Through a Glass Darkly – How Certain is Faith? A Thomistic Institute Lecture at the University of Kansas

Does God really exist?  How can we be sure of it?  Is Jesus Christ divine?  How do we know he is not just another legend like myriad other figures throughout history?  What about the Church’s moral teachings?  Are those truly grounded in reality, or are they just artifacts of a bygone age that we aren’t bound by anymore?  Friedrich Nietzsche was one of history’s greatest critics of Christianity who insisted that the Church’s teachings were fundamentally a power play with no objective truth behind them.  For this reason, he wrote to his sister, “If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.”  So do the Church’s teachings really give us knowledge, or is Nietzsche right and they just give us comfort?

If my experience is any indication, one of the most oft-recurring questions in the minds of college-aged Christians concerns the relationship of faith and doubt that I have just identified.  Believers often tend to think that their faith is supposed to be absolutely certain.  The reality is, though, that belief experienced in the actual lives of people today often appears more along the lines I’ve just described than by Thomas Aquinas, for whom doubt is incompatible with faith.  Check out this talk that I recently gave at the University of Kansas in which I show that the Catholic Church, especially as enshrined in the towering theological figures of Thomas Aquinas and Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, has something profound to say to those of us today who find ourselves caught in the situation of believing while doubting, of being a new apostle Thomas.

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Fr. Joseph Fessio & Ressourcement after Vatican II

I’m happy to announce the publication of a new book entitled Ressourcement after Vatican II: Essays in Honor of Joseph Fessio, S.J. with Ignatius Press. A colleague of mine here at Benedictine College and I each contributed essays to this work edited by Matthew Levering and David Schlindler.  In the time-honored German tradition where Fr. Fessio was formed under then-Professor Joseph Ratzinger, this text is a Festschrift honoring a man whose work and ministry has influenced millions of Catholics worldwide.

Many of us have been formed by him through the work of Ignatius Press, which Fr. Fessio founded.  Others of us were his students, as I was at Ave Maria University from 2006-2008.  Still others have been moved by his love and care for the sacred liturgy.  My wife and I were so moved that he was a concelebrant at our wedding, so hopefully that gives some indication of my esteem for him.  If you don’t know Fr. Fessio or his work, I recommend picking up this volume to learn more.  And, if you already know him, these essays will deepen your understanding of some of the major figures that influenced him most and whose work he has dedicated his publishing career to making known.

Here’s a description of the book from Amazon:

Beginning with a personal recollection of the achievements of Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., by David L. Schinder, this work includes twelve essays by theologians who acknowledge a debt to Father Fessio and Ignatius Press.  These twelve essays treat topics such as the Church as the mystical body, the liturgy, Christian apologetics in post-modern culture, public theology, analogy, Scriptural interpretation, marriage and the Trinity, theological dramatics, Pope Benedict XVI’s sources, Tradition, and development of doctrine.

Among the major 20th century figures treated in these essays are Hans Urs von Balthasar, Louis Bouyer, Henri de Lubac, Joseph Ratzinger, and Josef Pieper.  The contributors hope that the topics of the essays represent a large swath of the interests of Father Fessio, from his early scholarly work on the Church, his commitment to liturgical renewal and Catholic catechesis, through his devotion to Ignatian spirituality and his appreciation for Thomistic philosophy, and his lifelong engagement with the theology of von Balthasar and Ratzinger.

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Is the God of the Old Testament Evil? A Thomistic Institute Lecture @ Ohio State

This week I’ll be addressing this question for the Thomistic Institute at Ohio State University in its opening session for the new academic year.  If you follow my site, it’s a very similar talk that I gave at another OSU this past Spring.  It’s always fun, though, because you never know what kind of random things will come up and what great questions will be asked.  As before, I’ll post an audio link to the talk once it becomes available.  In the meantime, here’s the link to the T.I. event site with this and many more talks from other scholars on important topics of our day.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the audio of my lecture!

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Faith & Beauty in Italy — Summer 2020

I’m privileged and excited to announce that I’ll be leading Benedictine College’s inaugural “Raven Discovery Travel” trip to Italy next summer, June 15-24, 2020.  The trip is the type I usually like to lead–it’s sort of a pilgrimage…and a class…and just a great time to have some fun and experience another culture with a group of people who share the type of Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts, community-centered vision that we embrace at Benedictine College.

Between adding new members to our family and having to undergo some major surgeries, it’s been some years since I’ve been able to lead a pilgrimage abroad.  So I’m especially excited to lead a group back to places I’ve lived, studied, and taught in years past. Although I’ve led a number of trips abroad for Benedictine to destinations including Greece, Turkey, Israel, and India, the one place I always keep going back to and bringing others to is Italy!

The trip is offered to all alumni, parents, and friends of Benedictine College as a distilled experience of our Florence study abroad program. We will be visiting the major sites of Rome, Florence, Assisi, Subiaco, and Montecassino, and my job will be to help participants discover and better appreciate the Catholic and Benedictine roots of Western culture, as well as make connections between faith and beauty in art, nature, and relationships.

More than 1,000 have participated in our Study Abroad program, thirteen years after its founding in 2006. The semester program begins in Rome, where students visit the main historical and religious sites and participate in the Wednesday papal audience. The program also includes guided visits to Subiaco, Montecassino, Florence, and Assisi.

For a detailed itinerary, cost, and more information, send me an email at mramage@benedictine.edu or see our program’s website here.

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The Intellectual Legacy of Benedict XVI

I’m looking forward to seeing my dear old buddy Brian Fink next week in Michigan. Brian heads up the Lumen Veritatis Institute of Catholic Thought and Imagination in the Diocese of Lansing. I’ll be speaking for the Institute on our emeritus pontiff’s thought on May 17, from 7-9 PM. I look forward to meeting new friends and seeing others I know in the area. It’s also a particularly interesting time to discuss the emeritus pontiff’s legacy given that he has recently been weighing in publicly on some timely issues. For more information on this great institute, including videos of previous lectures, visit their site here. I’m thrilled to join a list of speakers which includes the likes of Fr. Thomas Joseph White, Fr. Jacques Philippe Joseph Pearce, Anthony Esolen, and many more!

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“Man, You Are Dust”: On Human Origins and Dignity in Light of Evolutionary Science

Next weekend at Benedictine College we are holding our 8th annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization, and this year the topic is “Technology and the Human Person.” I’m currently writing a book on Benedict XVI, the Bible, and human origins in light of evolutionary science, and so I decided to craft a paper based on this work tied to he conference theme. My paper, whose title is the subject of this post, addresses the question of how we can uphold the uniqueness of man in light of the technological advances of evolutionary science and genomics. Here’s my talk abstract:

The famous atheist Richard Dawkins is no means alone in his contending that evolutionary biology makes it nonsensical to speak of man as “higher” than other living things.  Indeed, within a materialistic evolutionary worldview, creatures are measured not by powers of the soul but rather by their sheer ability to survive and reproduce.  From this perspective, there is no reason to suppose that anything about humans makes us, in contrast with other creatures, to be the image of God.  In response to such an outlook, this paper will argue that the reality of human evolution, when approached according to sound theological principles, is not only consonant with man’s unique dignity but moreover casts considerable light on precisely what it means to be God’s image and how we ought to treat our fellow men and creatures within an evolving universe.

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How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: The Problem of “Dark Passages” in the Bible — A Thomistic Institute Lecture

I’m really looking forward to presenting on the “Dark Passages” of the Bible for the Thomistic Institute at the University of Oklahoma over spring break. It’s always great to get back in the action on large, public campuses where my academic journey in theology began!  UPDATE: Here’s the link where you can listen to my talk

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Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand: Biblical Faith according to Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas

It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted here.  There are really two reasons for this.  First, over the past year I’ve had to deal with rapid kidney failure as a result of my lupus and then the aftermath of a kidney transplant.  Thanks be to God for my friend who gave me his kidney and thus the gift of life.  And thanks be to God that, after an incredibly challenging recovery process, I’ve now mostly healed and am back in action.

The other reason I haven’t posted here is that I’ve had no new publications to share.  Rather than writing shorter pieces, this year I was busy with alot of speaking engagements and completing 2 books which have now been accepted for publication.  I’ll share more on those another time.  For now, I’d simply like to share what I’m up to in the immediate future.

Next weekend, I’m giving a paper at the conference Aquinas the Biblical Theologian, co-sponsored by the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, hosted by Ave Maria University.  The title of my talk is “Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand: Biblical Faith according to Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas.”  For this talk, I’ll be distilling a longer paper that I wrote into a reflection on how Aquinas and Benedict interpret Isaiah 7:9 according to the Hebrew and Greek.  The two are actually very different: the forrmer reads, “Unless you believe, you will not be established,” while the latter changes “be established” to “understand.”  I’ll be discussing the implications of this change for how these authors understand what faith is, how much certitude it enjoys, and whether one needs to profess the whole Catholic faith in order to have faith at all.

I am so excited to speak at this conference next weekend and get out of town in the midst of a long physical and spiritual winter. Initially, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to accept the invitation to speak at this conference because we were supposed to be teaching again for Benedictine College’s study abroad in Florence this semester. But then I had this kidney transplant in December. Well, now I’ve mostly healed from it and am ready to escape Midwest winter for a few days. Southwest Florida, I love you–here we come!

Find out more about the upcoming conference here on Ave Maria University’s website.

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Link to Audio of Catholic Answers Live Interview on Dark Passages of the Bible

This Wednesday I was again blessed to do a live audio / streaming video spot on EWTN Radio’s Catholic Answers Live show. The title of the segment was “Dark Passages of the Bible,” a theme chosen based on my 2013 book on the subject. Follow the link above, and you can hear the entire interview along with listener/viewer questions and my responses.

UPDATE: I will be leading a Two Wings Seminar on WCAT Radio through Holy Apostles College and Seminary on this same topic Feb. 2 @ 2 PM Central.   You can listen live here or listen to the podcast afterward here.

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Amoris Laetitia, Culpability, and Communion: The Gospel Context of Pope Francis’s Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

Hot off the press in this Fall’s edition of Josephinum Diaconal Review, I have published a second article on Pope Francis’ controversial document Amoris Laetitia.  Although there has been an immense amount written on the subject over the past year and a half, not much attention has been paid to the gospel context of Francis’ proposal.

This article aims to make a contribution to the ongoing discussion by examining the Holy Father’s teaching on culpability for divorce and remarriage especially in light of Matthew 5:32:

“But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

What did this statement mean in its original context, and what does it mean in today’s discussions of divorce and remarriage?  Here is a version of my article in Word format.  The website for the journal is here.

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Link to Audio of EWTN Radio Interview on the Historical Truth of the Gospels

This past Friday I was blessed to do a live audio / streaming video spot related to my book Jesus, Interpreted for EWTN Radio’s Catholic Answers Live show.  The title of the segment was “The Historical Truth of the Gospels.” Follow the link above, and you can hear the entire interview.  Catholic Answers also does a nice job posting the time stamps of the questions asked, in addition to listing resources I recommended over the course of the interview.

In the past I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to talk on EWTN’s Son Rise Morning Show, but I liked this time slot better — no need to wake up at 5 am to drive into the office for the phone call!

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Media Coverage of Jesus, Interpreted

It’s great to see my new book Jesus, Interpreted getting some media coverage!

First, my thanks to Tom Hoopes over at Aleteia for this nice review of my book.

Then, there are a couple radio appearances to note.  I will be talking about my book on EWTN Radio’s Sun Rise Morning Show bright and early July 5 at 6:45 central time.  Later on Sept. 20th at 6 PM central time, I’ll make a longer appearance on EWTN Radio’s program Catholic Answers Live.  In the meantime, Happy Fourth of July and God bless America!

PS: Probably due to its appearance on New Advent the other day, the book is sold out on Amazon.  It can still be bought there through third party sellers. Or you can get a copy directly from the publisher, CUA Press, here.

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Divorce, Remarriage, and “Discerning the Body”: On Pope Francis’ Interpretation of 1 Cor 11:27-34 in Amoris Laetitia

Over the past year since its release, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia has elicited a great deal of consternation among the faithful of the Catholic Church. The controversy surrounding the document has centered on its eighth chapter wherein the Holy Father suggests that in certain cases sacramental discipline need not require that divorced and remarried couples live “as brother and sister” if they are to receive the help of the sacraments. I have recently authored an article entitled “Divorce, Remarriage, and “Discerning the Body”: On Pope Francis’ Interpretation of 1 Cor 11:27-34 in Amoris Laetitia” which deals not with the well-known controversial Chapter 8 of AL but rather with a shorter and much lesser-known section from the fifth chapter of Francis’ exhortation.. The text to which I refer is the following exhortation of St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).

While a great deal has been written on Ch. 8 of AL over the past year, to my knowledge little attention has been paid to Francis’ interpretation of this passage in AL §185-86. This essay aims to make a contribution toward understanding what Francis intends with his interpretation of it, and how this interpretation compares to that of the dominant magisterial tradition, and of contemporary biblical scholarship. An evaluation of Francis’ position is offered in light of Benedict XVI’s exegetical principles, with a brief concluding reflection on the possibility of spiritual communion for the divorced and remarried as proposed by the emeritus pontiff.

This article is one of three–two of which will be published and one kept for myself–that I wrote over the past year while researching Amoris Laetitia during my sabbatical and teaching an amazing group of students in a capstone senior seminar course on the document at Benedictine College this spring.  As divine providence would have it, our class was blessed to have two incredibly unique guest speakers on the subject.


Raymond Cardinal Burke — who, as anyone following the controversy surrounding Amoris will well know — was uniquely qualified to speak on the topic.

 

And our very own Archbishop Joseph Naumann, shepherd of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, who gave his annual “fireside chat” to our senior majors on the topic of Amoris Laetitia

 

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