 / Revised: 15 March 2017 / Accepted: 20 March 2017 / Published: 23 March 2017
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With the present collection of essays reflecting upon the complex convergences and divergences between Eschatology and genuine transcendence, there is perhaps no greater modern Catholic figure to recall than that of the great, German Catholic convert Erik Peterson (1890–1960). As an immediate forerunner to twentieth century Catholic ressourcement, eschatology, for Peterson, not only factors as the central arc within his diverse corpus of writings, yet he himself is equally credited for having coined the phrase, ‘the eschatological proviso’ in describing the coming of the Kingdom as both ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. Fundamentally, Peterson’s proviso presents a historical view of the suffering Church as necessarily beyond political confinement and ideological capture. As a pilgrim community in-between the “earthly Jerusalem, which is at once polis and temple” and its “ever drawing closer to the eschatological, heavenly temple and its own…polis”, Peterson bears witness to this ontic difference in his writings by framing the Church’s distinctly public act, the liturgy, as the site of a transversal commericum. That is, an angelic participation within the earthly cult as well as her “participation in the worship that the angels offer to God.” In this following contribution, I will examine this eschatological provision as the primary governing optic by first contextualizing Peterson’s critical reception of historicism and its methodological atheism (Troeltsch, Harnack) within German liberal Protestantism and the Religionsgeschictliche schule as the necessary precursor to his conversion. Secondly, I will build upon these critiques in view of Peterson’s concise and influential 1950 essay, “Kierkegaard und der Protestanismus” that theologically focuses specifically upon his attack against Barthian dialectic and its inability in approaching the very concretissimum of revelation and its ecclesial extension of dogma as none other than the “concrete continuation of Christ’s assumption of a body”. Lastly, in view of genuine transcendence, the ambivalent influence of Kierkegaard will be more positively assessed in terms of Peterson’s long held attack upon the bourgeois character of much of modern Christianity. As an immediate parallel to the critique of secular, historical immanentism, focus will center upon the martyrological witness of the poor as aptly encapsulating Peterson’s theopolitical vision. Herein, the invisible poor function as an “eschatological symbol” that lays at the porous threshold of genuine transcendence (Lk. 16, 19–31) wherein Christ recognizes the depths of his very divine person and in whom the poor are integrally inseparable through their witness. View Full-Text
Keywords: Erik Peterson; apocalyptic; eschatology; martyrology; Kierkegaard; theo-politics; poverty Erik Peterson; apocalyptic; eschatology; martyrology; Kierkegaard; theo-politics; poverty
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Cooper, P.R. Poor, Wayfaring Stranger: Erik Peterson’s Apocalyptic and Public Witness against Christian Embourgoisement. Religions 2017, 8, 45.

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