Salvation and Embodiment – an Excerpt from The Priority of Christ

The following is an excerpt from The Priority of Christ, by Bishop Robert Barron.

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The dense physicality of the risen Jesus (sarka kai oseta, flesh and bones) indicates that the whole drama of salvation has to do with real, embodied human beings.

There is nothing in authentic Christianity of the Platonic- Gnostic myth of descending and reascending souls, of the imprisonment of spirit in matter and subsequent escape. When this form appeared in Origen’s speculations, it was quickly appreciated as repugnant to the intuitions of orthodoxy.

Cover ArtThe God described in Genesis made all things good, including matter, and therefore salvation affects the human being at all levels. Whatever resurrection life means (and it remains certainly mysterious and ambiguous throughout the New Testament), it does not mean the career of a disembodied soul. Rather, it must have something to do with the elevation of the entire person and the intensification of her physical, psychological, and spiritual powers.

Though we do not know from the text itself whether the disciples responded to Jesus’s invitation to touch him, the fact that he could be touched has important ecclesiological implications. Since the Word became flesh, it is with and in our flesh that we contact him.

The objective physicality of the risen Lord grounds, therefore, the sacramental imagination of the church, the conviction that we find God’s presence unabashedly in things such as water, oil, bread, relics, vestments, saints, candles, and pictures, and not by fleeing to a realm of sheer interiority or sheer transcendence. The touch of the disciples signals the electrical energy of the coinherence of Jesus and his church.

©2016 by Robert Barron. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on The Priority of Christ, click here.

New Release: The Priority of Christ

Cover ArtNow in hardcover with a new preface from Bishop Robert Barron.

For a long time, Christians have tried to bridge the divide between Christianity and secular liberalism with philosophy and theology. Bishop Robert Barron shows that the answer to this debate—and the way to move forward—lies in Jesus. Barron transcends the usual liberal/conservative or Protestant/Catholic divides with a postliberal Catholicism that brings the focus back on Jesus as revealed in the New Testament narratives.

Barron’s classical Catholic postliberalism will be of interest to a broad audience including not only the academic community but also preachers and general readers interested in entering the dialogue between Catholicism and postliberalism.

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“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, University of Notre Dame / Tantur Ecumenical Institute

“Drawing deftly on Aquinas, Newman, Lonergan, Balthasar, and many others, Barron convincingly explains what a postliberal Catholic theology might be.” – Bruce Marshall, Southern Methodist University

“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, Mundelein Seminary

“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, University of Chicago

“A magnum opus. . . . Barron has made a signal contribution to contemporary Catholic theology.” – William L. Portier, Commonweal

“Extremely well-written, informative, and insightful.” – Stephen H. Webb, Reviews in Religion & Theology

“Strikingly readable and saturated with what one might call ‘first-order’ doctrinal claims instead of primarily methodological navel-gazing.” – Daniel J. Treier, Modern Theology

“Barron’s wonderful book The Priority of Christ brings postliberalism back to its Catholic home. . . .A downright lovely book, written with a kind of winsome literary flair that exhibits the inviting clarity of a master teacher. Highly recommended for sharp undergraduates; required reading for graduate students and scholars.” – James K. A. Smith, Religious Studies Review

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Robert BarronRobert Barron (STD, Institut Catholique de Paris) is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He founded Word on Fire, a Catholic ministry of evangelism, and previously served as rector of Mundelein Seminary and president of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. Barron has written numerous books, including Catholicism (over 100,000 copies sold), Exploring Catholic Theology, The Priority of Christ, 2 Samuel in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series, The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (winner of a Catholic Press Association Book Award), and Heaven in Stone and Glass.

For more information on The Priority of Christ, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 8, 2016

Cover ArtAncient Christian Worship by Andrew McGowen, and Reformed Catholicity by Michael Allen and Scott Swain, were recommended in Reformation 21’s 2015 End of Year Review of Books.

In my humble judgment, Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation, written by Michael Allen and Ref21’s own Scott Swain, deserves book of the year status. Allen and Swain present a vision for Protestant engagement with the Church’s past and the saints that populate that past that every evangelical Christian really should read.

A Vision for Preaching, by Abraham Kuruvilla, won an Editor’s Choice award in Preaching Today’s 2016 Book Awards.

Exploring Catholic Theology, by Bishop Robert Barron, was reviewed at Stuart’s Study.

At the Ligonier blog, Keith Mathison included Craig Keener’s Acts: An Exegetical Commentary in his post My 5 Favorite Theology Reads of 2015.

Cover ArtIngolf Dalferth’s Crucified and Resurrected was reviewed at Tabletalk Theology.

Crucified and Resurrected is a lovely, meticulously-argued, challenging work that resists simplistic pronouncements. One can only slowly work through it and leave notes in the margins. Readers will be fully rewarded for their efforts.

Alvin Rapien at The Poor in Spirit also reviewed Crucified and Resurrected.

The Accordance blog recommended Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek.

Spiritual Companioning by Angela Reed, Richard Osmer, and Marcus Smucker, was reviewed by Joshua Valdez.

Zack Ford, at Longing for Truth, reviewed An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication by Quentin Schultze and Diane Badzinski.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 31, 2015

Cover ArtSimon Gathercole, author of Defending Substitution, was interviewed at Reformed Report.

“There are two key places in the Gospel narrative where Jesus describes his death as a substitutionary atonement. The first is Mark 10.45: ‘For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ This is a key statement because it is Jesus summing up his whole earthly mission. The second is Mark 14.22-24 where Jesus says: ‘this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.’ Again, this is Jesus’ summary of the purpose of his death the night before he died, and this then became one of the most memorable statements of Jesus.”

Revelation, Peter Williamson’s latest addition to the acclaimed Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, was reviewed by Timothy at Catholic Bibles.

“In the past when I was asked to recommend one particular commentary on Revelation, I would usually recommend at least two.  This was due to my desire to offer something that touched both the scholarly and pastoral elements of this book. Now, I will simply be encouraging people to get Peter Williamson’s Revelation.”

Finally, Bishop-elect Robert Barron recently spoke at Baker Book House, drawing from Exploring Catholic Theology.

Aquinas and the Eucharist – an Excerpt from Exploring Catholic Theology

The following is an excerpt from Exploring Catholic Theology, by Robert Barron.

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No careful student of the life of Thomas Aquinas can doubt that the Eucharist played a central role in the saint’s spirituality. Thomas would begin his day by celebrating the Mass and then would typically assist immediately afterward at a second Mass offered by his socius, Reginald of Piperno. It is said that he could rarely get through the liturgy without shedding tears, so intense was his participation in the reality of Christ’s sacrifice.

Cover ArtAt the prompting of Pope Urban IV, he wrote—at least according to the scholarly consensus—a remarkably beautiful and theologically precise office for the newly instituted feast of Corpus Christi, the language and cadences of which are present in the liturgical life of the church to the present day.

During the investigations prior to Aquinas’s canonization, Reginald of Piperno said that though Thomas was the most brilliant man he had ever known, he was convinced that the saint’s wisdom came much more from the intensity of his prayer than the diligence of his study. He added that he would frequently see Aquinas resting his head against the tabernacle, lost in contemplation, especially when he was wrestling with a particularly thorny theological problem.

One of the most enduring and poignant legends concerning Aquinas has to do, at least indirectly, with the Eucharist. After he had finished the questions from the third part of the Summa dealing with the Blessed Sacrament, he placed the text at the foot of the cross in the Dominican chapel at Naples, as if to ask for judgment. According to the story, a voice spoke from the crucifix saying, “You have written well of me, Thomas, what would you have as a reward?” Aquinas responded, with admirable and typical laconicism, “Nil nisi te“—”nothing but you.”

©2015 by Robert Barron. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Exploring Catholic Theology, click here.

John Henry Newman among the Postmoderns – an Excerpt from Exploring Catholic Theology

The following is an excerpt from Exploring Catholic Theology, by Robert Barron.

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Newman’s liveliest presentation of the mutually enhancing play between the theological conversation and ecclesial authority can be found in the final chapter of the Apologia pro vita sua, entitled “A General Answer to Mr. Kingsley.”

Cover ArtHaving established that the infallibility of the church is a divine gift designed to preserve the deposit of revelation, Newman considers the objection that submission to such authority would imply “the intellectual subservience of the human race.” He responds with one of the most remarkable statements in his oeuvre: “The energy of the human intellect does from opposition grow; it thrives and is joyous with a tough elastic strength under the terrible blows of the divinely-fashioned weapon and is never so much itself as when it has lately been overthrown.”

Muscles develop as they press against a resisting force; a tennis player improves when he faces someone who can skillfully return his shots; a debater progresses only when he confronts an opponent who can confound him. So the lively play of the theological conversation is not enervated by authority but is instead most itself precisely in the measure that authority blocks it and sets limits to it.

More to the point, infallibility is “brought out into act” only through the lively exercise of theological reason. A sluggish, jejune, and dull-minded conversation would not even draw the attention of the infallible authority. Thus, Newman concludes, “[Infallibility’s] object is not to enfeeble the freedom or vigour of human thought in religious speculation, but to resist and control its extravagance.”

There is a strain of postmodernity—represented most thoroughly by Jacques Derrida and his disciples—that rules out, as a matter of principle, any limitation that authority would impose on the infinitely open-ended play of interpretation. This is the conversational model of truth run amok, for it has allowed truth to evanesce into a phantom.

John Caputo, one of America’s most perceptive commentators on Derrida, has remarked that deconstruction is essentially a messianism without a Messiah, that is to say, an openness to what is l’avenir (to come), coupled with an absolute conviction that it can never finally appear. Newman’s balanced epistemology, including the indispensability of both intersubjective conversation and infallible authority, confirms what is constructive in the postmodern critique of modernity, even as it holds off a weirdly self-destructive element within it.

©2015 by Robert Barron. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Exploring Catholic Theology, click here.

New Release: Exploring Catholic Theology

Cover ArtRobert Barron is one of the Catholic Church’s premier theologians and author of the influential The Priority of Christ. In Exploring Catholic Theology, Barron sets forth a thoroughgoing vision for an evangelical catholic theology that is steeped in the tradition and engaged with the contemporary world.

Striking a balance between academic rigor and accessibility, this book covers issues of perennial interest in the twenty-first-century church: who God is, how to rightly worship him, and how his followers engage contemporary culture. Topics include the doctrine of God, Catholic theology, philosophy, liturgy, and evangelizing the culture.

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“This book is the rarest of achievements, namely a demonstration in one short volume of how the doctrine of God, Christology, the Church, ethics, liturgy, and history go together in lived experience.” – Matthew Levering, Mundelein Seminary

“The ‘Church in permanent mission’ to which Pope Francis has called Catholics must be thoughtful as well as merciful, culture-challenging as well as culture-forming, intellectually sharp as well as pastorally sensitive. Happily, Father Barron’s life and work embody all those characteristics.” – George Weigel, author of Evangelical Catholicism

“These essays remind us how indispensable Fr. Robert Barron is as a spokesman for the integrity and beauty of the Christian faith. He combines theological learning and depth with a remarkable gift for knowing what needs to be said–and how to say it.” – R. R. Reno, editor, First Things

“Today the Western Church has to proclaim the gospel in a culture that says it has outgrown religion, Christianity in particular. In this new and perilous situation, we have no more honest and reliable guide than Fr. Robert Barron.” – Bruce D. Marshall, Perkins School of Theology

“Robert Barron’s book is an exceptionally readable introduction to modern theology….Everyone who meditates on this book will discover something new about how to witness to the truth of Christianity in a postmodern culture.” – Francesca Murphy, University of Notre Dame

“Fr. Robert Barron models the kind of pastoral theology and ressourcement envisioned by Vatican II. His is a theology founded on Scripture, tradition, and liturgy–but with windows open onto the world, engaging pop culture and high culture, politics and poetics, evangelicals and postmoderns….Highly recommended.” – Scott Hahn, Mundelein Seminary

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Robert BarronRobert Barron (STD, Institut Catholique de Paris) is rector of Mundelein Seminary and president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. He founded Word on Fire, a Catholic ministry of evangelism, and has written numerous books, including Catholicism (over 100,000 copies sold), The Priority of Christ, 2 Samuel in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (winner of a Catholic Press Association Book Award), and Heaven in Stone and Glass.

For more information on Exploring Catholic Theology, click here.