The Bible reveals that there are many dimensions to the Holy Spirit’s character, personality, and power. Unfortunately, most believers live in a tragically limited experience of the Spirit’s role. But there is more!
Keith Miller has operated in the Holy Spirit’s power for decades as a revivalist, revelatory teacher, and witness to the miraculous. But it was a revelation of the seven-fold Spirit of God that changed everything.
John Rziha’s The Christian Moral Life offers a Christian overview of the good life for which God created us, along with the virtue-forming habits through which we may attain it.
The theology is faithfully within the Catholic tradition, and the use of terms and concepts is decidedly Thomistic. The book is divided into two parts. In Part 1, Rziha outlines a framework for thinking about the Christian moral life. Using the analogy of a journey to God, he points out the travelers must know three things: (1) their beginning point; (2) where they are going; and (3) how to get there. Our beginning point is our human nature and the subsequent inclinations we all experience.
Part 2 covers the three theological virtues – faith, hope, charity – and four cardinal virtues – produce, justice, temperance, fortitude. Each chapter on an individual virtue includes a discussion of sub-virtues, which are aspects of the broader cardinal or theological virtues under consideration. And here, there are some especially thoughtful connections. Yes, fortitude obviously requires patience and perseverance; but it also requires meekness.
As we practice justice, we will of course be aided by gratitude and honesty, but also be aided by industry and stewardship. By bringing out the connection points among all the virtues, Rziha helps reinforce a central theme of the book: that the virtues are all intended to serve the ultimate purpose of cultivating our love of God so that we may enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.
Throughout the book, Rziha offers a framework for moral theology that is unswervingly teleological (as opposed to deontological). While most discussions of justice focus on respect for others’ rights, within Rziha’s teleological framework, “the most important aspect of justice is that it perfects the ability of humans to love others” (224). In his discussion of Natural Law theory, the “eternal law” is simply God’s “plan directing all things to their proper end” (102). I myself find it a great merit of Rziha’s book that he frames his discussions in these terms. It is a sad fact that moral theology over the past few centuries has in may quarters not wanted to start with the kinds of questions Aristotle and Aquinas saw as central: what the good life consists in for humans, and how we may achieve it. Yet, it is the book’s staunch commitment to this tradition of Aquinas – including his terms and concepts – that potentially leads to certain types of difficulties. We are quite far removed today from Aquinas’ metaphysical commitments. Medieval scholars spend years studying how Aquinas and others would have understood such claims as the objects “tend toward” their natural ends. To those who are not Medieval scholars, can we retain Aquinas’ terms and categories, and still understand most of what he intended to convey? I am not sure.
This problem arises mainly in Rziha’s discussion of human action and decision-making, which would largely be covered in modern curriculum by courses in philosophy of action and the philosophy of mind. For those with backgrounds in these areas, it may prove frunstrating to read antiquated statements such as that “The will is naturally inclined to love the true good” (20). Or, it may seem too artificial to claim that prudence “perfects the intellect,” with justice “perfecting the will,” and temperance and fortitude “perfecting the emotions.” So, there may be a trade-off between a faithful recapitulation of Aquinas and a serious, modern proposal of the processes of human decision-making and intentional action. Nevertheless, Rhiza’s discussions do serve as a spiritual formative way of looking at the human condition and God’s resources for leading us to the good life of communion with Him.
In sum, Rziha offers an extremely detailed, and laudably systematic, look at the connection points within moral theology: between one virtue and another, between virtue and the sins that undermine it, between virtue and the actions that cultivate it, between virtue and the grace that perfects it. These are faithful summations of the rich Thomistic tradition. Each topic presents the reader with challenges if seeking a deeper life with God. And if readers are indeed seeking to be spiritually formed, they will embrace these challenges, given the continuously attractive way Rziha presents the end of our journey: perfect happiness found in God. The book will work well as an introductory text for undergraduate students. More widely, for those interested in understanding the Catholic, Thomist tradition in moral theology, as well as for those already in that tradition who would like a framework for understanding how familiar themes of human telos, grace, law, and virtue all fit together, this book would be an excellent choice.
An academic textbook promising “directions for the journey to happiness” must be an odd outrider in a genre that typically explains bland technical subjects with dispassionate, often tedious prose. Such is the peculiar case with this introduction to Catholic moral theology from John Rziha, professor of theology at Benedictine College (Atchison, Kansas).
While it exhibits all the formal organization, diligent comprehensiveness, and (at times) even plodding language of a common school textbook, the attainment of both natural and eternal happiness really is the unerring focus of this book. Rziha defines moral theology as “the study of how humans attain eternal happiness through loving union with God by performing their proper actions with the aid of God’s grace” (2). So, throughout his nineteen carefully argued chapters, Rziha never loses sight of this ultimate goal of happiness or the essential human need for loving relationships with God and other people.
The text is organized into two parts with the second building upon the first.”Moral Theology in General” covers the subjects essential to the discipline: human nature, sanctifying grace, the four types of laws, the practice of virtue, the nature of sin, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and other salient points.
“The Individual Virtues and Laws” takes a deeper look into the three theological and four cardinal virtues, including specific sub-virtues, related gifts of the Holy Spirit, relevant commandments, and sins that oppose each virtue.
Rziha always writes in accessible language to convey deep philosophical and theological ideas to the uninitiated, as well as explain a handful of unavoidable specialized terms. He also fills the text with friendly illustrative examples of fictitious men and women facing moral dilemmas over commonplace issues with school, work, family, faith, and vocation.
The Christian Moral Life is a sound introductory textbook on the complexities of moral theology. Despite its relatively simple language and unwavering focus on human happiness as the central subject of moral theology, the text can understandably be difficult to follow at times.
The complex interrelations among various steps of human actions, virtues, laws, gifts, and beatitudes can be challenging to piece together properly. This is, after all, a text on moral theology and not a self-help book, so readers must be ready to slow to a crawl at times to comprehend the richness of Catholic moral thought.
The Christian Moral Life will be a valuable textbook for libraries and teachers educating undergraduate and graduate students in theology, but its many grammatical errors will need to be corrected if it ever goes into a second edition.
The Christian Moral Life written by John Rziha, Narrated by Andrew L. Barnes will be released in June 2020! This book takes listeners on a journey that requires the sojourner to know where they are, where they are going, and sets a our minds on the ultimate destination, happiness in the presence of God.
Moral theology examines the same three truths. The Christian Moral Life is a handbook for moral theology that uses the theme of a journey to explain its key ethical concepts.
First, humans begin with their creation in the image of God. Secondly, the goal of the journey is explained as a loving union with God, to achieve a share in his eternal happiness. Third and finally, the majority of the book examines how to attain this goal. Within the journey motif, the book covers the moral principles essential for attaining true happiness.
Based on an examination of the moral methodology in the bible, the book discusses the importance of participating in divine nature through grace in order to attain eternal happiness.
It further notes the role of law, virtue, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in guiding and transforming humans into friends of God, who participate in his happiness. Following this section on moral theology in general, the book analyzes the individual virtues to give more concrete guidance.
The entire project builds upon the insights of great Christian thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, Thérèse of Lisieux, and John Paul II, to uncover the moral wisdom in scripture and to show people how to be truly happy both in this life and the next.
This book will be of great interest to undergraduate students of moral theology, priests and seminarians, parents and teachers seeking to raise and to form happy children, and anyone interested in discovering the meaning of true happiness.