Systematic Theology: A Roman Catholic Approach

Systematic Theology: A Roman Catholic Approach. By Thomas P. Rausch, SJ. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2016 (A Michael Glazier book) 303 pp. Kindle ed.

Thomas P         Rausch, SJ

Thomas P. Rausch, SJ. has given us a study in systematic theology that is a gift to his students and lay teachers and others who seek a systematic and theological meaning through a Catholic approach to the faith of Roman Catholics. This work will be useful for all who seek a deeper and clearer understanding of the doctrines and faith of Catholics, their relations and developments over 2000 years and in contemporary culture. Rausch is a master theologian having served as the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology and Professor of Theological Studies teaching in the area of systematic theology. He is a specialist in the areas of ecclesiology, ecumenism and the theology of the priesthood. He served as Catholic tutor to the Ecumenical Institute, the World Council of Churches study center at Bossey, Switzerland., He was chair of the department of Theological Studies at LMU from 1994-2000.


Rausch quotes the late Richard McBrien in Catholicism on the definition of Catholic theology as having a philosophical focus rooted in a Christian realism and three theological foci: sacramentality, mediation, and communion. Later, Rausch distinguishes between doctrine and theology; doctrine seeks the truth of what Catholics believe; theology seeks the meaning of what Catholics believe. In the first chapter, with Bernard Lonergan, SJ, Rausch, enumerates the various disciplines within theology. Focusing primarily on theology in the contemporary life of the church, he shows how the church’s doctrinal tradition grows out of its roots in Scripture and develops in the history of the church; most importantly he more adequately expresses and sometimes reinterprets that tradition, always in the interest of better communicating the mystery of salvation and bringing it into a dialogue with culture. Systematic theology is truly evangelical; for this reason, it is also concerned with how to relate faith with culture. His book adds “For Further Reading,” listing works that develop the themes discussed in each chapter. Rausch also extensively notes the works quoted in each chapter.

A Bird’s Eye View

Rauch’s introduction gives not only an outline of his book but also a view of his purpose and how he realizes a systematic theology that is concise, manageable, contemporary and enriched by insights of theologians and other scholars in the context of a pluralistic and global culture expressing a coherent and systematic overview of Catholic theology and its principle issues. Rausch uses the outline of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica from God to creation and Jesus Christ and to the fullness of the kingdom of God in the “last things and eschatology” which goes back to God, the communion of saints in the glory of God the Father, Son and Spirit. Rausch devotes the first chapter to explaining systematic theology and the second chapter to changing cultures and new hermeneutics.

The third chapter examines the issues of Catholic theology as the Divine Mystery of the transcendent God who “took our flesh” in Jesus Christ, God’s Only Son. Chapter four is devoted to the study of the historical Jesus, the reign of God, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Chapter five deals with revelation and faith. Chapter six explores sin, grace and the human person and includes a Catholic and Protestant approach to these issues. Chapter seven is entitled Mary and the saints and includes the concept of communion, the communion of saints, Mary in the Church and the Marian dogmas.

Chapter eight discusses the Church, the Jesus movement, churches in the New Testament, the Church in history and the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. It also treats of contemporary ecclesiologies and some unresolved issues. Chapter nine treats sacramentality and Christian Initiation. Chapter ten deals with the sacraments of vocation: penance and reconciliation, the sacrament of the sick, marriage and holy orders. Chapter eleven deals with creation in scripture and tradition, eschatology, the four last things — death, judgment, heaven, hell. It also explores the question of purgatory and the fullness of salvation.

All of these attributes of Rausch’s Systematic Theology make it an excellent compendium for a course on systematic theology and a text useful for lay and clergy who desire to “brush up their theology” with an excellent systematic theology  of scriptural, philosophical, historical, theological, and pastoral insights, discussing problems facing Catholics in a culture that continues to search for a better understanding of faith “in our time” and for the future.