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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The mind of the new pope
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...
Published on 25 April 2005 by Kurt Messick

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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Theology Degree Required !
As another reviewer pointed out , this book's title is a bit of a misnomer. It is not really an introduction to Christianity at all, more of a high brow discussion of the Apostles Creed which anyone unfamiliar with philosophy and theology will most likely find mainly incomprehensible. I studied a little philosophy at university and I have read the Bible, so I was able to...
Published on 26 Jan. 2010 by L. Davidson


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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The mind of the new pope, 25 April 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Indepth Study of the Creed---Outstanding!, 30 Dec. 2008
By 
James Gallen (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ratzinger at his best, 16 Feb. 2008
By 
Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
Written 40 years ago by Ratzinger, this book still resonates with the times. In itself, this shows that Ratzinger is focused on what really matters in the Christian mystery - he nevers gets side tracked into going down blind and fruitless alleys. It is only on my second reading of this book that I began to see how important a book this is. This book is an important exploration of the nature of belief and of the articles of belief set down in the Apostles creed. I believe that in this book Ratzinger surpasses his mentors, namely De Lubac and von Balthasar. His analysis of the kenosis of Christ is particularly impressive, Christ "being from" and "being for".

Ratzinger first deals squarely with belief and points out that it is within the context of doubt that the theist and the atheist can enter into dialogue. After all, the Christian believes; he does not see. Likewise, the atheists "sees" what is optical and does not believe in what cannot be empirically verified. But, both the Christian and the atheist, if he is honest, must have doubts about the nature of his belief or non-belief. There must be times when the atheist says: "yet perhaps it is true (page 46).

For Ratzinger the word credo means:

"man does not regard seeing, hearing and touching as the totality of what concerns him, that he does not view the area of his world as marked off by what he can see and touch but seeks a second mode of access to reality, a mode he calls in fact belief, and in such a way that he finds in it the decisive enlargement of his whole view of the world" (page 50).

For Ratzinger the radicality of Christianity is that "God has come so near to us that we can kill him and that he thereby, so it seems, ceases to be God for us".

Ratzinger poses the question of whether "it would not have been much simpler to believe in the Mysterious Eternal... to leave us as at an infinite distance". (page 55)

Ratzinger notes that belief does not come "though the private search for truth but through a process of reception.. Faith cannot and should not be a mere product of reflection" (page 92). Faith demands unity and calls for the fellow believer; it is by nature related to a Church." (page 98).

On the nature of the Trinity, he noted that: "He is one, but at as the exceedingly great, entirely Other, he himself transcends the bounds of singular and plural; he lies beyond the" (page 125).

On the "I am who I am" scene in exodus, he notes that the words sound like a "rebuff","like a refusal to give a name than the pronouncement of a name (page 127) "I am" is as much as to say "I am here for you" " a Being-for". (page 129).

"The name is no longer merely a word, but a person: Jesus himself." (page 133) Ratzinger goes on to say that the meaning of a "name" is its invocability. God, by having a name, becomes accessible to me. "He is handing himself over to men in such a way that he can be called upon".

"And by doing this he enters into coexistence with them; he puts himself within reach; he is "there" for them". The name is no longer just a word at which we clutch; it is now flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone. God is one of us" (page 134/135).

Ratzinger notes the great saying by Tertullian: "Christ called himself truth, not custom". (page 141)

His thought then becomes even more metaphysical:

"Whoever looks thoroughly at matter will discover that it is being-thought objectivised thought. So it cannot be ultimate. All being is ultimately being-thought and can be traced back to

"Christian belief in God means that things are the being-thought of a creative consciousness of a creative freedom and that the creative conciousness that hears up all things has released what has been thought into the freedom of its own, independent existence". (page 137).

"The doctrine of the triune God, means at bottom renouncing any solution and remaining content with a mystery that cannot be plumbed by man (page 168)". "Faith consists of a series of contradictions held together by grace". (page 171).

"It now became clear that the dialogue, the relatio stands behind substance as an equally primordial form of being". I note here that Ratzinger preempts some of the philosophical work done by the great Jesuit Thomist, Norris Clarke and by the personalist, John F Crosby. "Father is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being for the other is he Father; in his own being in himself he is simply God". (page 183). "By calling the Lord "Son", John gives him a name that always points away from him and beyond him; he thus employs a term that denotes essentially a relatedness, He thereby puts his whole Christology into the context of the idea of relation" (page 185).

Moving on to focus of the office and nature of Christ, he notes that Christ "performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself" (page 204). "The person of Jesus is his teaching and his teaching is he himself" "message and person are identical" (page 206). "Jesus is his work" "His being is pure actualitas of "from" and "for"(page 228).

"For John, the picture of the pierced side forms the climax not only of the crucifixion scene but the whole story of Jesus... his existence is completely open. Now he is entirely "for"; now he is no longer a single individual but "Adam" from whose side, Eve, a new mankind is formed". (page 241) "The future of man hangs on the Criss - the redemption of Man is the Cross. And, he can only come to himself by letting the walls of his existence be broken down, by looking on him who has been pierced" (p242)

"Talk of original sin means no man can start from scratch any more (completely unimpaired by history" (page 249). "Last judgement, on the other hand is the answer to these collective entanglements" (page 249).

"Being a Christian means essentially changing over from being for oneself to being for one another". "Christ is the infinite self expenditure of God" (page 261).

"Love demands infinity, indestructibility; indeed it is, so to love demands, infinity, indestructibility; indeed, it is, so to speak, a call for infinity" (page 302).

Ratzinger's analysis of the resurrection and the Last judgement is deeply impressive, noting its deeply serious nature. Of hell, he notes that it "consists in man's being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self sufficient. It is the expression of enclosure in one's own being alone."

Finally, on the Church, Ratzinger approaches the evil evident in the Church in a sober fashion. "At bottom there is always a hidden pride at work when criticism of the Church adopts that tone of rancorous bitterness which today is already becoming a fashionable habit"

He notes that Christ in his earthly ministry scandalised others; is is surprising that he does so again when he gives himself over to be broken sacramentally on his altars, ministered, at times, by deeply sinful ministers and consumed also by those whose lifes often contradict the gospel. Don't we all in our own way contradict the gospel in our daily lives?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong, comprehensive, but a little dense, 3 April 2007
This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict's, introduction is very comprehensive and always acute and on the money. However he seems to be writing against a backdrop of all the "heresies" he's spent much of his life opposing. Therefore this book isn't quite an "introduction". It's a defense, an argument, an engagement which takes the reader in strange places they hadn't really planned on going. As a piece of Orthodox Catholic Thought this book is great, as an introduction to Christianity it's too dense and, unless readers are aware of the background, confusing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intro to Christianity for non beginners, 30 Dec. 2012
By 
ROBIN FORRESTER (Winsford, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
Then - Prof Ratzinger launched this book as a cardinal & archbishop, now - Pope Benedict XVI. Formally 'just' an exposition of the Apostles Creed, in reality a wide ranging, deeply probing, assessment of the spiritual needs of the world via philosophy and Christianity and through exploring the text of the creed and it's OT & NT Biblical sources. It is absorbing. It requires concentration. It is thought provoking. Sometimes he just gives his opinion on a topic, at other times he gives a brilliantly constructed series of arguments to a biblically based simple (not simplistic) statement. Every minute spent in this book is rewarding. He is that important combination of a widely respected academic with a pastoral heart for individuals, the church, and a lost and wandering world. You need to be reasonably well read at least in theology, the history of theology, and philosophy of religion to really get much out of this book. As a protestant (small 'p') conservative evangelical my heart and mind sings in many places along with this man of God.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blown away, 12 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
This is the fourth book that I have so far read by Pope Emeritas Benedicte. I recently read the 3 Jesus of Nazareth books that he wrote while Pope. He's my favourite author. His insights are almost breathtaking. His style is rooted in the traditional beliefs of the Catholic Church which he explains and defends effortlessly. The book was written in the late 1960s when Benedicte was a Cardinal. It's hard to give an impression of the book in a few words. I am not formally educated in philosophy or theology. As such this book is in places a bit of a challenge. However, I found in nearly all sections of the book that I was able to understand his general point. It probably helped that I had read some of his other books and I was already acquainted with his style and way of thinking. This is a much denser book than the 3 books on Jesus which I found easier to read (and incidently I would also highly recommend). That being said, I was almost overwhelmed by his insights on the articles contained Apostles Creed which he has used as the basic structure of Christian belief. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in developing their knowledge of Christianity although it might be a challenge for somebody that doesn't already have some knowledge of Christian belief and scripture. Even though this book requires a bit of effort it's well worth it. My faith has certainly deepened for reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another tour de force from a great thinker. His honesty in quietly and systematically facing ..., 25 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
Another tour de force from a great thinker.
His honesty in quietly and systematically facing the challenges, objections and difficulties is refreshing and inspiring.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Theology Degree Required !, 26 Jan. 2010
By 
L. Davidson (Belfast, N.Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
As another reviewer pointed out , this book's title is a bit of a misnomer. It is not really an introduction to Christianity at all, more of a high brow discussion of the Apostles Creed which anyone unfamiliar with philosophy and theology will most likely find mainly incomprehensible. I studied a little philosophy at university and I have read the Bible, so I was able to follow the gist of the Pope's book, but I do not feel suitably qualified to comment on it critically.After reading this book I emerged quite impressed by the Pontiff's towering intellect and his depth of knowledge.I may be wrong , but in this book the Pope seems to advocate a sort of collectivist approach to faith with little emphasis on the primacy of individual conscience. Faith must be part of a group consciousness he appears to be saying , or else it's not proper faith at all.Believing in Christ should entail us all losing our individuality within a group consciousness , namely his Church. I would disagree with this outlook. For me faith and personal salvation is an individual matter and freedom of conscience and freedom from collectivist mind control is essential for true Christianity to flourish. Once we have "group minds" and the oppression of non-conformists and dissenters, we have satanic persecution on our hands. Of course that is increasingly becoming the reality of life today. I gave this book a 2 star rating solely because I do not think it is a suitable introduction for anyone wanting to find out more about Christianity. It is well written by an extremely intelligent philosopher and should be read by those with a similar academic background.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Preliminary Comment, 23 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Introduction to Christianity (Communio Books) (Paperback)
I ordered the book because a friend had referred me to pages where the author comments favourably on Teilhard de Chardin. When it arrived, I checked the index and was happy to see four references to Teilhard. I give it five stars on the strength of what others have said. I will be happy to write a review when I have read the book - try me again in about a year.
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