Thursday, August 03, 2006

Systematic Catholic Theology & Calvinism

A friend of mine, a Protestant minister I got to know when I did a summer program in Fort Wayne as a seminarian, emailed me a request: could I recommend a good author for Catholic systematic theology?

He said he'd heard of Ott, McBrien and Fiorenza.

I told him I didn't know Ott, he was a little old (well, in fact, I'm pretty sure he's dead; I mean, his work is old); and to flee McBrien and anyone named Fiorenza, taking nothing with you when you go!

But as to recommending Catholic systematic texts? I said that's hard, because I think he wants something compact -- not von Balthasar', how many volumes did he get to, anyway?

Plus, Catholic theology tends to specialize.

I recommended the Catechism--nothing shabby about that, and a great summary with depth and plenty of further resources suggested. I didn't recommend Aquinas, only because I didn't think that would be helpful for my Methodist friend.

What would you recommend?

He also asked me about any resources to counter Calvinism. Other than reviving the Inquisition, I was stumped for an answer. I referred him to some Catholic apologetical sites. Would you care to recommend anything?


dutch said...

How about James White?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

OK besides the CCC and the Compendium, I would suggest the Didache Series - it is published by the Midwest Theological Forum (yes, Opus Dei). There are four volumes and they have all been approved to be in conformity of the CCC by the Ad Hoc Committee of the USCCB. The 4 volumes are Introduction to Catholicism; The Scriptures, The History of the Church, and Life in Christ - the Moral Life. I would recommend the Introduction to Catholicism. It goes through the Call to Holiness, Prayer, The Trinity, The Church, The BVM, Revelation, The OT and The NT, Sacraments in General and then each individually, Freedom, Moral Virtues, The 10 Commandments individually, and the Beatitudes. It is intended as a HS or College text book so it has vocabulary at the end of each chapter, questions, practical exercise and THE BEST ARTWORK AND PICTURES IN ANY TEST BOOK I'VE EVER SEEN. (Ok - so I really like that part!)

The other volumes are spectacular -I'm currently working my was through the Church History book.

Hope that helps. I don't think that it particularly addresses Calvinism.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

I would ask Jimmy Akin for some suggestions.

Nothing wrong with Ott IMHO. Church doctrine doesn't change.

Anonymous said...

As far as countering Calvinism, I recommend the Internet Monk. Michael Spencer is a teacher, and preacher of the reformed variety.

His website is:


Mattias A. Caro said...

Honestly, if someone wants to do a serious study of Calvin they should actually READ Calvin because I think a lot of Calvinists would be surprised to see what Calvin actually said. An interesting study would be to read the Institute of Christian Religion's passages on natural law and the fall, and then compare them with Thomas Aquinas' treatment in the Summa in I-II, ques 90-105. A good guide to this would be Jay Budziszewski (a recent sojourner over to our side of the Tiber) and his book Written on the Heart. You'll find a Calvinist will have to concede a lot of ground to natural law based just on Calvin's own words and that's home territory for the Catholic ;)

DP said...

Ott is actually a very useful resource book in my opinion. I'm constantly referring to the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. It's not exactly a book you'd sit down and read through though.

I think the CCC is the best suggestion personally.

Deacon Jim said...

I would run it by Ben Myers at the Faith and Theology blog.

Terry said...

I hope the suggestions for James White and a "preacher of the reformed variety" to counter Calvinism were sarcasm.

Perhaps Al Kimel, whom I know you're very familiar, or one of his associates over at Pontifications might be of help to you. They're good for just about anything related to theology.

Also, Dr. Kenneth Howell at the University of Illinois' St. John Henry Newman Institute of Catholic Thoughtis a former Presbyterian minister and faculty member at the Reformed Theological Seminary. He has an E-mail listed, so perhaps he might be of help in suggesting something a good resource on Calvinism.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest, Father Fox, that you have your friend contact Dr. Scott Hahn? I believe he would be an excellent source for references on systematic Catholic theology to counter Calvinism. (I'm sure Dr. Hahn needs no introduction to anyone reading this blog.)

He has two listed e-mail addresses at his website. I don't think it makes any difference which one is used:


Anonymous said...

Fr. McBrien wouldn't recommend himself! He's an ecclesiologist, not a systematic theologian.

If you want your Catholicism wrapped in fundamentalism, then Hahn is your man. However, you wouldn't get past the wrapper

Fr Martin Fox said...


I think Fr. McBrien's Catholicism is what people take for a systematic theology. I have seen it taken as such.

Anonymous said...


You wrote, "If you want your Catholicism wrapped in fundamentalism, then Hahn is your man. However, you wouldn't get past the wrapper."

What you choose to call "Catholicism wrapped in fundamentalism" is simply Catholic orthodoxy, faithful Biblical scholarship, and adherence to the Magisterium.

Scott Hahn and the many other bright, enthusiastic converts to the Church of the last 15 or 20 years, have evangelized and revitalized the Church in America in powerful ways that bring hope to all of us who are orthodox and true to the historic faith.

However, I was not suggesting to Fr. Fox that his Protestant friend read Dr. Hahn's works, which generally are intended more for the lay faithful and for potential converts. I was suggesting that Dr. Hahn could give the names of some excellent theological resources. He has a collection of books that number literally in the thousands, and I believe he has read just about all of them.

Kathleen Pluth said...

It's a good question. I think that anything you'd pick up would be slanted in one way or another. Nothing new under the sun--but it seems like everything is polemical nowadays.

Best resources might be documents, including Trent naturally and anything relevant from VII, and the documents on faith from VI.

The Christian Faith by Neuner and Dupuis brings together documents according to topic. Might be a good place to start.

BTW is he trying to argue against people who've studied Barth? Then he might benefit from reading Balthasar on Barth--just those chapters in the trilogy. Or I'm sure Barth is treated in other works of Balthasar.