News, VOLUME 12

Ten Theology Books to Watch For [May 2019]

Here are some excellent theology* books that will be released this month:

* broadly interpreted, including ethics, church history, biblical studies, and other areas that intersect with theology

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The Achievement of Hans Urs von Balthasar: An Introduction to His Trilogy (Studies In Early Christianity) 

Matthew Levering

CUA Press

In The Achievement of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Matthew Levering has written a book for theologically educated readers who mistrust von Balthasar or who mistrust von Balthasar’s critics. The book shows that von Balthasar’s critics can and should benefit both from the rich and wide-ranging conversations that mark his trilogy and from the critical and constructive engagement with German philosophical modernity offered by the trilogy. In addition, Levering hopes to show that those who mistrust von Balthasar’s critics need to be more Balthasarian in their response to criticisms of the Swiss theologian.

In this introductory volume, the focus is on the first volume of each part of the trilogy. This approach exhibits the main lines of von Balthasar’s trilogy in a way that allows for an introductory volume of manageable size. This approach also avoids the more controversial volumes of the trilogy. Reading von Balthasar with the goal of engaging his more controversial views is certainly justifiable, but in an introductory book, the danger is that some readers could miss the forest due to their opposition to some of the trees.

The Achievement of Hans Urs von Balthasar contributes to the healing of the internecine conflicts that, since the 1930s or earlier, have pitted Ressourcement theologians and Thomistic theologians against each other with grave consequences for the health of Catholic theology. Despite sharing a strong belief in the faithful mediation of divine revelation through Scripture and the Church, many Catholic theologians today find themselves at loggerheads with each other. Easily forgotten by the Ressourcement and Thomistic combatants is their shared commitment to the theo-aesthetic beauty, theo-dramatic goodness, and theo-logical truth of Christ’s revelation of Trinitarian self-surrendering love as our source and supernatural goal, and their shared rejection of philosophical modernity’s immanentism, historicism, and power-centered voluntarism. The present book seeks to highlight these shared commitments, while leaving room for disagreement about von Balthasar’s specific positions and approaches.


The Indissolubility of Marriage:
Amoris Laetitia in Context

Matthew Levering

Ignatius Press

This well-researched book explains why the Catholic Church continues to teach marital indissolubility and addresses the numerous contemporary challenges to that teaching.

It surveys the patristic witness to marital indissolubility, along with Orthodox and Protestant views, as well as historical-critical biblical exegesis on the contested biblical passages.  It also surveys the Catholic tradition from the Trent through Benedict XVI, and it examines a Catholic argument that the Catholic Church’s teaching can and should change.  Then it explores Amoris Laetitia, the papal exhortation from Pope Francis on marriage, and the various major responses to it, with the issue of marital indissolubility at the forefront. Finally, it retrieves Aquinas’s theology of marital indissolubility as a contribution to deepening current theological discussions.

The author argues that Amoris Laetitia upholds the traditional Catholic teaching that a valid and consummated Christian marriage is absolutely indissoluble, in accord with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, as solemnly and authoritatively taught by the Council of Trent and affirmed by later popes and the Second Vatican Council.  He says that Amoris Laetitia should be interpreted and implemented in light of the doctrine of marital indissolubility: implementations that undermine this doctrine should be avoided.

Levering says that numerous contemporary Catholic theologians and biblical scholars are mistakenly turning the indissolubility of marriage into contingent dissolubility based upon whether the spouses continue to act in loving ways toward each other.  The sacrament’s gift of objective indissolubility is thereby undermined.  Fortunately, the main interpreters of Amoris Laetitia, whose views have been approved by Pope Francis, insist that the Apostolic Exhortation does not change the doctrine of marital indissolubility in any way.

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  1. Jim E Montgomery

    Have searched the NT text and not found any democracy in JC’s teachings or His surrounding 1st century. ‘Democracy’ ought be seen by His disciples and as a strawman or at least a pitch in the dirt not be swung at … Don’t get mad at me; it just ain’t there!

  2. Of course democracy isn’t in scripture, but neither are many facets of life in our churches and homes. Should churches not have pianos because they aren’t mentioned in scripture (apologies, of course, to our brothers and sisters in the non-instrumental Churches of Christ) or should Christians forego transportation by automobile or all modern medicine because it isn’t mentioned in scripture?

    Democracy has some serious flaws (the marginalization — and sometimes oppression– of minority groups) but wouldn’t you agree that it’s its a whole lot better than some forms of government, say fascism or totalitarianism? The Reign of God is not a democracy, but in the modern age democracies have allowed the Gospel to flourish in ways that it hasn’t under other systems of government.

    Whether something is or isn’t in scripture is NOT a great test of its validity for us as Christians. Rather we need to think theologically about all the realities of our days and speak honestly about their virtues and their limitations.

    ~ Chris