According to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, there are two possible hermeneutics for the documents of the Second Vatican Council: a hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture, and a hermeneutic of continuity or reform. This article argues that this is a strange distinction to make, given the fact that one of the issues in the documents of the Second Vatican Council themselves is how to think real change as a way of being faithful to God’s revelation.
The concept of reading the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel (Gaudium et Spes, 4) locates continuity in the way reality is seen as a space for the presence of the God who is revealed by Jesus Christ, not in what the Church as the people of God actually see God doing and hear God saying. It will be argued that the Council thus retrieved what is a central aspect of the ongoing presence of God and Christ through the Spirit, according to the New Testament: surprise. There is continuity between the words and deeds of Jesus and the words and deeds of his disciples after his death, according to the Acts of the Apostles, but this continuity comes from the new presence of the risen one in the Spirit. Especially the narrative on Saint Paul shows how Christian faith is a permanent revolution of conversion to the ever new presence of God in history.
The conclusion is that the Church is not faithful to Gods revelation by constructing and keeping to a continuous tradition, but by responding to the faithfulness of God towards her by being for ever new in ever new situations. By implication, theology should not merely try to remain orthodox, it is always in the process of becoming orthodox by her analyses where and how God chooses “things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are” (1 Cor. 1:28), “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).