Ratzinger on Evolution and Evil: A Christological and Mariological Answer to the Problem of Suffering and Death in Creation

I’m delighted to share that my most recent piece has just been posted online for a special issue of the international journal Religions entitled Theodicy and Challenges of Science: Understanding God, Evil and Evolution. The article, entitled “Ratzinger on Evolution and Evil: A Christological and Mariological Answer to the Problem of Suffering and Death in Creation,” argues that Joseph Ratzinger’s thought offers a compelling way to address the presence of suffering and death across evolutionary history. The essay can be downloaded for free here:

Thomas Aquinas, Biblical Theologian

Just this weekend at Ave Maria University, I caught my first printed glimpse of a book project I’m involved in called Thomas Aquinas, Biblical Theologian.  Hot off the press from Emmaus Academic, it contains an essay of mine entitled “Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand: Biblical Faith according to Thomas Aquinas and Benedict XVI.” A variation upon this essay is also contained in my book The Experiment of Faith.

The rationale behind this volume is that, while many people are familiar with his Summa Theologiae, fewer are aware that St. Thomas’s primary work was that of biblical theologian. My essay, like the others in the book, thus explores some of Aquinas’s most important contributions within his often-overlooked biblical commentaries and their importance for the ongoing work of Scripture study today. You can pick up a copy of Thomas Aquinas, Biblical Theologian on Amazon here.

Podcast on Dark Passages of the Bible

My thanks go out to Tyler McNabb and Michael DeVito for having me on their show Furthering Christendom to talk about my book Dark Passages of the Bible. It was a lot of fun to talk about some questions that I did not address in that book in detail (Noah’s flood, Elisha and the mauling she-bears, the death of the Egyptian firstborn, and Israel’s slaughter of enemy men, women, and children.  Here’s a link to the episode!

“Machine or Melody? Joseph Ratzinger on Divine Causality in Evolutionary Creation”

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve just published an article for a special issue of the academic journal Scientia et Fides dedicated to Philosophical and Theological Aspects of Evolution. The essay, entitled “Machine or Melody?  Joseph Ratzinger on Divine Causality in Evolutionary Creation,” argues that creation should be thought of less as an intelligently designed machine that requires divine interventions for its development and more as a divine drama or masterpiece story that is continually being told as its plot unfolds naturally over the course of time.

Scientia et Fides is a peer-reviewed, online academic journal published twice a year by the Faculty of Theology of Nicolaus Copernicus University, in Torun, in collaboration with the research group “Science, Reason and Faith” (CRYF) at the University of Navarra. My article, along with the other essays recently published, is available free here.

Give the Experiment of Faith a Try: My New Book Is Out!

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.

REVIEWS:

“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

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.

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.

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!