Edward Schillebeeckx 100: Grace, Governance and Globalization location:Ravenstein/Nijmegen, NL date:27-30 August 2014
In the second volume of Edward Schillebeeckx’s Jesus trilogy, Gerechtigheid en liefde, genade en bevrijding, he lays out seven ‘anthropological constants’ that act as ‘coordinates’ with which we can plot the framework of “personal identity within social culture”. While these seven coordinates are meant to illustrate the structures and anthropological boundaries within which cultures form norms and relationships, they also show an anthropological vision of the human being and its ontological structure. These were meant to play a minor role in his theology, but became major points of discussion and interest for many future researchers, especially in terms of liberation theology and political theology.
A serious shift occurs in Schillebeeckx’s final volume of the Jesus trilogy, Mensen als verhaal van God, where he no longer speaks about anthropological constants, and instead focuses on a single and particular element of human experience that appears to ground all others. Further, this ‘absolute limit’, as Schillebeeckx calls it, or the experience of “radical finitude and contingency” can be demonstrated to be the ground for the seven constants described in his earlier work. This paper will proceed to  show the reduction of seven constants to one, and how this one concept, only later made explicit, was already at work in Schillebeeckx’s thought at an early stage in his hermeneutical reflection. It will then,  critically examine the absolute limit within the framework of Schillebeeckx’s hermeneutical ontology. There are certain inconsistencies in his thought that appear when this particular aspect is placed under pressure, and these must be critiqued in order to  attempt to critically retrieve this aspect of his thought as a possible ground for the human subject as a hermeneutical-contextual entity, not by retreating from Schillebeeckx’s methodology, but by pushing his hermeneutics further into ontology than he himself ventured.