"I wish I had a great lake of ale for the King of kings, and the family of heaven to drink it through time eternal."
-St. Brigid of IrelandWe Catholics seem to love our beer, given that the previous entry has been featured on a lot of sites and has started some fairly lively discussions. But it seems, and the most honorable Fr. Z himself has recommended some along with many others, that there must needs be a second round of pints served, as I have obviously not mentioned many, many figures that deserved it. Whilst I figure out which beers would be akin to St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure, I nonetheless offer up another serving of theologians for your reading pleasure.
I debated on whether or not to serve up this second round of theological pints, but when the discussion is this fun, why wait? Without further ado, the second round of "If Theologians Were Beers..."
1. St. Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Bernard, the most admirable Doctor mellifluus, reminds me of the rich Trappist ales produced by Chimay. Incredibly rich, powerful, and quite potent, the taste of Chimay ales (especially that of the blue label variety) very much mimic the intoxicating words of this great Cistercian saint. Harsh, surely at times, but ultimately satisfying and ever rich.
2. Hans Kung
In the interest of charity, I omitted my original entry on Hans Kung, but since people are asking (even Fr. Z himself!), I will give my answer. Hans Kung's theology is the Colt 45 Malt Liquor of the theological world - cheap, low quality, and harsh. At once appealing to the rebellious as a one-way ticket into thrill-seeking dissidence and James Deanery, Hans Kung's theology may seem at first to be a kind of forbidden fruit to the dissident crowd, but ultimately can only ever leave one with a brutal spiritual hangover.
3. C.S. Lewis
I must be careful here, for C.S. Lewis is not only one of the most beloved of all Christian writers the world over, but also one of the most respected. Indeed, who does not frequently return to the simple bread-and-butter wisdom contained within Mere Christianity from time to time? But we must note the simplicity especially; not only this, but we must also note the smoothness with which even the most bitter of Lewis' words (such as those in A Grief Observed) go down into the spiritual stomach. Hence, I stick my neck out and declare that I myself find Lewis to be very similar to Tiger Beer from Singapore, of all places. In all my years, I have yet to taste a beer with the impeccable smoothness of this lager that still boasts so much in terms of full flavor. Verily, Tiger Beer goes down like water. And so it is that it's goodly flavor, smooth liquid texturing, and drinkability make it akin to Mr. Lewis.
4. Karl Rahner
I am trying to cover much ground here and endeavor to continue "blazing a trail through pathless tracts of the Muses' Pierian realm, where no foot has trod before"1. But I must confess that I am entirely unsure as to why anyone is curious as to what Karl Rahner, the influential 20th century Jesuit, would be if he were a beer. Assuredly, his writing is more dense than concrete. He seeks to give new names to things, but in doing so, changes their meaning. And so Rahner must be a beer that labels itself as something it is not. Here, we could speak of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale, which is not exactly an India Pale Ale at all, but this would do a disservice to Keith's which is actually a decent and crisp beer. So it is that we must compare Rahner with Hobgoblin by Wychwood Brewery. Impenetrably dark, complex in flavor, and decidedly strange after some examination, Hobgoblin ruby ale is exciting at first, but ultimately leaves on with an upset stomach, much like Rahner ultimately leaves one with an upset and questioning heart. "Transignification"? No thanks.
5. Jurgen Moltmann
Jurgen Moltmann, one of the true greats of 20th-century Protestant theology, reminds me at once of Old Speckled Hen. Incredibly flavorful and smooth, the taste of Old Speckled Hen ale is comforting in its essence. And yet, much like Moltmann's theology of the cross, it ends in a peculiar bitterness. A paradoxical drink and paradoxical theologian that one will either enjoy or dismiss outright.
I know that Lactantius is probably not on the list of major theologians to think about - but then again, neither is Scott Hahn or Karl Rahner (no offense to Scott Hahn meant). But in Lactantius, I find the taste of Tusker Lager, a beer from Kenya. At once, for us Westerns, it is an exotic purchase, and Lactantius is an exotic read. It is named after a raging elephant that killed the brewery's founder, and in this sense, mimics the fiery rhetoric of Lactantius as well. But Lactantius is notorious for his theology falling short of brilliance when one looks past the adept rhetoric of this well-meaning figure, and Tusker, too, falls a little short. The soapiness and sort of weak flavor remind one of a North American macrobrew, and yet one cannot ignore the subtleness of its sour and corn flavors hidden within its pale body. Just like Lactantius, it should be approached with caution, but nevertheless, enjoyed for what it is.
7. Theophan the Recluse
A major saint for the Eastern Orthodox, Theophan the Recluse simply demands to be compared to Hermannator Ice Bock, a local beer for myself, brewed by Vancouver Island Brewery. It is a rich and flavorful brew, rife with the dense tastes of rum, spice, plum, and raisin, all mixed with the pure orthodoxy that dark beers are known for. It is aged in the cold, much like a Russian starets, if you will, and provides a very powerful medicine for the soul. Indeed, Hermannator is a beer of 9.5% strength, making it one to be enjoyed in more moderation than usual (some of us Catholics need to be reminded of this word, moderation, from time to time!). But when it is sipped, when those sweet raisin and spice notes lace themselves across the palate, oh! what goodness is to be had!
Origen - I rarely go a day without mentioning this genius of the early Church in some form or another. But given his very nature as being so unique, I thought to myself, "Surely, this man deserves something different when it comes to the matter"
And so, it is with great admiration and fanfare that I declare Origen to not be like a beer at all, but rather akin to Hendrick's Gin. Impossibly deep and complex in flavor, able to be mixed into other drinks or drunk on its own, this gin, adorned with wreaths of rose petals and infused with the flavor of fresh cucumber, is an acquired taste and yet ever so well worth it. It is not surprising to find that some consider Hendrick's Gin to be an heretical variety of gin - but we must not listen to the carping of ignorant critics, and instead turn to the luxurious flavor of Hendrick's and the honeyed words of Origen in order to learn to deepen our appreciation of both gin and of theology in general.
1 - Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book IV