Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New Reprint of a Renowned Summary of Thomistic Theology

A Manual of Catholic Theology, Based on Scheeben's "Dogmatik." By Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., Ph.D., and Thomas B. Scannell, B.D., with a Preface by Henry Edward Cardinal Manning. Volume I: The Sources of Theological Knowledge; God; Creation and the Supernatural Order. liii + 508 pp. $24.95. (CreateSpace; Amazon) Volume II: The Fall; Redemption; Grace; The Church and the Sacraments; The Last Things. x + 566 pp. $24.95. (CreateSpace; Amazon)

One of the greatest theologians of modern times, Matthias Joseph Scheeben (1835-1888), brought out a Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik in 7 parts from 1873 to 1887. This tour de force of a refined, lofty, intensely religious scholasticism was conveniently distilled by Dr. Joseph Wilhelm and Fr. Thomas Scannell into a 2-volume English handbook entitled A Manual of Catholic Theology. I am happy to announce a new reprinting of this handbook, which was prepared using freshly-scanned pages of an original copy of the work, printed on cream-colored paper with a simple red cover.

As a Thomist, theologian, and teacher, I find this manual invaluable: it is arguably the single most successful presentation of traditional scholastic theology available, if one is looking not for a mere historical overview of one set of opinions after another (the typical approach in scholarship nowadays) but an actual theological exposition, where the focus is on articulating and defending the rei veritas, the truth of things. Scheeben is thoroughly steeped in Aquinas's works as well as in the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Councils, and the wealth of scholasticism across the centuries, and writes his account in a measured, precise, and fervent manner, logical and yet poetic, satisfying to the intellect but always open to the ineffable divine mystery that lies behind and beyond the truths to which God, in His mercy, has granted us access.

I would not hesitate to say that a serious student of Catholic theology should begin his or her study of a given topic by finding the appropriate chapter in the Manual (see table of contents below) and reading it carefully before moving into other literature. In any case, the fact that a nearly unbroken line of popes for 700 years has sent us to the wisdom of Aquinas ought to be reason enough to consult a book like this mini-Scheeben when working on any major topic, since Scheeben performs for us the welcome task of drawing together in synoptic form the full range of Thomas's thinking, which would otherwise be a daunting project. (I speak from experience, since I wrote my doctoral dissertation on "The Ecstasy of Love in St. Thomas Aquinas," and had to pursue his doctrine of love across the full range of the opera omnia. It took me a few laborious years to get the job done!) Here is how Cardinal Manning praises the Manual in his Preface of 1899:
The Dogmatik of Scheeben is a profuse exposition of the deep things of faith in the light of intelligence guided by the illumination of the Church. ... The great value of Scheeben's work is in its scientific method, its terminology, definitions, procedure, and unity. It requires not only reading but study; and study with patient care and conscientious desire to understand. 
This Manual will assist and inspire a new generation of theologians, historians, liturgists, and pastors who are striving to rediscover and faithfully transmit the glories of traditional Catholic theology. Just a few examples, chosen almost at random, of the great relevance of this Manual for our own times: the chapter in vol. 1 on ecclesiastical tradition, or the chapters in vol. 2 on the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, furnish abundant material for reflection and preaching.


Book I. The Sources of Theological Knowledge

Part I. The Objective Principles of Theological Knowledge
Chap. 1: Divine Revelation
Chap. 2: The Transmission of Revelation
Chap. 3: The Apostolic Deposit of Revelation
Chap. 4: Ecclesiastical Tradition
Chap. 5: The Rule of Faith

Part II. Theological Knowledge Considered In Itself, or Subjectively
Chap. 1: Faith
Chap. 2: Faith and Understanding

Book II. God

Part I. God Considered as One in Substance
Chap. 1: Our Knowledge of God
Chap. 2: The Essence and Attributes of God, Considered Generally
Chap. 3: The Negative Attributes of God
Chap. 4: The Positive Attributes of God
Chap. 5: The Divine Life

Part II. The Divine Trinity
Chap. 1: The Dogma
Chap. 2: The Trinity in Scripture
Chap. 3: The Trinity in Tradition
Chap. 4: The Evolution of the Trinity from the Fecundity of the Divine Life

Book III. Creation and the Supernatural Order

Part I. Creation
Chap. 1: The Universe Created by God
Chap. 2: The Universe Created for God
Chap. 3: The Angels
Chap. 4: The Material Universe
Chap. 5: Man

Part II. The Supernatural Order
Chap. 1: General Theory of the Supernatural and of Grace
Chap. 2: Theory of the Absolutely Supernatural
Chap. 3: Theory of the Relatively Supernatural
Chap. 4: Concrete Realization of the Supernatural Order


Book IV. The Fall

Chap. 1: Sin
Chap. 2: The Fall of the Angels
Chap. 3: The Fall of Man

Book V. Redemption

Part I. Preliminary Conditions and Preparation for Redemption
Chap. 1: The Conditions of Redemption
Chap. 2: The Preparation for Redemption

Part II. The Redeemer
Chap. 1: The Dogma
Chap. 2: The Constitution of Christ; or, the Hypostatic Union in the Light of Theological Science
Chap. 3: The Attributes of Christ

Part III. Work and Functions of the Redeemer
Chap. 1: Work of the Redeemer
Chap. 2: Functions of the Redeemer

Part IV: The Mother of the Redeemer

Book VI. Grace

Chap. 1: Grace, the Principle of Regeneration
Chap. 2: Justification
Chap. 3: Order and Economy of Grace in God's Providence

Book VII. The Church and the Sacraments

Part I. The Church
Chap. 1: The Preparation for the Church
Chap. 2: The Institution and Constitution of the Church
Chap. 3: The Primacy of St. Peter
Chap. 4: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff
Chap. 5: The Properties and Marks of the Church

Part II. The Sacraments
Chap. 1: The Sacraments Generally
Chap. 2: Baptism
Chap. 3: Confirmation
Chap. 4: The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist
Chap. 5: The Mass
Chap. 6: Penance
Chap. 7: Extreme Unction
Chap. 8: Holy Order
Chap. 9: Matrimony

Book VIII. The Last Things

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