Faith and Science Together at Last
Associate Professor of Theology (retired), Wheeling Jesuit University
Review of The Creed: The Faith That Moves Evolution
Maldari is the theology professor I wish I had in college. He has written a book that is more than a commentary on the creed; it is a personal introduction to Christianity as a way of life. His presentation is shaped by a lively intellect and is enlivened by personal humor and a plethora of historical asides. The creed in Maldari’s treatment becomes not a doctrinal checklist, but path of openness to God. The book articulates Christianity for the 21st century. It is simultaneously traditional and radically contemporary—characterized in particular by an appreciation and religious appropriation of modern science.
The Nicene Creed—familiar to many Christians, but too little understood—has attracted distinguished commentary. Systemic theology historians Jaroslav Pelican and J.N.D. Kelly made substantial contributions. The theorist of catechetics and religious education, Berard Marthaler wrote what has become a standard text, and biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson demonstrates in his insightful meditation that there are many new things to say. Maldari’s book on the creed takes its place with these works as a needed supplement to the often-cited “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Among them, it is a reader-friendly and personal alternative to the CCC—that jewel box and warehouse of Christian information on the Christian tradition.
Characteristic of all commentaries on the creed, Maldari is at pains to explain the fundamental doctrines of Trinitarian Christianity: creation, incarnation, redemption and sanctification, and the historical debates behind these doctrines. Highly attentive to classical theological terms, Maldari is nevertheless careful to translate the religion-speak of pious cliché and theological jargon into understandable English. Successful classroom experience is evident on each page.
What distinguishes Maldari’s book—his most innovative contribution, and for some his most controversial—is his sustained interest in the mutual dialog between religious faith and scientific investigation. Writing in the tradition of those like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for whom the scientific quest and religious quest are inseparable, Maldari proposes a mutual dialog and integration of these two quests for truth. Boldly, he uses science to articulate religious beliefs about God, Christ, and the Church; no less he suggests ways in which religious convictions can round out the necessarily limited narrative allowed by the empirical canons of scientific method. This aspect of the book, announced upfront in the subtitle of the book, “The Faith That Moves Evolution,” will challenge readers accustomed to more traditional explanations.
Maldari offers a better-cut outfit for those whose faith is still wearing the short pants of childhood. For those whose faith is limited by pre-scientific ignorance, he proposes a whole new line. He is rightly impatient with the intellectual poverty of fundamentalism, and he clearly rejects pseudo-science proposals like Intelligent Design.
Readers of this accessible book will engage with a contemporary, intellectually sophisticated presentation of the Christian beliefs, values and practices that inform lived Christianity.
Maldari is a good writer and loves language. His explanations are clear, supported by effective analogies, and unburdened by theological jargon. Additionally, his broad knowledge of ancient languages is on display and used to good effect.