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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
I am ecstatic to announce the publication of my new book Jesus, Interpreted: Benedict XVI, Bart Ehrman, and the Historical Truth of the Gospels. It is available now on Amazon.com. This one was a work of love, and I am grateful to the many people– especially my family and the staff at CUA Press–for making it happen.
In this sequel volume to his Dark Passages of the Bible (CUA Press, 2013), author Matthew Ramage turns his attention from the Old to the New Testament, now tackling truth claims bearing directly on the heart of the Christian faith cast into doubt by contemporary New Testament scholarship: Did God become man in Jesus, or did the first Christians make Jesus into God? Was Jesus’ resurrection a historical event, or rather a myth fabricated by the early Church? Will Jesus indeed return to earth on the last day, or was this merely the naïve expectation of ancient believers that reasonable people today ought to abandon?
In addition to examining the exegetical merits of rival answers to these questions, Ramage considers also the philosophical first principles of the exegetes who set out to answer them. This, according to Joseph Ratzinger, is the debate behind the debate in exegesis: whose presuppositions best position us for an accurate understanding of the nature of things in general and of the person of Jesus in particular?
Insisting upon the exegetical vision of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI as a privileged avenue by which to address the thorniest issues in contemporary biblical exegesis, Ramage puts the emeritus pontiff’s hermeneutic of faith into dialogue with contemporary exponents of the historical-critical school. Carrying forth the “critique of the critique” called for by Joseph Ratzinger, Ramage offers the emeritus pontiff’s exegesis of the gospels as a plausible and attractive alternative to the mainstream agnostic approach exemplified in the work of Bart Ehrman.
As in the case of Benedict’s Jesus trilogy upon which he draws extensively, Ramage’s quest in this book is not merely academic but also existential in nature. Benedict’s scholarship represents the fruit of his personal quest for the face of Christ, a quest which involves the commitment to engage, critique, and learn from the most serious challenges posed by modern biblical criticism while arming the foundations of the Christian faith.
This book, building on his previous work, secures Matthew Ramage’s place among the most important theologians of our day. Through his balanced and brilliant readings of Ehrman and Ratzinger/Benedict, Ramage boldly addresses precisely the exegetical questions that are causing many laypeople, influenced by Ehrman and others, to lose their faith in Christ. Ramage’s solutions, rooted in Benedict’s but ably supplementing them, deserve the widest attention. I simply cannot praise this book highly enough.
– Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary Dr. Perry Jr. Chair ofTheology, Mundelein Seminary
Two of the best-selling authors on Jesus that are alive today are the agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman and the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. In this thought-provoking new study, Matthew Ramage puts these two seemingly diametrically opposed figures–Ehrman and Benedict–into extensive conversation with one another. The result is an in-depth exploration that should be required reading for any scholar interested in the historical Jesus and the truth of the Gospels.
– Brant Pitre, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans
“A timely and important book. For those tapped into religious discourse in popular culture today, Bart Ehrman is a household name, and his work has caused much confusion. Catholics very much need an approach to Scripture that is both faithful to the magisterium of the Church and at the same time honest about the difficulties found in the Bible. Ramage’s work does a great service.”
– Issac Morales, OP, Dominican House of Studies, Washington, DC
I have recently published an article entitled “The Reception of St. Paul in the Works of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI” in the journal Letter and Spirit edited by Scott Hahn. My piece explores how Pope Benedict has instantiated his exegetical project specifically in reference to the Pauline corpus.
In his homily for the opening of the Pauline Year in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI offered a powerful summary of how the theology of St. Paul ought to be received in the Church today. Commenting on 1 Tim 2:7, the emeritus pontiff explained:
“A teacher of the Gentiles”—these words open to the future, to all peoples and all generations. For us Paul is not a figure of the past whom we remember with veneration. He is also our teacher, an Apostle and herald of Jesus Christ for us too. Thus we are not gathered to reflect on past history, irrevocably behind us. Paul wants to speak to us—today. That is why I chose to establish this special “Pauline Year”: in order to listen to him and learn today from him, as our teacher…Thus, we are gathered here to question ourselves on the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Let us not ask ourselves only: who was Paul? Let us ask ourselves above all: who is Paul? What does he say to me?
I think that this short text cited above captures well the broad strokes Benedict XVI’s approach to Scripture in general and to the letters of St. Paul in particular. Especially germane in this regard are the emeritus pontiff’s Pauline Year homilies and catecheses, but the synthesis attempted in my article draws also on other works that, taken cumulatively, give a vivid sense of what Benedict considers vital in St. Paul for the life of the Church.
In this link to Letter and Spirit, Vol. 11 on Amazon you can find my full article along with a number of other excellent pieces dedicated to the theme “Our Beloved Brother Paul — Reception History of Paul in Catholic Tradition.” Enjoy!
Just this month a new book has been published entitled Wisdom and the Renewal of Catholic Theology: Essays in Honor of Matthew L. Lamb. I have contributed a chapter to this volume, whose description is below. My chapter is entitled “Biblical Inspiration in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and Fr. Matthew Lamb.”
A brief description of my chapter
A biblical scholar combing through the corpus St. Thomas Aquinas might be disappointed to learn that the saint whom we call Universal Doctor never wrote a distinct treatise on biblical inspiration. However, this was a conscious move on the part of Thomas which, if properly understood, could have important implications for Catholic biblical exegesis today. In his erudite translation and commentary on Aquinas’s Commentary on Ephesians, Fr. Matthew Lamb discusses this decision and the distinctive features of Thomas’ theology of biblical inspiration which flow from it. The goal of this paper is to draw out these characteristics and, in so doing, to suggest that a genuine appropriation of Thomas’ exegetical principles could be a fecund source of renewal with Catholic biblical theology today.
Description of the book from Amazon:
For more than fifty years, Fr. Matthew L. Lamb has been one of the major figures in American Catholic theology through his writing, teaching, and involvement in scholarly societies. Over a decade ago, Fr. Lamb moved from the Department of Theology at Boston College to develop the graduate programs in theology at Ave Maria University in response to what he identified as the widespread decline in theological education. Twelve years into their operation, the graduate programs in theology have begun to produce junior scholars who have attained appointments in universities and seminaries across the United States. In Wisdom and the Renewal of Catholic Theology, Thomas P. Harmon and Roger W. Nutt have brought together some of this first generation of Ave Maria graduates to produce a collection of essays to honor their teacher and the architect of their theological education.
The book is available for purchase here on Amazon.
The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars puts out a wonderful monthly publication called Teaching the Faith. This is a great resource for homilists and faithful alike who wish to enter more deeply into the liturgical readings. The following link is to my essay which appears in the publication for the upcoming 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time on September 18. It ties together the first reading (Amos 8.4-7) and gospel (Luke 16.1-13) for the day, reflecting especially on Jesus’ strange exhortation to “friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth.”
This is the website where you can download my essay and other other new meditations every month.
Even a cursory overview of Benedict XVI’s exegetical approach reveals dramatic contrasts with magisterial teaching of previous epochs. With appropriate reservations and criticisms, Benedict strongly advocates the use of modern scholarly methods to help Christians better discern the face of Christ revealed in Scripture. In adopting many of these modern findings, however, it almost seems as if Benedict has forgotten or neglected principles enforced by the magisterium no less than a century earlier.
Though one may argue that the Church’s stance on modern biblical scholarship only indirectly bears upon faith and morals, the issue remains timely today insofar as a divide persists in the Church concerning the extent to which it is appropriate to incorporate the tools and findings of modern exegesis in Catholic theology. Aside from Benedict’s own comments on his project, it is difficult still today to find an adequate account of how exegesis under his pontificate is reconcilable with many of the venerable traditions which preceded it and, in particular, with a magisterial approach which generally viewed modern scholarship with skepticism.
The lack of such an account is what prompted me to author an article in Nova et Vetera which addresses this very topic. In the piece I endeavor to face head-on patent discrepancies in the Church’s approach to the Bible over the past century and, so doing, offer the principles needed for a robust apologia of Catholicism in its relationship with modern biblical scholarship. You can download and read the article here!
My review of Stephen Bullivant’s outstanding volume The Salvation of Atheists and Catholic Dogmatic Theology came out in this quarter’s edition of Nova et Vetera. If you wonder about the question of how to reconcile Vatican II’s teaching on the possibility of salvation for non-believers with traditional Catholic doctrine, this is the book for you. Immediately below is my condensed review I posted on Amazon, followed by a link where you can download my full review to learn more about Bullivant’s book.
Stephen Bullivant’s monograph offers a welcome contribution to an area in the theology of Vatican II that continues to require clarification fifty years after the Council. The aim of this work is to elucidate “how, within the parameters of Catholic theology, it is possible for an atheist to be saved.” While not intended as an apologetic response to the New Atheism, Bullivant is correct in observing that his work will challenge one item in the New Atheist arsenal, namely the assumption that individuals who happen to lack certain “religious information” are thereby automatically assumed to be damned. The primary focus of this study consists in elucidating two poignant sentences of Lumen Gentium 16: “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.”
Bullivant’s post-mortem solution to the problem of how atheists might be saved is plausible and well-argued. In brief, Bullivant proposes that atheists can be saved in accordance with what they have done to Christ’s “least ones.” In a move all-too rarely made in contemporary theology, Bullivant offers hagiographical evidence to corroborate his claim. After a delightful analysis of how his paradigm is reflected in the lives of St. Benedict and St. Martin de Tours , the author dwells at greater length on the theology of Bl. Mother Teresa, who taught that Christ is present “in his distressing disguise” in the poor themselves. If this presence is as the saints describe it, then moral atheists not only act under the influence of grace but also have an objective encounter with Christ himself when performing corporal works of mercy for his “least ones.” Echoing D’Costa, Bullivant thus argues that the atheist already in this life has an “ontological relationship” with Christ, whereas the requisite “epistemological relationship” with him will only be rectified post-mortem. None of this, he argues, requires that we attribute to the atheist implicit or anonymous faith; rather, in this case it is Christ who is anonymous. Briefly stated, “Anonymous Christs do not entail anonymous Christians.”
For this reader, a significant remaining objection concerns how Bullivant seems to imply the presence of charity in an atheist while denying that this virtue is accompanied by at least implicit faith. It is difficult to see how the salvific grace an atheist receives in his encounter with Christ’s “least ones” is not accompanied by some noetic content.