The Primacy of God: The Virtue of Religion In Catholic Theology


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To contemporary minds, the notion of justice toward God is seldom considered and often foreign. Far more discussed is how God might either undermine or motivate social justice. The Primacy of God by R. Jared Staudt offers an important intervention. With the aid of St Thomas Aquinas, Staudt argues that it is vital for both contemporary society and contemporary Catholic theology to return to the traditional view of God as the one to whom all human and social action must be ordered and to recover the virtue of religion as the virtue which orders all other virtues to God.

Not only does Staudt helpfully remind readers of the ancient philosophical and biblical notion of worship as a dictate of the natural law, he also illuminates the way in which Christian liturgy, as an enactment of Christ’s high priesthood, is the great fulfillment of natural and biblical worship.

Accordingly, Staudt secures religion as essential for the virtue of love. This brings Staudt to criticize modern theologians like Karl Barth, who claimed that religion is inherently idolatrous, as well as Karl Rahner, who claimed that love of neighbor is the highest moral act. Staudt also considers the question of religious truth in light of the plurality of religions, soliciting the assistance of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger, as well as the way in which religion relates to the development of culture, engaging the great Catholic social historian Christopher Dawson.

The Primacy of God is a much-needed work that ought to set the agenda for Catholic theology in the twenty-first century.

R. Jared Staudt serves as Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation at the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute. He holds a BA and MA in Catholic Studies (University of St Thomas in St Paul, MN) and a PhD in systematic theology (Ave Maria University). He served as Director of Catholic Studies at the University of Mary, Academic Dean of the Augustine Institute, and Managing Editor of Nova et Vetera. He is the author of Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence) and the editor of The University and the Church: Don J. Briel’s Essays on Education (Cluny Media).

“To say that The Primacy of God is an important book about an important subject matter is true, yet at the same time it is a serious understatement—it is a very important book about a most urgent subject matter. Staudt puts his finger on the deepest reason why our modern culture is an upside-down world in which the ‘exile of God’ is intimately connected with the ‘eclipse of religion.’ The fact that the ‘eclipse of religion’ is leaving its traces all over the contemporary Church and theology tells us how much the ‘eclipse of God’ is affecting church and theology. Staudt’s book is very timely and a must-read for seminarians, priests, bishops, and the proverbial educated lay person.”

Reinhard Huetter
The Catholic University of America

“Staudt shows the indispensable role of the virtue of religion as conceived by St Thomas in fundamental and moral theology, and in political theology and Christology. With the help of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger, he vindicates its utility in making theological sense of the history of revelation and of contemporary religious pluralism. Staudt’s deft rebuttal of the critical positions of Kant, Barth, Rahner, and Dupuis is complemented by his re-introduction of Christopher Dawson’s fruitful discussion of the relation of theology and sociology. Not to be missed.”

Guy Mansini, OSB
Ave Maria University

“Staudt’s The Primacy of God is a synthetic masterpiece drawing together biblical wisdom with the theological insights of Aquinas and Balthasar and Christopher Dawson’s meta-history. It is a significant contribution to the renewal of the field of fundamental theology. It also explains why the ‘all we need is love’ mantra is a woefully reductionist understanding of what it means to have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

Tracey Rowland
University of Notre Dame (Australia)

“The virtue of religion in St Thomas, as in St Augustine, is the key to right order—but get it wrong, and the world will collapse, just as we are witnessing today. Jared Staudt has written an essential and powerful book on this virtue that can turn the altars of our world the right way round again. Highly recommended.”

C. C. Pecknold
The Catholic University of America

The Primacy of God: The Virtue of Religion In Catholic Theology

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