Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.


By Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering.
University of Notre Dame Press. 146 pp. $14 paper.


In the Prologue of the Summa Theologiae , Thomas Aquinas set forth his intent in the words of the Apostle, “As unto little ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat” (1 Corinthians 3:1). The Summa would treat of what belongs to the Christian religion “in a way that tends to the instruction of beginners.” When he abruptly stopped writing this sprawling work in Naples shortly before his death in 1274, he had already covered some five hundred questions and three thousand articles. Seminary libraries have never lacked for synopses, excerpts, and textbooks that promise to make Thomas even more amenable to “beginners.” Some of this literature is beneficial, usually to the extent that it is not for beginners. Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering have written an introduction to the theology of St. Thomas that is genuinely useful. Written in ordinary prose, without the clutter of scholarly apparatus, it is more than a merely pious or catechetical summary. The authors made an unusual, even daring, decision to highlight the scriptural texts that form the living spine of Thomas’ theology. Thus, the reader is given a vivid sense of the scriptural word as something more than an ornament of scholastic dialectic. As the authors put it, we need to see Thomas’ mind “in conversation with Christ as Teacher.” Thomas, they observe, believed that Christ teaches a “radically new kind of wisdom” that corrects and completes the sciences and wisdoms of the world. His theology is covered in eight relatively brief chapters, roughly corresponding to the order of the Summa . Wisely, Dauphinais and Levering do not pretend to give an exact map of the work. So, although Thomas treats the natural and supernatural virtues in different parts of the Summa , here they are treated in tandem. Similarly, the offices of Christ as prophet, priest, and king are made to illuminate the material on law and grace. In the Summa the reader has to move through more than two hundred questions for the full integration of these themes. A book of this kind has to telescope more extended discussions in order to keep the story moving, yet without making the ideas look thrown together. In this case, the authors succeeded.

Russell Hittinger


Law and Protestantism: The Legal Traditions of the Lutheran Reformation.
By John Witte, Jr.
Cambridge University Press. 337 pp. $23 paper.


Any writer wishing to assess the social effects of the Lutheran Reformation must take into account the familiar criticism that Lutherans were quietistic and thus socially conservative. John Witte, Jr., Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law at Emory University, answers this criticism with a richly detailed historical analysis of the legal contributions of the Lutheran Reformation to European jurisprudence and the evolution of the modern state. As early as his 1520 Treatise on Good Works , Luther recognized that protecting the discipline and welfare of the corpus Christianorum requires a just civil law and its impartial application by the magistrate and the courts. In carrying out this responsibility, Lutherans adapted received Catholic canon law and the procedures of ecclesiastical courts to the civil realm. However, there were also ideas that were truly new. The traditional spiritual idealization of poverty in church vocations and the Catholic notion of the Church as itself an object of charity were, for example, replaced by the demand that family, Church, and state work together to relieve the burdens of poverty through the “community chest” administered by the local magistrate. Also new was the imperative that the state must teach literacy to both boys and girls”a radical innovation that follows from the Protestant principles of sola scriptura and fides explicata . Witte has written an informative and learned treatise on the development of law that should exercise a considerable influence.


Walter Sundberg


The American Cause.
By Russell Kirk.
Edited with a new introduction by Gleaves Whitney. ISI. 172 pp. $9.95.

First published in 1956 at the height of the Cold War, this rather modest tome was intended as a defense of the things that have made America worth defending. Outlining the moral, political, and economic principles that have historically undergirded the United States, Kirk (1918-1994) contrasts them with the “armed doctrine” of fanatic ideology, whether represented by the Communists and Nazis of the twentieth century or the French Jacobins of the eighteenth century. Much water has gone under the bridge in the American social, political, and moral climate since this book first appeared, and much of it not for the better. All the same, this volume is a welcome reminder of what is good and worthwhile in our heritage, and it is hoped that, in the post-September 11 era, some strength still might be drawn from that tradition.


Jeff McAlister


Enemies of the State: Personal Stories from the Gulag.
Edited by Donald T. Critchlow.
Ivan R. Dee. 276 pp. $26.


The Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. The Communist Gulag tortured and killed more human beings than any institution in human history. Mass murderer that he was, Stalin said one death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic. Enemies of the State liberates human beings, one by one, from the statistics of horror. The stories told and retold here are from the 1920s up through the present, and they make for painful but necessary reading. The ten authors speak for themselves, and for the millions who can no longer speak for themselves. What they have to say we must never forget.


God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics.
By Paul Marshall.
Rowman & Littlefield. 193 pp. $27.95.

To anyone who is in political office or involved in public policy and advocacy and who is uncertain about the ways in which religion and politics should mix, as they inevitably do mix: waste no time in getting and reading this book. It is an eminently readable and well-informed statement of the basics, which, if learned and practiced, might renew the political task envisioned by the Founders.


Catholic Social Teaching.
By Charles E. Curran.
Georgetown University Press. 260 pp. $19.95.


A historical and theological analysis beginning with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 and going through this pontificate, with special attention to the pastoral letters of the U.S. bishops. Curran clearly identifies himself with the “liberal progressive” wing of Catholic thought and does not fudge his dissent from magisterial teaching, especially on questions of sexuality. His chief foil is the group of usual suspects called neoconservative. Allowing for his admittedly partisan bias, this is a generally calm and useful account of Catholic social doctrine.


The Younger Evangelicals.
By Robert E. Webber.
Baker. 288 pp. $15.99 paper.

A generally positive assessment of younger evangelicals, who are distinguished from “traditional” evangelicals (1950-1975) and “pragmatic” evangelicals (1975-2000). The former were preoccupied with defending the rationality of the Christian worldview, and the latter with the personal and societal uses of Christianity. Younger evangelicals want to engage the culture and redeem the world, and are also more deeply rooted in the orthodoxy of the ancient creeds. Such schematizations invite skepticism, but, to the extent he is right, Webber bears good news. The title is, of course, a variation on Richard Quebedeaux’s influential 1974 book, The Young Evangelicals .


By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion.
By Terryl L. Givens.
Oxford University Press. 320 pp. $30.


A carefully documented and sympathetic account of the origins, teachings, and current interpretations of the Book of Mormon. The author engages most of the conventional criticisms by non-Mormon scholars in a manner that is probably as persuasive as is possible, given that the criticisms are so many and so substantive. While Mormonism is inextricably entangled with the Christian tradition, the author recognizes that, as the subtitle indicates, it is a new religion.


In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future.
By Craig C. Hill.
Eerdmans. 231 pp. $16 paper.


The author, who is professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., was as a young man deeply immersed in the dispensationalist fevers of “Bible prophecy.” “Three theology degrees later,” as he puts it, he has quite fully recovered. Books such as Daniel and Revelation, he argues, are not about prophetic “foresight” but about prophetic “insight,” and are to be understood in terms of a “realized eschatology” that empowers us to work at making the world a better place. Hill writes in an accessible, often somewhat breezy, manner, but the reader is left wondering whether he has not overreacted against his youthful follies. Absent anything about the future in a book subtitled “The Bible and the Future,” the author fails to make a convincing case that paying attention to the apocalyptic literature is worth one’s time.


The Rebirth of Orthodoxy.
By Thomas C. Oden.
HarperSanFrancisco. 212 pp. $24.95.


Methodist theologian Oden, a champion of confessional renewal in the oldline Protestant communions, argues that that effort is part of a more widespread recovery of vibrant religious tradition, also in Catholicism and Judaism. Oden has himself traveled many of the byways of theological liberalism, and the present book is charged with a sense of rediscovering the main road, which he hopefully depicts as the way beyond the seductions of modern and postmodern fallacies. A well informed, readable, and vibrantly faith-filled diagnosis of changes that may portend a more promising future.


The Justification Reader.
By Thomas C. Oden.
Eerdmans. 181 pp. $18 paper.


Methodist theologian Oden, a champion of confessional renewal in the oldline Protestant communions, argues that that effort is part of a more widespread recovery of vibrant religious tradition, also in Catholicism and Judaism. Oden has himself traveled many of the byways of theological liberalism, and the present book is charged with a sense of rediscovering the main road, which he hopefully depicts as the way beyond the seductions of modern and postmodern fallacies. A well informed, readable, and vibrantly faith-filled diagnosis of changes that may portend a more promising future.


When God Says War Is Right.
By Darrell Cole.
Waterbrook (Random House). 160 pp. $10.95

paper.

The title is strident and was, one suspects, the publisher’s idea. The argument, which expands on the author’s FT article (“Good Wars,” October 2001), is a sober and bracing defense of classic just war thinking in relation to the current war on terrorism.


What Were the Crusades?.
By Jonathan Riley-Smith.
Ignatius. 128 pp. $11.95 paper.


Thanks to Islamism, the subject of the Crusades has gained new currency, indeed urgency. This is the third edition of a very useful introduction to the crusading enterprise by a distinguished professor of history at Cambridge. Who were the Crusaders, what did they believe they were doing, what were the moral legitimations of their cause? These and other questions are addressed, and the book includes a helpful annotated bibliography for the reader who wants to learn more.


The Human Wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas.
By Josef Pieper. Translated by Drostan MacLaren.
Ignatius. 108 pp. $10.95

paper.

When in the trenches of World War I, the renowned philosopher Josef Pieper inspired in his fellow soldiers an interest in Thomas. They wanted to know more, so he put together this delightfully useful little florilegium of Thomas’ sentences on how and what we can know. It should be welcomed by those who know, as well as by those who want to know, the thought of Thomas Aquinas.


Articles by Various

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