Former UCD president launches book on theology

Patrick Masterson says book reflects ‘various ways question of God can be approached’

Patrick Masterson, with his daughters Rosemary, Naomi, and Lucy at the launch of his book Approaching God. Between Phenomenology and Theology Photograph: Alan Betson

Patrick Masterson, with his daughters Rosemary, Naomi, and Lucy at the launch of his book Approaching God. Between Phenomenology and Theology Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 14:58


The “end of a trilogy” of books spanning more than 40 years by philosopher and former UCD president Patrick Masterson was marked in Dublin last night. Launching Approaching God: Between Phenomenology and Theology at Newman House, Prof Masterson said it was the result of a life-long, ongoing exploration of the relationship between faith and reason.

This began in 1971 with Atheism and Alienation, which asked “why was it people until the 17th century thought you were mad or alienated if you didn’t believe in God, whereas a lot of people today think you are mad or alienated if you do”.

His search continued with a book on the Christian idea of creation and, having been punctuated by what he describes as “a period of philosophical distraction in university administration”, led to his latest work reflecting “on the various ways the question of God can be approached”.

Last night was also an emotional occasion, coming just five months after the death of his wife Frankie.

Asked how his own faith had changed over the past 40 years, he said that since the bereavement, “Something curious has happened to me…

“It’s because I loved her so much and so convinced I’d see her that you work back from love, through hope to faith, not the other way around… At the moment it’s too raw, but I’m trying to work through some of that idea.”

Prof Masterson was joined by his children Rosemary, Laurence, Lucy and Naomi, at the launch, which was addressed by Prof Dermot Moran of University College Dublin.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Prof Masterson said he believed bridging the gap between faith and reason was a “necessary” task.

“I think you can make a good argument for the case for a creator. But what is involved in theological Christian revelation is much more than that we are creatures; there is the astonishing claim that we somehow or another participate in God’s life, that God loves us . . . that is a dimension that goes beyond reason.”