Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives ed. by Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, John P. Galvin (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 57, Number 2, April 1993
- pp. 305-308
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives. Edited by FRANCIS SCHUSSLER FIORENZA and JOHN P. GALVIN. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991. Vol. 1: Pp. xv+ 336. Vol. 2: Pp. xv+ 384. $21.95 each; $39.95 set. Not too long ago a fellow Dominican who wanted to do some personal updating and retooling in theology asked me to recommend to him some hooks in Catholic systematics which would show him the lay of the land in contemporary theology. I was happy to be able to apprise him of the two volumes under review. Most of the essayists do not explore new territory or establish new beachheads (nor was this their task) hut instead skillfully sketch the revised maps of terra cognita and graciously occupy already conquered lands, sometimes repeating their own creative work published elsewhere. Without doubt the majority of the Catholic theological guild who belong to the College Theology Society or the Catholic Theological Society of America would recognize in the overall thrust and import of these articles a broad harmony with the main themes and general methodology of contemporary Catholic theology, while they would also acknowledge in the articles' various emphases and organizational techniques the legitimate pluralistic expressions of that theology. In e:ffect, the authors offer, in a balanced and evenhanded way, albeit from their own individual perspectives (hence the subtitle), a rich distillation and compact presentation of the state of contemporary Catholic theology as it is probably taught by the majority of professors in North America. The editors see the volumes as opening up the diverse theological perspectives within Roman Catholic systematic theology, hut as the list of authors reveals, these perspectives actually cluster within the moderate center-to-left-of-center spectrum of contemporary Catholic theology : Systematic Theology: Tasks and Methods (Fiorenza); Faith and Revelation (Avery Dulles) ; Approaching the Christian Understanding .of God (David Tracy) ; The Trinitarian Mystery of God (Catherine Mowry LaCugna); Creation (Anne M. Clifford); Jesus Christ (Galvin); Church (Michael A. Fahey); Sin and Grace (Roger Haight); Saints and Mary (Elizabeth A. Johnson) ; Sacraments in General, Baptism and Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick (Regis A. Duffy); Eucharist, Order (David N. Power); Marriage (Fiorenza); Eschatology (Monika K. Hellwig). The traditional topics in the traditional order reveal that the volumes 305 306 BOOK REVIEWS are meant to serve as a summary and survey of the major courses of· fered within most Master of Arts and Master of Divinity programs. The intended audience is the beginning student, the student who needs to review the major themes of systematic theology, and the student who needs some updating in contemporary theology. In my opinion, the best articles for the intended audience and purpose are those hy Fior· enza (Systematic Theology) , Dulles, Galvin, Haight and Johnson. The editors asked the authors to bear in mind five specific goals: to root their work in Roman Catholic theology; to help recover, in Rahner 's words, " the forgotten truths " of Catholicism, by displaying how historical studies have uncovered heretofore neglected traditions; to make use of current hermeneutical theories and philosophical reflections ; to take into account the ecumenical dimension of theology, while also clarifying the distinctive Roman Catholic position on various topics; and to he attentive to the current stress on praxis. In general, whenever their topic required it, the authors have fulfilled these goals. What has resulted is a combined work deeply grounded in historical understanding which is ecumenically broad while also distinctively Roman Catholic. The articles have tended to retrieve Catholicism's forgotten truths from the church's patristic era, since the dominant tradition until Vatican II was the one defined by the high Middle Ages and Trent. Indicative of this trend is the fact that, among the brief annotated bibliographies appended to each essay, only those by Dulles and Haight contain a work by Thomas Aquinas-and in Dulles's opinion the treatment of faith in the Summa theologiae is " stilil the most authoritative and incisive Catholic treatise on faith" (I :128). Never· theless, the authors are fair in giving medieval theology its rightful place within the Catholic tradition. Instead of offering even the briefest summary of the seventeen individual essays, since the aui:hors' basic introductory treatment of their topics...