A Postliberal Catholicism

For many Protestants, “postliberal” theology has often also been an invitation to a more “Catholic” theology—a theology that is more properly ecclesial, written from and for the confessing, worshiping community. For instance, postliberalism has emphasized the extent to which “the Word of God” is the church’s book, rightly interpreted only within the stakes and interests of the confessing ecclesia. In a similar way, postliberalism has emphasized a role for tradition that counters the tradition-allergies of both conservative and liberal Protestantism. Thus one might suggest that Robert Barron’s wonderful book, The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism (Brazos, 2007), brings postliberalism back to its Catholic home. Drawing on the insights and intuitions of Lindbeck, Frei and others, Barron articulates a Catholic systematic theology that takes “the narratives concerning Jesus Christ as epistemically basic.” Thus his postliberal Catholicism is a narrative Catholicism, teasing out the implications of this for Christology and the doctrine of God, as well as ethics and epistemology—all drawing on a prodigious knowledge of the history of philosophy and theology. On top of all this, it is a downright lovely book, written with a kind of winsome literary flair that exhibits the inviting clarity of a master teacher. Highly recommended for sharp undergraduates; required reading for graduate students and scholars.