The influence of social critical theory on Edward Schillebeeckx's theology of suffering for others

Heythrop Journal 42 (2):148–172 (2001)
Abstract
Edward Schillebeeckx has consolidated the theoretical and practical dimensions of the Christian approach to human suffering in his theological method, specifically his theology of suffering for others. The various elements and sources of his method can be gleaned from his later writings, especially those published during the 1970s and 1980s. Schillebeeckx's theology is anchored in the Thomist‐phenomenological approach of Flemish philosopher Dominic De Petter; the historical‐experiential theology of Marie‐Dominique Chenu; and the social theory of the Frankfurt School. De Petter's perspective on Aquinas integrated a Thomist epistemology with the phenomenological notion that concepts cannot ultimately capture the reality of human experience. From Chenu, Schillebeeckx acquired his commitment to both solid historical research and engagement with socio‐political problems facing church and world.The problem of suffering, which constitutes an essential dimension of Schillebeeckx's theological ethics with its dual emphasis on theory and praxis, raises the question of human responsibility in the face of unjust and needless suffering. His theoretical‐practical approach to the alleviation of human suffering evolved within the framework of social critical theory, specifically: Schillebeeckx's theological integration of Theodor Adorno's negative dialectics into his own method of correlation, which promotes various forms of critical resistance to socio‐political injustice rather than a single program; and the unification of theory and praxis, a priority of Jürgen Habermas's ‘new’ critical theory that Schillebeeckx endorses. Both principles of critical theory — negative dialectics and the union of theory and praxis — inform Schillebeeckx's eschatological orientation and his conception of liturgy as a form of social ethics
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