Here are some excellent theology* books that will be released this month:
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It is often said that bioethics emerged from theology in the 1960s, and that since then it has grown into a secular enterprise, yielding to other disciplines and professions such as philosophy and law. During the 1970s and 1980s, a kind of secularism in biomedicine and related areas was encouraged by the need for a neutral language that could provide common ground for guiding clinical practice and research protocols. Tom Beauchamp and James Childress, in their pivotal The Principles of Biomedical Ethics, achieved this neutrality through an approach that came to be known as “principlist bioethics.”
In Pastoral Aesthetics, Nathan Carlin critically engages Beauchamp and Childress by revisiting the role of religion in bioethics and argues that pastoral theologians can enrich moral imagination in bioethics by cultivating an aesthetic sensibility that is theologically-informed, psychologically-sophisticated, therapeutically-oriented, and experientially-grounded. To achieve these ends, Carlin employs Paul Tillich’s method of correlation by positioning four principles of bioethics with four images of pastoral care, drawing on a range of sources, including painting, fiction, memoir, poetry, journalism, cultural studies, clinical journals, classic cases in bioethics, and original pastoral care conversations. What emerges is a form of interdisciplinary inquiry that will be of special interest to bioethicists, theologians, and chaplains.
Bound for Beatitude is about St. Thomas Aquinas’s theology of beatitude and the journey thereto. Consequently, the work’s topic is the meaning and purpose of human life embedded in that of the whole cosmos. This study is not an antiquarian exercise in the thought of some sundry medieval thinker, but an exercise of ressourcement in the philosophical and theological wisdom of one of the most profound theologians of the Catholic Church, one whom the Church has canonized, granted the title “Doctor of the Church,” and for a long time regarded as the common doctor. This exercise of ressourcement takes its methodological cues from the common doctor; hence, it is an integrated exercise of philosophical, dogmatic, and moral theology. Its specific theological topic, the ultimate human end, perfect happiness, beatitude, and the journey thereto―stands at the very heart of St. Thomas’s theology. Far from being passé, his theology of beatitude is of urgent pertinence as the crisis of humanity and of creation and the exile of God seems to approach its apogee.
By way of a presentation, interpretation, and defense of Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of beatitude and the journey thereto, Bound for Beatitude advances an argument based on four theses: (1) The loss of a theology of beatitude has greatly impoverished contemporary theology. In order to succeed and flourish, theology must recover a sound teleological orientation. (2) In order to recover a sound teleological orientation, theology must recover metaphysics as its privileged instrument. (3) Thomas Aquinas provides a still pertinent model for how theology might achieve these goals in a metaphysically profound theology of beatitude and the beatific vision. Finally, (4) Aquinas’s rich and sophisticated account of the virtues charts the journey to beatitude in a way that still has analytic force and striking relevance in the early twenty-first century.
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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com