from Vincent Donovan

Many of us were inspired by Donovan’s Christianity Rediscovered. Lately I’ve been reading his 1989 work The Church in the Midst of Creation. Here’s a representative quote:

We can imagine that we are sole possessors of the truth, that we have a monopoly on the truth, that we have no need of dialogue, no need of mutual fecundation and interpenetration with the non-Christian cultures that surround us, the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, traditional-religious, Marxist, scientific-technological cultures that make up our world…. We can refuse to admit that we must commit ourselves to an exploration and discovery of a form of the church and its ministry and sacraments, a form of Christianity and of Christ, that we have not known. We can refuse to do all this, of course, but if we do refuse, we have to ask whether we, the current bearers of the Christian message, will not die and pass from history, just as surely as did the Judeo-Christians, or later, the African Christians of Augustine’s time. They, too, had their day in the sun. (Fr. Vincent Donovan, The Church in the Midst of Creation, [Maryknoll, 1989], 35-37)

Quite amazing that Donovan, a Catholic priest and missionary, was saying these radical things a full ten years before many of us Protestants were. He explores Karl Rahner’s three-era theory: The Jewish-Christian era (before about 140), the Hellenistic era (similar to what I call in my most recent book the Greco-Roman era) and the world Christian era – emerging in the 20th century, and continuing to emerge now.
Donovan watched the hopeful signs of Vatican II, but lived long enough to see many of those opening doors being shut again. You can read more about how even Donovan’s own work in Africa was largely reversed in John Bowen’s upcoming edition of Donovan’s letters, to which I had the honor of writing a foreword. Info here.