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Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 2 vols.

Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives 1-2. Edited by Francis Schussler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991. Pp. xv + 336; xv + 384. $39.95.

The editors have organized and presented a collaborative and comprehensive exposition of post-Vatican II Roman Catholic systematic theology. Their project joins the list of other collaborative and comprehensive projects in contemporary theology which followed the council, beginning with the comprehensive German project Mysterium Salutis. Today one can point to similar postconciliar collaborative efforts in English such as the projected volume of feminist theology being edited by C. M. LaCugna, the two-volume collection of the basic concepts of liberation theology edited by I. Ellacuria and J. Sobrino, and the dictionaries coming from Glazier/Liturgical press in Theology (eds. J. Komonchak, M. Collins, D. Lane), Liturgy (ed. P. Fink), Spitituality (forthcoming). At the end of Vatican II, Corpus Publishers proposed the ambitious project of issuing an American version of an updated Dictionaire de Theologie Catholique. That project proved premature and was never really completed. Perhaps there has been enough development to undertake once again quasi-encyclopedic projects such as these to synthasize what advances have been accomplished.

The volumes of this project offer introductions to as well as surveys and summaries of the major treatises usually covered in courses in systematic theology. The introductions (identical in each of the two volumes) list two projected audiences: present students of theology and former students of theology who desire updating on developments in postconciliar thought and teaching. Five goals were proposed to the authors: each was to (1) present Roman Catholic tradition and the diversity of contemporary viewpoints among Roman Catholic theologians; (2) highlight neglected traditions uncovered by current historical studies; (3) account for current hermeneutical theory as the basis for the diversity of approaches used by the different authors; (4) show ecumenical sensitivity by pointing to ecumenical consensus where it exists and (5) give attention to the current emphasis on praxis, i.e. the social and practical implications especially for readers involved in pastoral ministries.

The contributors include laity and clergy, men and women so that the volumes are not dominated by the clerical concerns of earlier dogmatic series. They also exemplify the model of collaboration in ministry (which teaching can be) which characterizes the ideal of the postconciliar Roman Catholic Church. Each author has her/his own perspective and style within the overall project, giving to the whole project another ideal of the postconciliar church, viz, a pluralism of styles and emphases within the broad spectrum of Roman Catholic thinking. Twelve theologians present eighteen essays covering the following topics: Methods and Tasks of Theology (F. Schussler Fiorenza), Faith and Revelation (A. Dulles), Approaching the Christian Understanding of God (D. Tracy), Trinitarian Mystery of God (C. LaCugna), Creation (A. Clifford), Jesus Christ (J. Galvin), Church (M. Fahey), Sin and Grace (R. Haight), Saints and Mary (E. Johnson), Sacraments in General, Baptism and Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick (R. Duffy), Eucharist, Order (D. Power), Marriage (F. Schussler Fiorenza), Eschatology (M. Hellwig). The essays vary in length. The major articles (e.g. Trinity, Creation, Christ, Sin and Grace) are approximately 50 to 70 pages in length. Shorter articles (e.g. individual sacraments) are approximately 20 pages.

Evaluation and critique of each contribution are impossible within the limits of this space, given the diversity of styles and approaches. But some general remarks remarks are possible. First, the "proof-texting" which was so common in the older dogmatic treatises and "summas" is blessedly absent. This makes for a far more responsible use of the scriptural and other traditions bearing on the issues of each essay. This also has the interesting side effect of allowing the reader to see the relative "youth" and "age" of the questions which generated the topics which are treated. Second, generally speaking, the essays meet the goals established in the introduction. Some do this more satisfactorily than others, especially with respect to the second and third goals, highlighting neglected traditions and accounting for a diversity of positions. Thus, the articles on Faith and Revelation and Sin and Grace, excellent as they are, would have profited from allusion to the diversity of approaches possible regarding these topics. These criticisms, of course, cannot detract from the very useful, readable, and enlightening character of these excellent volumes.

Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley Joseph M. Powers, S.J.
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Author:Powers, Joseph M.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:724
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