This magisterial book by respected Catholic scholar Robert Barron follows an ecumenically attractive approach and offers a postmodern, Catholic systematic theology, boldly arguing that it can invigorate Roman Catholic theology and church life.
Father Barron argues that the standard ‘modern’ or ‘liberal’ approach to four theological areas—Christology, epistemology, the doctrine of God, and ethics—is inadequate, then demonstrates a more satisfactory postliberal approach. His expansive text argues for the importance and truth of postliberal’s basic Christ-centered approach and recasts epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics around that christocentric base. As such, his volume will be of use both in Catholic schools and theology courses and in Protestant seminaries.
“The priority of Christ is ontological, epistemic and ethical; but the new melodies chanting who Christ is can’t be heard without first muting the tired songs derived from Cartesian subjectivism. The original sin of liberal Christianity is to reduce divine self-revelation to personal religious experience.” (Page 8)
“Christians concluded the nonviolent and relational character of God’s own being.25 God is not so much a monolith of power and ontological perfection as a play of love and relationality.” (Page 17)
“God is a family of coinherent yet subsistent relations, each marked by the capacity for self-emptying.” (Page 18)
“ce: finally it is not Jesus that matters but the feeling that he makes possible in us” (Page 29)
“‘he does not call those who are worthy, but those whom he pleases.” (Page 300)
By displaying how an imaginative human spirit can be illuminated by the manifold sense of Scripture, as well as activating tradition to dissolve lingering philosophical distractions, this stunning summa for a ‘postliberal Catholicism’ will at once subvert any tendency among the faithful to demand a facile ‘fix’ as well as offer lucid direction for anyone daring to undertake a pilgrimage of understanding—in and with the Christ.
—David B. Burrell, Hesburgh Chair of Theology and Philosophy, University of Notre Dame
It is crucial for Christians to apprehend the implications of Robert Barron’s trenchant thesis: ‘Modernity and decadent Christianity are enemies in one sense, but in another sense, they are deeply connected to one another and mirror one another.’ Moving beyond the ‘decadent Christianity’ that mistakenly sought its very starting points in the epistemological and metaphysical dead ends characteristic of ‘modernity,’ Barron expertly weaves together Thomistic and Balthasarian motifs into a robust short summa that treats Jesus Christ, God the Trinity, the created order, and Christian ethics. Readers seeking spiritual and intellectual renewal will be revitalized by this much-needed book, which overflows with love of God and his path of salvation.
—Matthew Levering, professor of religious studies, University of Dayton
Catholic theology stands at a foundational moment, and in this extended meditation on the figure of Christ Robert Barron boldly argues for a Catholicism that rethinks the controversy between modern and postmodern thought through such classic theological formulations as the controversy between Aquinas and Duns Scotus on the being of God. Broad in reference and informed by the homilist’s touch, The Priority of Christ will be an important contribution to a conversation the Church must have.
—Richard A. Rosengarten, associate professor of religion and literature, University of Chicago
Drawing deftly on Aquinas, Newman, Lonergan, Balthasar, and many others, Barron convincingly explains what a postliberal Catholic theology might be. But the great merit of this book is that he not only talks about what theology should be, he actually does it—above all in his lucid mystagogy on a series of Gospel stories, and in striking meditations on the mind of Christ embodied in four great women saints of our time.
—Bruce Marshall, Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine, Southern Methodist University
The Priority of Christ is unusually stimulating for an exercise in ‘postliberal’ theology. The book is strikingly readable and saturated with what one might call ‘first-order’ doctrinal claims instead of primarily methodological navel-gazing. . . . Its title, ‘The Priority of Christ,’ indicates the epistemic primary of believing, doctrinally traditioned engagement with the Jesus Christ of biblical narrative. This scriptural primacy is a great strength and delight of the book. Its biblical commentary usually avoids mere recital of either the devotional or exegetically critical sort. Examples of compelling biblical readings abound. . . . The book will challenge readers to formulate their own understanding of what constitutes authentically theological interpretation of Scripture.
Robert Barron is a priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the rector/president of Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. He is the author of Bridging the Great Divide: Musings of a Post-Liberal, Post-Conservative, Evangelical Catholic, The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path, and Heaven in Stone and Glass.