Reviews - What do customers think about Sacramental Theology: A General Introduction?
an inadequate first step Mar 9, 2006
Since 1987, when he wrote The Christian Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Kenan Osborne has written seven books on individual sacraments and on general sacramental theology. In almost all of them, we find this theme: Jesus as the "fundamental" or "primordial" sacrament and the Church as the "basic" sacrament (10). These two sacraments stand, not alongside our traditional seven sacraments, but beyond them, influencing our understanding of them and in a sense departing from the Council of Trent. The implications of this theme on a renewed sacramental theology are the focus of this, his second book.
Osborne is not the first to address the sacramentality of Jesus and the Church. He credits Otto Semmelroth's work Die Kirche als Ursakrament (1953) as the first to substantially address the issue and to make it theologically acceptable. Schillebeeckx's work Christus, Sacrament van de Godsontmoeting (1960) and Rahner's Kirche und Sakrament (1961) follow soon thereafter, preventing Semmelroth's work from being merely the talk of a few German theologians (10). Osborne relies mostly upon these last two theologians, but he is also indebted to the Second Vatican Council, which presented this theme intermittently throughout its documents (11-12).
Osborne begins Sacramental Theology by outlining four factors that have occasioned the present renewal: scholarly research into the history of the sacraments; the development of the Church and the humanity of Jesus as sacraments; the ecumenical movement; and liberation theology (1-2). From here, he moves to an historical account of the word "sacrament" and a treatment on how our use of this word has evolved over time. This is significant because our understanding of "sacrament" must develop even further before it can encompass Jesus Christ and the Church. According to Osborne, such development has begun, but there is still much left to do. Next, Osborne outlines the methodologies that work to further shape our understanding of the sacraments. These include methods of interpreting the scriptural and historical evidence for the sacraments, but more importantly, Christological and phenomenological methods. After laying this groundwork, he comes to the crux of the work: Jesus Christ as primordial sacrament and the Church as basic sacrament. He concludes with an overview of the solemn teaching of the Church regarding the sacraments, and a reflection on how all of this works to enrich our spiritual lives as Christians.
His presentation of Jesus as the sign of the real presence of God, and the Church as the sign of the real presence of Jesus is indeed compelling. He turns to many well-respected theologians and to the very documents of the Church to legitimize this understanding, and he is interested in presenting it not as a break with tradition, but as a revivification of it. However, this is only a first step. More must be done to effectively reconcile this more encompassing understanding of "sacrament" with the clear statement of the Council of Trent that there are neither more nor fewer than seven sacraments. It is not enough merely to assert that the context of Trent influenced a fixation on seven that is too restrictive for today. One hopes that in his later works, this tension is more definitively resolved.
Excellent Sep 11, 2001
An excellent book. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Catholic Sacramental Theology as influenced by the Second Vatican Council.
Heretical Jul 3, 2001
Unfortunately, this book is not usable because it teaches heresy. Fr. Osborne, who I believe one could safely term a modernist, says in this book that baptism does not take away original sin or actual sins for adults (p. 64). He also glorifies the common modernists like Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx. So, in short, hands off that book. There are GOOD sacramental theology books out there; don't waste your money on this one.