Gabriel MORAN, Believing in a Revealing God: The Basis of the Christian Life. Liturgical Press, 2009. pp 194. $29.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-5388-3.
Reviewed by Richard SHIELDS, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, ON M5S 1J4

Gabriel Moral has distinguished himself as an erudite communicator and outstanding religious educator for over four decades. His current book is no exception. In it he expresses his concern that the traditional Catholic discourse on faith and revelation obscures the exciting and dynamic reality of God in the world, replacing it with an unwarranted focus on organizational and power issues. His aim is to foster discussion and challenge thought on “the most basic issues of church life.” Beginning with an examination of the joint terms “faith” and “revelation,” the book moves easily into issues of authority and explores the kinds of relationships between hierarchy and laity that either distort or clarify the Christian meaning of Church. Moran contends: “The Catholic Church has little choice except to rethink its authority patterns so that small communities can provide the main restraint and guide for the religious experience of individuals.” There follows an examination of what it means to be a responsible Church and its implications for conceptualizing the moral life of the Church. That "the Church does not control the language it uses”—a key element in Moran’s approach—comes to the fore in chapters on inter-religious dialogue and the sensitivity to God’s revealing presence in creative artistic expressions, as well as in the aesthetic experiences of liturgy. The final chapter is a brilliant reflection on the permanent need for theological education as an essential element of the life of a Church professing belief in a revealing God.

Moran’s ideas are not theologically radical nor are they abstract. His is a practical theology that begins with the experience of the Christian in the world—complex, pluralistic, and ambiguous. Moran advocates for a religious discourse that is intelligible not only to those who are not native to Christian culture, but to the Christian immersed in a contemporary post-Christian culture. His theological arguments are lucid, but not deeply developed. In fact, the weakness of the book lies in its often uncritical settling for one theological interpretation over others or simplifying questions (for example his distinction between Jesus and the Christi figure) that deserve further exploration. His focus, however, is on how we talk about what we believe. He demonstrates how listening to Muslims and Jews speak of the same realities can enrich the Christian understanding and lead to a more intense faith experience. What at first might appear to be playing with words is actually a challenge to readers to probe deeply into what they say, in order to open them to the powerful reality of God and to interrupt the routine of conventional religion. Moran’s attentiveness to the secular meaning of religious terms makes his message accessible to students not familiar with the traditional terminology and images of Catholicism. Believing in a Revealing God: The Basis of the Christian Life would make an ideal supplementary text for an undergraduate course in ecclesiology, because of its conversational style and invitation to discussion. Moreover, his focussed and uncomplicated communication of what happened at Vatican II provides a reliable bridge for connecting young students to an event that might otherwise appear abstract and lost in the past. I would also recommend this book for courses for religious educators and/or as the basis for discussion groups of religious educators.

TO ORDER BOOKS: - Continuum - Crossroad - Eerdmans Publishing - Liturgical Press - Orbis Books