Tomas Halik's book Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing In Us was another one of those books I saw sitting on the "new books" shelf at my public library that, after a cursory inspection I decided to take home with me to read. Halik, a Czech Catholic priest, Professor and adviser to former Czech President Vaclav Havel in his book tries to reach out those outside creedal belief, people like atheists, skeptics and agnostics. To Halik, these are the modern heirs of the New Testament figure of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus of course according to Gospels was the Jewish tax collector who while perched in a tree watched Jesus preach to the crowd. Since Zacchaeus was not actively participating, he was nevertheless curious and to a degree engaged by what he saw going on around him. Today while many of those individuals are not in the Church, they might be hanging outside listening, or more likely engaged in intellectual discovery or doing admirable deeds.
In a sense, Halik advocates a new ecumenicism. He calls on the Church to reach out those whose intellectual honesty and commitment to the Greater Good make them admirable in the eyes of God. To make his point Halik uses numerous examples from Liberation Theology, literature, philosophy, the writings of St. Paul and the lives of the Saints.
While this is a good book, alas it is not a great book. I suspect Halik, is a better thinker than a writer. And for all his sincerity, many of the modern Zacchaeuses will strongly disagree with his opinions. I do think however, his book has contributed nicely to the ongoing debate between belief and nonbelief. Some might think his book is a bit muddled, but then again, so is the middle ground when it comes to the classic argument between belief in God and the denial of God's existence.