Perhaps given the situation with Cardinal Ratzinger becoming the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI, no better book could be read as an insight into the general directions of the man than this - a text intended for use as a introductory textbook on Christian theology.
Ratzinger takes the approach for a framework generally from the construction of the ancient Apostles Creed - his first section begins with the 'I believe...' and continues to look at the implications of what faith and belief are in terms of philosophy and biblical witness. Ratzinger is educated in the dominant traditions of philosophy from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Germany was the centre of such scholarship. Echoes of or reactions to thinkers such as Heidegger, Nietzsche, Husserl and others will be found here, as well as later thinkers in the post-modern area of critical analysis.
However, Ratzinger returns to the creedal foundation of doctrine, and the biblical underpinnings of the creeds as being more important than these philosophical developments (but never abandons the conversation with them). He proposes tentative defintions of faith and belief (one might hear the echo of Paul Tillich here, at least in general form if not in content), and looks at the foundations of dogma in the creeds.
His sections are on Doctrine of God, Christology, and Ecclesiology and Pneumatology; it is significant that he does not use these theological terms, but rather the more accessible God, Jesus Christ, The Church and the Spirit. The faith is meant to be accessible and comprehensible.
Ratzinger then goes line by line through the creeds as his headings, and proceeds to theologically analyse each assertion made. These are done in what might be termed a conservative fashion, and certainly some of Ratzinger's conclusions are on the conservative side, but once again there is an idea that conversation continues, and that there is room for interpretation in the creeds in substance and in application.
Ratzinger uses a story derivative of Kierkegaard and 'The Secular City' by Harvey Cox to warn against the idea of placing too restrictive a classification on someone, theologians included, that might make it difficult to continue to be open to what is happening in the development of the relationship. Ratzinger speaks of the natural occurence of uncertainty, and how this kind of doubt and searching is in fact an aid to the theological enterprise.
Ratzinger's erudition is evident here, with stories from the history of philosophy and literature, current events and recent artistic creations, stories from Jewish and Christian sources as well as inspirations from outside these religious traditions. This book can give a good insight into the general framework in which Ratzinger, as the new pope, tends to think and write about Christianity. It is probably essential reading for any who want a greater insight in the mind of the man now Pope Benedict XVI.
The title "Introduction to Christianity" is a misnomer. This is not an introduction for those unfamiliar with Christianity. It is a study of the biblical, philosophical and rational beliefs which make up the Christian faith.
This book begins with a study of faith in the world today, followed by the form of faith offered by the Church. He presents the tenets of the Apostles Creed, line by line. In so doing he draws on the Bible, the writings of theologians and literary figures throughout the ages as well as his own reflections. He explains the meanings of the portions of the Creed. The reader is introduced to differing interpretations of some of the clauses. An example of this is the theology of the Incarnation, meaning that God becoming man is the most important fact, versus the theology of the Cross, which emphasizes the actions of Jesus. His Holiness examines difficulties, real and apparent, in the texts and concepts about them. For some he is able to provide guidance to what he regards as the correct conclusion, for others he just leaves the difficulty for our discernment.
To my way of thinking, this is a deep book. For those with more theological training than me, it may be an introduction. Although it is deep, it is also rewarding. It has opened my eyes to new interpretations of the Creed. It has led me to think deeply about God and His relation to man and our relations to each other. I am sure that I will think often about what I have learned from this book and will refer to it in the future. For anyone with a reasonable background in theology and a desire to understand our call from God, this book is outstanding. It is, simply, one of the best books that I have ever read.
on November 12, 2015
Don't mistaken this book to be an introduction to Christianity even though the title of the book itself indicates that. One has to have a deep knowledge of Christianity and a background of Christian philosophy to be able to understand it.
Pope Ratzinger explains the Creed: he talks about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He addresses the question of Trinity, the rise of the Christian faith in Athens as the result of the historical tension between the God of the philosophers and the gods of the people.
Great book by the most eminent theologian of our century.