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A Fiftieth Anniversary Festschrift: Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity

Joseph Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity was published first in 1968 — almost a half a century ago. It is already a modern classic, one of the most important books of our age, all the more special since it was written by a still-living author.

While not exactly misleading, the title should be taken in the broadest terms possible. We imagine that introductions are for beginners. That’s true here, too, but not for the sort of beginner you might expect. Ratzinger’s backdrop for writing Introduction to Christianity was a gathering storm of unbelief, the cultural revolts of the late twentieth century, and the end of the Second Vatican Council. The beginners he has in mind are those rediscovering the basis for faith — beginners along the path of serious faith amidst a culture of serious doubt.

As with the Council texts themselves, what was written then is only now coming into focus. Introduction to Christianity was a seedbed for ideas that would bloom much later in its author’s life, as a cardinal prefect, pope, and now as papa emerito. Its concise, powerful defense of Christian faith, drawn from illuminating biblical exegesis, philosophical rigor, and contemporary scholarship sounds as modern in 2017 as it must have in 1968.

The storm of unbelief has finally converged. Our age teems with challenges to faith more problematic than ever. The genius of Ratzinger’s writing, however — and of his pastoral example — lies with his approachable, apparent humanity. He, too, is a “beginner” in the faith. And his writing — his example and testimony, as well — reflect above all a shared weakness as part of the common human experience of God. This makes his teaching all the more convincing; his authority all the more understated; and the Christ he represents all the more loving and alive.

Far from fading into history, Introduction to Christianity is approaching its zenith. It deserves to be read far and wide, as a sort of handbook for our present spiritual struggle. Not only is it a “self-help” book to top all others — emphasizing, as it does, the nature of a God who cannot withhold himself for love of his people — but it is also a manual for evangelization by encouraging a lived, convincing Christian faith by thoughtful believers.

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, Ethika Politika will spend 2018 examining and discussing this truly great book, Introduction to Christianity. Our editors will work with authorities on Ratzinger’s theology and other important writers to draw focus around the book’s central themes, and to relate them to our present age, our Church, and to the current circumstances facing our belief as Christians.

In the final analysis, our aim is simple: to make reading Introduction to Christianity easier for those who otherwise wouldn’t, or wouldn’t be able to, read it. The quality of the book’s contents, and the credentials of its author, readily speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll participate in our Festschrift, and that you’ll show it to others who might benefit. If you’re able, we’d greatly appreciate your financial assistance, as well. To publish the volume of essays we plan will take upwards of $8,000. We intend to pay all of our writers, and to prepare texts worthy of this significant occasion. If at all possible, we’ll send a copy of the collection to Pope Benedict, himself, including recognition of all gifts received for this project, and with best wishes and prayers for him as thanks for his exemplary life of service and instruction to all of us.

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