I recently spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Klein, professor of theology at the Augustine Institute in Colorado. Dr. Klein, who holds a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Notre Dame, is the author of a new book, God: What Every Catholic Should Know (Ignatius Press/Augustine Institute, 2019). Thank you to Dr. Klein for her time in having granted me this interview, the transcript of which follows.
Tell me about your faith journey.
I’m a convert, so people sometimes think that I will have some exciting story, but unfortunately I don’t! When I was in high school, my family started going to church regularly, to an evangelical church. In college, I started taking some theology classes, including one on the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, which really sparked in me a love of theology. I eventually pursued a master’s in Religious Studies and Ph.D. in Theology. About four years ago, I converted to Catholicism, around the time when I finished my Ph.D. Actually, I became Catholic, finished my dissertation, and had a baby all within a few months!
How did you come to write God: What Every Catholic Should Know?
The Augustine Institute decided that they wanted to do this series in a way that was accessible, but intellectually sound and exciting. So, they asked if I wanted to write a title in this series, and asked me to do it on … God! Although this sounded intimidating at first, I came to understand that the book wasn’t going to explain what every Catholic can know about God, but what every Catholic really should know about God, to have a solid foundation upon which to build a real relationship with the real God. That made the topic more manageable and clear. (I explain a little bit of this in the book’s introduction.)
Was there any chapter in the book that you especially enjoyed writing?
The section on the analogies of the Trinity was probably the most fun for me. I think when people are taught the doctrine of the Trinity (if they are taught it), they hear a lot of analogies — some more wacky than others. My first exposure to the Trinity was through the analogy of the egg (yikes!). So, writing a chapter to show the strengths and weaknesses of different analogies I thought would resonate with people’s experience of learning about the Trinity, and also help with future catechesis.
What outcome do you want for the readers of God: What Every Catholic Should Know?
To know God better. Doing theology will help you to know God better. We as Catholics really want to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5), and I hope that people experience that that is true. I want people to know God as he reveals himself in the Scriptures, to know God and to be encouraged. I also hope this book will serve as a starting point for people in their intellectual journey, and not a stopping point. I want the book to whet people’s appetites for the Scriptures and the Church’s rich tradition.
What hopes do you have for the future of the Church?
I think that one exciting thing that is happening in the Church right now is that laypeople are really excited and hungry for the faith, and maybe in a way that’s unprecedented. For a long time, we’ve relied on the hierarchy or the Catechism, and those are so important, but now we are also having more Catholics read the Bible, read the Church Fathers, and encounter the Tradition for themselves. Our faith has so much to offer, and I think laypeople are realizing that, and also wanting to share it with others! I have been repeatedly amazed by the lay enthusiasm that I have witnessed while working at the Augustine Institute. So, I hope this enthusiasm continues to grow and that it draws people to the Catholic Church!
Do you have any closing remarks for your readers?
Don’t be intimidated by the big questions about God. Sometimes the idea of doing theology can be a little overwhelming, but the teaching on the Trinity, on why God became man, on why God died on the Cross … these are the fundamental truths of our faith, these are the mysteries that will sustain us on our journey. These mysteries should spur us on and not turn us away.
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I recommend that you get a copy of this book to enrich your faith. Then, share it with someone (else) who could use the opportunity to learn more about what the Church teaches about God. You will gain much enlightenment and inspiration from Dr. Klein’s book.