RESPONSES TO 101 QUESTIONS ON GOD AND EVOLUTION,
by John F. Haught. Paulist Press. 160 pp. $12.95.
AT HOME IN THE COSMOS, by
David Toolan. Orbis Books. 257 pp.
Reviewed by MICHAEL D. GUINAN, O.F.M., professor of Old
Testament and Semitic Languages at the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley,
SCIENCE AND RELIGION: Are they sworn enemies? Friends? Working
The relationship between the two is an ambiguous and contested one.
These two books shed considerable light on the issues involved and point directions
for fruitful reflection.
In this area, the topic that continues to generate perhaps the most
heat and controversy is that of God, creation and evolution. In the popular
“Responses to 101 Questions” format, John Haught, theologian at Georgetown University,
gathers questions on this topic drawn from conversations over many years with
students, scientists and scholars, as well as nonscientists.
He organizes the questions into seven areas: Darwin’s Revolutionary
Idea; Darwin and Theology; Creationism; Darwin and Design; Divine Providence
and Natural Selection; Evolution, Suffering and Redemption; and Teilhard de
Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead. In each instance, Haught presents first
“the facts of the matter” (e.g., who was Charles Darwin and what did he actually
teach? What have the popes taught on evolution?) and then proceeds to questions
raised for theology and faith.
Throughout the discussion, he highlights the dangers and inadequacies
of two opposite but ultimately similar positions: biblical literalism (e.g.,
creationism) and scientific materialism. The former’s anachronistic reading
of the biblical texts reduces the biblical data to scientific information, while
the latter’s superficial understanding of both the Bible and religion ends up
turning scientific positions into religion.
Haught steers a middle course between them and argues that by taking
the evidence of evolutionary science seriously (in accord with Pope John Paul
II’s 1996 statement to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution), we
can come to a deeper (and, in fact, more truly biblical) understanding of God
as humble, self-giving and promising love.
Beginning with simple, easily accessible explanations, Haught builds
up a cumulative vision of great power and beauty. This is an ideal book to consult
first to appreciate the issues involved.
David Toolan, S.J., associate editor of America magazine,
approaches the science and religion debate from a wider vision. Following a
more historical order, he moves through five sections: The Biblical Vision of
Creation, The Development of Scientific Materialism, The State of the Earth,
The New Cosmology and, finally, Earth Ethics: Doing Justice to Creation. There
are also two appendices.
Toolan is interested in showing just how we came to our present
cultural understandings of the world, science and religion. He says we now have
the opportunity to break through to a truer synthesis of science and Christian
theology which leads to an inspiring and challenging ethical vision of care,
responsibility and love for the cosmos, which is our home.
The 17th-century work of Rene Descartes and Roger Bacon’s earlier
work, carried further by Isaac Newton, developed what has been called an “imperial
ecology.” The world is “out there” (like a big machine) and we can do with it
pretty much what we wish.
An alternative view, an “arcadian ecology,” maintained that we were
firmly part of, rooted in and at home in nature. But it was the imperial model
that has brought us to our present situation. Is our present ecological situation
really that bad?
After reviewing various opinions among ecologists, Toolan shows
that indeed it is. The “new cosmology,” which has developed under the influence
of evolutionary findings, points to a universe that is incomplete and moving
into the future (and thus is more congenial to the biblical and prophetic view
of the future).
With the emergence of conscious life, we humans embody the cosmic
processes now become self-reflective and we are charged with being the voice
of all creation (“the voice of the hurricane”).
This has, of course, important implications for our understanding
of Christ. Rooted in New Testament texts of John and Paul which affirm that
“all things are created in Christ,” a theological vision (such as that of the
Franciscans St. Bonaventure and Blessed John Duns Scotus) can relate us deeply
to the whole universe and provide the foundation for a responsible earth ethic.
Toolan presents a powerful synthesis of biblical vision, theological
reflection and scientific knowledge that is both clear for the nonspecialist
and spiritually engaging. The biblical data, while adequate as far as it goes,
could be developed more strongly.
In addition to the Yahwist’s view of creation as God’s garden (which
he briefly treats), one could add the priestly view of the world as God’s temple,
the psalmic view of the world as God’s kingdom and the wisdom view of the world
as God’s playground, all of which have important ramifications in the area of
Science and theology can be related in three ways: 1) they are in
conflict with each other and we have to choose between them; 2) they are two
completely valid but distinct enterprises which we should keep separate; 3)
they are two ways of engaging one and the same world and they should engage
each other and interact on different levels.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Science without religion is lame,
religion without science is blind.”
Rooted in the conviction that the source of truth is one and cannot
contradict itself, both of these works are examples of the rich and fruitful
possibilities of the third approach.
You can order RESPONSES TO 101 QUESTIONS ON GOD AND EVOLUTION and AT HOME IN THE COSMOS from St.
DOORS INTO PRAYER: An Invitation, by Emilie Griffin. Paraclete Press.
119 pp. $13.95.
Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a retired public librarian
who currently serves on the advisory board of St. Anthony Messenger Press.
PUBLISHED IN THE PARACLETE Pocket Faith series of short, personal
considerations of basic aspects of Christianity, Doors Into Prayer is
like a friendly chat about communication with and from God. While Emilie Griffin
does provide some general instructions and methods of procedure, the author
is basically recounting some of her own experiences of prayer.
She reminds us that God is always inviting us to come closer, but
we frequently resist from fear, world-weariness or lassitude. Providing succinct
stories, anecdotes and experiences that others have found to overcome these
barriers may also aid us.
Such topics as Prayer-Scapes, Examen, Prayer as Wrestling, Heights,
Wonder and Depths are covered in “chapterlets” of three pages (maximum) and
can be perused in any order, at any time and for any duration. The last 17 pages
describe Exercises for Prayer, and there is an excellent Afterword of recommended
Here’s an excerpt from the chapterlet entitled “Sabbath”: “But why
is it difficult to refrain from work? We have to let go of our sense of control.
This is the underlying issue, the Sabbath-principle. God is in charge. God is
running the world. The world can run without me for at least 24 hours. I am
not entirely in charge to begin with, no matter what day of the week it is.
God gives me something I could never provide on my own. The point of the Sabbath
is shalom, the deep and everlasting rest of God, the peace that passes
And another quote from the chapterlet on contemplation: “In contemplation
we learn to move beyond words, to gaze at God and listen....We come to a quiet
place where prayer is possible for us. We put aside our concerns about time.
We become attentive, recollected, gathered in. We enter the presence of God,
we become conscious of God’s presence. We allow God to speak to us, expressing
love in ways that may be gentle or strong, but not a matter of polite conversation.
The prayer is usually wordless. Often it is passionate.”
Emilie Griffin has had a wealth of experience as an advertising
copywriter, editor, columnist for Prayer magazine, retreat leader, ecumenist
and author of several other books on spiritual topics, including her conversion
to the Catholic faith. She writes easily and with deceptive simplicity, but
is able to convey a deep familiarity with the principles of prayer.
Griffin’s earlier work entitled Clinging: The Experience of Prayer (Harper
& Row, 1984), while also a concise work of only 72 pages,
is much more structured as to content and the precise identification
of seven major elements of prayer life. It would provide a
valuable companion volume to the current work since the basic
message is the same: The way to learn to pray is in praying.
This book’s format, hardbound and 7 x 4-1/2 inches, makes it sturdy
and yet convenient for carrying. I would recommend this book for all adults
seeking to enrich their prayer life, but especially for recent converts and
young adults feeling their way into a more mature relationship with their Maker.
It would be an excellent gift as well.
You can order DOORS INTO PRAYER:
An Invitation from St.
THE INTIMATE MERTON: His Life From His Journals,
edited by Patrick Hart & Jonathan Montaldo. HarperCollins.
375 pp. $16.
Reviewed by Matthew D. Kemper, the community service director at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he also taught theology classes..
“IF ALL SEVEN volumes of journals are the wood, The Intimate
Merton is only a path through them and not the wood itself,” note the editors,
who have chosen for this text the central themes from Thomas Merton’s seemingly
endless journal reflections.
The passages span most of Merton’s adult life, from 1939 until two
days before his death in December of 1968. His personal writings convey the
image of a humble, gentle man searching for solitude and inner peace.
Merton processed his experience of the world through his writing.
A recurring subject of deliberation is his open acknowledgment of his struggles
with religious life and faith.
In November of 1941, for instance, Merton lamented the notion that
his self-reliance interfered with his discerning of God’s will: “I earnestly
pray to give myself entirely to God according to His will and no longer get
in the way with my own stupid will—only He can help me out of my own clumsiness.”
Such candor is typical of this simple yet fascinating monk, who was torn between
the solitude of a hermitage and the energy of the outside world.
Throughout his journals, Merton consistently describes the settings
in which he is writing. He pays such careful attention to the weather, for instance,
that readers cannot help but imagine themselves walking with the author as he
strolls casually among the trees on a cold autumn morning.
Merton was particularly attached to the woods of Gethsemani, Kentucky,
where he spent most of his adult life and where he did a great deal of thinking;
steady thoughtfulness was at the core of Merton’s nature as monk. Merton’s contemplation
was not always peaceful and harmonious. Often he comes across as restless, as
searching for something.
Many people are familiar with Thomas Merton from his highly regarded
The Seven Storey Mountain, which is more autobiographical than this text.
The Intimate Merton will appeal to anyone interested in spirituality
and discernment. Its language is easy to understand and the writing is affectionate
Almost immediately, the reader is drawn into the author’s personal
world, where Merton references his journal entries according to the feast days
of the saints. One is struck by both his profound reverence for all things and
his occasional witty, direct humor.
The editors were able to capture the true essence of the author
because they had a personal relationship with Merton during his years at Gethsemani.
As a result, Hart and Montaldo have selected journals that represent key developments
at each stage of his life.
The early chapters include Merton’s accounts of his life in New
York, his travels in Cuba in 1940 and his entry into monastic life. The later
chapters contain his thoughts on his request to leave Gethsemani for Mexico
and an intimate relationship with a nurse during the mid-1960s, which challenged
his monastic vocation.
As Merton ventured willingly from the enclosed woods of Gethsemani
to the West Coast and eventually Asia, it becomes evident that he was searching
for something he was unable to find at the monastery in Kentucky.
Three years before his accidental death in 1968, Merton articulated
his quest: “I come into solitude not to ‘attain the heights of contemplation,’
but to discover painfully for myself and for my brothers the true eschatological
dimension of our calling. No easy solution is permissible. This is a hard way
and a way of faith, in which I must struggle to come into the right relation
of obedience to the words of God constantly present in my heart, and rest in
God who moves in the ground of my being, to make me grow in Him.”
The Intimate Merton is an informative yet inspiring text. It is appealing
because the author’s search for meaning is common to so many
of us. Rarely is it articulated so well.
You can order THE INTIMATE MERTON: His Life From His
Journals from St.
THE GREAT ESCAPE MANUAL: A Spirituality of Liberation, by Edward
Hays. Forest of Peace Publishing, Inc. 350 pp. $15.95.
Reviewed by CAROL ANN MORROW, assistant managing editor
of St. Anthony Messenger.
WRITTEN FOR JAILBIRDS, this book is spiritual escapism of a delightful sort.
Written by a very free near-octogenarian, The Great Escape
Manual is a breakthrough (a break-out?) into new ways
of thinking about the ties that bind our spirit, keeping us
from the glorious freedom of the children of God.
It’s just a suspicion, but I sometimes think Ed Hays has written
the same book many times, in the context of a new unifying metaphor. I think
he himself would own up to constant themes of freedom from negative behaviors
and freedom to act on the gospel’s liberating message. And I, for one,
am grateful that he repeats—in fresh and creative ways—the messages I most need
I know I’ve heard him warn about the dominance of the clock before.
Few can rival the way he takes an experience like imprisonment and spins so
many remedies, so many escape routes.
Ed Hays is currently a prison chaplain, an experience which has
to be good for those in the Kansas state penitentiary, but also for Father Hays.
He now names with new familiarity the ties that bind us all: time, impatience,
fear, prejudice, religion, work, old age and death. And one just has to trust
a religious author who admits the ways that religion can enslave as well as
I knew I’d want to share Ed Hays’s book with friends—so I tried
to restrain myself from dog-earing pages. The author must know how tempted his
readers become, since he provides pages in the back for inserting one’s own
notes. That hospitable gesture is certainly user-friendly (although I fell into
my old habits rather quickly).
Another spiritual convenience is the provision of escape tools and
“unshackling reflections” at the end of each chapter.
It is liberating to recognize religious concepts shaken up, shaken
down, reduced, upended and stretched to new limits. When Ed Hays spells isolation
“ice-halation,” for instance, he enables me to name indifference and resentment
in new ways. He frees me to rethink, re-act and re-form. Since all those words
begin like resurrection, I believe I’m on a liberating path.
Do buy your own copy of The Great Escape Manual. Mine is marked up—and
you’ll quickly claim your freedom to do the same.
You can order THE GREAT ESCAPE MANUAL: A Spirituality of Liberation from St.
ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN: A Man for All Media, by Gregory Joseph
Ladd. Ignatius Press. 143 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., who works with
org, an online outreach to inactive Catholics.
He is editor of St. Anthony Messenger.
ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN (1895-1979) was clearly the preeminent
Catholic communicator in the United States during the 20th century. Through
books, newspaper columns, radio and TV, he spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We can only assume that he would have capitalized on Internet evangelizing
possibilities if they had existed during his heyday. One 1999 Internet poll
to name the “Top 100 Catholics of the 20th Century” placed Sheen at number four,
behind Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Blessed Padre Pio.
This volume, assembled by Gregory Joseph Ladd, the cofounder of
the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation and the president of Metanoia Production
Company, presents 155 black-and-white pictures of Sheen and quotations from
all phases of Sheen’s extraordinary life as a professor at The Catholic University
of America, the U.S. head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a
dynamic public speaker, auxiliary bishop of New York (1951-66) and bishop of
Rochester, New York (1966-69).
A Preface by Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., (ordained by Sheen) precedes quotations
about Sheen from Rev. Robert Schuller, Cardinals John O’Connor
and Francis George, as well as Archbishops John Foley and
John Myers. Ten poems or quotations from Sheen’s writings,
the text of Archbishop Edward O’Meara’s funeral homily for
Sheen and a chronology of Sheen’s life and books complete
this volume. All the photos in this book, including several
pictures of the family, were provided by St. Bernard’s Institute
in Rochester, New York.
Sometimes the photos are identified by place, date and occasion
and sometimes not. Unfortunately, the quotations from Sheen’s writings often
appear without a source and date. Even so, this book is a treasure for all those
who admired Sheen or saw him as a companion on their spiritual journey.
There are several very telling photos of Sheen: at a 1973
Friars Club roast with Alan King, Milton Berle, Jack Benny
and other entertainers; Sheen playing tennis; with Orthodox
Church bishops; with Billy Graham; speaking in a synagogue;
speaking in Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral; being interviewed
by Hugh Downs; with Al Smith; on foreign trips; at a Catholic
Worker house; and on the set of his TV show, Life Is Worth
Living. The angels who he said erased his blackboard on
that set are not shown!
Sheen inspired many Catholics through his new use of media.
Ramon Estevez chose Martin Sheen as his professional name
partly out of respect for Bishop Sheen. Greg Friedman, O.F.M.,
head of the video department at St. Anthony Messenger Press,
says Sheen was one influence in his decision to explore radio,
TV and video ministry.
This book is a loving tribute to an extraordinary evangelizer.
You can order ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN: A Man for All Media from St.
Books can be obtained through St.
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