Book Review: Ressourcement – A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology

resroucementTitle: Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology

Editors: Gabriel Flynn and Paul D. Murray

Bibliographic info: 264 pp.

Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Buy the book at Amazon.

With thanks to OUP for the review copy!

This volume, published on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II, contains thirty-one studies (thirty-three if you include the introduction and epilogue) on the Ressourcement Movement in Catholic theology. The table of contents, along with the authors of each chapter, can be found here. This volume also contains a 50-page bibliography which will no doubt be very useful for further studies.

While I am not a Catholic, my main area of interest is twentieth-century theology, whether it be Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, or any one of the other streams of Christian theology. And one of the most important events to occur in modern Catholic theology was the Ressourcement Movement, also known as la Nouvelle Théologie (French for “New Theology”). The word “Ressourcement” is French and means a renewal through a return to sources. This movement originated in early twentieth-century France and was essentially a theological and spiritual renewal of the Catholic Church based on a return to the original sources of Catholic theology: scripture, patristics, and liturgy. “Nouvelle Théologie“, also French, originated as a disparaging label (apparently by Pietro Parente) for those who were attempting to overturn the manualist theological system of neo-Scholasticism by returning to the original sources noted above. This approach eventually became the fully-fledged Ressourcement Movement.

The purpose of this volume is seen in the following quote from the introduction (by Gabriel Flynn): “to articulate the history of the Ressourcement movement, its antecedents and leading exponents and to assess the relevance of their prodigious theological output for the contemporary churches and modern society.”

The book is divided into four parts. Part One consists of twelve studies on the history and context of the movement, including such topics as Tridentine theology, modernism, Jansenism, Humani Generis, epistemology, and a few figures such as Maurice Blondel and Teilhard de Chardin. Part Two is seven studies on central figures of the Ressourcement Movement: Marie-Dominique Chenu, Yves Congar, Henri du Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Henri Bouillard, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Louis Boyer. Part Three contains three chapters who discuss the Ressourcement Movement in relation to biblical studies, liturgy, and patristics. Part Four contains nine studies looking at the influence of the Ressourcement Movement on the Modern World, with a couple of the chapters being on Protestantism and the Orthodox Church. The other chapters in this section include such topics as Vatican II, Eucharistic ecclesiology, Benedict XVI, Yves Congar, and Karl Rahner as an alternative to Ressourcement. Particularly interesting are the two chapters on the influence of the Ressourcement Movement on the agenda on Vatican II, which is especially seen in the conciliar documents Dei Verbum, Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, and Ad Gentes.

This 600-page volume is the most exhaustive treatment (in English at least) on the Ressourcement Movement and ably demonstrates how and why the Ressourcement Movement aroused a veritable renaissance in modern Catholic theology. This isn’t a book that you just read through once and are done with. It is a volume that requires a good time to study to fully reap the fruits therein and I will no doubt be studying these essays for a long time to come as I grapple with modern Catholic theology.

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