This was a great way to kick off our new academic year: sitting down with Cy Kellett to discuss Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s wisdom on how to find the truth of the Catholic faith and what it means to be a Christian in our current cultural context…
I’m thrilled to announce the publication of my third monorgraph with CUA Press this week: The Experiment of Faith: Pope Benedict XVI on Living the Theological Virtues in a Secular Age. Writing this book took me a number of years as I read–as far as I know– everything that Pope Benedict / Joseph Ratzinger had to say on the theological virtues and have sought to make that amazing vision of Christianity accessible to all. I hope that this text will help many Christians to grow in their understanding of what it means to believe and to live a vibrant, intelligent faith in the modern world.
Check out the publisher’s description below!
Pope Benedict XVI memorably remarked that the Christian faith is a lot like a Gothic cathedral with its stained-glass windows. From the outside, the Church can appear dark, dreary, and worn with age―the crumbling relic of an institution that no longer speaks to men and women living in our modern world. Indeed, for many people today, Christian morality with all of its commandments appears to be a source not of life and joy but instead of suffering and oppression. Even within the Church, many wonder: why should I submit to ancient doctrines and outdated practices that restrict my freedom and impede my happiness?
In this timely and original book, his third exploring the riches of Benedict XVI’s vast corpus, theologian Matthew Ramage sets out to meet this challenge with an in-depth study of the emeritus pontiff’s wisdom on how to live Christian discipleship in today’s increasingly secularized world. Taking as his starting point Benedict’s conviction that the truth of Christianity―like the beauty of a cathedral’s glorious windows―can be grasped only from the inside, Ramage draws on Benedict’s insights to show how all Christians can make the “experiment of faith” by living the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity in daily life. Along the way, he shares his personal reflections on how Benedict’s wisdom has helped him to navigate difficulties in embracing the faith and provides a way forward to those struggling to live as disciples in a way that is intellectually serious without remaining merely intellectual. In so doing, he also presents a highly nuanced yet accessible approach to defending the truth of the gospel in a world where life in Jesus Christ tends to be seen as unfulfilling, irrelevant, or just one lifestyle choice among others.
“Ramage’s contribution is significant, he treats the issues in a spirited, witty and easy-to-read manner without simplifying matters. In an age that is increasingly un-intellectual he successfully shows how very important philosophy and theology are for the well-being of human beings. This may well become a bestseller!”
―Emery de Gaal, author of The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI: The Christocentric Shift
“Matthew Ramage’s exploration of Pope Benedict’s apologetic against secularism will be a fantastic tool to help Christians engage a ‘post-Christian’ culture the Pope shrewdly warned us about just a few decades ago.”
―Trent Horn, author of The Case for Catholicism
“In this beautiful and illuminating study, Ramage concludes that each of us must choose between two competing worldviews: either nihilism or faith, either Friedrich Nietzsche or Pope Benedict XVI. The former pontiff recognized the same battlelines, engaging Nietzsche’s work throughout his voluminous writings. Ramage guides us through these reflections, focusing especially on Benedict’s teachings on the theological virtues–faith, hope, and love–which Benedict saw as the path to human fulfillment and the counter to Nietzcheian skepticism. Ramage is a masterful guide who knows the Benedict corpus well and conveys it with great clarity and warmth. He smoothly transitions from theology to philosophy, to apologetics, and even to personal reflection. The result is a model of theological study–not dry and detached, but alive, prayerful, culturally engaged, and in continuity with the magisterium. Pope Benedict would be proud!”
―Brandon Vogt, author of Why I Am Catholic and founder of ClaritasU
Looking forward to speaking at a great Christology conference here in a couple of weeks, cosponsored by the Thomistic Institute and Ave Maria University. Click here for more information my talk and the conference!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Well, it’s been some time since I’ve posted any scholarship on here. Alot has happened in the last six months: I had open-heart surgery, a total hip replacement, and my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. It has been a trying period, but I am returning to health. And so many prayers and masses have been offered for my dad that–when combined with his holy life and death–it’s difficult to see how he could not be presently beholding the Lord face to face!
Over the coming months I should have several items to share on this blog, but for now the most recent publication is actually a book review of my Dark Passages of the Bible that appeared in the most recent edition of the international theological journal Nova et Vetera, which is quite possibly my favorite journal. You can download and read the review here! My thanks to Christopher Baglow for his kind words!