Personally, I enjoyed reading Paradoxes of Faith. However, I will say that this is the kind of book that you will either enjoy thoroughly or put aside before you finish reading it. I think it would work best as devotional reading.
In my last post, I noted the book is a little bit like the Book of Proverbs. The paradoxes are arranged topically, but somewhat disconnected from each other. This disjunctiveness means that this book is not one that you will sit down and read through all at one time. You will read a paradox, and you will need to take some time to stop and think. This will be very appealing to more contemplative readers; however, for those readers looking for a thread of narrative, you will be a bit discouraged.
The disjunctive presentation also means that there is nothing trite about the book. There is no: “I know this looks like a paradox, but it’s really not. Let me explain this to you. There – you see. Now, you understand.” Rather paradoxes are presented and the reader is left to wrestle with them.
In this way, I felt like de Lubac was a kindred spirit. In the Christian tradition I belonged to at one time, an overzealousness for the doctrine of perspicuity sometimes lead to a tendency to try to resolve paradoxes that really were in no need of resolving. I tired of hearing sermons that could be summarized as “Here’s why this passage can’t mean what it sounds like it means. This passage over here says this, and there can’t possibly be a contradiction.” Well, maybe the “contradiction” was just a paradox. And perhaps we weren’t meant to solve it, but rather wrestle with it. De Lubac captures the essence of paradoxes quite well because he doesn’t seek to resolve them.
Sometimes the paradoxes challenged me personally. For instance, de Lubac share this gem:
Professors of religion are always liable to transform Christianity into a religion of professors. The Church is not a school. It is not an elementary school.
I find it easy to fall into this trap sometimes. At the end of the day, if the parishioners that I instruct know the Bible and know their catechism, but it doesn’t effect the way they live, I have failed.
With that said, I would recommend this book more for contemplative readers looking for something that they can read devotionally that isn’t trite or overly didactic. If you struggle with paradoxes and are looking for a book to try to help you resolve some of them, this book really isn’t for you.
This is the first main installment in a series of posts on Paradoxes of Faith by Henri de Lubac published by Ignatius Press. Here I will give some background on the author, then I will cover the contents and last provide my own personal thoughts.
After returning to the Catholic Church, I first heard of de Lubac in connection with Benedict XVI. Any treatment of Pope Benedict’s theology usually mentions that two theologians who influenced him significantly were: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac. After recently reading de Lubac’s Catholicism (another Ignatius Press book that I would recommend), I could see his influence on the pope’s theology very clearly. In fact, de Lubac not only had an influence on Pope Benedict’s theology, but on the theology of Vatican II.
Against this background, I could hardly do better than the Ignatius Press author page on Henri de Lubac. Here is an excerpt:
Henri de Lubac, S.J. (1896-1991) was a French Jesuit and one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. Born in Cambrai, France on February 20, 1896, he joined the Society of Jesus in Lyon on October 9, 1913. He served in the French army during the First World War, suffering severe wounds in combat. He was educated at the Jesuit Houses of study at Jersey and Fourvière, and then earned his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
De Lubac was ordained a priest on August 22, 1927, pursued further studies in Rome until 1929, and then became a faculty member at Catholic Faculties of Theology of Lyons, where he taught history of religions until 1961. His pupils included Jean Daniélou and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
In 1942 he co-founded, with Daniélou, Sources chrétiennes, a series of patristic texts with translations. During the Second World War he fought against Naziism and anti-Semiticism through his writings; he would recount those efforts and the efforts of the Church at large in Christian Resistance to Anti-Semitism: Memories from 1940-1944. He was finally forced to leave Lyon because of his involvement in the Resistance; he took refuge in Vals, near Puy.
During the 1950s de Lubac came under suspicion from the Vatican for his teachings about the supernatural and grace. He was eventually obligated to stop publication of his works because of doctrinal objections against his controversial book, Surnaturel. However, he continued his prolific output of other work, including studies on atheism, Buddhism, medieval biblical exegesis, ecclesiology, and the sacramental nature of Catholicism. … (READ MORE)
This is the third and final installment of my series of posts on the Catholic Bible Dictionary edited by Scott Hahn from Doubleday Religion. I discussed the author and contents. I have noted throughout that this dictionary potentially fills a gap in Catholic Biblical resources. However, this would mean little if the quality was poor. Here I will give my reaction.
Perhaps the best thing that I can say from the outset is this is a book I will recommend to my students. I currently teach seminarians, those preparing for the diaconate and interested lay people. This is a book that I believe will be beneficial for them in parish ministry contexts.
The articles on the Biblical books are expertly written and helpful. They include all the information that one expects in these kinds of articles – author, date, outline, etc. The articles focused on issues related specifically to Catholicism present the Biblical material without being apologetic in tone – the article on the Eucharist is an excellent example. The topical entries also present the Biblical material in its complexity. For instance, the articles on women and slavery in the Bible do not gloss over the fact that these texts come from a different time and culture and may present difficulties from a modern perspective.
The selection of articles seems fair. Of course, anyone who studies the Bible academically may think that articles related to their area of research may be lacking in a general resource like this. But, I think this would be nit-picking. Decisions must be made about what belongs in and what belongs out. The Catholic Bible Dictionary does a fair job with these decisions.
The only down side that I would note is that, though the dictionary does not come across as apologetic in most places, the scholarship does seem overly conservative in a few spots where I believe more latitude exists. As an example, the article on inspiration deals with “verbal plenary inspiration”, giving arguments for this view without noting arguments to the contrary (i.e. if God was that concerned about exact words why do we end up with significant text critical issues in place like Jeremiah and Job? – among a couple other arguments). I am no theological liberal, but I think the treatment in the dictionary could present more fully the other side of an issue like this one.
This critique is not fatal to the dictionary. Considering the breadth of material in a dictionary of this kind, I would be very surprised if there was nothing to say in critique. I might even be a little suspicious of someone who had nothing to say in critique. As I stated from the outset, I plan to recommend this book to my students. I also recommend it to those readers of this blog looking for a good general dictionary of the Bible. It would likely be better received by Catholic readers, but I think there is plenty there for readers of a variety of different backgrounds to benefit from.
Well, it’s books, books and more books for me on this Friday. And, guess what … that’s just the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it.
This go round I want to say thank you to Ignatius Press for sending me a copy of Paradoxes of Faith by Henri De Lubac. I just finished reading Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man (another Ignatius title) and was hungering for a bit more. And, this title intrigued me. I know that De Lubac has had a significant impact on Benedict XVI, and one of my favorite lines in Benedict’s Introduction to Christianity (another Ignatius title – if you haven’t gathered by now, I think you should check out Ignatius Press if you haven’t done so by now) is where he paraphrases St. Cyran as saying: “Faith consists of a series of contradictions held together by grace.” This is actually one of the quotes on my FaceBook profile. At any rate, I thought that Paradoxes of Faith was probably a must read for me. I’m looking forward to it.
This is the first main installment of my review of the Catholic Bible Dictionaryedited by Scott Hahn. My first impression is that the dictionary does fill a gap in Catholic Biblical scholarship, but more on that in a later post. In this post, I’ll give a little background on the author.
My first encounter with Scott Hahn was in a Bible study being held in my church parish when I had recently returned to the Catholic Church. It was his study on the Gospel of John, which our church had an audio copy of. This was a bit of a mixed experience for me as it was an awkward experience of a Bible study. In the tradition I had previously been a part of, we had a live human teacher. But, in this class, we listened to the audio recording and would pause it from time to time for discussion. That experience was different enough that I really didn’t run out and buy any Scott Hahn books, though at the time I was also reading mostly linguistics books for my dissertation anyway.
Eventually, I did pick up his Covenant and Communion at the Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. It was on clearance, since I suppose all those Calvinists in Grand Rapids didn’t have much use a book about Pope Benedict’s theology (I mean that entirely in jest. I was in Grand Rapids at Calvin College for a conference on the use of Bible software in the classroom and pastorate and had an absolute blast). At any rate, I was impressed with Covenant and Communion and eventually picked up The Lamb’s Supper (another book put out by Doubleday Religion). This turned out to be one of the best popular level books I’ve read on the Book of Revelation. Considering the positive experience I had with those two books, I have high hopes for the Bible dictionary, which have been affirmed to some extent as I’ve been working through it.
Scott Hahn’s educational background includes a BA from Grove City College with a triple major: Theology, Philosophy and Economics. He has an MDiv degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and and PhD in Biblical Theology from Marquette University. He currently teaches theology and scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. His list of publications is pretty incredible, including a considerable number of academic articles and popular level books. And, his work is a staple among many American Catholics
For more info on Scott Hahn, you visit HERE for his CV.
This video has been making its rounds through some Catholic folks on my twitter feed. So, I thought I’d share it here. Check out between 4:52-4:55 (HT – Taylor Marshal – and, be sure to check out his blog, it looks really good).
I’ve actually received two books in the mail this week that I am super, super excited about. The first of them is the Catholic Bible Dictionary edited by Scott Hahn from DoubleDay Religion. I saw the title and just from that felt like this book could fill a real void in Catholic Biblical scholarship – a good, up-to-date, one-volume dictionary of the Bible that is accessible to the general reader. In particular, I wanted to see if it would be something that I could recommend as a good reference volume for the seminarians that I teach. Thanks to DoubleDay for sending along a copy!
I’ll be beginning to work through this text soon, but in the meantime, here is the publisher’s description:
More than a generation has passed since the appearance of the last major Catholic Bible dictionary. It has been a fertile generation for biblical scholarship, an eventful time for biblical archaeology, and a fruitful time for the Church’s interpretation of the Bible. It is time for a new resource.
Scott Hahn, internationally renowned theologian and biblical scholar, has inspired millions with his insight into the Catholic faith. Now he brings us this important reference guide, written specifically for Catholics, which contains more than five thousand clear and accessible entries and covers a wide range of people, places, and topics.From Genesis to Revelation, the whole of salvation history is presented and explained in smart, easy-to-understand prose.
Catholic Bible Dictionary is an invaluable source of information, insight, and guidance for Catholics and others who are interested in enriching their understanding of Sacred Scripture. Scott Hahn draws from two millennia of scholarship to create an accessible and comprehensive tool for deeper and more rewarding biblical study.
Michael Barber has written a short post that mostly just consists of a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here’s an excerpt:
The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.
Michael’s experience has been similar to my own. I actually preached at a Presbyterian Church this morning. And, I have good relationships with many of my Protestant friends. Yet I find that when people ask me questions about Catholic doctrine they have often been supplied with a significant amount of misinformation. But, it is a two way street, many of the Catholics I know also have a significant amount of misinformation about what Protestants actually believe.
I’m glad Michael drew attention to this section of the Catechism. My experience is that many people only know the parts of the Catechism they disagree with. Here we can see the absolute necessity of grace in Catholic theology. In addition, Michael links to a paper written by Richard White that goes into this topic in much more detail.
Just wanted to note that there were 5postsonthisblog yesterday pertaining to Catholicism. It is all a part of my Catholicizing plan here on Joel’s blog. What you didn’t realize is that there is an evil Jesuit conspiracy behind it, just like Jack Chick tried to tell you all along …
“It is a great misfortune”, it has been said, “to have learned the catechism against someone.” For it is to be feared, in the first place, that in such a case it was but half-learned, and even if all of it that is remembered is literally and absolutely accurate, still does not the consequent narrowness of outlook and lack of proportion amount in practice to error? … (emphasis added)
I would even take that a step further to say that we have to often learned our catechism or doctrine not just against someone, but rather often against a misrepresentation of what someone believes.