Thomas RAUSCH, S.J. Systematic Theology: A Roman Catholic Approach. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2016. pp. 290. $24.95 pub. ISBN 9780814683200. Reviewed by Kathleen BORRES, Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, PA 15650.
Fr. Thomas Rausch arranges Systematic Theology: A Roman Catholic Approach along the lines of Aquinas's Summa Theologica, though as he acknowledges in his introduction, there are some differences to note. In the opening chapters (chapters 1 and 2), he addresses the nature of theology itself and the changing landscape of the discipline today. Only then does he move to an exploration of traditional Church teachings, like those found in the Summa. Beginning in chapter 3, he moves systematically from the mystery of God’s self to reflect on the historical Jesus and traditional and contemporary Christological presentations (chapter 4). He then moves to address such fundamentals as revelation and faith (chapter 5), the human person as fallen and graced (chapter 6), Mary and the Saints (chapter 7), the Church (chapter 8), sacramentality in general and the seven sacraments in particular (chapters 9-10). He finishes with Creation and Eschatology (chapter 11) where readers are able to make a connection between creation theology and the hope of the glory of the Eschaton.
Given the structure of the book in general, which follows an exitus-reditus theme of salvation, Fr. Rausch suggests readers consider mission as the overarching theme for the book, how the Church carries on the mission of the Word and Spirit of God himself in the world. This is a reasonable suggestion, one that readers will want to revisit from time to time, as they make their way through the chapters, which, as is to be expected, have their own structures and often address unique theological points, concerns and/or questions relative to a traditional theme or teaching. Readers might find themselves caught up with the chapter's particular concerns and disconnected from the main theme of mission.
While the conclusions in each chapter offer readers a synthesis of the main points and an opportunity for reconnecting with the book's overarching theme, it would be good for readers to pause from time to time to reflect on how each chapter specifically speaks to the mission of God in the world as carried on in and through the Church. If assigned in a course, professors may want to provide reflection questions that will aid students in their reading of the textbook. Professors may also want to discuss the limits of the book.
While there is ample "systematic" coverage of the subjects in the book, in that each chapter introduces readers to traditional teachings and certain questions, challenges and/or new perspectives on these teachings, no one book can do Catholic theology or traditional Catholic teaching justice. There are just too many nuances to consider and, therefore, no matter how clear and concise a book’s presentation, which this book does offer, there is always more than one can say. Fr. Rausch understands this and provides a list of books for further reading with each chapter. While not exhaustive, the lists include a few books and articles published in the last two to three years. Readers can also consult the resources noted in Fr. Rausch's footnotes for an expanded list. No doubt, professors will have their favorite resources to share with students as well, for as Fr. Rausch acknowledges in the introduction, the book "is not intended to be encyclopedic." Rather, "the intention is to present a text that is relatively concise and mainstream, an introduction to explore basic themes in Catholic systematic theology from a biblical, historical and contemporary perspective, though always aware of today's theological pluralism."