Engaging Theologians. By Aidan Nichols, O.P. Marquette Studies in Theology 80. Milwaukee: Marquette University, 2013. Pp. 208. $22.
This curious collection of essays looks at theologians Nichols has himself engaged, and whom he recommends the reader to engage. The range is limited to 20th-century theologians and includes both essays on single figures and, more unusually, figures paired. Thus we have Jean Danielou, Victor White, Carl Jung, Eric Lionel Mascall, Avery Dulles, and Olivier Clement, with Hans Urs von Balthasar paired with Martin Heidegger, and Henri de Lubac paired with Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. The selection may be personal, but the essays are only lightly leavened with N.'s autobiography.
These are not introductions to contemporary theologians for beginners: being conversant in theology is expected. The prose is occasionally dense, as is likely inevitable in the crossing of Balthasar and Heidegger, but other essays read more easily. The fact that the text begins with that particular pairing could put off the more casual reader, as it can misforecast the subsequent difficulty of the volume. Each essay, however, stands alone, with no requirement to read them in a particular order; in that respect the volume is a true miscellany. The essays devoted to individual figures function as brief but absorbing intellectual biographies, while the three essays featuring a pairing are marked by the narrower focus of the exact intersection to which N. draws attention.
The virtue of the text is that of a good graduate seminar: the chance to encounter these figures in the company of one who has already gone far down that road. Whether as advanced introductions to figures the reader has not yet encountered deeply or as new presentations of those already known, the book's subjects--both well known and more obscure--are offered appealingly. Original insights are presented, such as N.'s proposal of "unity" as the theme that brings together de Lubac's disparate works, or the leitmotif he discerns as emerging in Dulles's undergraduate prize-essay. But these observations do not form N.'s goal of enticing the reader into hearing something of his protagonists' own voices. I can recommend his volume as successful in provoking further engagement with the figures treated.
Michael Anthony Novak
Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL
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|Title Annotation:||Shorter Notices|
|Author:||Novak, Michael Anthony|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Aug 31, 2014|
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