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Freedom in Relationship: Joseph Ratzinger and Alexander Schmemann in Dialogue



Joseph Ratzinger and Alexander Schmemann, representing West and East respectively, share similar views of personhood and freedom. This similarity is evidenced both in their constructive construal of Christian freedom, and their destructive dismantling of secular freedom. According to both theologians, Christian freedom is grounded in a relational anthropology in which the human person images God's relational freedom as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In contrast, secular understandings of freedom place freedom in antinomic relationship with authority. In other words, Christian freedom is ontological, and secular freedom is ‘external’. There are differences between Ratzinger and Schmemann, yet the differences do not divide. This essay concludes that their various emphases are brought together via the three-fold office of Christ—prophet, priest, and king—to provide a robust and ecumenical expression of Christian freedom.