Exploring Catholic Theology: Essays on God, Liturgy and Evangelization. By Bp. Robert Barron. Grand Rapids, MI, 2015 (E-book edition).
Bp. Robert Barron was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 19, 1959 and ordained a priest on May 24, 1986. He earned his MA in philosophy and the Basselin Scholarship in philosophy and public speaking with the thesis Production and the Political Animal in the Writings of Karl Marx. His doctorate was awarded for the thesis Creation as Disciple: A Study of the De potentia of Thomas Aquinas in the Light of the Dogmatik of Paul Tillich at the Institut Catholique de Paris in 1992. He was ordained auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on September 8, 2015 by Archbishop José H. Gomez.
Theologian, author, and evangelist he is well known for his Word of Fire broadcasts on WGY in Chicago as well as commentator on NBC television. His Catholicism Project for adult catechetical education is used in many parishes and he has published numerous books and articles. He is often compared to Abp. Fulton J. Sheen for his depth of intellect and talent for communication.
I was attracted to his writings by a book on the Eucharist published by Orbis Press in 2008 which is an excellent presentation of the eucharistic theology of St. Thomas Aquinas as banquet, sacrifice and real presence. My reading of the current work drew my attention and appreciation.
The book has four parts entitled: Doctrine of God, Theology and Philosophy, Liturgy and Eucharist, and A New Evangelization. Part one discusses the relevance of St. Augustine’s theology of God today, Thomas Aquinas’ insistence that God is not a generic term – he is ipsum esse subsistens the Father Creator that brings all things into existence and “in him we live and move and have our being”. Barron’s Meditation on the Christian Message is an antidote to the “new atheists”, stressing that God is mystery and beyond our imagination or understanding. Seeking the truth about God and his goodness and beauty is a life-long search and spiritual journey. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God, “the face of God” as has often been said. In him God has drawn near to human beings to save and transform.
The “idea” of God moves in part two to the theology and philosophy of Avery Dulles and John Henry Newman. Newman is also a light for postmoderns. This part examines biblical interpretation as well. Part three uses the same trilogy as Barron’s earlier work on the Eucharist but is a more comprehensive synthesis and reveals the genius of the Angelic Doctor who centers his treatment on the presence of Jesus Christ as spiritual nourishment, companion and savior through his gift of self.
Part four shows the evangelical strength of the author as well as his focus on establishing a dialogue with millennials and modern culture. Barron is at his best here in the chapters on contemporary culture, correlation and assimilation and “a new model for evangelization” for an evolving culture. The chapter on Why Bernard Lonergan Matters to Pastoral People is only one of many examples of Barron’s appreciation of many contemporary theologians.
This is a book of substance, depth and scholarship. It is articulate and cohesive – a synthesis of the Catholic tradition together with a dialogue with contemporary culture. It reaches out in dialogue with postmodern and millennial readers with respect and a sincere desire for conversation and openness to mutual enrichment. Written in a pleasant style, it is a very readable text.