Friday, November 16, 2007

Ratzinger - God and the World: Worth Reading

I have to say that this was very valuable reading for me. Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict has a remarkable intellect. The book takes the form of an extended conversation between the Cardinal and a German journalist. They discuss a wide range of issues related to Catholicism today, from ethical matters to the liturgy and various difficult issues of the Faith. Ratzinger's replies are clear and helpful, and often quite illuminating to me.

It seems to me that a distinctive feature of Catholic theology, as opposed to that which I knew as a Reformed Protestant, is that its focus seems to be entirely different from the Protestant venture. Protestant theology is especially systematic theology, characterized by gathering together various related teachings from the Bible and systematizing them. But Catholic theology is different. For Ratzinger as for St. Thomas, though, the task is to explain the Faith - to try and make sense out of it. Having believed the faith, the Catholic theologian now sets out to understand it: fides quaerens intellectum, or faith seeking understanding, as St. Anselm put it.

Now I have to say that I prefer St. Thomas to Cardinal Ratzinger (at least as far as he has presented himself in this book): I have more affinities of disposition, it seems, with the Saint than with the Pope. But that doesn't mean that I consider Ratzinger's work in this book to be poor - by no means. Now, having had a bit more exposure to his work than previously - when I was pretty disappointed - I might have to re-think my earlier criticism, and so I have removed that post as being possibly too ill-informed.

In any case, I think this book is a good introduction to the Holy Father's thought, in a style that is more readable than the average theological work precisely because it is a conversation.

[UPDATE] I almost forgot that one word of criticism is necessary. This book has no index! 460 pages, and no index! What was Ignatius Press thinking??? That's just an inexcusable omission from a book of this sort.

No comments: