October 1999By David Arias Jr.

The Catholic Moral Tradition Today: A Synthesis.  By Charles E. Curran. Georgetown University Press. 255 pages. $19.95.

St. Augustine lived by the motto Roma locuta est, causa finita est. Curran, unfortunately, does not. Besides presenting weak criticisms of the hierarchical teaching office of the Church and an unsound justification for dissent, he touts his “relationality-responsibility model” as the best model for understanding the moral life. This model, however, has a surfeit of moral “wiggle room” and is unworkable as a moral worldview. Curran’s work is mediocre in its presentation of the Catholic moral tradition.

Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought.  By Luigi Gambero, S.M. Ignatius. 439 pages. $18.95.

This is an outstanding piece of scholarship. Gambero brings together more than thirty Church Fathers, both Eastern and Western, and invites them to reveal to us the person and role of the greatest Lady in all of creation. Beginning in the Apostolic Age and ending in the eighth century, the Patristic Era was a time when Marian theology and devotion flowered among the Fathers of our Faith. This work shows clearly that the Church Fathers taught the great Marian doctrines.

Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind.  By Michael D. O’Brien. Ignatius. 261 pages. $12.95.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). In this insightful and intriguing work, O’Brien indicts much of modern literature and film for failing to heed this warning. These media are concocting entertainments that use Christian themes and images but redefine their meanings. O’Brien argues that this effectively blurs the psychological distinction between good and evil, especially for children. He also offers an ample (100-page) reading list of literature, classical and modern, that is rooted in a Christian view of the world.

Providence.  By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. TAN Books. 389 pages. $15.

This classic is, providentially, back in print. Garrigou-Lagrange explains that God has an eternal plan for every aspect of creation, and that we need to follow this plan to be holy and happy in this life and in the next. Garrigou-Lagrange does a profound job of explicating the nature of divine providence, the divine perfections which it presupposes, and how we must surrender to God’s loving care to obtain the Beatific Vision.

The Invisible Father.  By Louis Bouyer. St. Bede’s Publications. 319 pages. $24.95.

The Invisible Father is one part of Bouyer’s trilogy on the Blessed Trinity (the other volumes are The Eternal Son and The Paraclete). The Invisible Father explores the Personhood of God the Father as known to us through natural and supernatural revelation. In addition, Bouyer examines a wide range of theologies and anti-theologies, beginning with Hellenistic religions, continuing through an array of Church Fathers, and ending with Nietzsche and modern atheism. One warning: Bouyer sometimes misunderstands some of the Church Doctors and their interpreters. For example, he dismisses St. Bonaventure’s epistemological theory of divine illumination without considering its philosophical merit. Instead of understanding this theory philosophically, Bouyer hastily rejects it as the product of a mystic’s daydreaming.

Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology.  By R.C. Sproul. Baker Books. 234 pages. $17.99.

In order to “demythologize” modern science and cosmology, Sproul examines their invocation of “chance.” Random chance has come, in our time, to be seen as the ultimate explanatory principle of the universe. Yet Sproul shows that to ascribe even one iota of causal power to chance is, in the end, to deny God’s sovereignty and thereby to destroy the foundations of science itself. Sproul takes the reader on a brief tour of thought from the Enlightenment era to the present, where he focuses on quantum theory. He shows that the myth of chance-as-a-causal-power has expanded in the empirical sciences as a result of their practitioners’ abandonment of classical logic and metaphysics.

Predestination.  By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. TAN Books. 382 pages. $15.

This work is a brilliant exposition of the Catholic doctrine of predestination, as taught and defended by St. Thomas Aquinas. Basing his arguments on Scripture and Tradition, Garrigou-Lagrange demonstrates that only the classic Thomistic teaching on predestination truly affirms God’s sovereignty. He gives a masterly presentation of the various Catholic and Protestant schools of thought on predestination, and definitively refutes both Calvinism and Molinism (a Jesuit theory of predestination). This may be the best book in print on the subject and should be read by all serious students of theology.

Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historic Church.  By Stephen K. Ray. Ignatius. 284 pages. $12.95.

On Pentecost Sunday in 1994, Stephen and Janet Ray were received into the Catholic Church, the only Church which can credibly claim to be “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.” The author presents his intellectual and spiritual journey from the un-historic and (yes!) un-biblical confusion of Protestantism to the exotic yet unsatisfying land of Orthodoxy and from there to Holy Mother Church (Rome sweet home!). Having studied what Scripture and the Fathers teach regarding Baptism and the Eucharist, Ray concludes that the Early Church was Catholic to the bone. The Patristic texts on these two great sacraments are alone worth the price of the book.

Truthful Living: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility.  By Michael Casey. St. Bede’s Publications. 256 pages. No price given..

“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those that humble themselves will be exalted.” On this scriptural text St. Benedict based his 12-rung “ladder of humility” by which we move from earth to Heaven. Benedict’s teaching on humility is the heart of his teaching on how the soul attains union with God. Casey’s task is to show that this teaching is relevant even for moderns to whom medieval texts on humility seem a bit too humiliating. He interprets this text anew, not only for his fellow monks but also for today’s laity.

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