Katholisch Leben!

The Jesus Brothers

www.kathpedia.com

Theologie ist die Lehre von Gott und den göttlichen Dingen. Sie befasst sich systematisch mit den Grundlagen der eingegossenen (durch Gott geschenkten) Erkenntnisse und mit errungenem Wissen.

Die theoretische Seite der katholischen Theologie lehrt die auf der Heilige Schrift und der Tradition belegbaren Grundlagen der Theologie: Bibelexegese, Fundamentaltheologie, Dogmatik, Kirchengeschichte, Moraltheologie, Religionspädagogik, Kirchenrecht, Liturgiewissenschaft und Sakramentenlehre, Pastoraltheologie und Homiletik).

Die katholische Theologie umfasst die natürliche Offenbarung in der Schöpfung, der übernatürlichen Offenbarung in der Heilige Schrift und dem Wehen des Heiligen Geistes in der Traditon der Kirchengeschichte.

(Quelle: http://www.kathpedia.com/index.php?title=Theologie)

 

Moderne Theologie?

"Amen, das sage ich euch: Wer das Reich Gottes nicht so annimmt wie ein Kind, der wird nicht hineinkommen."

(Lk 18, 17 - Einheitsübersetzung)

 

Es gibt - wenngleich auch bestimmt wohlgemeinte - Tendenzen in der modernen Theologie, vor denen nur gewarnt werden kann.

Zum einen wird die These vertreten, es gäbe nicht so etwas wie ewig gültige Wahrheiten und Standards. Theologie müsse sich in allem - auch in den letzten Inhalten und Glaubensüberzeugungen - der neuen Zeit anpassen. Das ist der Nährboden für jegliche Form von Irrlehre. Mit diesem Argument lässt sich die Bibel nach Belieben umschreiben. Manche Theologen gehen sogar soweit, dass sie nicht nur traditionelle Lehren und die Bibel selbst weiter entwickeln, sondern sie sogar verändern (und dafür sogar Kirchenlehrer wie Cardinal Henry Newman missbrauchen. Cardinal Newman hat aber gesagt, dass Dinge sich verändern, was die Art und Weise angeht, wie man sie betrachtet - im Grunde bleiben sie aber dieselben. So wie ein Ei und ein Huhn im Prinzip dasselbe sind - nur anders aussehen). Es soll an dieser Stelle nicht die Notwendigkeit und der Sinn von Fortschritt geleugnet werden. Aber wo Fortschritt nur etwas Bestehendes weiter entwickelt, bedeutet Veränderung, dass sich etwas Bestehendes in etwas völlig  Neues verändert. Dinge jedoch zu verändern, sodass sie tatsächlich anders sind (also eine Art extreme Form einer Evolutionstheorie für Theologie), heißt nichts anderes, als Gott zu spielen, der Bibel oder den Kirchenvätern etwas hinzuzufügen oder zumindest deren Lehren zu verändern. Das aber wurde klar vom I. Vatikanischen Konzil als Häresie verurteilt.

Dann heißt es, die Bibel sei zwar von Gott inspiriert, aber von Menschen geschrieben. Hiermit begibt man sich aber auf ein gefährliches Glatteis. Wer gibt uns das Recht, die Bibel nach Gutdünken umzuschreiben und etwa aus einem klaren Nein zur Homosexualität ein lauwarmes Ja zu machen (als Argument wird etwa angeführt, Paulus hätte noch nichts von der "Neigungshomosexualität", wie wir sie heute kennen, geusst. Das Problem hierbei: Zum einen ist die Bibel von Gott inspiriert, und der Schöpfer des Universums wird wohl auch die heutige Form der Sexualität gekannt haben - Er kennt schließlich die Geschichte der Menschheit bis ans Ende aller Tage. Wollen wir schlauer sein als Er? Wem trauen wir mehr - aktuellen wissenschaftlichen Tendenzen oder unserem Gott? Hinzu kommt, dass sich die Homosexualität seit Paulus nicht verändert hat: es war damals wie heute dieselbe Homosexualität. Warum sollte er davon nichts gewusst haben? Kommt es überhaupt darauf an, was er gewusst hat oder nicht? Anzumerken auch, dass Paulus der Schüler von Gamaliel war, des größten Rabbis aller Zeiten - und man darf ihm durchaus einiges an Kenntnis zumuten).

Schließlich werden alle bisherigen katholischen Begründungen für Glaubenswahrheiten verworfen - sei es nun Maria, das Papsttum, das Fegfeuer, die Taufe oder was auch immer. Die Bibelverse, die die Kirche 2000 Jahre lang als Begründung hierfür angeführt hat, sollen auf einmal nicht mehr gelten. Sie wären bestenfalls "nachösterliche Einschübe" - also nach dem Tod Jesu - wenngleich auch in Seinem Sinne - verfasst worden. Anstelle dessen tritt das Zeugnis der "gesamten Bibel" oder eine jeweils aktuelle Interpretation, vermischt mit Theorien aus der "modernen Wissenschaft", der Psychotherapie usw. Oft wird auch behauptet, "kein Theologe zitiert mehr diese [alten, bisher verwendeten] Bibelstellen", wenn doch eher gemeint ist, dass kein "moderner" deutscher Theologe dies mehr tut. Und selbst das stimmt nicht unbedingt.

Ein beliebtes - wenn auch bestimmt gut gemeintes - Argument: "Jesus selbst hat zu diesem Thema nichts gesagt". Zum einen vernachlässigt dieses Argument die Tatsache, dass die gesamte Bibel das Wort Gottes ist, nicht nur das Evangelium. Zum anderen erfahren wir im Neuen Testament selbst, dass längst nicht alles aufgezeichnet ist, was Jesus gesagt und getan hat. Dieses Argument wird schnell auch missbraucht: etwa wenn es heißt, Jesus habe nichts zum Thema Homosexualität gesagt. Auf die Frage aber, ob eine Scheidung unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen zulässig ist, hat Er nicht einfach mit ja oder nein geantwortet, sondern den Standard der monogamen, heterosexuellen und lebenslangen Ehe aus Genesis zitiert. Reicht es nicht, zu sagen, was richtig ist? Reicht es nicht, den Standard zu nennen? Muss Er dann noch eine lange Liste von Dingen anführen, die nicht dazu gehören, wenn Er doch ausdrücklich gesagt hat, was dazu gehört?

An dieser Stelle soll nicht versucht werden, die "gute alte Zeit" zu verherrlichen oder moderne Theologie schlecht zu Machen. Sie ist und bleibt sinnvoll und wichtig. Es soll aber doch an die Tradition - die Überlieferung der Bibel und der Kirche sowie der Kirchenväter erinnert werden.

(Fortsetzung folgt)

"Have you forgotten what they told us?" (Fr. Benedict Goeschel)

(Quelle: u.a. Steve Wood - www.famililifecenter.net)

 

Häresie und Atheismus in der Katholischen Kirche?

Das hört sich auf den ersten Blick wie starker Tobak an: Häresie und Atheismus in der Katholischen Kirche?

Und doch ist es heute gar nicht so selten, dass selbst von Theologen, die Lehrbefugnis haben, (wenn auch vielleicht mit den besten Absichten) Ideen geäußert werden, die sowohl dem widersprechen, was der Katechismus schreibt, als auch der kirchlichen Tradition der letzten 2.000 Jahre - von den Wahrheiten der Bibel ganz zu schweigen.

Da wird dem Zeitgeist und der Wissenschaft (etwa der Psychologie, der Genetik, der Soziologie, der Politik usw.) mehr geglaubt als der katholischen Lehre. Und bei Bedarf wird eben alles umgedeutet und den modernen Zeiten angepasst. Man hat ein vorgegebenes Ergebnis und gleicht die Lehre diesem Ergebnis an. Alles andere kann nicht sein.

Da gibt es kaum ein Dogma, kaum eine Lehre, kaum einen Bibelvers, die noch nicht geleugnet bzw. umgedeutet worden sind.

Selbst die Aussagen der Bibel - vor allem Jesu' Worte - werden relativiert und als "nachösterliche Einschübe" bezeichnet. Ebenso seien Verse, die einem nicht mehr passen, "im Licht der damaligen Zeit" zu sehen und es sei zu bedenken, dass die Bibel von Menschen geschrieben wurde. Das öffnet Missbrauch und Verdrehung - und damit Irrlehren - Tür und Tor. Das Problem bei jeder Irrlehre ist ja, dass sie einen wahren Kern enthält.

Am schlimmsten jedoch, aber keineswegs abwegig: es gibt offensichtlich tatsächlich Theologen, die mehr oder weniger offen Atheisten sind.

Ein Trost bleibt uns: Jesus hat uns versprochen, Er würde bei Seiner Kirche bleiben bis ans Ende aller Tage und die Tore des Hades würden sie nicht besiegen. Er würde uns den Heiligen Geist als Führung hinterlassen.

Und daran lasst uns festhalten.

 

Be the Sign of Contradiction!

Die Katholische Kirche geht duesteren Zeiten entgegen.

Manch einer mag jetzt entnervt aufstoehnen: „Schon wieder so eine Schwarzmalerei!“

Vielleicht. Vielleicht auch nicht.

Jeder, der „Father Elijah“ von Michael D. O’Brien gelesen oder den Film „Katholiken“ gesehen hat, weiss, worauf ich hinaus will. Dem Rest kann ich nur empfehlen, dieses wahrhaft profetische Buch zu lesen und den Film anzusehen.

Ich will einmal versuchen, das Ganze aus der Perspektive eines Konvertiten zu erlaeutern, also eines Menschen, der zunaechst in evangelikalen oder fundamentalistischen (und das meine ich hier keineswegs negativ!) Gemeinden war und dann zum Reichtum und zur Fuelle der Katholischen Kirche (zurueck) gefunden hat:

Charakteristisch fuer viele, die diesen Schritt gegangen sind oder dabei sind, ihn zu tun, ist, dass sie erschrocken und enttaeuscht ueber den Zustand dieser Kirche und ihrer Glaeubigen sind. Sie haben viel aufgegeben, haben voller Freude und innerem Feuer den katholischen Glauen studiert, kennen den Katechismus besser als so mancher Theologe oder Priester – und muessen dann feststellen, dass es diese Kirche nicht (mehr) gibt!

Sie hat sich zwar noch an einigen wenigen Orten und in einigen wenigen Menschen gehalten (siehe „Father Elijah“!), im Grossen und Ganzen aber scheint all das, was seit 2.000 Jahren das „katholische“ ausgemacht hat, in der Katholischen Kirche nicht mehr willkommen zu sein.

Kuerzlich kontaktierte mich ein Bruder, den ich noch aus meiner Vergangenheit in anderen christlichen Gemeinden kannte. Er ist seit geraumer Zeit mit Feuereifer dabei, den katholischen Glauben zu studieren. Dafuer bestellt er sich Buecher (u.a. aus den USA!), liest und studiert den Katechismus und selbstverstaendlich die Bibel. Ebenso macht er sich im Internet schlau und bestellt sich katholische Medien. Vorbildlich in jeder Hinsicht – und ein Vorbild auch fuer jeden Katholiken. Nur wer seinen Glauben kennt, kann ihn auch wirklich lieben!

Nun war er in einer der Stellen, die die Katholische Kirche in seinem Bistum fuer Konvertiten eingerichtet hat. Er wollte dort Kurse machen und sich mit den Geistlichen vor Ort unterhalten. Irgendwann wandte er sich entnervt an mich und meinte, er sei es leid, die Theologen dort an die Aussagen des Katechismus zu erinnern und ihnen den eigenen katholischen Glauben zu erklaeren.

Nun mag ich keineswegs die Aufrichtigkeit der Menschen in solchen Einrichtungen bezweifeln. Allerdings weiss ich aus eigener Erfahrung, dass sie oft nicht die Sprache der Menschen sprechen, die sie eigentlich erreichen wollen/sollen. Ausserdem vertreten sie teilweise auch – wenn auch im besten Wissen und Gewissen! - das, was ich einmal vorsichtig mit „unselige Theologie“ umschreiben moechte.

Einige Charakteristika dieser „neuen Theologie“ sowie des „neuen Geistes“ der unsere geliebte Kirche zu durchstroemen scheint:

Die Bibelverse, auf die sich die Katholische Kirche seit 2.000 Jahren zur Begruendung ihrer Glaubenswahrheiten gestuetzt hat und dies im Katechismus immer noch tut (ebenso wie dies internationale Theologen zumeist noch tun!), werden – gerade von deutschen Theologen! – von heute auf morgen „ueber den Haufen geworfen“. „Nachoesterliche Einschuebe“ werden sie genannt, die zwar noch goettlich inspiriert sind, aber nicht von Jesus selbst gesagt wurden. Ebenso wird alles „im Licht der damaligen Zeit“ gesehen (womit sich fast alles relativieren laesst) oder als rein „symbolisch“ betrachtet.


Eine blinde Wissenschaftsglaeubigkeit. Die Menschen damals haetten ja nicht die Erkenntnisse gehabt, die wir heute haben. Wir wissen ja heute alles so viel besser, insofern muessen wir die Bibel, die vom Schoepfer des Universums inspiriert wurde, neu schreiben – oder zumindest neu „auslegen“. Sind wir schlauer als Gott selbst? Nein, ich glaube weiter meinem Vater im Himmel – im Vertrauen darauf, dass das, was Er uns geboten hat, nicht aus dem Grunde geschehen ist, weil Er uns gerne herumkommandiert, sondern weil Er uns liebt und weiss, was geschieht, wenn wir unser Gesicht von Ihm abwenden.


Eine geradezu naive Unterschaetzung des Okkulten. Da wird Harry Potter als harmloser Kinderspass abgetan, das Horoskop gelesen, Halloween gefeiert, Geisterfilme im Fernsehen angesehen, Rockmusik mit unzweideutigen Texten und Inhalten gehoert – und man glaubt, all das waere nicht so schlimm. Auf der anderen Seite gelten die wenigen uebrig gebliebenen Exorzisten als Relikte aus einer laengst vergangenen Zeit – wenn nicht gar alsgefaehrliche Kriminelle. Ebenso wird die Suende in kaum einer Predigt mehr erwaehnt (man will ja die Leute nicht verschrecken!), der Teufel und die Hoelle entweder ganz geleugnet oder schoengeredet. Der einzige, der zu all dem wirklich lachen kann, ist genau dieser Teufel selbst! Der Meister der Luegen, der es auch und gerade heute noch schafft, die Glaeubigen aufs Glatteis zu fuehren. Du glaubst nicht daran, dass es einen Teufel und die Hoelle gibt? Nun, du wirst es vielleicht glauben, wenn du dort bist! Wir sehen hinter jeden Baum den Teufel? Das waere nicht so sehr das Problem – solange er dort bleiben wuerde (angelehnt an F. Bill Casey)!


Ein falsches Verstaendnis von Oekumene. So wichtig es auch ist, die Spaltung der christlichen Kirche zu ueberwinden und sich auch mit anderen Religionen an einen Tisch zu setzen, so sehr vermisse ich hier die Grundvoraussetzung von Oekumene: sie kann nur dort funktionieren, wo jeder zunaechst in seinem eigenen Glauben fest verwurzelt steht. Wer selbst nicht weiss, wer er ist, woher er kommt und wohin er gehoert, kann keine fruchtbare Oekumene vorwaerts bringen! Mit einer wenn auch wohlgemeinten „wischi-waschi“-Einstellung, die weder Fisch noch Fleisch ist, ist niemandem geholfen. Dies deckt sich mit dem ueberall zu findenden moralischen Relativismus (es gibt keinen Konsens mehr darueber, was richtig, wahr und moralisch ist. Jeder definiert es fuer sich selbst) und dem Auswahlchristentum oder auch „Cafeteria-Christentum“ (man sucht sich das, was einem in den verschiedenen christlichen Konfessionen gefaellt, zusammen, fuegt ein wenig Zen-Buddhismus, Hinduismus oder Schamanentum & Esoterik hinzu und wuerzt es mit den eigenen Moralvorstellungen. Jeder wird so sein eigener Gott und alle sind wir „gluecklich“.


Das Ruetteln an traditionellen christlichen Familienwerten sowie am biblischen Bild von Mann und Frau. „Feministische Theologie“ ist hier nur eines der Schlagwoerter. Da meinen sogar weibliche Ordensfrauen, dass der einzige Grund, warum sie nicht Priester werden duerften, die Tatsache sei, das sie kein Y-Chromosom haetten. Das ist ein Bild des Jammers. Mann und Frau sind in der Bibel schon immer gleich viel wert gewesen – jedoch hatten sie von Anfang an verschiedene Rollen. Sie waren unterschiedlich – und dieser Unterschied ist etwas Gutes! Moderne Gleichmacherei ruettelt an den Grundfesten des biblischen Menschenbildes. Der Mann als der, der die Familie leiten sollte – und ihr gleichzeitig dienen sollte, wie Christus seiner Braut (der Kirche) gedient hat, wird als ein antiquiertes Rollenverstaendnis abgelehnt. Maenner und Frauen wissen nicht mehr, wer sie sind und was ihre Aufgaben sind („Gender Mainstreaming“). Selbst Homosexualitaet wird voellig neu bewertet – als ob Gene oder psychologische Hintergruende ein Kriterium fuer moralische oder glaubensmaessige Akzeptanz waeren. Scheidung wird nicht mehr so eng gesehen (der Bund der Ehe als ein Spiegelbild des Bundes zwischen Gott und den Menschen und als eindeutig von Gott angeordnete lebenslange, monogame Verbindung wird hier eigenmaechtig umgekrempelt), ebenso vieles andere, was die muendliche und schriftliche Ueberlieferung (Bibel und kirchliches Lehramt) 2.000 Jahre lang eindeutig gelehrt haben.


Die gnadenlose Unterwerfung unter den Zeitgeist. Die Kirche soll ihre altmodischen Moralvorstellungen ueberdenken und „mit der Zeit gehen“. Das Problem hierbei: Wenn die Kirche immer mehr wie die Welt wird, warum sollte dann irgend jemand ueberhaupt noch die Kirche brauchen?


Am Amt des Papstes als desjenigen, der die Schluessel des Himmelreiches uebertragen bekommen hat, der zusammen mit den Bischoefen das kirchliche Lehramt und die kirchliche Autoritaet innehat, wird immer mehr geruettelt und gesaegt (siehe „Father Elijah“!).


Moderne Theologie: Hier hat das kirchliche Lehramt wohl Jahrzehnte lang die Zuegel zu locker gehalten. Was hier von Theologen mit kirchlichem Lehrauftrag teilweise – wiederum sehr wohl mit den besten Absichten! – gelehrt wird, ist manchmal schon grenzwertig. Da gehoert es schon fast zum guten Ton, den Papst sowie die Stellungnahmen der Bischoefe zu kritisieren. Da werden theologische Buecher verfasst und Artikel geschrieben, die in einer derart abgehobenen Sprache verfasst sind, dass weder der Leser geneigt ist, dem zu folgen noch der Schreiber offenbar eine klare Vorstellung davon hat, was er damit eigentlich sagen will. Und mit der Uebereinstimmung mit dem Katechismus nimmt man es da nicht mehr so genau. Von der Treue zu Rom ganz zu schweigen. Ein charakteristischer Satz hierfuer, der durchaus auch von Geistlichen stammen kann: „Offiziell muss ich Ihnen jetzt dies und das sagen, privat aber sage ich ihnen...“. Als wenn ein Priester privat sein kann, wenn ihn jemand um Rat fragt.


Das teilweise sehr aggressive Vorgehen gegen die, die fuer das eigentlich „katholische“ in der Katholischen Kirche stehen.

Manch einer mag sich nun ueber mich aufregen und mich als radikal, rueckstaendig und engstirnig halten. Damit kann ich gut leben. Ich liebe die Katholische Kirche mit meinem ganzen Herzen und mit meiner ganzen Seele. Und ich liebe das „katholische“ an dieser Kirche. Mir ist ein Don Camillo oder ein Padre Pio tausend Mal lieber als alles, was moderne Theologie zu bieten hat.

Zurueck zu „Father Elijah“: ich habe kuerzlich mit Michael D O’Brien gechattet. Er meinte schliesslich, ich solle weiterhin das „sign of contradiction“ bleiben – das Zeichen des Widerspruchs. Wer „Father Elijah“ gelesen hat, weiss, was das heisst.

Er weiss auch, wie dieser Roman endet...

 

 

Angeblich Konservative haben doch nur Angst vor Veränderungen und wollen sich nicht öffnen!

Mit Hobby-Psychologensprüchen wie diesen ist niemandem geholfen - am allerwenigsten der Kirche. Allenfalls enthüllen Sie etwas über den Autor solcher Aussagen.

1) Wieso "angeblich"? Wir sollten uns doch nicht anmaßen, zu wissen, was in einem Menschen vorgeht - schon gar nicht aber sollten wir uns darüber leichtfertig und unqualifiziert ein Urteil erlauben. Manche leugnen ja generell, dass es so etwas wie Konservative gibt. Letztere tun dies nicht - warum auch? Sie müssen sich ja nicht selbst verleugnen. Ja, es gibt noch Menschen, die der Ansicht sind, dass es bestimmte grundlegende Werte gibt, die auch weiterhin bestehen müssen. Familienwerte etwa. Oder die unterschiedlichen Rollen und Aufgaben von Mann und Frau (das hat nichts mit Diskriminierung zu tun! Gott hat Mann und Frau als etwas unterschiedliches geschaffen. Dieser Unterschied ist nicht nur körperlich, sondern auch emotional und spirituell und betrifft das Rollenverständnis. Mann und Frau sind gleich viel wert - aber nicht dasselbe! Und dieser Unterschied ist notwendig und gut so!

2) Wir wollen uns nicht öffnen? Derartige Pauschalaussagen sind einfach Unsinn. Was wir allerdings tun, ist Neues aus einem christlichem Blickwinkel zu prüfen und abzuwägen, bevor wir uns bedenken- und kritiklos darauf stürzen und es in die Kirche holen. Kirche und Welt sind nicht getrennt - aber auch nicht dasselbe. Wenn die Kirche wie die Welt wird und sich von ihr nicht mehr unterscheidet, wenn Christen nicht mehr als solche wahrnehmbar sind, warum um Himmels willen sollte jemand noch Christ werden wollen? Warum sollten wir dann noch eine Kirche brauchen? Nein, wir sind uns bewusst, dass die Kirche der Leib Christi ist - und was in der Kirche ist, soll Ihm auch zur Ehre gereichen.

3) Was uns all die so hochgelobten Neuerungen gebracht haben, sieht man ja: die Kirchen werden immer leerer, der Einfluss des Christentums in der Welt hat radikal abgenommen, ganze Orden sind am Sterben, Priesternachwuchs (zumindest im Westen) fehlt, christliche Schulen müssen schließen, christliche Werte verschwinden aus der Gesellschaft - kurz: Religion wird zur Privatsache - zu einer Art spirituellen "Hobby". Natürlich ist dies nicht allein den ganzen modernistischen Neuerungen zuzuschreiben, gleichwohl lässt sich deren Mitverantwortung kaum leugnen. Manche sehen nun als "Heilmittel" einen noch radikaleren Modernismus, einen völligen Bruch mit kirchlichen Werten und der Tradition. Manchmal drängt sich hier das Bild von Alkoholkranken auf, die noch kurz vor ihrem Tod leugnen, dass dieser irgend etwas mit dem Alkohol zu tun hat. Nein, ich will nicht modernistisch denkende Katholiken mit Alkoholikern vergleichen, sondern diesen Vergleich als Verbidlichung eines Dilemmas verwenden: der völligen Weigerung, anzuerkennen, dass vieles von dem, was man als "frischen Wind" und "Geist des Konzils" gepriesen hat, nicht nur gescheitert ist, sondern einen gegenteiligen Effekt als den gewünschten hatte. Nein, ich möchte nicht den Wert des II. Vatikanischen Konzils mindern, es ist aber auch nicht so, dass wir seitdem eine neue Kirche haben und alles, was vorher war, vergessen und ausgelöscht sein soll. Die Kirche darf nicht zu einem spirituellen Wellnesstempel mit christlichem Touch verkommen, in dem alles erlaubt ist, was einem "gut tut". Gott hat uns in der Heiligen Schrift, im lebendigen wort Jesus Christus und in der Kirche der letzten zwei Jahrtausende klare Standards gegeben. Es steht uns nicht zu, eigenmächtig alles "umzuinterpretieren" und somit Gott - oder zumindest Papst spielen zu wollen. Jeder einzelne von uns und die Kirche insgesamt hat einen Auftrag - und eines Tages werden wir dafür Rechenschaft abzulegen haben!

"Theologisch korrekte" Predigten?

Eine Tendenz, die sich durch die ganze Kirche zieht, und auch in Predigten erkennbar ist, sind „theologisch korrekte“ Predigten. Was versteht man darunter?
Nun, vielleicht habt ihr schon mal theologische Versatzstücke und Aussagen wie die folgenden gehört: „Jesus lädt uns ein…“, „Er geht ein Stück des Weges mit uns“, „Was bedeuten diese bildlichen Aussagen…“, „…findet seinen Sitz im Leben“, „in Beziehung treten mit Gott“, „gegenwärtig machen“, „Frohbotschaft des Glaubens“, „Wir sind gerufen…“ - und vieles mehr.
Was ist falsch daran? Nichts. Das ist genau das Problem: Wir sind an einer Theologie angelangt, die (überspitzt ausgedrückt) nichts sagt und niemanden angreift. Eine Theologie, die weder Fisch noch Fleisch ist. Die jeden einlädt und niemanden zu etwas verpflichtet. Die schön klingt und nach nichts schmeckt.
Um eines klar zu stellen: Die Menschen, die so etwas zum Ausdruck bringen, tun dies in der Regel mit den besten Absichten. „Beste Absichten“ können aber auch der Anfang vom Ende sein.
Warum nicht einfach in der Sprache sprechen, die Menschen verstehen und jeden Tag verwenden? Warum nicht klar Dinge auf den Tisch bringen, auch wenn sie unbequem sind? Eine wahre Liebe und Fürsorge, wie es für Hirten gebührt, muss auch mal hart sein, damit die Schafe nicht in die Irre laufen – oder von dort umkehren. Eine Predigt muss das Innerste der Menschen treffen, sodass sie mit brennendem Herzen den Gottesdienst verlassen und alles geben – wenn es sein muss, auch ihr Leben! – um Jesus nachzufolgen, das Evangelium zu verbreiten, andere Menschen zu taufen und zu Jüngern Christi zu machen!
Nehmen wir uns ein Beispiel am Papst: Nicht umsonst erreicht er die Menschen in ihrem Innersten – er verzichtet auf theologische Floskeln und spricht nicht nur mit Worten, sondern auch mit Taten, die aus dem Herzen kommen – ohne dabei die Wahrheit aus den Augen zu verlieren!

Robert

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

INTERNATIONALE THEOLOGISCHE KOMMISSION

 

Auf Vorschlag der ersten ordentlichen Versammlung der Bischofssynode richtete Papst Paul VI. am 11. April 1969 eine Internationale Theologische Kommission ein, die an der Kongregation für die Glaubenslehre angesiedelt wurde, approbierte „ad experimentum“ das Statut und ernannte nach und nach die ersten Mitglieder.

Aufgabe der Kommission ist es, den Heiligen Stuhl, näher hin die Kongregation für die Glaubenslehre, bei der Untersuchung von Lehrfragen, die von größerem Gewicht sind, zu unterstützen.

Präsident der Kommission ist der jeweilige Präfekt der Glaubenskongregation. Derzeit ist dies Kardinal William Joseph Levada.

Generalsekretär ist derzeit Pater Serge-Thomas Bonino O.P.

Die Kommission setzt sich aus Theologen diverser „Schulen“ und Nationen zusammen, die sich durch wissenschaftliche Qualifikation und Treue zum kirchlichen Lehramt auszeichnen. Die Mitglieder (deren Höchstzahl auf 30 begrenzt ist) werden nach Befragung der Bischofskonferenzen vom Kardinalpräfekten der Glaubenskongregation dem Papst vorgeschlagen, der sie „ad quinquennium“ (für fünf Jahre) ernennt.

Mindestens einmal im Jahr kommt die Kommission zu einer Vollversammlung zusammen. Daneben kann es Sitzungen von Unterkommissionen geben. Die Ergebnisse der Studien werden dem Heiligen Vater vorgelegt und der Kongregation für die Glaubenslehre zur allfälligen Verwendung übergeben.

Mit dem Motu Proprio „Tredecim anni iam“ hat Papst Johannes Paul II. am 6. August 1982 die endgültigen Statuten der Kommission promulgiert.

  

Anschrift:        Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, 00120 Città del Vaticano.

Telefon:           (+39) 06 698 95 971

(Quelle: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_pro_14071997_ictheology_ge.html)

 


 

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

THEOLOGY TODAY:
PERSPECTIVES, PRINCIPLES
AND CRITERIA

CONTENTS

Introduction

Chapter 1: Listening to the Word of God

1: The primacy of the Word of God
2: Faith, the response to God’s Word
3: Theology, the understanding of faith

Chapter 2: Abiding in the Communion of the Church

1: The study of Scripture as the soul of theology
2: Fidelity to Apostolic Tradition
3: Attention to the sensus fidelium
4: Responsible adherence to the ecclesiastical magisterium
5: In the company of theologians
6: In dialogue with the world

Chapter 3: Giving an Account of the Truth of God

1: The truth of God and the rationality of theology
2: The unity of theology in a plurality of methods and disciplines
3: Science and wisdom

Conclusion

***

PRELIMINARY NOTE

The study of the theme of the status of theology was already begun by the International Theological Commission in the quinquennial session of 2004-2008. The work was done by a subcommission, presided by Reverend Santiago del Cura Elena and composed of the following members: Most Reverend Bruno Forte, Most Reverend Savio Hon Tai-Fai, S.D.B., Reverends Antonio Castellano, S.D.B., Tomislav Ivanĉić, Thomas Norris, Paul Rouhana, Leonard Santedi Kinkupu, Jerzy Szymik and Doctor Thomas Söding.

Since, however, this subcommission had no way of completing its work with the publication of a document, the study was taken up in the following quinquennial session, on the basis of the work previously undertaken. For this purpose, a new subcommission was formed, presided by Monsignor Paul McPartlan and composed of the following members: Most Reverend Jan Liesen, Reverends Serge Thomas Bonino, O.P., Antonio Castellano, S.D.B., Adelbert Denaux, Tomislav Ivanĉić, Leonard Santedi Kinkupu, Jerzy Szymik, Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., and Doctor Thomas Söding.

The general discussions of this theme were held in numerous meetings of the subcommission and during the Plenary Sessions of the same International Theological Commission held in Rome from 2004 to 2011. The present text was approved in forma specifica on 29 November 2011 and was then submitted to its President, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who authorized its publication.

INTRODUCTION

1. The years following the Second Vatican Council have been extremely productive for Catholic theology. There have been new theological voices, especially those of laymen and women; theologies from new cultural contexts, particularly Latin America, Africa and Asia; new themes for reflection, such as peace, justice, liberation, ecology and bioethics; deeper treatments of former themes, thanks to renewal in biblical, liturgical, patristic and medieval studies; and new venues for reflection, such as ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. These are fundamentally positive developments. Catholic theology has sought to follow the path opened by the Council, which wished to express its ‘solidarity and respectful affection for the whole human family’ by entering into dialogue with it and offering ‘the saving resources which the Church has received from its founder under the promptings of the Holy Spirit’.[1] However, this period has also seen a certain fragmentation of theology, and in the dialogue just mentioned theology always faces the challenge of maintaining its own true identity. The question arises, therefore, as to what characterises Catholic theology and gives it, in and through its many forms, a clear sense of identity in its engagement with the world of today.

2. To some extent, the Church clearly needs a common discourse if it is to communicate the one message of Christ to the world, both theologically and pastorally. It is therefore legitimate to speak of the need for a certain unity of theology. However, unity here needs to be carefully understood, so as not to be confused with uniformity or a single style. The unity of theology, like that of the Church, as professed in the Creed, must be closely correlated with the idea of catholicity, and also with those of holiness and apostolicity.[2] The Church’s catholicity derives from Christ himself who is the Saviour of the whole world and of all humanity (cf. Eph 1:3-10; 1Tim 2:3-6). The Church is therefore at home in every nation and culture, and seeks to ‘gather in everything for its salvation and sanctification’.[3] The fact that there is one Saviour shows that there is a necessary bond between catholicity and unity. As it explores the inexhaustible Mystery of God and the countless ways in which God’s grace works for salvation in diverse settings, theology rightly and necessarily takes a multitude of forms, and yet as investigations of the unique truth of the triune God and of the one plan of salvation centred on the one Lord Jesus Christ, this plurality must manifest distinctive family traits.

3. The International Theological Commission (ITC) has studied various aspects of the theological task in previous texts, notably, Theological Pluralism (1972), Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology (1975), and The Interpretation of Dogma (1990).[4] The present text seeks to identify distinctive family traits of Catholic theology.[5] It considers basic perspectives and principles which characterise Catholic theology, and offers criteria by which diverse and manifold theologies may nevertheless be recognised as authentically Catholic, and as participating in the Catholic Church’s mission, which is to proclaim the good news to people of every nation, tribe, people and language (cf. Mt 28:18-20; Rev 7:9), and, by enabling them to hear the voice of the one Lord, to gather them all into one flock with one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16). That mission requires there to be in Catholic theology both diversity in unity and unity in diversity. Catholic theologies should be identifiable as such, mutually supportive and mutually accountable, as are Christians themselves in the communion of the Church for the glory of God. The present text accordingly consists of three chapters, setting out the following themes: in the rich plurality of its expressions, protagonists, ideas and contexts, theology is Catholic, and therefore fundamentally one, if it arises from an attentive listening to the Word of God (cf. Chapter One); if it situates itself consciously and faithfully in the communion of the Church (cf. Chapter Two); and if it is orientated to the service of God in the world, offering divine truth to the men and women of today in an intelligible form (cf. Chapter Three).

CHAPTER 1:
LISTENING TO THE WORD OF GOD

4. ‘It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will (cf. Eph 1:9)’, namely that all people might ‘have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2Pet 1:4)’.[6] ‘The novelty of biblical revelation consists in the fact that God becomes known through the dialogue which he desires to have with us.’[7] Theology, in all its diverse traditions, disciplines and methods, is founded on the fundamental act of listening in faith to the revealed Word of God, Christ himself. Listening to God’s Word is the definitive principle of Catholic theology; it leads to understanding and speech and to the formation of Christian community: ‘the Church is built upon the word of God; she is born from and lives by that word’.[8] ‘We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1Jn 1:3).[9] The whole world is to hear the summons to salvation, ‘so that through hearing it may believe, through belief it may hope, through hope it may come to love’.[10]

5. Theology is scientific reflection on the divine revelation which the Church accepts by faith as universal saving truth. The sheer fulness and richness of that revelation is too great to be grasped by any one theology, and in fact gives rise to multiple theologies as it is received in diverse ways by human beings. In its diversity, nevertheless, theology is united in its service of the one truth of God. The unity of theology, therefore does not require uniformity, but rather a single focus on God’s Word and an explication of its innumerable riches by theologies able to dialogue and communicate with one another. Likewise, the plurality of theologies should not imply fragmentation or discord, but rather the exploration in myriad ways of God’s one saving truth.

1. The primacy of the Word of God

6. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn 1:1). The Gospel of John starts with a ‘prologue’. This hymn highlights the cosmic scope of revelation and the culmination of revelation in the incarnation of the Word of God. ‘What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people’ (Jn 1:3-4). Creation and history constitute the space and time in which God reveals himself. The world, created by God by means of his Word (cf. Gen 1), is also, however, the setting for the rejection of God by human beings. Nevertheless, God’s love towards them is always infinitely greater; ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it’ (Jn 1:5). The incarnation of the Son is the culmination of that steadfast love: ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). The revelation of God as Father who loves the world (cf. Jn 3:16, 35) is realised in the revelation of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Son of God and ‘Saviour of the world’ (Jn 4:42). In ‘many and various ways’ God spoke through the prophets in former times, but in the fullness of time he spoke to us ‘by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds’ (Heb 1:1-2). ‘No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known’ (Jn 1:18).

7. The Church greatly venerates the Scriptures, but it is important to recognise that ‘the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”; Christianity is the “religion of the word of God”, not of “a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word”’.[11] The gospel of God is fundamentally testified by the sacred Scripture of both Old and New Testaments.[12] The Scriptures are ‘inspired by God and committed to writing once and for all time’; hence, ‘they present God’s own Word in an unalterable form, and they make the voice of the Holy Spirit sound again and again in the words of the prophets and apostles’.[13] Tradition is the faithful transmission of the Word of God, witnessed in the canon of Scripture by the prophets and the apostles and in the leiturgia (liturgy), martyria (testimony) and diakonia (service) of the Church.

8. St Augustine wrote that the Word of God was heard by inspired authors and transmitted by their words: ‘God speaks through a human being in human fashion; and speaking thus he seeks us’.[14] The Holy Spirit not only inspired the biblical authors to find the right words of witness but also assists the readers of the Bible in every age to understand the Word of God in the human words of the holy Scriptures. The relationship between Scripture and Tradition is rooted in the truth which God reveals in his Word for our salvation: ‘the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures’,[15] and through the ages the Holy Spirit ‘leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness (cf. Col 3:16)’.[16] ‘[T]he word of God is given to us in sacred Scripture as an inspired testimony to revelation; together with the Church’s living Tradition, it constitutes the supreme rule of faith.’[17]

9. A criterion of Catholic theology is recognition of the primacy of the Word of God. God speaks ‘in many and various ways’ - in creation, through prophets and sages, through the holy Scriptures, and definitively through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (cf. Heb 1:1-2).

2. Faith, the response to God’s Word

10. St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: ‘faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ’ (Rom 10:17). He makes two important points here. On the one hand, he explains that faith follows from listening to the Word of God, always ‘by the power of the Spirit of God’ (Rom 15:19). On the other hand, he clarifies the means by which the Word of God reaches human ears: fundamentally by means of those who have been sent to proclaim the Word and to awaken faith (cf. Rom 10:14-15). It follows that the Word of God for all time can be proclaimed authentically only on the foundation of the apostles (cf. Eph 2:20-22) and in apostolic succession (cf. 1Tim 4:6).

11. Since Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, ‘is himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation’,[18] the response that the Word seeks, namely faith, is likewise personal. By faith human beings entrust their entire selves to God, in an act which involves the ‘full submission’ of the intellect and will to the God who reveals.[19] ‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom 1:5) is thus something personal. By faith, human beings open their ears to listen to God’s Word and their mouths also to offer him prayer and praise; they open their hearts to receive the love of God which is poured into them through the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5); and they ‘abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 15:13), a hope ‘which does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:5). Thus, a living faith can be understood as embracing both hope and love. Paul emphasises, moreover, that the faith evoked by the Word of God resides in the heart and gives rise to a verbal confession: ‘if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved’ (Rom 10:9-10).

12. Faith, then, is experience of God which involves knowledge of him, since revelation gives access to the truth of God which saves us (cf. 2Th 2:13) and makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). Paul writes to the Galatians that, as believers, they ‘have come to know God, or rather to be known by God’ (Gal 4:9; cf. 1Jn 4:16). Without faith, it would be impossible to gain insight into this truth, because it is revealed by God. The truth revealed by God and accepted in faith, moreover, is not something irrational. Rather, it gives rise to the ‘spiritual worship [logiké latreía]’ that Paul says involves a renewal of the mind (Rom 12:1-2). That God exists and is one, the creator and Lord of history, can be known with the aid of reason from the works of creation, according to a long tradition found in both the Old (cf. Wis 13:1-9) and New Testaments (cf. Rom 1:18-23).[20] However, that God has revealed himself through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of his Son for the salvation of the world (cf. Jn 3:16), and that God in his inner life is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, can be known only through faith.

13. ‘Faith’ is both an act of belief or trust and also that which is believed or confessed, fides qua and fides quae, respectively. Both aspects work together inseparably, since trust is adhesion to a message with intelligible content, and confession cannot be reduced to mere lip service, it must come from the heart. Faith is at the same time a reality profoundly personal and ecclesial. In professing their faith, Christians say both ‘I believe’ and ‘We believe’. Faith is professed within the koinonia of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2Cor 13:13), which unites all believers with God and among themselves (cf. 1Jn 1:1-3), and achieves its ultimate expression in the Eucharist (cf. 1Cor 10:16-17). Professions of faith have developed within the community of the faithful since earliest times. All Christians are called to give personal witness to their faith, but the creeds enable the Church as such to profess her faith. This profession corresponds to the teaching of the apostles, the good news, in which the Church stands and through which it is saved (cf. 1Cor 15:1-11).

14. ‘False prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions’ (2Pet 2:1).[21] The New Testament shows abundantly that, from the very beginnings of the Church, certain people have proposed a ‘heretical’ interpretation of the faith held in common, an interpretation opposed to the Apostolic Tradition. In the first letter of John, separation from the communion of love is an indicator of false teaching (1Jn 2:18-19). Heresy thus not only distorts the Gospel, it also damages ecclesial communion. ‘Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same’.[22] Those guilty of such obstinacy against the teaching of the Church substitute their own judgement for obedience to the word of God (the formal motive of faith), the fides qua. Heresy serves as a reminder that the communion of the Church can only be secured on the basis of the Catholic faith in its integrity, and prompts the Church to an ever-deeper search for truth in communion.

15. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it takes the faith of the Church as its source, context and norm. Theology holds the fides qua and the fides quae together. It expounds the teaching of the apostles, the good news about Jesus Christ ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1Cor 15: 3, 4), as the rule and stimulus of the Church’s faith.

3. Theology, the understanding of faith

16. The act of faith, in response to the Word of God, opens the intelligence of the believer to new horizons. St Paul writes: ‘it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor 4:6). In this light, faith contemplates the whole world in a new way; it sees it more truly because, empowered by the Holy Spirit, it shares in God’s own perspective. That is why St Augustine invites everyone who seeks truth to ‘believe in order to understand [crede ut intelligas]’.[23] We have received ‘the Spirit that is from God’, St Paul says, ‘so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God’ (1Cor 2:12). Moreover, by this gift we are drawn into an understanding even of God himself, because ‘the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God’. By teaching that ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1Cor 2:16), St Paul implies that by God’s grace we have a certain participation even in Christ’s own knowledge of his Father, and thereby in God’s own self-knowledge.

17. Placed in possession of ‘the boundless riches of Christ’ (Eph 3:8) by faith, believers seek to understand ever more fully that which they believe, pondering it in their hearts (cf. Lk 2:19). Led by the Spirit and utilising all the resources of their intelligence, they strive to assimilate the intelligible content of the Word of God, so that it may become light and nourishment for their faith. They ask of God that they may be ‘filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’ (Col 1:9). This is the way of the understanding of faith (intellectus fidei). As St Augustine explains, it unfolds from the very dynamism of faith: ‘One who now understands by a true reason what he previously just believed is surely to be preferred to one who still desires to understand what he believes; but if one does not desire and if one thinks that only those things are to be believed which can be understood, then one ignores the very purpose of faith’.[24] This work of understanding faith contributes in turn to the nourishment of faith and enables the latter to grow.[25] Thus it is that ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth’.[26] The way of the intellectus fidei is the path from believing, which is its source and permanent principle, to seeing in glory (the beatific vision; cf. 1Jn 3:2), of which the intellectus fidei is an anticipation.

18. The intellectus fidei takes various forms in the life of the Church and in the community of believers in accordance with the different gifts of the faithful (lectio divina, meditation, preaching, theology as a science, etc.). It becomes theology in the strict sense when the believer undertakes to present the content of the Christian mystery in a rational and scientific way. Theology is therefore scientia Dei in as much as it is a rational participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of all things.

19. A criterion of Catholic theology is that, precisely as the science of faith, ‘faith seeking understanding [fides quaerens intellectum]’,[27] it has a rational dimension. Theology strives to understand what the Church believes, why it believes, and what can be known sub specie Dei. As scientia Dei, theology aims to understand in a rational and systematic manner the saving truth of God.

CHAPTER 2:
ABIDING IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH

20. The proper place for theology is within the Church, which is gathered together by the Word of God. The ecclesiality of theology is a constitutive aspect of the theological task, because theology is based on faith, and faith itself is both personal and ecclesial. The revelation of God is directed towards the convocation and renewal of the people of God, and it is through the Church that theologians receive the object of their enquiry. In Catholic theology, there has been considerable reflection on the ‘loci’ of theology, that is, the fundamental reference points for the theological task.[28] It is important to know not just the loci but also their relative weight and the relationship between them.

1. The study of Scripture as the soul of theology

21. The ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the ‘very soul of sacred theology’.[29] This is the Second Vatican Council’s core affirmation with regard to theology. Pope Benedict XVI reiterates: ‘where theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Church’s Scripture, such a theology no longer has a foundation’.[30] Theology in its entirety should conform to the Scriptures, and the Scriptures should sustain and accompany all theological work, because theology is concerned with ‘the truth of the gospel’ (Gal 2:5), and it can know that truth only if it investigates the normative witness to it in the canon of sacred Scripture,[31] and if, in doing so, it relates the human words of the Bible to the living Word of God. ‘Catholic exegetes must never forget that what they are interpreting is the word of God…. They arrive at the true goal of their work only when they have explained the meaning of the biblical text as God’s word for today.’[32]

22. Dei Verbum sees the task of exegesis as that of ascertaining ‘what God has wished to communicate to us’.[33] To understand and explain the meaning of the biblical texts,[34] it must make use of all the appropriate philological, historical and literary methods, with the aim of clarifying and understanding sacred Scripture in its own context and period. Thus the historicity of revelation is methodologically taken into account. Dei Verbum 12 makes particular reference to the need for attentiveness to literary forms: ‘for the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetic texts, and in other forms of literary expression’. Since the council, further methods which can unfold new aspects of the meaning of Scripture have been developed.[35] Dei Verbum 12 indicates, however, that in order to acknowledge ‘the divine dimension of the Bible’ and to achieve a truly ‘theological’ interpretation of Scripture, ‘three fundamental criteria’ must also be taken into account:[36] the unity of Scripture, the witness of Tradition, and the analogy of faith.[37] The council refers to the unity of Scripture because the Bible testifies to the entire truth of salvation only in its pluriform totality.[38] Exegesis has developed methodological ways of taking account of the canon of Scripture as a whole as a hermeneutical reference point for interpreting Scripture. The significance of the location and content of the different books and pericopes can thereby be determined. Overall, as the council teaches, exegesis should strive to read and interpret the biblical texts in the broad setting of the faith and life of the people of God, sustained through the ages by the working of the Holy Spirit. It is in this context that exegesis searches for the literal sense and opens itself to the spiritual or fuller sense (sensus plenior) of scripture.[39] ‘Only where both methodological levels, the historico-critical and the theological, are respected, can one speak of a theological exegesis, an exegesis worthy of this book.’[40]

23. In saying that the study of sacred Scripture is the ‘soul’ of theology, Dei Verbum has in mind all of the theological disciplines. This foundation in the revealed Word of God, as testified by Scripture and Tradition, is essential for theology. Its primary task is to interpret God’s truth as saving truth. Urged on by Vatican II, Catholic theology seeks to attend to the Word of God and thereby to the witness of Scripture in all its work.[41] Thus it is that in theological expositions ‘biblical themes should have first place’, before anything else.[42] This approach corresponds anew to that of the Fathers of the Church, who were ‘primarily and essentially “commentators on sacred Scripture”’,[43] and it opens up the possibility of ecumenical collaboration: ‘shared listening to the Scriptures … spurs us on towards the dialogue of charity and enables growth in the dialogue of truth’.[44]

24. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should draw constantly upon the canonical witness of Scripture and should promote the anchoring of all of the Church’s doctrine and practice in that witness, since ‘all the preaching of the Church, as indeed the entire Christian religion, should be nourished and ruled by sacred Scripture’.[45] Theology should endeavour to open wide the Scriptures to the Christian faithful,[46] so that the faithful may come into contact with the living Word of God (cf. Heb 4:12).

2. Fidelity to Apostolic Tradition

25. The Acts of the Apostles describes the life of the early Christian community in a way that is fundamental for the Church of all times: ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (Acts 2:42; cf. Rev 1:3). This succinct description, at the end of the account of the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit opened the mouths of the apostles to preach and brought many of those who heard them to faith, highlights various essential aspects of the Spirit’s ongoing work in the Church. There is already an anticipatory outline of the Church’s teaching and sacramental life, of its spirituality and commitment to charity. All of these began in the apostolic community, and the handing on of this integral way of life in the Spirit is Apostolic Tradition. Lex orandi (the rule of prayer), lex credendi (the rule of belief) and lex vivendi (the rule of life) are all essential aspects of this Tradition. Paul refers to the Tradition into which as an apostle he has been incorporated when he speaks of ‘handing on’ what he himself ‘received’ (1Cor 15:1-11, cf. also 1Cor 11:23-26).

26. Tradition is therefore something living and vital, an ongoing process in which the unity of faith finds expression in the variety of languages and the diversity of cultures. It ceases to be Tradition if it fossilises. ‘The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on…. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her’.[47] Tradition occurs in the power of the Holy Spirit, who, as Jesus promised his disciples, guides the Church into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), by firmly establishing the memory of Jesus himself (cf. Jn 14:26), keeping the Church faithful to her apostolic origins, enabling the secure transmission of the Faith, and prompting the ever-new presentation of the Gospel under the direction of pastors who are successors of the apostles.[48] Vital components of Tradition are therefore: a constantly renewed study of sacred Scripture, liturgical worship, attention to what the witnesses of faith have taught through the ages, catechesis fostering growth in faith, practical love of God and neighbour, structured ecclesial ministry and the service given by the magisterium to the Word of God. What is handed on comprises ‘everything that serves to make the People of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith’. The Church ‘in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes’.[49]

27. ‘The sayings of the Holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of … Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.’[50] Because the Fathers of the Church, both East and West, have a unique place in the ‘faithful transmission and elucidation’ of revealed truth,[51] their writings are a specific reference point (locus) for Catholic theology. The Tradition known and lived by the Fathers was multi-faceted and pulsing with life, as can be seen from the plurality of liturgical families and of spiritual and exegetical-theological traditions (e.g. in the schools of Alexandria and Antioch), a plurality firmly anchored and united in the one faith. During the major theological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries, the conformity of a doctrine with the consensus of the Fathers, or lack of it, was proof of orthodoxy or heresy.[52] For Augustine, the united witness of the Fathers was the voice of the Church.[53] The councils of Chalcedon and Trent began their solemn declarations with the formula: ‘Following the Holy Fathers…’,[54] and the council of Trent and the First Vatican Council clearly indicated that the ‘unanimous consensus’ of the Fathers was a sure guide for the interpretation of Scripture.[55]

28. Many of the Fathers were bishops who gathered with their fellow bishops in the councils, first regional and later worldwide or ‘ecumenical’, that mark the life of the Church from the earliest centuries, after the example of the apostles (cf. Acts 15:6-21). Confronted with the Christological and Trinitarian heresies that threatened the faith and unity of the Church during the patristic period, bishops met in the great ecumenical councils – Nicaea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople II, Constantinople III, and Nicaea II – to condemn error and proclaim the orthodox faith in creeds and definitions of faith. These councils set forth their teaching, in particular their solemn definitions, as normative and universally binding; and these definitions express and belong to the Apostolic Tradition and continue to serve the faith and unity of the Church. Subsequent councils which have been recognised as ecumenical in the West continued this practice. The Second Vatican Council refers to the teaching office or magisterium of the pope and the bishops of the Church, and states that the bishops teach infallibly when, either gathered with the bishop of Rome in an ecumenical council or in communion with him though dispersed throughout the world, they agree that a particular teaching concerning faith or morals ‘is to be held definitively and absolutely’. The pope himself, head of the college of bishops, teaches infallibly when ‘as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful … he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals’.[56]

29. Catholic theology recognises the teaching authority of ecumenical councils, the ordinary and universal magisterium of the bishops, and the papal magisterium. It acknowledges the special status of dogmas, that is, statements ‘in which the Church proposes a revealed truth definitively, and in a way that is binding for the universal Church, so much so that denial is rejected as heresy and falls under an anathema’.[57] Dogmas belong to the living and ongoing Apostolic Tradition. Theologians are aware of the difficulties that attend their interpretation. For example, it is necessary to understand the precise question under consideration in light of its historical context, and to discern how a dogma’s meaning and content are related to its formulation.[58] Nevertheless, dogmas are sure points of reference for the Church’s faith and are used as such in theological reflection and argumentation.

30. In Catholic belief, Scripture, Tradition, and the magisterium of the Church are inseparably linked. ‘Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church’, and ‘the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone’.[59] Sacred Scripture is not simply a text but ‘locutio Dei’[60] and ‘verbum Dei’,[61] testified initially by the prophets of the Old Testament and ultimately by the apostles in the New Testament (cf. Rom 1:1-2). Having arisen in the midst of the People of God, and having been unified, read and interpreted by the People of God, sacred Scripture belongs to the living Tradition of the Church as the canonical witness to the faith for all time. Indeed, ‘Scripture is the first member in the written tradition’.[62] ‘Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable.’[63] This process is sustained by the Holy Spirit, ‘through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through her in the world’.[64] ‘Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone’.[65] She draws it also from the Apostolic Tradition, because the latter is the living process of the Church’s listening to the Word of God.

31. Vatican II distinguished between Tradition and those traditions that belong to particular periods of the Church’s history, or to particular regions and communities, such as religious orders or specific local churches.[66] Distinguishing between Tradition and traditions has been one of the major tasks of Catholic theology since Vatican II, and of theology generally in recent decades.[67] It is a task profoundly related to the Church’s catholicity, and with many ecumenical implications. Numerous questions arise, for instance: ‘Is it possible to determine more precisely what the content of the one Tradition is, and by what means? Do all traditions which claim to be Christian contain the Tradition? How can we distinguish between traditions embodying the true Tradition and merely human traditions? Where do we find the genuine Tradition, and where impoverished tradition or even distortion of tradition?’[68] On one hand, theology must show that Apostolic Tradition is not something abstract, but that it exists concretely in the different traditions that have formed within the Church. On the other hand, theology has to consider why certain traditions are characteristic not of the Church as a whole, but only of particular religious orders, local churches or historical periods. While criticism is not appropriate with reference to Apostolic Tradition itself, traditions must always be open to critique, so that the ‘continual reformation’ of which the Church has need[69] can take place, and so that the Church can renew herself permanently on her one foundation, namely Jesus Christ. Such a critique seeks to verify whether a specific tradition does indeed express the faith of the Church in a particular place and time, and it seeks correspondingly to strengthen or correct it through contact with the living faith of all places and all times.

32. Fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition is a criterion of Catholic theology. This fidelity requires an active and discerning reception of the various witnesses and expressions of the ongoing Apostolic Tradition. It implies study of sacred Scripture, the liturgy, and the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and attention to the teaching of the magisterium.

3. Attention to the sensus fidelium

33. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul writes: ‘We constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers’ (1Thess 2:13). These words illustrate what Vatican II referred to as ‘the supernatural appreciation of the faith [sensusfidei] of the whole people’,[70] and ‘the intimate sense of spiritual realities’[71] that the faithful have, that is, the sensus fidelium. The subject of faith is the people of God as a whole, which in the power of the Spirit affirms the Word of God. That is why the council declares that the entire people of God participates in the prophetic ministry of Jesus,[72] and that, anointed by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Jn 2:20, 27), it ‘cannot err in matters of belief’.[73] The pastors who guide the people of God, serving its faith, are themselves first of all members of the communion of believers. Therefore Lumen Gentium speaks first about the people of God and the sensusfidei that they have,[74] and then of the bishops[75] who, through their apostolic succession in the episcopate and the reception of their own specific charisma veritatis certum (sure charism of truth),[76] constitute, as a college in hierarchical communion with their head, the bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter in the apostolic see,[77] the Church’s magisterium. Likewise, Dei Verbum teaches that the Word of God has been ‘entrusted to the Church’, and refers to the ‘entire holy people’ adhering to it, before then specifying that the pope and the bishops have the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God.[78] This ordering is fundamental for Catholic theology. As St Augustine said: ‘Vobis sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus’.[79]

34. The nature and location of the sensusfidei or sensusfidelium must be properly understood. The sensus fidelium does not simply mean the majority opinion in a given time or culture, nor is it only a secondary affirmation of what is first taught by the magisterium. The sensusfideliumis the sensus fidei of the people of God as a whole who are obedient to the Word of God and are led in the ways of faith by their pastors. So the sensusfideliumis the sense of the faith that is deeply rooted in the people of God who receive, understand and live the Word of God in the Church.

35. For theologians, the sensus fidelium is of great importance. It is not only an object of attention and respect, it is also a base and a locus for their work. On the one hand, theologians depend on the sensusfidelium, because the faith that they explore and explain lives in the people of God. It is clear, therefore, that theologians themselves must participate in the life of the Church to be truly aware of it. On the other hand, part of the particular service of theologians within the body of Christ is precisely to explicate the Church’s faith as it is found in the Scriptures, the liturgy, creeds, dogmas, catechisms, and in the sensus fidelium itself. Theologians help to clarify and articulate the content of the sensus fidelium, recognising and demonstrating that issues relating to the truth of faith can be complex, and that investigation of them must be precise.[80] It falls to them also on occasion critically to examine expressions of popular piety, new currents of thought and movements within the Church, in the name of fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition. Theologians’ critical assessments must always be constructive; they must be given with humility, respect and charity: ‘Knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, but love (agape) builds up’ (1Cor 8:1).

36. Attention to the sensus fidelium is a criterion for Catholic theology. Theology should strive to discover and articulate accurately what the Catholic faithful actually believe. It must speak the truth in love, so that the faithful may mature in faith, and not be ‘tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14-15).

4. Responsible adherence to the ecclesiastical magisterium

37. In Catholic theology, the magisterium is an integral factor in the theological enterprise itself, since theology receives its object from God through the Church whose faith is authentically interpreted by ‘the living teaching office of the Church alone’,[81] that is, by the magisterium of the pope and the bishops. Fidelity to the magisterium is necessary for theology to be the knowledge of faith (scientia fidei) and an ecclesial task. A correct theological methodology therefore requires a proper understanding of the nature and authority of the magisterium at its various levels, and of the relations that properly exist between the ecclesiastical magisterium and theology.[82] Bishops and theologians have distinct callings, and must respect one another’s particular competence, lest the magisterium reduce theology to a mere repetitive science or theologians presume to substitute the teaching office of the Church’s pastors.

38. An understanding of the Church as communion is a good framework within which to consider how the relationship between theologians and bishops, between theology and the magisterium, can be one of fruitful collaboration. The first thing to acknowledge is that theologians in their work and bishops in their magisterium both stand under the primacy of the Word of God, and never above it.[83] Between bishops and theologians there should be a mutually respectful collaboration; in their obedient listening to this Word and faithful proclamation of it; in their attention to the sensus fidelium and service of the growth and maturing of faith; in their concern to transmit the Word to future generations, with respect for new questions and challenges; and in their hope-filled witness to the gifts already received; in all of this bishops and theologians have their respective roles in one common mission,[84] from which the magisterium and theology each derive their own legitimacy and purpose.[85] Theology investigates and articulates the faith of the Church, and the ecclesiastical magisterium proclaims that faith and authentically interprets it.[86]

39. On the one hand, the magisterium needs theology in order to demonstrate in its interventions not only doctrinal authority, but also theological competence and a capacity for critical evaluation, so theologians should be called upon to assist with the preparation and formulation of magisterial pronouncements. On the other hand, the magisterium is an indispensable help to theology by its authentic transmission of the deposit of faith (depositum fidei), particularly at decisive times of discernment. Theologians should acknowledge the contribution of magisterial statements to theological progress and should assist with the reception of those statements. Magisterial interventions themselves can stimulate theological reflection, and theologians should show how their own contributions conform with and carry forward previous doctrinal statements of the magisterium. There is indeed in the Church a certain ‘magisterium’ of theologians,[87] but there is no place for parallel, opposing or alternative magisteria,[88] or for views that would separate theology from the Church’s magisterium.

40. When it comes to the ‘authentic’ interpretation of the faith, the magisterium plays a role that theology simply cannot take to itself. Theology cannot substitute a judgement coming from the scientific theological community for that of the bishops. Acceptance of this function of the magisterium in relation to the authenticity of faith requires recognition of the different levels of magisterial affirmations.[89] These different levels give rise to a correspondingly differentiated response on the part of the faithful and of theologians. Not all magisterial teaching has the same weight. This itself is relevant to the work of theology, and indeed the different levels are described by what are called ‘theological qualifications or notes’.[90]

41. Precisely because of this gradation, the obedience that theologians as members of the people of God owe to the magisterium always involves constructively critical evaluation and comment.[91] While ‘dissent’ towards the magisterium has no place in Catholic theology, investigation and questioning is justified and even necessary if theology is to fulfil its task.[92] Whatever the situation, a mere formal and exterior obedience or adherence on the part of theologians is not sufficient. Theologians should strive to deepen their reflection on the truth proclaimed by the Church’s magisterium, and should seek its implications for the Christian life and for the service of the truth. In this way, theologians fulfil their proper task and the teaching of the magisterium is not reduced to mere decorative citations in theological discourse.

42. The relationship between bishops and theologians is often good and trusting on both sides, with due respect for one another’s callings and responsibilities. For example, bishops attend and participate in national and regional gatherings of theological associations, call on theological experts as they formulate their own teaching and policies, and visit and support theological faculties and schools in their dioceses. Inevitably, there will be tensions at times in the relationship between theologians and bishops. In his profound analysis of the dynamic interaction, within the living organism of the Church, of the three offices of Christ as prophet, priest and king, Blessed John Henry Newman acknowledged the possibility of such ‘chronic collisions or contrasts’, and it is well to remember that he saw them as ‘lying in the nature of the case’.[93] ‘Theology is the fundamental and regulating principle of the whole Church system’, he wrote, and yet ‘theology cannot always have its own way’.[94] With regard to tensions between theologians and the magisterium, the International Theological Commission said in 1975: ‘wherever there is genuine life, tension always exists’. ‘Such tension need not be interpreted as hostility or real opposition, but can be seen as a vital force and an incentive to a common carrying out of [their] respective tasks by way of dialogue.’[95]

43. The freedom of theology and of theologians is a theme of special interest.[96] This freedom ‘derives from the true scientific responsibility of theologians’.[97] The idea of adherence to the magisterium sometimes prompts a critical contrast between a so-called ‘scientific’ theology (without presuppositions of faith or ecclesial allegiance) and a so-called ‘confessional’ theology (elaborated within a religious confession), but such a contrast is inadequate.[98] Other debates arise from consideration of the believer’s freedom of conscience, or of the importance of scientific progress in theological investigation, and the magisterium is sometimes cast as a repressive force or a brake on progress. Investigating such issues is itself part of the theological task, so as properly to integrate the scientific and confessional aspects of theology, and to see the freedom of theology within the horizon of the design and will of God.

44. Giving responsible adherence to the magisterium in its various gradations is a criterion of Catholic theology. Catholic theologians should recognise the competence of bishops, and especially of the college of bishops headed by the pope, to give an authentic interpretation of the Word of God handed on in Scripture and Tradition.[99]

5. In the company of theologians

45. As is the case with all Christian vocations, the ministry of theologians, as well as being personal, is also both communal and collegial; that is, it is exercised in and for the Church as a whole, and it is lived out in solidarity with those who have the same calling. Theologians are rightly conscious and proud of the profound links of solidarity that unite them with one another in service to the body of Christ and to the world. In very many ways, as colleagues in theological faculties and schools, as fellow members of theological societies and associations, as collaborators in research, and as writers and teachers, they support, encourage and inspire one another, and also serve as mentors and role models for those, especially graduate students, who are aspiring to be theologians. Moreover, links of solidarity rightly extend in space and time, uniting theologians across the world in different countries and cultures, and through time in different eras and contexts. This solidarity is truly beneficial when it promotes awareness and observance of the criteria of Catholic theology as identified in this report. No-one is better placed to assist Catholic theologians in striving to give the best possible service, in accordance with the true characteristics of their discipline, than other Catholic theologians.

46. Nowadays, collaboration in research and publication projects, both within and across various theological fields, is increasingly common. Opportunities for presentations, seminars and conferences that will strengthen the mutual awareness and appreciation of colleagues in theological institutions and faculties should be cultivated. Moreover, occasions for inter-disciplinary encounter and exchange between theologians and philosophers, natural and social scientists, historians, and so on, should also be fostered, since, as is indicated in this report, theology is a science that thrives in interaction with other sciences, as they do also in fruitful exchange with theology.

47. In the nature of their task, theologians often work at the frontiers of the Church’s experience and reflection. Especially with the expanded number nowadays of lay theologians who have experience of particular areas of interaction between the Church and the world, between the Gospel and life, with which ordained theologians and theologians in religious life may not be so familiar, it is increasingly the case that theologians give an initial articulation of ‘faith seeking understanding’ in new circumstances or in the face of new issues. Theologians need and deserve the prayerful support of the ecclesial community as a whole, and particularly of one another, in their sincere endeavours on behalf of the Church, but careful adherence to the fundamental criteria of Catholic theology is especially important in such circumstances. Theologians should always recognise the intrinsic provisionality of their endeavours, and offer their work to the Church as a whole for scrutiny and evaluation.[100]

48. One of the most valuable services that theologians render to one another is that of mutual questioning and correction, e.g. by the medieval practice of the disputatio and today’s practice of reviewing one another’s writings, so that ideas and methods can be progressively refined and perfected, and this process generally and healthily occurs within the theological community itself.[101] Of its nature, however, it can be a slow and private process, and, especially in these days of instant communication and dissemination of ideas far beyond the strictly theological community, it would be unreasonable to imagine that this self-correcting mechanism suffices in all cases. The bishops who watch over the faithful, teaching and caring for them, certainly have the right and the duty to speak, to intervene and if necessary to censure theological work that they deem to be erroneous or harmful.[102]

49. Ecumenical dialogue and research provides a uniquely privileged and potentially productive field for collaboration between Catholic theologians and those of other Christian traditions. In such work, issues of faith, meaning and language are deeply pondered. As they work to promote mutual understanding on issues that have been contentious between their traditions, perhaps for many centuries, theologians act as ambassadors for their communities in the holy task of seeking the reconciliation and unity of Christians, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). That ambassadorial task requires particular adherence to the criteria outlined here on the part of Catholic participants, so that the manifold gifts that the Catholic tradition contains can truly be offered in the ‘exchange of gifts’ that ecumenical dialogue and collaboration more widely always in some sense is.[103]

50. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should be practised in professional, prayerful and charitable collaboration with the whole company of Catholic theologians in the communion of the Church, in a spirit of mutual appreciation and support, attentive both to the needs and comments of the faithful and to the guidance of the Church’s pastors.

6. In dialogue with the world

51. ‘The people of God believes that it is led by the Spirit of the Lord who fills the whole world’.[104] The Second Vatican Council said that the Church should therefore be ready to discern in ‘the events, the needs and the longings’ of today’s world what may truly be signs of the Spirit’s activity.[105] ‘At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times [signa temporum perscrutandi] and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which [people] ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live’.[106]

52. As they live their daily lives in the world with faith, all Christians face the challenge of interpreting the events and crises that arise in human affairs, and all engage in conversation and debate in which, inevitably, faith is questioned and a response is needed. The whole Church lives, as it were, at the interface between the Gospel and everyday life, which is also the boundary between the past and the future, as history moves forward. The Church is always in dialogue and in movement, and within the communion of the baptised who are all dynamically engaged in this way bishops and theologians have particular responsibilities, as the council made clear. ‘With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the whole people of God, particularly of its pastors and theologians, to listen to and distinguish the many voices of our times and to interpret them in the light of the divine Word, in order that the revealed truth may be more deeply penetrated, better understood, and more suitably presented’.[107]

53. Theology has a particular competence and responsibility in this regard. Through its constant dialogue with the social, religious and cultural currents of the time, and through its openness to other sciences which, with their own methods examine those developments, theology can help the faithful and the magisterium to see the importance of developments, events and trends in human history, and to discern and interpret ways in which through them the Spirit may be speaking to the Church and to the world.

54. The ‘signs of the times’ may be described as those events or phenomena in human history which, in a sense, because of their impact or extent, define the face of a period, and bring to expression particular needs and aspirations of humanity at that time. The Council’s use of the expression, ‘signs of the times’, shows that it fully recognised the historicity not only of the world, but also of the Church, which is in the world (cf. Jn 17:11, 15, 18) though not of the world (cf. Jn 17:14, 16). What is happening in the world at large, good or bad, can never be a matter of indifference to the Church. The world is the place in which the Church, following in the footsteps of Christ, announces the Gospel, bears witness to the justice and mercy of God, and participates in the drama of human life.

55. Recent centuries have seen major social and cultural developments. One might think, for instance, of the discovery of historicity, and of movements such as the Enlightenment and the French revolution (with its ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity), movements for emancipation and for the promotion of women’s rights, movements for peace and justice, liberation and democratisation, and the ecological movement. The ambivalence of human history has led the Church at times in the past to be overly cautious about such movements, to see only the threats they may contain to Christian doctrine and faith, and to neglect their significance. However, such attitudes have gradually changed thanks to the sensus fidei of the People of God, the clear sight of prophetic individual believers, and the patient dialogue of theologians with their surrounding cultures. A better discernment in the light of the Gospel has been made, with a greater readiness to see how the Spirit of God may be speaking through such events. In all cases, discernment must carefully distinguish between elements compatible with the Gospel and those contrary to it, between positive contributions and ideological aspects, but the more acute understanding of the world that results cannot fail to prompt a more penetrating appreciation of Christ the Lord and of the Gospel[108] since Christ is the Saviour of the world.

56. While the world of human culture profits from the activity of the Church, the Church also profits from ‘the history and development of mankind’. ‘It profits from the experience of past ages, from the progress of the sciences, and from the riches hidden in various cultures, through which greater light is thrown on the mystery of man and new avenues to truth are opened up’.[109]The painstaking work to establish profitable links with other disciplines, sciences and cultures so as to enhance that light and broaden those avenues is the particular task of theologians, and the discernment of the signs of the times presents great opportunities for theological endeavour, notwithstanding the complex hermeneutical issues that arise. Thanks to the work of many theologians, Vatican II was able to acknowledge various signs of the times in connection with its own teaching.[110]

57. Heeding God’s final Word in Jesus Christ, Christians are open to hear echoes of his voice in other persons, places, and cultures (cf. Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-28; Rom 1:19-20). The council urged that the faithful ‘should be familiar with their national and religious traditions and uncover with gladness and respect those seeds of the Word which lie hidden among them’.[111] It specifically taught that the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is ‘true and holy’ in non-Christian religions, whose precepts and doctrines ‘often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens’ all people.[112] Again, the uncovering of such seeds and discernment of such rays is especially the task of theologians, who have an important contribution to make to inter-religious dialogue.

58. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should be in constant dialogue with the world. It should help the Church to read the signs of the times illuminated by the light that comes from divine revelation, and to profit from doing so in its life and mission.

CHAPTER 3:
GIVING AN ACCOUNT OF THE TRUTH OF GOD

59. The Word of God, accepted in faith, gives light to the believer’s intelligence and understanding. Revelation is not received purely passively by the human mind. On the contrary, the believing intelligence actively embraces revealed truth.[113] Prompted by love, it strives to assimilate it because this Word responds to its own deepest questions. Without ever claiming to exhaust the riches of revelation, it strives to appreciate and explore the intelligibility of the Word of God – fides quaerens intellectum – and to offer a reasoned account of the truth of God. In other words, it seeks to express God’s truth in the rational and scientific mode that is proper to human understanding.

60. In a threefold investigation, addressing a number of current issues, the present chapter considers essential aspects of theology as a rational, human endeavour, which has its own authentic and irreplaceable position in the midst of all intellectual enquiry. First, theology is a work of reason illuminated by faith (ratio fide illustrata), which seeks to translate into scientific discourse the Word of God expressed in revelation. Second, the variety of rational methods it deploys and the plurality of specialised theological disciplines that result remain compatible with the fundamental unity of theology as discourse about God in the light of revelation. Third, theology is closely bound to spiritual experience, which it enlightens and by which in turn it is nourished, and of its nature it opens into an authentic wisdom with a lively sense of the transcendence of the God of Jesus Christ.

1. The truth of God and the rationality of theology

61. This section considers some aspects of the history of theology from the challenges of early times to those of today, in relation to the scientific nature of theology. We are to know God, to know the truth of God. ‘This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (Jn 17:3). Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (cf. Jn 18:37) and presented himself as ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). This truth is a gift which comes down from ‘the Father of lights’ (James 1:17). God the Father initiated this enlightenment (cf. Gal 4:4-7), and he himself will consummate it (cf. Rev 21:5-7). The Holy Spirit is both the Paraclete, consoling the faithful, and the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:16-17), who inspires and illuminates the truth and guides the faithful ‘into all the truth’ (Jn 16:13). The final revelation of the plenitude of God’s truth will be the ultimate fulfilment of humanity and of creation (cf. 1Cor 15:28). Correspondingly, the mystery of the Trinity must be at the centre of theological contemplation.

62. The truth of God, accepted in faith, encounters human reason. Created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27), the human person is capable, by the light of reason, of penetrating beyond appearances to the deep-down truth of things, and opens up thereby to universal reality. The common reference to truth, which is objective and universal, makes authentic dialogue possible between human persons. The human spirit is both intuitive and rational. It is intuitive in that it spontaneously grasps the first principles of reality and of thought. It is rational in that, beginning from those first principles, it progressively discovers truths previously unknown using rigorous procedures of analysis and investigation, and it organises them in a coherent fashion. ‘Science’ is the highest form that rational consciousness takes. It designates a form of knowledge capable of explaining how and why things are as they are. Human reason, itself part of created reality, does not simply project on to reality in its richness and complexity a framework of intelligibility; it adapts itself to the intrinsic intelligibility of reality. In accordance with its object, that is with the particular aspect of reality that it is studying, reason applies different methods adapted to the object itself. Rationality, therefore, is one but takes a plurality of forms, all of which are rigorous means of grasping the intelligibility of reality. Science likewise is pluriform, each science having its own specific object and method. There is a modern tendency to reserve the term ‘science’ to ‘hard’ sciences (mathematics, experimental sciences, etc.) and to dismiss as irrational and mere opinion knowledge which does not correspond to the criteria of those sciences. This univocal view of science and of rationality is reductive and inadequate.

63. So, the revealed truth of God both requires and stimulates the believer’s reason. On the one hand, the truth of the Word of God must be considered and probed by the believer – thus begins the intellectus fidei, the form taken here below by the believer’s desire to see God.[114] Its aim is not at all to replace faith,[115] rather it unfolds naturally from the believer’s act of faith, and it can indeed assist those whose faith may be wavering in the face of hostility.[116] The fruit of the believer’s rational reflection is an understanding of the truths of faith. By the use of reason, the believer grasps the profound connections between the different stages in the history of salvation and also between the various mysteries of faith which illuminate one another. On the other hand, faith stimulates reason itself and stretches its limits. Reason is stirred to explore paths which of itself it would not even have suspected it could take. This encounter with the Word of God leaves reason enriched, because it discovers new and unsuspected horizons.[117]

64. The dialogue between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy, is therefore required not only by faith but also by reason, as Pope John Paul explains in Fides et Ratio.[118] It is necessary because a faith which rejects or is contemptuous of reason risks falling into superstition or fanaticism, while reason which deliberately closes itself to faith, though it may make great strides, fails to rise to the full heights of what can be known. This dialogue is possible because of the unity of truth in the variety of its aspects. The truths embraced in faith and the truths discovered by reason not only cannot ultimately contradict one another, since they proceed from the same source, the very truth of God, the creator of reason and the giver of faith,[119] but in fact they support and enlighten one another: ‘right reason demonstrates the grounds of faith, and, illumined by the latter’s light, pursues the understanding of divine things, while faith frees and protects reason from errors and provides it with manifold insights’.[120]

65. This is the profound reason why, even though religion and philosophy were often opposed in ancient thought, from the start Christian faith reconciled them in a broader vision. In fact, while taking the form of a religion, early Christianity frequently thought of itself not as a new religion but rather as the true philosophy,[121] now able to attain the ultimate truth. Christianity claimed to teach the truth both about God and about human existence. Therefore, in their commitment to the truth, the Church Fathers deliberately distanced their theology from ‘mythical’ and ‘political’ theology, as the latter were understood at that time. Mythical theology told stories of the gods in a way that did not respect the transcendence of the divine; political theology was a purely sociological and utilitarian approach to religion which did not care about truth. The Fathers of the Church located Christianity alongside ‘natural theology’, which claimed to offer rational enlightenment about the ‘nature’ of the gods.[122] However, by teaching that the Logos, the principle of all things, was a personal being with a face and a name, and that he was seeking friendship with humanity, Christianity purified and transformed the philosophical idea of God, and introduced into it the dynamism of love (agape).

66. Great Eastern theologians used the encounter between Christianity and Greek philosophy as a providential opportunity to reflect on the truth of revelation, i.e. the truth of the logos. In order to defend and illumine the mysteries of faith (the consubstantiality of the persons of the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc.), they readily but critically adopted philosophical notions and put them in service to an understanding of faith. However, they also strongly insisted on the apophatic dimension of theology: theology must never reduce the Mystery.[123] In the West, at the end of the patristic period, Boethius inaugurated a way of doing theology that accentuated the scientific nature of the intellectus fidei. In his opuscula sacra, he marshalled all the resources of philosophy in the service of clarifying Christian doctrine and offered a systematic and axiomatic exposition of the faith.[124] This new theological method, using refined philosophical tools and aiming at a certain systematisation, was also developed to some extent in the East, for example by St John of Damascus.

67. Throughout the medieval period, especially with the eventual founding of universities and the development of scholastic methodology, theology steadily became differentiated, though not necessarily separated, from other forms of the intellectus fidei (e.g. lectio divina, preaching). It constituted itself truly as a science, in accordance with Aristotle’s criteria of a science set forth especially in his Posteriora analyticorum: that is, by reasoning it could be shown why something was so and not otherwise, and by reasoning conclusions could be reached from principles. Scholastic theologians sought to present the intelligible content of the Christian faith in the form of a rational and scientific synthesis. In order to do this, they considered the articles of faith as principles in the science of theology. Then, theologians made use of reason to establish revealed truth with precision and to defend it by showing that it was not contrary to reason, or by showing its internal intelligibility. In the latter case, they formulated a hierarchy (ordo) of truths, seeking which were the most fundamental and therefore the most illuminating of others.[125] They articulated the intelligible connections between the mysteries (nexus mysteriorum), and the syntheses they achieved expounded the intelligible content of the word of God in a scientific way, in accordance with the demands and capacities of human reason. This scientific ideal, however, never took the form of a rationalistic hypothetical-deductive system. Rather, it was always modelled on the reality being contemplated, which far exceeds the capacities of human reason. Moreover, even though they undertook various exercises and used literary genres distinct from scriptural commentary, the Bible was the living source of inspiration for scholastic theologians – theology precisely aimed at a better understanding of the Word, and St Bonaventure and St Thomas Aquinas thought of themselves primarily as magistri in sacra pagina. The role played by the ‘argument from fittingness’ was crucial. The theologian does not reason a priori, but listens to revelation and searches the wise ways God has freely chosen in his plan of love. Firmly based on faith, therefore, theology understood itself as a human participation in God’s knowledge of himself and of all things, ‘quaedam impressio divinae scientiae quae est una et simplex omnium’.[126] That was the primary source of its unity.

68. Towards the end of the middle ages, the unified structure of Christian wisdom, of which theology was the keystone, began to break up. Philosophy and other secular disciplines increasingly separated themselves from theology, and theology itself fragmented into specialisations which sometimes lost sight of their deep connection. There was a tendency of theology to distance itself from the Word of God, so that on occasion it became a purely philosophical reflection applied to religious questions. At the same time, perhaps because of this neglect of Scripture, its theo-logical dimension and spiritual finality slipped from view, and the spiritual life began to develop aside from a rationalising university theology, and even in opposition to the latter.[127] Theology, thus fragmented, became more and more cut off from the actual life of the Christian people and ill equipped to face the challenges of modernity.

69. Scholastic theology was criticised during the Reformation for placing too much value on the rationality of faith and too little on the damage sin does to reason. Catholic theology responded by maintaining in high esteem the anthropology of the image of God (imago Dei) and the capacity and responsibility of reason, wounded but not destroyed by sin, and by emphasising the Church as the place where God could truly be known and the science of faith truly be developed. The Catholic Church thus kept open the possibility of dialogue with philosophy, philology and the historical and natural sciences.

70. The critique of faith and theology made during the Enlightenment, however, was more radical. In some ways, the Enlightenment had a religious stimulus. However, by aligning themselves with deism, Enlightenment thinkers now saw an irreconcilable difference between the factual contingencies of history and the genuine needs of reason. Truth, for them, was not to be found in history, and revelation, as an historical event, could not serve any longer as a reliable source of knowledge for human beings. In many cases, Catholic theology reacted defensively against the challenge of Enlightenment thinking. It gave priority to apologetics rather than to the sapiential dimension of faith, it separated too much the natural order of reason and the supernatural order of faith, and it gave great importance to ‘natural theology’ and too little to the intellectus fidei as an understanding of the mysteries of the faith. Catholic theology was thus left damaged in various respects by its own strategy in this encounter. At its best, however, Catholic theology also sought a constructive dialogue with the Enlightenment and with its philosophical criticism. With reference to Scripture and Church teaching, the merely ‘instructional’ idea of revelation was criticised theologically, and the idea of revelation was reshaped in terms of the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, such that history could still be understood as the place of God’s saving acts.

71. Today there is a new challenge, and Catholic theology has to deal with a post-modern crisis of classical reason itself that has serious implications for the intellectus fidei. The idea of ‘truth’ seems very problematic. Is there such a thing as ‘truth’? Is there only one ‘truth’? Does such an idea lead to intolerance and violence? Catholic theology traditionally operates with a strong sense of the capacity of reason to go beyond appearances and attain the reality and the truth of things, but today reason is often viewed weakly, as unable in principle to attain ‘reality’. There is therefore a problem in that the metaphysical orientation of philosophy, which was important for the former models of Catholic theology, remains in deep crisis. Theology can help to overcome this crisis and to revitalise an authentic metaphysics. Catholic theology is interested, nonetheless, in dialogue about the question of God and truth with all contemporary philosophies.

72. In Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II rejected both philosophical scepticism and fideism and called for a renewal of the relationship between theology and philosophy. He recognised philosophy as an autonomous science and as a crucial interlocutor for theology. He insisted that theology must necessarily have recourse to philosophy: without philosophy, theology cannot adequately critique the validity of its assertions nor clarify its ideas nor properly understand different schools of thought.[128] Theology’s ‘source and starting-point’ is the word of God revealed in history, and theology seeks to understand that word. However, God’s word is Truth (cf. Jn 17:17), and it follows that philosophy, ‘the human search for truth’, can help in the understanding of God’s word.[129]

73. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should strive to give a scientifically and rationally argued presentation of the truths of the Christian faith. For this, it needs to make use of reason and it must acknowledge the strong relationship between faith and reason, first of all philosophical reason, so as to overcome both fideism and rationalism.[130]

2. The unity of theology in a plurality of methods and disciplines

74. This section considers the relationship between theology and theologies, and the relationship also between theology and other sciences. Catholic theology, fundamentally understood with St Augustine as ‘reasoning or discourse about God’,[131] is one in its essence and has its own unique characteristics as a science: its proper subject is the one and only God, and it studies its subject in its own proper manner, namely by the use of reason enlightened by revelation. At the very start of the Summa theologiae, St Thomas explains that everything in theology is understood with regard to God, sub ratione Dei.[132] The great diversity of matters that the theologian is led to consider finds its unity in this ultimate reference to God. All the ‘mysteries’ contained in diverse theological treatises refer to what is the single absolute Mystery in the strictest sense, namely, the Mystery of God. Reference to this Mystery unites theology, in the vast range of the latter’s subject matter and contexts, and the idea of reductio in Mysterium can be valuable as an expression of the dynamism that deeply unites theological propositions. Since the Mystery of God is revealed in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, Vatican II directed that all theological treatises ‘should be renewed through a more vivid contact with the Mystery of Christ and the history of salvation’.[133]

75. The Church Fathers knew the word ‘theology’ only in the singular. For them, ‘theology’ was not ‘myth’ but the Logosof God himself. In so far as the human spirit is impressed by the Spirit of God through the revelation of the Logos and led to contemplate the infinite mystery of his nature and action, human beings also are enabled to do theology. In scholastic theology, the diversity of questions studied by the theologian might justify the use of various methods but it never placed in doubt the fundamental unity of theology. Towards the end of the middle ages, however, there was a tendency to distinguish and even to separate scholastic and mystical theology, speculative and positive theology, and so on. In modern times, there has been an increasing tendency to use the word ‘theology’ in the plural. There is talk of the ‘theologies’ of different authors, periods or cultures. In mind are the characteristic concepts, significant themes and specific perspectives of those ‘theologies’.

76. Various factors have contributed to this modern plurality of ‘theologies’.

- There is within theology more and more internal specialisation into different disciplines: e.g. biblical studies, liturgy, patristics, Church history, fundamental theology, systematic theology, moral theology, pastoral theology, spirituality, catechetics, and canon law. This development is inevitable and understandable because of the scientific nature of theology and the demands of research.

- There is a diversification of theological styles because of the external influence of other sciences: e.g. philosophy, philology, history, and the social, natural and life sciences. As a result, in central fields of Catholic theology today very different forms of thinking co-exist: e.g. transcendental theology and salvation historical theology, analytic theology, renewed scholastic and metaphysical theology, political and liberation theology.

- There is with regard to the practice of theology an ever-increasing multiplicity of subjects, places, institutions, intentions, contexts and interests, and a new appreciation of the plurality and variety of cultures.[134]

77. The plurality of theologies is undoubtedly necessary and justified.[135] It results primarily from the abundance of divine truth itself, which human beings can only ever grasp under its specific aspects and never as a whole, and moreover never definitively, but always, as it were, with new eyes. Then also, because of the diversity of the objects it considers and interprets (e.g. God, human beings, historical events, texts), and the sheer diversity of human questioning, theology must inevitably have recourse to a plurality of disciplines and methods,[136] according to the nature of the object being studied. The plurality of theologies reflects, in fact, the catholicity of the Church, which strives to proclaim the one Gospel to people everywhere, in all kinds of circumstances.

78. Plurality, of course, has limits. There is a fundamental difference between the legitimate pluralism of theology, on the one hand, and relativism, heterodoxy or heresy, on the other. Pluralism itself is problematic, however, if there is no communication between different theological disciplines or if there are no agreed criteria by which various forms of theology are understandable – both to themselves and to others – as Catholic theology. Essential to the avoidance or overcoming of such problems is a fundamental common recognition of theology as a rational enterprise, scientia fidei and scientia Dei, such that each theology can be evaluated in relation to a common universal truth.

79. The search for unity among the plurality of theologies today takes a number of forms: insisting on reference to a common ecclesial tradition of theology, practising dialogue and interdisciplinarity, and being attentive to preventing the other disciplines with which theology deals from imposing their own ‘magisterium’ on theology. The existence of a common theological tradition in the Church (which must be distinguished from Tradition itself, but not separated from Tradition[137]) is an important factor in the unity of theology. There is a common memory in theology, such that certain historical achievements (e.g. the writings of the Fathers of the Church, both East and West, and the synthesis of St Thomas, Doctor communis[138]), remain as reference points for theology today. It is true that certain aspects of prior theological tradition can and must sometimes be abandoned, but the work of the theologian can never dispense with a critical reference to the tradition that went before.

80. The various forms of theology that can basically be distinguished today (e.g., biblical, historical, fundamental, systematic, practical, moral), characterised by their various sources, methods and tasks, are all fundamentally united by a striving for true knowledge of God and of God’s saving plan. There should therefore be intensive communication and cooperation between them. Dialogue and interdisciplinary collaboration are indispensable means of ensuring and expressing the unity of theology. The singular, ‘theology’, by no means indicates a uniformity of styles or concepts; rather, it serves to indicate a common search for truth, common service of the body of Christ and common devotion to the one God.

81. Since ancient times, theology has worked in partnership with philosophy. While this partnership remains fundamental, in modern times further partners for theology have been found. Biblical studies and Church history have been helped by the development of new methods to analyse and interpret texts, and by new techniques to prove the historical validity of sources and to describe social and cultural developments.[139] Systematic, fundamental and moral theology have all benefited from an engagement with natural, economic and medical sciences. Practical theology has profited from the encounter with sociology, psychology and pedagogy. In all of these engagements, Catholic theology should respect the proper coherence of the methods and sciences utilised, but it should also use them in a critical fashion, in light of the faith that is part of the theologian’s own identity and motivation.[140] Partial results, obtained by a method borrowed from another discipline, cannot be determinative for the theologian’s work, and must be critically integrated with theology’s own task and argument.[141] An insufficiently critical use of the knowledge or methods of other sciences is likely to distort and fragment the work of theology. Indeed, an over-hasty fusion between faith and philosophy was already identified by the Fathers as a source of heresies.[142] In short, other disciplines must not be allowed to impose their own ‘magisterium’ on theology. The theologian should indeed take up and utilise the data supplied by other disciplines, but in light of theology’s own proper principles and methods.

82. In this critical assimilation and integration by theology of data from other sciences, philosophy has a mediating role to play. It pertains to philosophy, as rational wisdom, to insert the results obtained by various sciences into a more universal vision. Recourse to philosophy in this mediating role helps the theologian to use scientific data with due care. For example, scientific knowledge gained with regard to the evolution of life needs to be interpreted in the light of philosophy, so as to determine its value and meaning, before being taken into account by theology.[143] Philosophy also helps scientists to avoid the temptation to apply in a univocal way their own methods and the fruits of their researches to religious questions that require another approach.

83. The relationship between theology and religious sciences or religious studies (e.g. philosophy of religion, sociology of religion) is of particular interest. Religious sciences/studies deal with texts, institutions and phenomena of the Christian tradition, but by the nature of their methodological principles they do so from outside, regardless of the question as to the truth of what they study; for them, the Church and its faith are simply objects for research like other objects. In the 19th century, there were major controversies between theology and religious sciences/studies. On the one side, it was claimed that theology is not a science because of its presupposition of faith; only religious sciences/studies could be ‘objective’. On the other side, it was said that religious sciences/studies are anti-theological because they would deny faith. Today these old controversies sometimes reappear, but nowadays there are better conditions for a fruitful dialogue between the two sides. On the one hand, religious sciences/studies are now integrated into the fabric of theological methods because, not only for exegesis and Church history, but also for pastoral and fundamental theology, it is necessary to investigate the history, structure and phenomenology of religious ideas, subjects, rites, etc.. On the other hand, the physical sciences and contemporary epistemology more generally have shown that there is never a neutral position from which to search for truth; the enquirer always brings particular perspectives, insights and presuppositions which bear upon the study being conducted. There remains, however, an essential difference between theology and religious sciences/studies: theology has the truth of God as its subject and reflects on its subject with faith and in the light of God, while religious sciences/studies have religious phenomena as their subject and approach them with cultural interests, methodologically prescinding from the truth of the Christian faith. Theology goes beyond religious sciences/studies by reflecting from the inside on the Church and its faith, but theology can also profit from the investigations that religious sciences/studies make from the outside.

84. Catholic theology acknowledges the proper autonomy of other sciences and the professional competence and the striving after knowledge to be found in them, and has itself prompted developments in many sciences. Theology also opens the way for other sciences to engage with religious issues. Through constructive critique, it helps other sciences to liberate themselves from anti-theological elements acquired under the influence of rationalism. By expelling theology from the household of science, rationalism and positivism reduced the scope and power of the sciences themselves. Catholic theology criticises every form of self-absolutisation of the sciences, as a self-reduction and impoverishment.[144] The presence of theology and theologians at the heart of university life and the dialogue this presence enables with other disciplines help to promote a broad, analogical and integral view of intellectual life. As scientia Dei and scientia fidei, theology plays an important part in the symphony of the sciences, and so claims a proper place in the academy.

85. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it attempts to integrate a plurality of enquiries and methods into the unified project of the intellectus fidei, and insists on the unity of truth and therefore on the fundamental unity of theology itself. Catholic theology recognises the proper methods of other sciences and critically utilises them in its own research. It does not isolate itself from critique and welcomes scientific dialogue.

3. Science and wisdom

86. This final section considers the fact that theology is not only a science but also a wisdom, with a particular role to play in the relationship between all human knowledge and the Mystery of God. The human person is not satisfied by partial truths, but seeks to unify different pieces and areas of knowledge into an understanding of the final truth of all things and of human life itself. This search for wisdom, which undoubtedly animates theology itself, gives theology a close relationship to spiritual experience and to the wisdom of the saints. More broadly, however, Catholic theology invites everyone to recognise the transcendence of the ultimate Truth, which can never be fully grasped or mastered. Theology is not only a wisdom in itself, it is also an invitation to wisdom for other disciplines. The presence of theology in scientific debate and in university life potentially has the beneficial effect of reminding everyone of the sapiential vocation of human intelligence, and of the telling question Jesus asks in his first utterance in St John’s Gospel: ‘What do you seek?’ (Jn 1:38; RSV).

87. In the Old Testament, the central message of wisdom theology appears three times: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111:10; cf. Prov 1:7; 9:10). The basis of this motto is the insight of the sages of Israel that God’s wisdom is at work in creation and in history and that those who appreciate that will understand the meaning of the world and of events (cf. Prov 7ff., Wis 7ff.). ‘Fear of God’ is the right attitude in the presence of God (coram Deo). Wisdom is the art of understanding the world and of orientating one’s life in devotion to God. In the books of Ecclesiastes and Job, the limits of human understanding of God’s thoughts and ways are starkly revealed, not so as to destroy the wisdom of human beings, but to deepen it within the horizon of the wisdom of God.

88. Jesus himself stood in this Wisdom tradition of Israel, and in him the revelation theology of the Old Testament was transformed. He prayed: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants’ (Mt 11:25). This confounding of traditional wisdom comes in the Gospel context of the proclamation of something new: the eschatological revelation of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus continues: ‘no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’, and this prefaces his famous invitation: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Mt 11:27-29). This learning comes from discipleship in the company of Jesus. He alone unlocks the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:25-27; Jn 5:36-40; Rev 5:5), because the truth and wisdom of God have been revealed in him.

89. Paul the apostle criticises the ‘wisdom of the world’ which sees the cross of Jesus Christ only as ‘foolishness’ (1Cor 1:18-20). This foolishness he proclaims to be ‘God’s wisdom, secret and hidden’, ‘decreed before the ages’ and now revealed (1Cor 2:7). The cross is the crucial moment of God’s salvific plan. Christ crucified is the ‘power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1Cor 1:18-25). Believers, those who have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1Cor 2:16), receive this wisdom, and it gives access to the ‘mystery of God’ (1Cor 2:1-2). It is important to note that, while the paradoxical wisdom of God, manifested in the cross, contradicts the ‘wisdom of the world’, it nevertheless does not contradict authentic human wisdom. On the contrary, it transcends the latter and fulfils it in an unforeseen way.

90. Christian faith soon encountered the Greek quest for wisdom. It drew attention to the limits of that quest, especially regarding the idea of salvation by knowledge (gnosis) alone, but it also incorporated authentic insights from the Greeks. Wisdom is a unifying vision. While science endeavours to give an account of a particular, limited and well defined aspect of reality, highlighting the principles that explain the properties of the object being studied, wisdom strives to give a unified view of the whole of reality. It is, in effect, a knowledge in accordance with the highest, most universal and also most explanatory causes.[145] For the Fathers of the Church, the sage was one who judged all things in the light of God and eternal realities, which are the norm for things here on earth.[146] Therefore, wisdom also has a moral and spiritual dimension.

91. As its name indicates, philosophy understands itself as a wisdom, or at least as a loving quest for wisdom. Metaphysics, in particular, proposes a vision of reality unified around the fundamental mystery of being; but the Word of God, which reveals ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived’ (1Cor 2:9), opens up for human beings the way to a higher wisdom.[147] This supernatural Christian wisdom, which transcends the purely human wisdom of philosophy, takes two forms which sustain one another but should not be confused: theological wisdom and mystical wisdom.[148] Theological wisdom is the work of reason enlightened by faith. It is therefore an acquired wisdom, though it supposes of course the gift of faith. It offers a unified explanation of reality in light of the highest truths of revelation, and it enlightens everything from the foundational mystery of the Trinity, considered both in itself and in its action in creation and in history. In this regard, Vatican I said: ‘Reason illuminated by faith, when it seeks zealously, piously and soberly, attains with the help of God some understanding of the mysteries, and a most fruitful understanding, both by analogy with those things which it knows naturally, and also from the connection of the mysteries among themselves and with the final end of man’.[149] The intellectual contemplation which results from the rational labour of the theologian is thus truly a wisdom. Mystical wisdom or ‘the knowledge of the saints’ is a gift of the Holy Spirit which comes from union with God in love. Love, in fact, creates an affective connaturality between the human being and God, who allows spiritual persons to know and even suffer things divine (pati divina),[150] actually experiencing them in their lives. This is a non-conceptual knowledge, often expressed in poetry. It leads to contemplation and personal union with God in peace and silence.

92. Theological wisdom and mystical wisdom are formally distinct and it is important not to confuse them. Mystical wisdom is never a substitute for theological wisdom. It is clear, nonetheless, that there are strong links between these two forms of Christian wisdom, both in the person of the theologian and in the community of the Church. On the one hand, an intense spiritual life striving for holiness is a requirement for authentic theology, as the example of the doctors of the Church, East and West, shows. True theology presupposes faith and is animated by charity: ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love’ (1Jn 4:8).[151] Intelligence provides theology with clear sighted reason, but the heart has its own wisdom that purifies intelligence. What is true of all Christians has a particular resonance for theologians, namely that they are ‘called to be saints’ (1Cor 1:2). On the other hand, the proper exercise of theology’s task of giving a scientific understanding of faith enables the authenticity of spiritual experience to be verified.[152] That is why St Teresa of Avila wanted her nuns to seek the counsel of theologians: ‘The more the Lord gives you graces in prayer, the more it is necessary that your prayer and all your works rest on a solid foundation.’[153] With the help of theologians, it is ultimately the task of the magisterium to determine whether any spiritual claim is authentically Christian.

93. The object of theology is the living God, and the life of the theologian cannot fail to be affected by the sustained effort to know the living God. The theologian cannot exclude his or her own life from the endeavour to understand all of reality with regard to God. Obedience to the truth purifies the soul (cf. 1Pet 1:22), and ‘the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy’ (James 3:17). It follows that the pursuit of theology should purify the mind and heart of the theologian.[154] This special feature of the theological enterprise by no means violates the scientific character of theology; on the contrary, it profoundly accords with the latter. Thus, theology is characterised by a distinctive spirituality. Integral to the spirituality of the theologian are: a love of truth, a readiness for conversion of heart and mind, a striving for holiness, and a commitment to ecclesial communion and mission.[155]

94. Theologians have received a particular calling to service in the body of Christ. Called and gifted, they exist in a particular relationship to the body and all of its members. Living in ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’ (2Cor 13:13), they along with all their brothers and sisters should seek to conform their lives to the mystery of the Eucharist ‘from which the Church ever derives its life and on which it thrives’.[156] Indeed, called as they are to explicate the mysteries of the faith, they should be particularly bound to the Eucharist, in which is contained ‘the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch’, whose flesh is made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit.[157] As the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit’ of the life of the Church[158] and ‘of all preaching of the Gospel’,[159] so it is also the source and summit of all theology. In this sense, theology can be understood as essentially and profoundly ‘mystical’.

95. God’s truth is thus not simply something to be explored in systematic reflection and justified in deductive reasoning; it is living truth, experienced by participation in Christ, ‘who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption’ (1Cor 1:30). As wisdom, theology is able to integrate aspects of the faith both studied and experienced and to transcend in the service of God’s truth the limits of what is strictly possible from an intellectual standpoint. Such an appreciation of theology as wisdom can help to resolve two problems facing theology today: first, it offers a way of bridging the gap between believers and theological reflection; and second, it offers a way of expanding understanding of God’s truth, so as to facilitate the mission of the Church in non-Christian cultures characterised by various wisdom traditions.

96. The sense of mystery which properly characterises theology leads to a ready acknowledgement of the limits of theological knowledge, contrary to all rationalist pretensions to exhaust the Mystery of God. The teaching of Lateran IV is fundamental: ‘between creator and creature no similarity can be noted without noting a greater dissimilarity’.[160] Reason enlightened by faith and guided by revelation is always aware of the intrinsic limits of its activity. That is why Christian theology can take the form of ‘negative’ or ‘apophatic’ theology.

97. Nevertheless, negative theology is not at all a negation of theology. Cataphatic and apophatic theology should not be placed in opposition to one another; far from disqualifying an intellectual approach to the Mystery of God, the via negativa simply highlights the limits of such an approach. The via negativa is a fundamental dimension of all authentically theological discourse, but it cannot be separated from the via affirmativa and the via eminentiae.[161]The human spirit, rising from effects to the Cause, from creatures to the Creator, begins by affirming the presence in God of the authentic perfections discovered in creatures (via affirmativa), then it denies that those perfections are in God in the imperfect way in which they are in creatures (via negativa); finally, it affirms that they are in God in a properly divine way which escapes human comprehension (via eminentiae).[162] Theology rightly intends to speak truly of the Mystery of God, but at the same time it knows that its knowledge though true is inadequate in relation to the reality of God, whom it can never ‘comprehend’. As St Augustine said: ‘If you comprehend, it is not God’.[163]

98. It is important to be aware of the sense of emptiness and of the absence of God that many people feel today and that imbues much of modern culture. The primary reality for Christian theology, however, is God’s revelation. The obligatory reference point is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In these events, God has spoken definitively by means of his Word made flesh. Affirmative theology is possible as a result of obedient listening to the Word, present in creation and in history. The Mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is a mystery of ekstasis, love, communion and mutual indwelling among the three divine persons; a mystery of kenosis, the relinquishing of the form of God by Jesus in his incarnation, so as to take the form of a slave (cf. Phil 2:5-11); and a mystery of theosis, human beings are called to participate in the life of God and to share in ‘the divine nature’ (2Pet 1:4) through Christ, in the Spirit. When theology speaks of a negative path and of speechlessness, it is referring to a sense of awe before the Trinitarian Mystery in which is salvation. Though words cannot fully describe it, by love believers already participate in the Mystery. ‘Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’ (1Pet 1:8-9).

99. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should seek and delight in the wisdom of God which is foolishness to the world (cf. 1Cor 1:18-25; 1Cor 2:6-16). Catholic theology should root itself in the great wisdom tradition of the Bible, connect itself with the wisdom traditions of eastern and western Christianity, and seek to establish a bridge to all wisdom traditions. As it strives for true wisdom in its study of the Mystery of God, theology acknowledges God’s utter priority; it seeks not to possess but to be possessed by God. It must therefore be attentive to what the Spirit is saying to the churches by means of ‘the knowledge of the saints’. Theology implies a striving for holiness and an ever-deeper awareness of the transcendence of the Mystery of God.

CONCLUSION

100. As theology is a service rendered to the Church and to society, so the present text, written by theologians, seeks to be of service to our theologian colleagues and also to those with whom Catholic theologians engage in dialogue. Written with respect for all who pursue theological enquiry, and with a profound sense of the joy and privilege of a theological vocation, it strives to indicate perspectives and principles which characterise Catholic theology and to offer criteria by which that theology may be identified. In summary, it may be said that Catholic theology studies the Mystery of God revealed in Christ, and articulates the experience of faith that those in the communion of the Church, participating in the life of God, have, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church into the truth (Jn 16:13). It ponders the immensity of the love by which the Father gave his Son to the world (cf. Jn 3:16), and the glory, grace and truth that were revealed in him for our salvation (cf. Jn 1:14); and it emphasises the importance of hope in God rather than in created things, a hope it strives to explain (cf. 1Pet 3:15). In all its endeavours, in accordance with Paul’s injunction always to ‘be thankful’ (Col 3:15; 1Thess 5:18), even in adversity (cf. Rom 8:31-39), it is fundamentally doxological, characterised by praise and thanksgiving. As it considers the work of God for our salvation and the surpassing nature of his accomplishments, glory and praise is its most appropriate modality, as St Paul not only teaches but also exemplifies: ‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen’ (Eph 3:20-21).

[1] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes 3. Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Vatican II documents are taken from Vatican Council II, vol.1, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company and Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996).

[2] For the latter two, see below, paragraphs 92-94, and 10, 25-32, respectively.

[3] Henri de Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p.298.

[4] These and further ITC texts mentioned below may be found either in International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents 1969-1985, ed. Michael Sharkey (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), or in International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents 1986-2007, eds. Michael Sharkey and Thomas Weinandy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009).

[5] ‘Catholic’, with a capital ‘c’, refers here to the Catholic Church in which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Christ and committed to the care of Peter and the apostles subsists (cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 8, Unitatis Redintegratio 4, Dignitatis Humanae 1). Throughout this text, the term ‘theology’ refers to theology as the Catholic Church understands it.

[6] Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 2.

[7] Pope Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini (2010), 6; cf. Dei Verbum 2, 6.

[8] Verbum Domini 3.

[9] Unless otherwise indicated, scriptural quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version throughout.

[10] Dei Verbum 1; cf. St Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8 (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina [CCSL] 46:129).

[11] Verbum Domini 7; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), n.108.

[12] Cf. Dei Verbum 7, 11, 16.

[13] Dei Verbum 21.

[14] Augustine, ‘Deus … per hominem more hominum loquitur; quia et sic loquendo nos quaerit’ (De civitate Dei XVII, 6, 2; CCSL 48:567); cf. Vatican II, Dei Verbum 12.

[15] Dei Verbum 11.

[16] Dei Verbum 8.

[17] Verbum Domini 18.

[18] Dei Verbum 2.

[19] Cf. Dei Verbum 5, with reference also to Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.3 (DH 3008).

[20] Cf. Dei Verbum 3; also, Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.2 (DH 3004).

[21] Cf. also 1Jn 4:1-6; 2Jn 7; Gal 1:6-9; 1Tim 4:1.

[22] CCC 2089.

[23] Augustine, In Joannis Evang., XXIX, 6 (CCSL 36:287); also, Sermo 43, 7 (CCSL 41:511).

[24] Augustine, Letter 120 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [CSEL] 34, 2:704): ‘Porro autem qui vera ratione jam quod tantummodo credebat intelligit, profecto praepondendus est ei qui cupit adhuc intelligere quod credit; si autem non cupit et ea quae intelligendae sunt credenda tantummodo existimat, cui rei fides prorsus ignorat’.

[25] Cf. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV, 1 (CCSL 50A:424): ‘Huic scientiae tribuens … illud tantummodo quo fides saluberrima quae ad veram beatitudinem ducit gignitur, nutritur, defenditur, roboratur’.

[26] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Fides et Ratio (1998), opening words.

[27] Anselm, Proslogion, Proemium (in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, t.1, p.94). Because of the close bond between faith, hope and love (see above, paragraph 11), it can be affirmed that theology is also spes quaerens intellectum (cf. 1Pet 3:15) and caritas quaerens intellectum. The latter aspect receives particular emphasis in the Christian East: as it explicates the mystery of Christ who is the revelation of God’s love (cf. Jn 3:16), theology is God’s love put into words.

[28] Cf. in particular, Melchior Cano, De locis theologicis, ed. Juan Belda Plans (Madrid, 2006). Cano lists ten loci: Sacra Scriptura, traditiones Christi et apostolorum, Ecclesia Catholica, Concilia, Ecclesia Romana, sancti veteres, theologi scholastici, ratio naturalis, philosophi, humana historia.

[29] Dei Verbum 24.

[30] Verbum Domini 35; cf. 31.

[31] Cf. Council of Trent, Decretum de libris sacris et de traditionibus recipiendis (DH 1501-1505).

[32] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993), III, C, 1; cf. Verbum Domini 33.

[33] Dei Verbum 12.

[34] Cf. Dei Verbum 12.

[35] Cf. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, I, B-E.

[36] Verbum Domini 34.

[37] ‘[S]ince sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the same Spirit in which it was written [eodem Spiritu quo scripta est], no less attention must be devoted to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, taking into account the Tradition of the entire Church and the analogy of faith, if we are to derive their true meaning from the sacred texts’ (Dei Verbum 12; amended translation).

[38] Cf. Verbum Domini 39.

[39] Cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993), II, B; also CCC 115-118. Medieval theology spoke of the four senses of Scripture: Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.

[40] Verbum Domini 34.

[41] On the central place of Scripture in theology, cf. St Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Prologue.

[42] Second Vatican Council, Optatam Totius 16. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, q.36, a.2, ad.1: ‘de Deo dicere non debemus quod in sacra Scriptura non invenitur vel per verba, vel per sensum’.

[43] Verbum Domini 37.

[44] Verbum Domini 46.

[45] Dei Verbum 21.

[46] Cf. Dei Verbum 22.

[47] Dei Verbum 8.

[48] Cf. Dei Verbum 7.

[49] Dei Verbum 8.

[50] Dei Verbum 8.

[51] Cf. Optatam Totius 16.

[52] Cyril of Alexandria presented a dossier of patristic extracts to the council of Ephesus; cf. Mansi IV, 1183-1195; E. Schwartz, ed., Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, 1.1, pp.31-44.

[53] Cf. Augustine, Contra duas epistulas pelagianorum, 4, 8, 20 (CSEL 60:542-543); 4, 12, 32 (CSEL 60:568-569); Contra Iulianum, 1, 7, 34 (PL 44, 665); 2, 10, 37 (PL 44, 700-702). Also, Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium 28, 6 (CCSL 64:187): ‘Sed eorum dumtaxat patrum sententiae conferendae sunt, qui in fide et communione catholica sancte sapienter constanter viventes docentes et permanentes, vel mori in Christo fideliter vel occidi pro Christo feliciter meruerunt.’

[54] Cf. DH 301, 1510.

[55] DH 1507, 3007.

[56] Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 25.

[57] ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma (1990), B, III, 3; cf. Theological Pluralism (1972), nn.6-8, 10-12.

[58] Cf. Pope John XXIII, ‘Allocutio in Concilii Vaticani inauguratione’, AAS 84(1962), p.792; Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 62. For a detailed consideration of the whole question, see ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma.

[59] Dei Verbum 10.

[60] Dei Verbum 9.

[61] Dei Verbum 24.

[62] Johann Adam Möhler, Unity in the Church or the Principle of Catholicism, Presented in the Spirit of the Church Fathers of the First Three Centuries, Peter C. Erb, trans. and ed. (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p.117.

[63] Verbum Domini 7.

[64] Dei Verbum 9.

[65] Dei Verbum 9.

[66] Cf. Dei Verbum 8; Lumen Gentium 13, 14; Unitatis Redintegratio 15, 17; Ad Gentes 22.

[67] Cf. Yves Congar, Tradition et traditions: I Essai historique; II Essai théologique, two vols. (Paris: 1960, 1963).

[68] ‘Scripture, Tradition and Traditions’, in P. C. Rodger and Lukas Vischer, eds., The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: Montreal 1963 (New York: Association Press, 1964), n.48, p.52. Strictly speaking, as this document indicates, Tradition (with a capital ‘T’) and tradition (with a small ‘t’) may also be distinguished: Tradition is ‘the Gospel itself, transmitted from generation to generation in and by the Church’, it is ‘Christ himself present in the life of the Church’; and tradition is ‘the traditionary process’ (n.39, p.50).

[69] Cf. Unitatis Redintegratio 6.

[70] Lumen Gentium 12.

[71] Dei Verbum 8.

[72] Cf. Lumen Gentium 35.

[73] Lumen Gentium 12.

[74] Cf. Lumen Gentium, chapter 2.

[75] Cf. Lumen Gentium, chapter 3.

[76] Cf. Dei Verbum 8; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 26, 2.

[77] Cf. Lumen Gentium 21, 24-25.

[78] Dei Verbum 10; see above, paragraph 30.

[79] Augustine, Sermo 340 A (PL 38, 1483).

[80] The Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, Donum Veritatis (1990), speaks of the truth given by God to his people (nn.2-5) and it locates ‘the vocation of the theologian’ in direct service to the people of God so that they may have an understanding of the gift received in faith (nn.6-7).

[81] Dei Verbum 10.

[82] The ITC addressed this question in its Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology (1975), as did the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Donum Veritatis.

[83] Cf. Dei Verbum 10.

[84] Cf. Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 2. Today as in the past, of course, bishops and theologians do not constitute two fully distinct groups.

[85] Cf. Donum Veritatis 21.

[86] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 21-25, Christus Dominus 12, Dei Verbum 10.

[87] Thomas Aquinas distinguished the ‘magisterium cathedrae pastoralis’ and the ‘magisterium cathedrae magistralis’, the former pertaining to bishops and the latter to theologians. More recently, ‘magisterium’ or ‘ecclesiastical magisterium’ has come to refer specifically to the first of those two meanings, and is used in that sense in this text (cf. above, paragraphs 26, 28-30, 33). While theologians do have a teaching role, which may be formally recognised by the Church, it is not to be confused with or opposed to that of the bishops; cf. Aquinas, Contra Impugnantes, c.2; Quaest. Quodlibet., III, q.4, a.9, ad 3; In IV Sent., d.19, q.2, a.3, qa.3, ad.4; also Donum Veritatis, footnote 27.

[88] Cf. Donum Veritatis 34.

[89] Cf. Donum Veritatis 13-20.

[90] Cf. ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma, B, II, 3. Contradiction of the teaching of the magisterium at various levels by theological propositions gives rise to correspondingly differentiated negative evaluations or censures of such propositions, and possible sanctions against those responsible; cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, Ad Tuendam Fidem (1998).

[91] Cf. Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 8.

[92] Cf. Donum Veritatis 21-41.

[93] John Henry Newman, ‘Preface to the Third Edition’, in The Via Media of the Anglican Church, ed. H. D. Wiedner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp.10-57, here at 27.

[94] ‘Preface to the Third Edition’, pp.29-30. ‘[N]ot all knowledge is suited to all minds; a proposition may be ever so true, yet at a particular time and place it may be “temerarious, offensive to pious ears, and scandalous”, though not “heretical” nor “erroneous”’ (p.34).

[95] Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 9. The ITC also proposed guidelines for good practice in situations of dispute (cf. Theses 11-12).

[96] Cf. Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 8.

[97] Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 8.

[98] See below, paragraph 83.

[99] Cf. Lumen Gentium 22, 25.

[100] Cf. Donum Veritatis 11.

[101] See, for example, Augustine, Epist. 82, 5, 36 (CCSL 31A:122), where he urges Jerome that in the liberty of friendship and with brotherly love they should be frank in correcting one another; also De Trinitate, I, 3, 5 (CCSL 50:33), where he says he will profit greatly if those who disagree with him argue their case with charity and truth and succeed in refuting his own argument.

[102] Cf. ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma, C, III, 6.

[103] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ut Unum Sint 28.

[104] Gaudium et Spes 11.

[105] Gaudium et Spes 11.

[106] Gaudium et Spes 4.

[107] Gaudium et Spes 44.

[108] Cf. Gaudium et Spes 44.

[109] Gaudium et Spes 44.

[110] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium 43, Unitatis Redintegratio 4, Dignitatis Humanae 15, Apostolicam Actuositatem 14, Presbyterorum Ordinis 9.

[111] Second Vatican Council, Ad Gentes 11.

[112] Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate 2.

[113] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, q.2, a.10.

[114] Cf. Anselm, Proslogion, ch.1 (in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, t.1, p.100): ‘Desidero aliquatenus intelligere veritatem tuam, quam credit et amat cor meum’; also Augustine, De Trinitate, XV, 28, 51 (CCSL 50A:534).

[115] Cf. Anselm, Proslogion, ch.1 (in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, t.1, p.100): ‘Non tento, domine, penetrare altitudinem tuam …. Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo: quia “nisi credidero, non intelligam”.’

[116] Cf. Origen, Contra Celsum, Prologue, 4 (ed. M. Boret, Sources chrétiennes, vol.132, pp.72-73); Augustine, City of God, I (CCSL 47).

[117] Cf. Fides et Ratio 73.

[118] Cf. Fides et Ratio 77.

[119] Cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius (DH 3017); also, Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, I, c.7.

[120] Vatican I, Dei Filius (DH 3019).

[121] Cf. Justin, Dialogus cum Tryphone, 8, 4 (Iustini philosophi et martyris opera quae feruntur omnia, ed. C. T. Otto, Corpus apologetarum christianorum saeculi secundi, 2, Iéna, 1877, pp.32-33); Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos, 31 (Corpus apologetarum christianorum saeculi secundi, 6, Iéna, 1851, p.118); also Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio 38.

[122] Cf. Augustine, De civitate Dei, VI, 5-12 (CCSL 47:170-184).

[123] In reaction against the theological rationalism of ‘radical Arians’, the Cappadocian Fathers and the Greek theological tradition insisted on the impossibility of knowing the divine essence in itself here below, either by nature or by grace, or even in the state of glory. Latin theology, convinced that human beatitude could only consist in the vision of God ‘as he is’ (1Jn 3:2), distinguished rather between the knowledge of the divine essence promised to the blessed and the comprehensive knowledge of God’s essence that is proper only to God. In the constitution, Benedictus Deus (1336), Pope Benedict XII defined that the blessed see the very essence of God, face to face (DH 1000).

[124] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, In Boethium De Trinitate, prologue (ed. Leonine, t.50, p.76): ‘Modus autem de Trinitate tractandi duplex est, ut dicit Augustinus in I de Trinitate, scilicet per auctoritates et per rationes. Quem utrumque modum Augustinus complexus est, ut ipsemet dicit; quidam vero sanctorum patrum, ut Ambrosius et Hylarius, alterum tantum modum prosequti sunt, scilicet per actoritates; Boetius vero elegit prosequi per alium modum, scilicet per rationes, praesupponens hoc quod ab aliis per auctoritates fuerat prosequtum.’

[125] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, q.1, a.7.

[126] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.3, ad 2.

[127] Cf. Thomas a Kempis, Imitatio Iesu Christi, I, 3.

[128] Fides et Ratio 66.

[129] Cf. Fides et Ratio 73.

[130] Cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius (DH 3008-3009, 3031-3033).

[131] Augustine, ‘de divinitate ratio sive sermo’ (De civitate Dei VIII, 1; CCSL 47:216-217).

[132] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.7: ‘Omnia autem pertractantur in sacra doctrina sub ratione Dei, vel quia sunt ipse Deus; vel quia habent ordinem ad Deum, ut ad principium et finem. Unde sequitur quod Deus vere sit subiectum huius scientiae.’

[133] Optatam Totius 16.

[134] Cf. International Theological Commission, Faith and Inculturation (1989).

[135] Cf. International Theological Commission, Theological Pluralism (1972).

[136] Cf. International Theological Commission, The Interpretation of Dogma (1990).

[137] See above, chapter 2, section 2: ‘Fidelity to Apostolic Tradition’.

[138] Cf. Optatam Totius 16.

[139] Cf. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. This text serves as a valuable paradigm in that it reflects on the capacities and limitations of different contemporary methods of exegesis within the horizon of a theology of Revelation rooted in the Scriptures themselves and in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

[140] Cf. Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.5, ad 2, where St Thomas says of theology: ‘Haec scientia accipere potest aliquid a philosophicis disciplinis, non quod ex necessitate eis indigeat, sed ad maiorem manifestationem eorum quae in hac scientia traduntur. Non enim accipit sua principia ab aliis scientiis, sed immediate a Deo per revelationem. Et ideo non accipit ab aliis scientiis tanquam a superioribus, sed utitur eis tanquam inferioribus et ancillis.’

[141] For example, in his Encyclical Letter, Veritatis Splendor (1993), Pope John Paul called upon moral theologians to exercise discernment in their use of the behavioural sciences (esp., nn.33, 111, 112).

[142] The early Fathers emphasised that heresies, especially the various forms of gnosticism, often resulted from an insufficiently critical adoption of particular philosophical theories. See, for example, Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 7, 3 (Sources chrétiennes 46, p.96): ‘Ipsae denique haereses a philosophia subornantur.’

[143] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Message to participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 22 October 1996; also, Fides at Ratio 69.

[144] Pope Benedict XVI observes a pathology in reason when it distances itself from questions of ultimate truth and God. By this harmful self-limitation, reason becomes subject to human interests and is reduced to ‘instrumental reason’. The way is opened for relativism. Given these dangers, Pope Benedict repeatedly proposes that faith is ‘a purifying force for reason itself’: ‘Faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly’ (Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, 2005, n.28).

[145] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.6.

[146] Cf. Augustine, De Trinitate, XII, 14, 21 - 15, 25 (CCSL 50:374-380).

[147] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.6.

[148] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1 , a.6, ad 3.

[149] Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.4 (DH 3016).

[150] Cf. Dionysius, De divinis nominibus, ch. 2, 9 (in Corpus Dionysiacum, I. Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita De divinis nominibus, Herausgegeben von Beate Regina Suchla, «Patristische Texte und Studien, 33», p.134).

[151] Cf. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love, 2, 26 (G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, trans. & ed., The Philokalia, vol.2, London/Boston, 1981, p.69): ‘the intellect is granted the grace of theology when, carried on wings of love …, it is taken up into God and with the help of the Holy Spirit discerns – as far as this is possible for the human intellect – the qualities of God; also Richard of St Victor, De praeparatione animi ad contemplationem 13 (PL 196, 10A): Ubi amor, ibi oculus; Tractatus de gradibus charitatis 3, 23 (G. Dumeige, ed, Textes philosophiques du Moyen Age, 3, Paris: 1955, p.71): ‘amor oculus est, et amare videre est’ (Richard attributes this phrase to St Augustine).

[152] Regarding private revelations, which are always subject to ecclesiastical judgement and which, even when authentic, have a value ‘essentially different from that of the one public revelation’, see Verbum Domini 14.

[153] Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, ch. 5.

[154] Cf. ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma, B, III, 4: ‘the theological interpretation of dogmas is not an intellectual process only. At a deeper level still, it is a spiritual enterprise, brought about by the Spirit of Truth and possible only when preceded by a purification of the “eyes of the heart”’.

[155] Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate (2009), 1.

[156] Lumen Gentium 26; cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), 1.

[157] Presbyterorum Ordinis 5.

[158] Lumen Gentium 11; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 10.

[159] Presbyterorum Ordinis 5.

[160] Fourth Lateran Council (DH 806).

[161] Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent., d.35, q.1, a.1, ad.2: ‘Omnis negatio fundatur in aliqua affirmatione’.

[162] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones disputatae de potentia, q.7, a.5, ad.2, where he gives an interpretation of the teaching of Dionysius.

[163] Augustine, ‘De deo loquimur, quid mirum si non comprehendis? Si enim comprehendis, non est Deus’ (Sermo 117, 3, 5; PL 38, 663); ‘Si quasi comprehendere potuisti, cogitatione tua te decepisti’ (Sermo 52, 6, 16; PL 38, 360).

(Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_doc_20111129_teologia-oggi_en.html)

 



 

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

THEOLOGY, CHRISTOLOGY, ANTHROPOLOGY*

 

INTRODUCTION

At its plenary session in 1979 the International Theological Commission chose Christology as its theme for consideration; in 1980 it published its conclusions (cf. the Latin text “Quaestiones selectae de Christologia”, in the periodical Gregorianum 61 [1980]: 609—32, and also several translations into modern languages).

Upon completion of the second five-year period of its work (1974—1979), the Commission itself was reconstituted. The majority of the members, especially of those present for the first time, wished to continue the study of the theme of Christology. Although the new Commission had complete liberty to discuss all Christological questions, nevertheless for reasons of prudence and to save energy and time, reexamination of areas covered in the document that had already been published was to be avoided.

The program for the plenary session of 1981 required amplifications and supplementary considerations. In the first place, it was to expound the relationship of Christology to the other ways of talking about God and to faith in the Triune God. Having laid this foundation, it would be necessary to determine the complex relationship between Christology and anthropology. In the second place, two questions intimately linked to the foundations of Christology needed particular attention: the preexistence of Jesus Christ and today’s disputed question about the suffering of God. Both themes exemplify how contemporary problems and classical solutions can clarify and enrich each other in productive dialogue.

From this point of view both Christology documents from the two sessions can be seen as complementing each other so as to form a unity; this judgment, however, is left to the well-disposed reader.

I. THE FOUNDATION AND CONTEXT OF CHRISTOLOGY

The context of Christology includes the human desire for and the knowledge man has of God, the revelation of the Triune God, and the image of man in contemporary anthropology and in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. If these basic elements are not first treated adequately, Christology itself is placed in danger. Even the effort to elaborate a doctrine of man will as a consequence be rendered obscure. These are the reasons why thought must be given to a new clarification of the setting of all Christology.

A. The Economy of Jesus Christ and the Revelation of God

1. What is the relationship between Christology and the problem of the revelation of God? To avoid all confusion and all separation of the two aspects of this question, the complementary character of the two approaches to it must be maintained. The first descends from God to Jesus: the other returns from Jesus to God.

1.1. Confusion between Christology and Theology results if one supposes that the name of God is totally unknown outside of Jesus Christ, and that there exists no other Theology than that which arises from the Christian revelation. This does not respect the mystery of man the creature in whom there wells up a fundamental desire for God, intimated in religious and in philosophical teachings all throughout history. It also neglects the importance of the traces of God in creation (cf. Rom 1:20). In addition, it denies the economy of the revelation of the unique character God in the Old Testament, which the Church recognized from the very beginning, as well as the theocentric attitude of Jesus, who asserted that the God of the Old Law was his own Father. Furthermore, one creates a serious ambiguity in the understanding of the confession “Jesus is the Son of God”—an ambiguity that, in the last analysis, can result in an atheistic Christology.

1.2. A separation between Christology and Theology supposes the idea that in any part of the body of Theology, the notion of God elaborated by philosophical wisdom can take the place of reflection upon revealed faith. It also misunderstands the originality of the revelation given to the people of Israel—revelation embodied in the Christian Faith with radical newness—while diminishing the importance of the event of Jesus Christ. Paradoxically, this separation can lead to the opinion that Christological investigation is sufficient of itself and is turned in on itself, with no reference to God.

2. It seems that we can apply here—with the appropriate adaptations— the criterion of the Chalcedonian definition: distinction without confusion or separation must be maintained between Christology and the problem of God, Such a distinction exists between the two periods of revelation, which correspond to each other. The first is the universal manifestation of himself that God gave in the primordial creation; the second is the personal revelation that developed throughout the history of salvation, from the time of the Old Covenant until the coming of Jesus Christ.

3. Thus there exists a complementary interaction between understanding Jesus in light of the idea of God and finding God in Jesus.

3.1. In the first place, the believer cannot recognize in Jesus the full manifestation of God, except in the light of the notion of and the desire of God that lives in the heart of man. Even though it admitted certain errors, this light has had an effect upon the religions of many peoples and upon philosophical studies; it was already visible in the revelation of the one God in the Old Testament; it is always present in men’s consciences today, notwithstanding the bitterness of atheism. One finds it in the search for absolute values such as justice or fraternity This light is fundamentally presupposed in the confession of faith, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

3.2. A second observation must be made with humility—not just because Christians’ faith and behavior do not live up to the standards of the totally gratuitous revelation that reached its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, but also because the revealed mystery surpasses all theological formulations: the mystery of God, insofar as it was definitively revealed in Jesus Christ, contains “unfathomable riches” (cf. Eph 3:8) surpassing and indeed transcending the thoughts and desires of the philosophical and religious mind. By opening a free and ever-widening road to God—who always lies beyond—this mystery guards, confirms, and leads to its proper fullness whatever is true in these thoughts and desires. No matter their errors and deviations, it guides them, as they themselves wish, into paths more correct and ample. And from these sources the mystery of faith, which is always open to being understood more profoundly, accepts the intuitions and religious experiences of mankind for integration into itself, so that the catholicity of Christian faith may be more fully realized.

3.3. For Jesus Christ, bringing to completion the revelation made in the whole history of salvation, shows the mystery of God, whose triune life is the source of a most loving communication in himself and to us. This God, already revealed in the Old Testament and definitively announced by Jesus Christ, made himself near to man (cf. Deut 4:7; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 11, 5, 4). In many of the non-Christian religions it is rather that man seeks God. But in this revelation it is God who first and from the beginning seeks out man and loves him from the depths of his heart. This discovery, surpassing all previous conceptions of God, and satisfying them beyond all desire, is immanent in the confession of faith, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

B. The Relationship between Theocentrism and Christocentrism

1. In the recent history of Western Theology (and so leaving medieval Theology out of consideration) the question treated so far can be discussed from different perspectives, namely, “Theocentrism” and “Christocentrism”. The question these terms pose is whether the proper object of Christology is immediately God or Jesus Christ. We consider this problem by addressing, formally and logically, the relationship between Theocentrism and Christocentrism.

1.1. In fact the question rests on a false foundation if the Theocentrism that one opposes to Christocentrism is not a Christian Theism (that is, revealed and Trinitarian) but is in some sense a “natural” Theism, which places in doubt either the possibility or the fact of revelation. The question immediately vanishes because, in the first place, there is lacking in Theism a purely “natural” reason that could contradict Christocentrism; in the second place, Christian Theocentrism and Christocentrism are in fact one and the same.

1.2. Christian Theism consists properly in the Triune God, and he is known uniquely in the revelation to us in Jesus Christ. Thus, on the one hand, knowledge of Jesus Christ leads to a knowledge of the Trinity and attains its plenitude in the knowledge of the Trinity; on the other hand, there is no knowledge of the Triune God except in knowledge of Jesus Christ himself. It follows that there is no distinction between Theocentrism and Christocentrism: the two terms denote the same reality.

1.3. Leaving aside less suitable interpretations, Christocentrism properly connotes the Christology of Jesus of Nazareth, which, taken in its own more profound sense, expresses the “singularity” of Jesus Christ. But this singularity of Jesus Christ properly accords with the revelation of the Trinity when it is defined on the one hand by the singular relationship of Jesus himself with the Father and the Holy Spirit, that is, with God; and, in consequence, on the other hand, by the singular condition according to which Jesus exists with and for men.

2. Christian Theism does not exclude natural Theism, but on the contrary presupposes it in its own way For Christian Theism takes its origin from God revealing himself according to a most free intention of his will; while natural Theism pertains intrinsically to human reason, as the First Vatican Council teaches (cf. DS 3004, 3026).

3. Natural Theism is not the same as, and therefore is not to be confused with, either the Theism/monotheism of the Old Testament or historical Theism, that is, the Theism that non-Christians have professed in various ways in their religions. The monotheism of the Old Testament has it origins in a supernatural revelation and therefore retains an intrinsic relation to—indeed, demands—the Trinitarian revelation. Historical Theisms do not arise from a “pure nature” but from a nature subject to sin, objectively redeemed by Jesus Christ and elevated to a supernatural destiny.

C. Christology and the Relevation of the Trinity

1. The economy of Jesus Christ reveals the Triune God. Jesus Christ, however, is recognized in his mission only if the unique presence of God in him is properly understood. For this reason Theocentrism and Christocentrism illustrate and need each other. Still, there remains the question of the relationship of Christology to the relevation of the Triune God.

1.1. Detect from the New Testament that in the witness of the primitive Church, it was always held with certainty that through the event of Jesus Christ and the event of the gift of the Holy Spirit God had revealed himself to us as he is. In himself he is such as appeared to us: “Philip, he who sees me sees the Father” (Jn 14:9).

1.2. This therefore is the role that the three divine names play in the eternal life of God, according to the economy of salvation, and according to the Greek Fathers’ understanding of the matter. This is for us the only definitive source of all knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity. The elaboration of the doctrine of the Trinity had its beginnings in the economy of salvation. Again, an eternal and immanent Trinity is of necessity presupposed by an economic Trinity. Theology and catechetics must both take into account this datum of the primitive Faith.

2. Therefore a fundamental axiom of modern Theology is best put in the following terms: the Trinity that manifests itself in the economy of salvation is an immanent Trinity, and it is this Trinity that gives itself freely and graciously in the economy of salvation.

2.1. Any kind of distinction, then, between Christology and the Trinity is to be avoided in Theology and catechetics. The mystery of Jesus Christ belongs to the structure of the Trinity. The mystery of the Trinity is Christological. Such a distinction can take on either a neoscholastic form or a modern form. It was the practice of neoscholasticism to segregate the consideration of the Trinity from the whole Christian mystery; nor did it take sufficient account of the Trinity in its understanding of the Incarnation and the deification of man. The Trinity’s importance for both the body of the truths of faith and Christian life was repeatedly neglected.

The modern distinction places a veil between men and the eternal Trinity, as if Christian revelation did not already invite man to know the Triune God and participate in his life. As far as the eternal Trinity is concerned, this leads to a certain “agnosticism”, which can in no way be accepted. For if God is greater than anything we can think about him, Christian revelation asserts that that “extra” greatness is always of a Trinitarian nature.

2.2. In the same way, anything leading to confusion between the event of Jesus Christ and the Trinity must be avoided. The Trinity was not simply brought about in the history of salvation by means of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as though a historical process were necessary for God to emerge as Trinitarian. Therefore, the distinction must be maintained between the immanent Trinity, where liberty and necessity are the same thing in the eternal essence of God, and the Trinity of the economy of salvation, where God exercises his liberty absolutely, with no suggestion of his being forced to it.

3. This distinction between the “immanent” Trinity and the “economic” Trinity is intrinsic to their real identity It is not to be used as justifying new modes of separation but is to be understood according to the way of affirmation, negation, and eminence. God is beyond all divisions one might attribute to him. In the economy of salvation we see the Eternal Son take on in his own life the “kenotic” event of birth, of human life, and of the death on the Cross. This event, in which God reveals himself absolutely and definitively, affects in some way the being proper to God the Father, insofar as he is the kind of God who accomplishes these mysteries and really shares them as belonging to himself, together with the Son and the Holy Spirit. For not alone in the mystery of Jesus Christ does God the Father reveal and communicate himself to us freely and graciously through the Son and in the Holy Spirit; but also, the Father leads a Trinitarian life with the Son and the Holy Spirit in a manner most profound and almost new, according to our way of speaking, insofar as the Fathers relationship to the incarnate Son, in the communication of the gift of the Spirit, is the very relationship that constitutes the Trinity. In the intimate life of the Triune God the very potential exists for the realization of these events, which, through the inexplicable freedom of God, take place for us in the history of salvation brought by our Lord Jesus Christ.

These great events in the life of Jesus clearly make applicable to us, and make efficacious in a new way, the eternal word of generation, in which the Father says to the Son: “You are my Son: this day have I begotten you” (Ps 2:7; cf. Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5; and also Lk 3:22).

D. The Relationship between Christology and Anthropology

1. Modern Christology often is based more upon, and developed from, an anthropology, as a new principle of understanding, than upon the Theology of the Triune God. This methodology has its greatest impact on the field of soteriology. The purpose of the redemption is conceived more as a hominization than as the deification of man. In this process, the crisis in metaphysics, already evident in the field of philosophy, has had great consequences at the very heart of Theology. The disjunctive antithesis between “ontological” considerations and merely “functional” considerations (which some hold are closer to the biblical mind) has serious consequences, which are well known in modern Theology. Granted that the relationship between anthropology and Christology has to be worked out anew in terms of their mutual analogies; over and above this, the problem of the deification of man must be treated separately by way of a small excursus (cf. E).

The announcement of Jesus Christ the Son of God is made under the biblical sign “for us” (“pro nobis”). Thus it is necessary to treat the whole Christology under the aspect of soteriology. For this reason, and more-or-less correctly and laudably, some modern attempts have been made to work out a “functional” Christology. But, conversely, it is likewise true that “existence for others” means Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his relationship and intimate communion with the Father and must for that very reason be rooted in his eternal sonship. The proexistence of Jesus Christ, in which God communicates himself to man, presupposes preexistence. Otherwise the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior would be merely a fiction and an illusion, incapable of defending against the modern accusation that it is an ideology To ask whether Christology should be functional or ontological is to pose false alternatives.

2. The anthropological element in Christology can be considered under three aspects in accord with the biblical typology of Adam-Christ (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:45-49).

2.1. Just as faith presupposes man to be a subject whom God created free, with the capacity of being open to and responding to God, so Christology needs anthropology. It is for this reason that Theology, following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, acknowledges that a relative autonomy—that is, an autonomy of secondary causation based in a relationship to God the Creator—should be assigned to man and to the world; a just liberty should be conceded to the sciences (cf. GS 36, 41, 56; LG 36; AA 7), and in a positive way Theology should make use of the anthropological orientation of modern times. Christian faith ought to demonstrate its proper character by cultivating and guarding the transcendence of the human person (cf. GS 76).

2.2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ not only presupposes man’s essence and existence but also brings him to full perfection. This perfection, at least implicitly sought, desired, and hoped for by all men, is transcendent and infinite and can be found only in God. Mans true hominization therefore attains its apex in his divinization, in his friendship and communion with God, by which man is made the temple of God, enjoying the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The adoration and worship of God, especially Eucharistic worship, makes man fully human. Therefore, Jesus Christ, at once God and man, is found to be the eschatological fullness of man, and in him alone is found the “measure of the stature of the fullness of man” (cf. Eph 4:13). Only in Jesus Christ is mans limitless openness concretely found. It is especially in Jesus Christ that the mystery of man and his exalted vocation are truly shown to us (cf. GS 22).

The saving history of the people of the Old Testament serves as a type that justifies man’s hope that God does not deceive, and that in new ways this hope will be fulfilled abundantly in the Person and work of Christ.

2.3. The identity and perfection of man as they are found in Christ challenge any human absolutism that the sinner chooses for himself. For this reason the preaching of the Gospel cannot be separated from a warning of judgment and a call to conversion. The following of the Cross and communion with the crucified Jesus Christ do not destroy man but signify and can even bring about the end of many forms of alienation, which result ultimately from the power of sin and the slavery of the law and death. This signifies and confers the freedom to which we have been called through Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 5:1—13). For this reason it is the Pasch of the Lord, namely, participation in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which show the true way by which man is brought to perfection.

3. In this triple view of man, which Christology gives, the mystery of God and man is shown to the world as the mystery of love. Under the guidance of the Christian Faith one can elaborate a vision that embraces all things. Furthermore, even if this vision critically examines the yearnings of modern men, it also affirms, purges, and improves them.

In ancient philosophy substance in general was at the center of things, but here the center is a “metaphysic of charity”, namely, the person, whose most perfect act is the act of charity.

Such an interpretation of prophetic and Christological reality is also of fundamental importance in applying the precepts of morality, both personal and social. In these matters the Faith ought to presuppose a relatively autonomous ethical standard (cf. Rom 2:14ff.), while at the same time judging it critically by the standard of Jesus Christ, so that mans dignity is advanced with justice in human society, while justice is surpassed by Christian love, which ought to be the soul of justice. In this way, the human ethical standard, which is of itself open to very many interpretations, is rendered Christian. Therefore from the Gospel of Jesus Christ one correctly derives the duty to participate in building a “civilization of love” in human history.

E. The Image of God in Man, or the Christian Meaning of the “Deification” of Man

1. “The Word of God is made man, that man may become God” (Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3). This axiom of the soteriology of the Fathers, above all of the Greeks, is denied in our own times for various reasons. Some assert that “deification” is a typically Hellenistic notion of salvation and is conducive to a mentality of flight from the world, together with a denial of human values. In their view deification removes the difference between God and man and leads to a fusion without distinction. They oppose to this patristic axiom another that they maintain is more adapted to our age: “God is made man, so that man may be made more human.” Certainly the words “deification”, “theôsis”, “theopoiêsis”, “homoiôsis theo”, etc., of themselves are ambiguous. Therefore the genuine or Christian sense of “deification” in its major aspects must be explained.

2. Certainly Greek philosophy and religion acknowledged some “natural” kinship between the human and the divine mind. The biblical revelation, however, clearly treats man as a creature, who by contemplation and love moves toward God. It is not man’s intellectual capacity but conversion of heart, a new obedience, and moral action that bring man closest to God. This is impossible without God’s grace. Man can become what God is only by grace.

3. Stronger arguments arise from Christian preaching. Created in the image and likeness of God, man is called to a sharing of life with God, who alone can fulfill the deepest desires of the human heart. The idea of deification reaches its summit by virtue of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Word assumes our mortal nature so that we can be freed from death and sin and can share in the divine life. Through Jesus Christ we are partakers in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). Deification consists in the very grace that frees us from the death of sin and communicates to us the divine life itself. We are sons in the Son.

4. The Christian meaning of our proposition is made much more profound through the mystery of Jesus Christ. Just as the Incarnation of the Word does not change the divine nature, in the same way the divinity of Jesus Christ does not change or dissolve human nature but rather makes it more itself and perfects it in its original condition of creaturehood. Redemption does not, in a general way, simply convert human nature into something divine but renews human nature along the lines of the human nature of Jesus Christ.

According to Maximus the Confessor, this idea is further determined through the final experiences of Jesus Christ, namely, his Passion and his abandonment by God. The more deeply Jesus Christ participates in human mystery, the more man participates in the divine life.

In this sense deification properly understood can make man perfectly human: deification is the truest and ultimate hominization of man.

5. This process whereby man is deified does not take place without the grace of Jesus Christ, which comes especially through the sacraments in the Church. The sacraments join us in a most efficacious and visible fashion, and under the symbols of our own fragile life they join us to the divine grace of the Savior (cf. LG 7). More than that, this deification is not communicated to the individual as such but as a member of the Communion of Saints. Moreover, the invitation given by divine grace to the human race takes place in the Holy Spirit. Christians therefore should realize the holiness they have achieved in their way of life (LG 39—42). The fullness of deification belongs to the beatific vision of the Triune God, which takes the soul into the Communion of Saints.

II. SOME LEADING THEMES IN MODERN CHRISTOLOGY

So far the basis and dimensions of Trinitarian and anthropological Christology have been presented. Some other problems of a less general nature should also be examined in the concrete. Among these we have selected two. The first concerns the preexistence of Jesus Christ, which holds a middle position between Christology and Trinitarian Theology. A second question concerns the “changelessness” versus the “suffering” of God. Both questions have prominent places in modern Christological discussion. (A third and further theme concerns the human knowledge and consciousness of Christ; we have not been able to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion yet. We hope that in the future this theme will be the subject of further studies.)

A. The Problem of the Preexistence of Jesus Christ

1. Since classical Christology could always presuppose Trinitarian Theology, the preexistence of Jesus Christ did not present a great problem. But in modern Christological research, where the earthly life of Jesus has been subjected to considerable scrutiny (cf. Quaest. select, 1, A and B), pre-existence has often been presented as something alien to biblical faith and religion and made to seem rather as something Greek; a form of speculation simply, in fact, a myth that betrays the true human nature of Jesus. It is therefore said that the preexistence of Jesus Christ is to be understood today not literally but in purely symbolic terms. It is simply a way of speaking of his uniqueness, his irreducible originality, and of the way in which Jesus transcends the world and history. Jesus Christ had a more-than-worldly origin. In these modern interpretations the idea of preexistence seems to have exhausted its purpose and been surpassed.

2. Attempts to claim that the biblical statements about the preexistence of Jesus Christ arose from mythical, Hellenistic, and gnostic sources do not hold water: today, in fact, relationships are detected with the intertestamental literature (cf. Eth. Enoch 48:3, 6; 4 Ezra 13) and above all with Old Testament sources, especially in the Wisdom Theology (Prov 8:22ff., Sir 24). In addition, much more is made of elements within biblical Christology itself: the unique relationship of Jesus on earth with God the Father (“Abba” on the lips of Jesus); the unique mission of the Son and his glorious Resurrection. In the light of this exaltation the origin of Jesus Christ is openly and definitively understood: sitting at the right hand of God in his postexistence (i.e., after his earthly life) implies his preexistence with God from the beginning before he came into the world. In other words, his eschatological state can be no different from his pre-Incarnation state and vice versa. The unique mission of the Son (cf. Mk 12:1—12) is inseparable from the Person of Jesus Christ, who not only had a prophetic role, which was temporal and limited, to play on earth but also has a coeternal origin from the Father. The Son of God received everything in eternity from God the Father. In the light of this eschatological-soteriological perspective we must say that Jesus Christ cannot open the way to eternal life for us if he is not himself “eternal”. The eschatological message and the eschatological doctrine presuppose a divine preexistence of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ’s origin from the Father is not a conclusion of subsequent reflection but is made clear by his words and the facts about him, namely, that Jesus took it for certain that he had been sent by the Father. Therefore, at least in an indirect fashion, one finds manifested the consciousness of Jesus with regard to his eternal existence as Son of the Father, whose task it is to reconcile the whole world to God. (One can see as primary fundamental elements the “I” of Jesus Christ in the Synoptic Gospels, the words “I am” [ego eimi] in the fourth Gospel, and the “mission” of Jesus in many New Testament writings.)

3. Biblical studies have shown how the original datum has evolved through various stages and in different aspects within the limits of the New Testament as the full meaning of the preexistence of Jesus becomes clear:

The eternal election and predestination of Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:3—7,10ff.; 1 Pet 1:20).

The sending of the Son of God into the world and into the flesh (cf. Gal 4:4; Rom 8:38; 1 Tim 3:16; Jn 3:16ff.).

“Kenosis”, Incarnation, death, and glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Cross, as steps on the way from the Father, all of which show the soteriological and salvific meaning of the event of Jesus Christ (cf. insup. Phil 2:6-11).

Jesus Christ was already present and active in the history of the people of Israel in a hidden way (cf. 1 Cor 10:1-4; Jn 1:30; 8:14, 58).

Jesus Christ, as the intermediary in the creation of the world, now also keeps the world in being. He is Head of the Body of the Church and the reconciler of all things (cf. 1 Cor 8:6; Col l:15ff.; Jn 1:1—3, 17; Heb l:2ff.). All mediators, or acts of mediation that seemed to have significance for salvation, are taken away or must be understood in a subordinate fashion. Jesus Christ himself has absolute preeminence over against all other acts of mediation, and in his work and in his Person are Gods final action and event.

Jesus Christ obtains the lordship of the universe and gives redemption to all, a process that is understood as a new creation (cf. Col l:15ff.; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb l:2ff.; Jn 1:2).

In the exaltation of Jesus Christ, the process of vanquishing evil powers has begun (cf. Phil 2:10; Col 1:16-20).

4. The postbiblical word “preexistence” includes many Christological elements. Even if this conception is in fact based on Scripture, at the same time preexistence is not invoked there in an isolated fashion and does not constitute the only reason for the statements of the New Testament. We are speaking of a systematic concept that synthesizes many theological meanings. In many statements it rather furnishes a back ground (l’arrière-plan, Hintergrund) or a presupposition of the reason for the other aims. Therefore, just as we cannot be satisfied with a purely formal use of the term, neither must we use it in a univocal fashion but rather analogically, carefully, and according to the context and the richness of the various doctrinal elements already mentioned. Although it is subject to multiple interpretations, the concept of preexistence does not signify only an “interpretation” that would in the end be purely subjective but in fact the real ontological origin of Jesus Christ, his origin outside of time, of which he is also consciously aware, as we have already said. Understood in the biblical sense, preexistence does not signify only that Christ is coeternal with God. This expression connotes the whole movement and Christological mystery, beginning from existence with the Father, including the “kenosis” and the Incarnation, the infamous death on the Cross, and the glorious exaltation. In the end it attests to the redemption of all men, to the primacy of Christ in the Church, and to universal and cosmic reconciliation. All this is presented in terms of redemptive suffering. Almost all of these formulations of the preexistence of Jesus Christ are found in hymnic contexts. For this reason they take the form of testimony and praise, born of the Church’s experience of the presence of the Lord. This soteriological and doxological character does not exclude a Christological meaning, but it does impose clear limits on those forms of speculation about preexistence that do not respect the specific character of the term.

5. The concept of the preexistence of Jesus Christ has acquired greater clarity as Christological reflection has evolved. In certain places the prefix “pre-” (e.g., “before all things”, “before Abraham”) has and keeps a temporal meaning, granted the historical character of Christian salvation; but in the last analysis it signifies absolute and extraterrestrial primacy over the whole of creation. In the Christological field, in the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Creed (cf. DS 125), such a preexistence acquires after the Arian crisis, a definite stamp. The Son of God generated from the Father is not created, but consubstantial with the Father.

In that way the idea of the preexistence of Jesus Christ is par excellence, as was said above, the point at which Christology and Trinitarian Theology meet and come together (I, C and D). Between the Son in the eternal life of God, and the Son in the earthly life of Jesus Christ, there is a most strict correspondence or, better still, a real identity, nourished by the unity and the filial union of Jesus Christ with God the Father. The preexistence of Jesus Christ should also be understood from the point of view of the history of Jesus Christ and above all from his completion in the event of Easter. From the beginning of Christological reflection, the preexistence of Jesus Christ, coeternal with the Father—that is, if we consider it as a descending movement and, as it were, from above—was equally understood in relation to the gift of Jesus Christ for the life of the world. Such relationships are rooted in the eternal sonship through which Jesus Christ is generated by the Father. This relationship is expressed by the biblical concept of “mission”. The gift of salvation will be valid for us and for all mankind only if it is born in God, namely, in the preexisting Son of the Father. This shows anew the soteriological character of preexistence.

B. The Trinitarian Aspect of the Cross of Jesus Christy or the “Suffering of God”

For historical or systematic reasons God’s immutability or impassibility is often called into question in today s Theology, above all in the context of a Theology of the Cross. In that way different theological conceptions of the suffering of God have arisen. It is necessary to know how to separate false ideas from elements in accord with the biblical revelation. Since discussion of this problem continues, we limit ourselves to a first approach, which nevertheless seeks to point to a solution to the question.

1. The supporters of this Theology assert that their ideas can be found in the Old and New Testaments and in some of the Fathers. But the influence of modern philosophy has certainly had a greater weight, at least in the systematic presentation of this Theology.

1.1. Hegel was the first to postulate that for the idea of God to be comprehensive, it has to include “the suffering of the negative”, that is, the “hardship of abandonment” (“die Härte der Gottlosigkeit”). In him there is a fundamental ambiguity: Does God have or not a real need of the world? After Hegel some Protestants and certain Anglicans developed so-called kenotic theologies, which are “Cross-centered”. According to these the Passion of the Son touches the whole of the Trinity in different fashions and manifests above all the suffering of the Father who abandons his Son: “Since he has spared not his own Son but has consigned him for all of us” (Rom 8:32; cf. Jn 3:16). It also shows the suffering of the Holy Spirit, who in the Passion takes upon himself the “distance” between the Father and the Son.

1.2. According to many of our contemporaries, this Trinitarian suffering is rooted in the very divine essence itself; according to others, it is based on a certain emptying of himself on the part of God the Creator, who in some sense binds himself to human freedom or, in virtue of a pact, freely forces himself to hand over his Son—a fact that they say makes the suffering of the Father deeper than all the suffering of creation.

In recent years a few Catholic authors have made similar suggestions, maintaining that the principal role of the Crucified consisted in manifesting the suffering of the Father.

2. One could often suppose from the Old Testament, the divine transcendence notwithstanding (cf. Jer 7:16—19), that God suffers because of the sins of men. Perhaps not all the expressions can be explained as simple anthropomorphisms (see, for example, Gen 6:6: “Yahweh repents that he had made man on earth and he sorrows about it in his heart”; Deut 4:25; Ps 78:41; Is 7:13; 63:10; Jer 12:7; 31:20; Hos 4:6; 6:4; ll:8ff). Rabbinic theology is even stronger in this respect and speaks, for example, of a God who abandons himself to lamentation because of the Covenant, which he has made and which constrains him, or because of the destruction of the Temple; and at the same time affirms the weakness of God when faced with the powers of evil (cf. P. Kuhn, Gottes Trauer und Klage in der rabbinischen Überlieferung [Leiden, 1978], pp. 170ff, 275ff).

In the New Testament, the tears of Jesus (cf. Lk 19:41), his anger (cf. Mk 3:5), and the sadness he feels are themselves also manifestations of a certain way of behavior on God s part. In other places it is stated explicitly that God gets angry (cf. Rom 1:18; 3:5; 9:22; Jn 3:36; Rev 15:1).

3. Without doubt the Fathers underline (against the pagan mythologies) the “apatheia” of God, without denying in this way his compassion for the suffering of the world. For them the term “apatheia” indicates the opposite of “pathos”, a word that means involuntary suffering imposed from the outside or as a consequence of fallen nature. When they admit natural and innocent suffering (like hunger or sleep), they attribute these to Jesus Christ or to God inasmuch as he feels compassion for human suffering (Origen, Horn, in Ez. 6, 6; Comm. in Matt. 17, 20; Set. in Ez. 16; Comm. in Rom. 8, 9; De prin. 4, 4, 4). From time to time they use a dialectical form of expression: God has suffered in Jesus Christ in an impassible fashion because he has done it in virtue of a free choice (Greg. Thaum., Ad Theopompum 4-8).

According to the Council of Ephesus (cf. the letter of St. Cyril to Nestorius: Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta, 3:42), the Son makes his own the sufferings inflicted on his human nature (oikeiosis). Attempts to reduce this proposition (and others like it in the Tradition) to a simple “manner of speaking” do not sufficiently recognize its profound meaning. But the Christology of the Church does not allow us to affirm formally that Jesus Christ could suffer according to his divine nature (cf. DS 16, 166, 196f., 284, 293f, 300, 318, 358, 504, 635, 801, 852).

Despite what has just been said, the Fathers cited above clearly affirm the immutability and impassibility of God (e.g., Origen, Contra Celsum 4, 4). Thus they absolutely exclude from the divine essence that mutability and that passivity that would permit a movement from potency to act (cf. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, q. 9, a. lc). Finally, the following considerations have been taken into account in the Tradition of the Faith of the Church to clear up this problem.

4.1. With regard to the immutability of God it must be said that the divine life is inexhaustible and without limit, so much so that God has no need whatever for creatures (cf. DS 3002). No human event could gain for him anything new or actuate in him any potentiality whatsoever. God, therefore, could not be subject to any change either by way of diminution or by way of progress. “Therefore, since God is not susceptible to change in any of these different ways, it is proper to him to be absolutely immutable” (Thomas Aquinas, STh I, q. 9, a. 2c). The same affirmation is found in Sacred Scripture with regard to God the Father, “in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas 1:17). But this immutability of the living God is not opposed to his supreme liberty, something that the event of the Incarnation clearly demonstrates.

4.2. The affirmation of the impassibility of God supposes and implies this way of understanding his immutability, but this is not to be understood as though God remained indifferent to human events. God loves us with the love of friendship, and he wishes to be loved by us in return. When this love is offended, Sacred Scripture speaks of suffering on the part of God. On the other hand, it speaks of his joy when the sinner is converted (Lk 15:7). “To suffer is a more sane reaction and closer to immortality than complete insensibility” (Augustine, En. in Ps. 55, 6). The two aspects need each other. If one or the other is neglected, the concept of God as he reveals himself is not respected.

5. Modern and medieval Theology have underlined more the first of these aspects (cf. 4.1). In reality, the Catholic Faith today defends the essence and the liberty of God and opposes exaggerated theories (cf. above, B, 1). But the other aspect (cf. above, 4.2) merits further attention.

5.1. Today man desires and searches for a Divinity that will be omnipotent and certain but that does not appear indifferent; one, moreover, that is full of compassion for the miseries of man and in that sense “suffers with them”. Christian piety has always rejected the idea of a Divinity indifferent to the vicissitudes of creatures. It is even inclined to admit that, just as “compassion” is among the most noble human perfections, it can be said of God that he has a similar compassion without any imperfection and in an eminent degree, namely, the “inclination of commiseration ... and not the absence of power” (Leo I, DS 293). It is maintained that this compassion can coexist with the eternal happiness itself. The Fathers called this total mercy toward human pain and suffering “the passion of love”, a love that in the Passion of Jesus Christ has vanquished these sufferings and made them perfect (cf. Greg. Thaum., Ad Theopompum; John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 7; AAS 72 [1980]: 1199ff).

5.2. As far as the question of the “suffering of God” is concerned, there is undoubtedly something worth retaining in the expressions of Holy Scripture and the Fathers, as well as in some recent theologies, even though they require clarification as shown above. This should perhaps also be said with regard to the Trinitarian aspect of the Cross of Jesus Christ. The eternal generation of the Son and his role as the immaculate Lamb who would pour out his precious blood are equally eternal and precede the free creation of the world (cf. 1 Pet l:19ff; Eph 1:7). In this sense, there is a very close correspondence between the gift of divinity that the Father gives to the Son and the gift by which the Father consigns his Son to the abandonment of the Cross. Since, however, the Resurrection is also present in the eternal plan of God, the suffering of “separation” (see above, B, 1.1) is always overcome by the joy of union; the compassion of the Trinitarian God for the suffering of the Word is properly understood as the work of most perfect love, which is normally a source of joy As for the Hegelian concept of “negativity”, this is radically excluded from our idea of God.

We have learned that in attempting to reflect on these matters human and theological reasoning encounter some of the greatest of all difficulties (such as “anthropomorphism”). But in a remarkable fashion they also encounter the ineffable mystery of the living God and realize the limits of thought itself.

CONCLUSION

We neither can nor wish to deny that the picture we have presented of our researches is indebted to modern scientific Theology. All the same, the reality we have studied, i.e., the living Faith of the whole Church in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, tends—beyond the frontiers of particular cultures—to achieve an ever-greater universality in the knowledge and love of the mystery of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul made himself “all things to all” (1 Cor 1:22), we in our turn must insert the evangelical message concerning Jesus Christ more deeply into all the languages and cultural models of different peoples. A task of the greatest difficulty! We can accomplish it only if we can remain in continuous dialogue with the Holy Scripture, with the Faith, and with the Magisterium of the Church, but also with the riches of the Traditions of all the particular Churches and of human experience lived in every culture in which the action and effects of the Holy Spirit can be present (cf. GS 44; AG 15, 22; Paul VI, EN 64 [AAS 68 (1976): 54f.]; John Paul II, FC 10 [AAS 74 (1982): 90f.]). We are encouraged to press on toward this goal by recalling the words spoken to the Apostles: “You shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and in Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

 

* This document was approved by the Commission “in forma specifica”.

(Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_1982_teologia-cristologia-antropologia_en.html)

 


 

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

THE ECCLESIASTICAL MAGISTERIUM AND THEOLOGY*

 

 

INTRODUCTION

“The relations between the Magisterium and theology not only ... are of the greatest importance but must also be considered to be of very great contemporary interest today.”1 The following pages are an attempt to clarify the relationship between “the mandate given to the ecclesiastical Magisterium to protect divine revelation and the task given to theologians to investigate and explain the doctrine of the Faith”.2

THESIS 1

By “ecclesiastical Magisterium” is meant the task of teaching that by Christ’s institution is proper to the College of Bishops or to individual bishops linked in hierarchical communion with the Supreme Pontiff. By “theologians” are meant those members of the Church who by their studies and life in the community of the Church’s Faith are qualified to pursue, in the scientific manner proper to theology, a deeper understanding of the Word of God and also to teach that Word by virtue of a canonical mission. When the New Testament and the subsequent Tradition discussed the Magisterium of pastors, theologians, or teachers and the relationship between them, they spoke analogously, in terms of both similarity and dissimilarity; along with continuity, there are rather profound modifications. The concrete forms in which they have been related to one another and coordinated have been rather varied in the course of time.

I. ELEMENTS COMMON TO THE MAGISTERIUM AND TO THEOLOGIANS IN THE EXERCISE OF THEIR TASKS

THESIS 2

The element common to the tasks of both the Magisterium and theologians, though it is realized in analogous and distinct fashions, is “to preserve the sacred deposit of revelation, to examine it more deeply, to explain, teach, and defend it”,3 for the service of the People of God and for the whole world’s salvation. Above all, this service must defend the certainty of faith; this is a work done differently by the Magisterium and by the ministry of theologians, but it is neither necessary nor possible to establish a hard-and-fast separation between them.

THESIS 3

In this common service of the truth, the Magisterium and theologians are both bound by certain obligations:

1. They are bound by the Word of God. For “the Magisterium is not above the Word of God but serves it, teaching only what has been handed down, as ... it listens to this, guards it scrupulously, and expounds it faithfully; and it draws from this one deposit of faith all that it proposes as being divinely revealed.”4 For its part, “sacred theology relies on the written Word of God along with sacred Tradition as on a permanent foundation, and by this Word it is most firmly strengthened and constantly rejuvenated as it searches out, under the light of faith, all the truth stored up in the mystery of Christ.”5

2. They are both bound by the “sensus fidei” (supernatural appreciation of the Faith) of the Church of this and previous times. For the Word of God pervades all time in a living manner through the supernatural appreciation of the Faith (communi sensu fidei) of the whole People of God, in which “the whole body of the faithful, anointed by the Holy One, cannot err in believing”,6 if “in maintaining, practicing, and confessing the Faith that has been handed down, there is a harmony between the bishops and the faithful”.7

3. Both are bound by the documents of the Tradition in which the common Faith of the People of God has been set forth. Although the Magisterium and the theologians have different tasks with regard to these documents, neither of them can neglect these traces of the Faith left in the history of salvation of God’s People.

4. In exercising their tasks, both are bound by pastoral and missionary concern for the world. Although the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff and of the bishops is specifically called “pastoral”, the scientific character of their work does not free theologians from pastoral and missionary responsibility, especially given the publicity that modern communications media so quickly give to even scientific matters. Besides, theology, as a vital function in and for the People of God, must have a pastoral and missionary intent and effect.

THESIS 4

Common to both, although also different in each, is the manner, at once collegial and personal, in which the task of both the Magisterium and the theologians is carried out. If the charism of infallibility is promised to “the whole body of the faithful”,8 to the College of Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter, and to the Supreme Pontiff himself, the head of that College,9 then it should be put into practice in a coresponsible, cooperative, and collegial association of the members of the Magisterium and of individual theologians. And this joint effort should also be realized as much among the members of the Magisterium as among the members of the theological enterprise, and also between the Magisterium on the one hand and the theologians on the other. It should also preserve the personal and indispensable responsibility of individual theologians, without which the science of Faith would make no progress.

II. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MAGISTERIUM AND THEOLOGIANS

THESIS 5

Something must first be said about the difference in the functions proper to the Magisterium and to theologians.

1. It is the Magisterium s task authoritatively to defend the Catholic integrity and unity of faith and morals. From this follow specific functions; and, although at first glance they seem particularly to be of a rather negative character, they are, rather, a positive ministry for the life of the Church. These are: “The task of authoritatively interpreting the Word of God, written and handed down”,10 the censuring of opinions that endanger the faith and morals proper to the Church, [and] the proposing of truths that are of particular contemporary relevance. Although it is not the work of the Magisterium to propose theological syntheses, still, because of its concern for unity, it must consider individual truths in the light of the whole, since integrating a particular truth into the whole belongs to the very nature of truth.

2. The theologians’ function in some way mediates between the Magisterium and the People of God. For “theology has a twofold relation with the Magisterium of the Church and with the universal community of Christians. In the first place, it occupies a sort of midway position between the Faith of the Church and its Magisterium.”11 On the one hand, “in each of the great sociocultural regions, ... theological reflection must submit to a new examination, guided by the Tradition of the universal Church, the facts and words revealed by God, contained in the Scriptures, and explained by the Fathers of the Church and by the Magisterium”.12 For “recent research and discoveries in the sciences, in history and philosophy, bring up new questions that ... require new investigations by theologians”.13 In this way, theology “is to lend its aid to make the Magisterium in its turn the enduring light and norm of the Church”.14

On the other hand, by their work of interpretation, teaching, and translation into contemporary modes of thought, theologians insert the teaching and warnings of the Magisterium into a wider, synthetic context and thus contribute to a better knowledge on the part of the People of God. In this way, “they lend their aid to the task of spreading, clarifying, confirming, and defending the truth that the Magisterium authoritatively propounds”.15

THESIS 6

The Magisterium and the theologians also differ in the quality of the authority with which they carry out their tasks.

1. The Magisterium derives its authority from sacramental ordination, which “along with the task of sanctifying confers also the tasks of teaching and ruling”.16 This “formal authority”, as it is called, is at once charismatic and juridical, and it founds the right and the duty of the Magisterium insofar as it is a share in the authority of Christ. Care should be taken that personal authority and the authority that derives from the very matter being proposed also be brought to bear when this ministerial authority is being put into effect.

2. Theologians derive their specifically theological authority from their scientific qualifications; but these cannot be separated from the proper character of this discipline as the science of faith, which cannot be carried through without a living experience and practice of the Faith. For this reason, the authority that belongs to theology in the Church is not merely profane and scientific but is a genuinely ecclesial authority, inserted into the order of authorities that derive from the Word of God and are confirmed by canonical mission.

THESIS 7

There is also a certain difference in the way in which the Magisterium and the theologians are connected with the Church. It is obvious that both the Magisterium and the theologians work in and for the Church, but still there is a difference in this ecclesial reference.

1. The Magisterium is an official ecclesial task conferred by the sacrament of Orders. Therefore, as an institutional element of the Church, it can only exist in the Church, so that the individual members of the Magisterium use their authority and sacred power to build up their flocks in truth and holiness.17 This responsibility applies not only to the particular Churches under their charge, but “as members of the episcopal College, ... each of them must by Christ’s institution and command show a care for the universal Church, which ... would be a great benefit for the universal Church”.18

2. Even when it is not exercised in virtue of an explicit “canonical mission”, theology can only be done in a living communion with the Faith of the Church. For this reason, all the baptized, insofar as they both really live the life of the Church and enjoy scientific competence, can carry out the task of the theologian, a task that derives its own force from the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, which is communicated by the sacraments, the preaching of the Word of God, and the communion of love.

THESIS 8

The difference between the Magisterium and the theologians takes on a special character when one considers the freedom proper to them and the critical function that follows from it with regard to the faithful, to the world, and even to one another.

1. By its nature and institution, the Magisterium is clearly free in carrying out its task. This freedom carries with it a great responsibility. For that reason, it is often difficult, although necessary, to use it in such a way that it not appear to theologians and to others of the faithful to be arbitrary or excessive. There are some theologians who prize scientific theology too highly, not taking enough account of the fact that respect for the Magisterium is one of the specific elements of the science of theology. Besides, contemporary democratic sentiments often give rise to a movement of solidarity against what the Magisterium does in carrying out its task of protecting the teaching of faith and morals from any harm. Still, it is necessary, though not easy, to find always a mode of procedure that is both free and forceful yet not arbitrary or destructive of communion in the Church.

2. To the freedom of the Magisterium there corresponds in its own way the freedom that derives from the true scientific responsibility of theologians. It is not an unlimited freedom, for, besides being bound to the truth, it is also true of theology that “in the use of any freedom, the moral principle of personal and social responsibility must be observed”.19But the theologians’ task of interpreting the documents of the past and present Magisterium, of putting them in the context of the whole of revealed truth, and of finding a better understanding of them by the use of hermeneutics brings with it a somewhat critical function that obviously should be exercised positively rather than destructively.

THESIS 9

The exercise of their tasks by the Magisterium and theologians often gives rise to a certain tension. But this is not surprising, nor should one expect that such tension will ever be fully resolved here on earth. On the contrary, wherever there is genuine life, tension also exists. Such tension need not be interpreted as hostility or real opposition, but can be seen as a vital force and an incentive to a common carrying out of the respective tasks by way of dialogue.

III. A METHOD FOR PROMOTING TODAY THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THEOLOGIANS AND THE MAGISTERIUM

THESIS 10

The basis and condition for the possibility of this dialogue between theologians and the Magisterium are community in the Faith of the Church and service in building up the Church. They embrace the diverse functions of the Magisterium and theologians. On the one hand, this unity in the communication and participation in the truth is a habitual association that is antecedent to every concrete dialogue; on the other, it is itself strengthened and enlivened by the various relations dialogue entails. Thus dialogue provides excellent reciprocal assistance: the Magisterium can gain a greater understanding as it defends and preaches the truth of faith and morals, and the theological understanding of faith and morals gains in certainty from corroboration by the Magisterium.

THESIS 11

The dialogue between the Magisterium and theologians is limited only by the truth of faith, which must be served and explained. For this reason, the whole vast field of truth lies open to such dialogue. But this truth is not something uncertain and utterly unknown, always having to be sought; it has been revealed and handed on to the Church to be faithfully kept. Therefore, the dialogue reaches its limits when the limits of the Faith are reached.

This goal of the dialogue, the service of the truth, is often endangered. The following types of behavior especially limit the possibility of dialogue: wherever the dialogue becomes an “instrument” for gaining some end “politically”, that is, by applying pressure and ultimately abstracting from the question of truth, the effort is bound to fail; if a person “unilaterally” claims the whole field of the dialogue, he violates the rules of discussion; the dialogue between the Magisterium and theologians is especially violated if the level of argument and discussion is prematurely abandoned and means of coercion, threat, and sanction are immediately brought to bear; the same thing holds when the discussion between theologians and the Magisterium is carried out by means of publicity, whether within or outside the Church, that is not sufficiently expert in the matter, and thus “pressures” from without have a great deal of influence, e.g., the mass media.

THESIS 12

Before opening an official examination of a theologians writings, the competent authority should exhaust all the ordinary possibilities of reaching agreement through dialogue on a doubtful opinion (e.g., personal conversation or inquiries and replies in correspondence). If by these forms of dialogue no real consensus can be reached, the Magisterium should employ a full and flexible stock of responses, beginning with various forms of warning, “verbal sanctions”, etc. In a very serious case, the Magisterium – after consulting theologians of various schools and having exhausted the means of dialogue – for its part must necessarily clarify the compromised truth and safeguard the faith of the believers.

According to the classical rules, the fact of one’s professing “heresy” can only be definitively established if the accused theologian has demonstrated “obstinacy”, that is, if he closes himself off from all discussion meant to clarify an opinion contrary to the Faith and, in effect, refuses the dialogue. The fact of heresy can be established only after all the rules of the hermeneutics of dogmas and all the theological qualifications have been applied. In this way, even in decisions that cannot be avoided, the true “ethos” of the dialogue procedure can be preserved.

* This document was approved by the Commission “in forma specified”.

1 Pope Paul VI, Address to the International Congress on Theology of Vatican II, 1 October 1966, AAS 58 (1966) 890.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 891.

4 Dei Verbum, n. 10.

5 Dei Verbum, n. 24.

6 Lumen Gentium, n. 12.

7 Dei Verbum, n. 10.

8 Lumen Gentium, n. 12.

9 Lumen Gentium, n. 25.

10 Dei Verbum, n. 10.

11 Pope Paul VI, Address on Theology of Vatican II, 892.

12 Ad Gentes, n. 22.

13 Gaudium et Spes, n. 62.

14 Pope Paul VI, Address on Theology of Vatican II, 892.

15 Ibid., 891.

16 Lumen Gentium, n. 21.

17 Lumen Gentium, n. 27.

18 Lumen Gentium, n. 23.

19 Dignitatis Humanae, n. 7.

 
(Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_1975_magistero-teologia_en.html)

 


 

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

UNITY OF THE FAITH AND THEOLOGICAL PLURALISM*

(1972)

 

THE DIMENSIONS OF THE PROBLEM

1. Unity and plurality in the expression of the Faith have their ultimate basis in the very mystery of Christ that, while being at the same time a mystery of universal fulfillment and reconciliation (Eph 2:11-22), goes beyond the possibilities of expression of any given age and thus eludes exhaustive systematization (Eph 3:8-10).

2. The unity-duality of the Old Testament and the New, as the fundamental historical expression of the Christian Faith, provides a concrete point of departure for the unity-plurality of this same Faith.

3. The dynamism of Christian faith, and its missionary character, requires an account of it in rational terms; faith is not a philosophy, but it does give a direction to man’s thinking.

4. The truth of the Faith is bound up with its onward movement through history, from Abraham on to Christ, and from Christ to the parousia. Consequently, orthodoxy is not consent to a system but a sharing in the onward movement of the Faith and so, in the Church’s own selfhood that subsists, identical, through all time, and the true subject of the Credo.

5. The fact that the truth of the Faith is lived in an onward movement involves its relation to the praxis and to the history of this Faith. Since Christian faith is founded on the incarnate Word, its historical and practical character distinguishes it in its essence from a form of historicity in which man alone would be the creator of his own direction.

6. The Church is the comprehensive subject giving unity both to New Testament theologies and to dogmas as they arise throughout history. It is founded on confession of faith in Jesus Christ dead and risen, which she proclaims and celebrates in the power of the Spirit.

7. The criterion that makes it possible to distinguish between true and false pluralism is the Faith of the Church expressed in the organic whole of her normative pronouncements: the fundamental criterion is Scripture as it relates to the confession of the believing and praying Church. Among dogmatic formulas, those of the earlier Councils have priority. The formulas that express a reflection of Christian thought are subordinate to those that express the facts of the Faith themselves.

8. Even if the present situation of the Church encourages pluralism, plurality discovers its limits in the fact that faith creates the communion of men in the truth, which has been made accessible in Christ. This makes inadmissible every conception of faith that would reduce it to a purely pragmatic cooperation, lacking any sense of community in the truth. This truth is not linked to any theological systematization, but it is expressed in the normative proclamations of the Faith. Faced with doctrinal statements that are gravely ambiguous, even perhaps incompatible with the Faith of the Church, the Church has the capacity to discern error and the duty to dispel it, even resorting to the formal rejection of heresy as the final remedy for safeguarding the Faith of the people of God.

9. Because the Christian Faith is universal and missionary, the events and words revealed by God must be each time rethought, reformulated, and lived anew within each human culture, if we wish them to inspire the prayer, the worship, and the daily life of the people of God. Thus, the Gospel of Christ leads each culture toward its. fullness and at the same time submits it to a creative criticism. Local Churches that, under the guidance of their shepherds, apply themselves to this difficult task of incarnating the Christian Faith must always maintain continuity and communion with the universal Church of the past and of the present. Thanks to their efforts they contribute as much to the deepening of the Christian life as to the progress of theological reflection in the universal Church, and guide the human race in all its diversity toward that unity wished by God.

PERMANENT NATURE OF DOCTRINAL FORMULATIONS

10. Dogmatic formulations must be considered as responses to precise questions, and it is in this sense that they remain always true. Their permanent interest depends on the lasting relevance of the questions with which they are concerned; at the same time it must not be forgotten that the successive questions that Christians ask themselves about the understanding of the divine word as well as already discovered solutions grow out of one another, so that today’s answers always presuppose in some way those of yesterday, although they cannot be reduced to them.

11. Dogmatic definitions ordinarily use a common language; while they may make use of apparently philosophical terminology, they do not thereby bind the Church to a particular philosophy but have in mind only the underlying realities of universal human experience, which the terms in question have enabled them to distinguish.

12. These definitions must never be considered apart from the particularly authentic expression of the divine word in the sacred Scriptures or separated from the entire Gospel message to each age. They also provide, for that message, norms for an ever more suitable interpretation of revelation. Yet this revelation remains always the same, not only in its substance but also in its fundamental statements.

PLURALISM AND UNITY IN MORALS

13. Pluralism in morals appears first of all in the application of general principles to concrete circumstances, and it is accentuated when contacts occur between cultures that were ignorant of one another or as a result of rapid changes in society.

A fundamental unity is manifested, however, in a common esteem for human dignity, carrying with it imperatives for the conduct of human life.

The conscience of every man expresses a certain number of fundamental demands (Rom 2:14), which have been recognized in our times by public expressions of the essential human rights.

14. The unity of Christian morality is based on unchanging principles, contained in the Scriptures, clarified by Tradition, presented to each generation by the Magisterium. Let us recall the principal emphases: the precepts and example of the Son of God revealing the heart of his Father; conformity to his death and his Resurrection; [and] life in the Spirit in the bosom of the Church, in faith, hope, and charity, so that we may be renewed according to the image of God.

15. The necessary unity of faith and communion does not hinder a diversity of vocations and of personal preferences in the manner of coming to terms with the mystery of Christ and of life.

Christian liberty (Gal 5:13), far from implying a limitless pluralism, demands a struggle toward totally objective truth no less than patience with less robust consciences (cf. Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8).

Respect for the autonomy of human values and legitimate responsibilities in this area carries with it the possibility of a variety of analyses and options on temporal matters for Christians. This variety is compatible with total obedience and love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 43).

 

* The text of the propositions approved by the plenary meeting held on 10-11 October 1972, the whole text was unanimously approved by all members present.

(Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_1972_fede-pluralismo_en.html)

 

THEOLOGY TODAY

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

THEOLOGY TODAY:
PERSPECTIVES, PRINCIPLES
AND CRITERIA


CONTENTS


Introduction


Chapter 1: Listening to the Word of God

1: The primacy of the Word of God
2: Faith, the response to God’s Word
3: Theology, the understanding of faith


Chapter 2: Abiding in the Communion of the Church

1: The study of Scripture as the soul of theology
2: Fidelity to Apostolic Tradition
3: Attention to the sensus fidelium
4: Responsible adherence to the ecclesiastical magisterium
5: In the company of theologians
6: In dialogue with the world


Chapter 3: Giving an Account of the Truth of God

1: The truth of God and the rationality of theology
2: The unity of theology in a plurality of methods and disciplines
3: Science and wisdom


Conclusion

***


PRELIMINARY NOTE


The study of the theme of the status of theology was already begun by the International Theological Commission in the quinquennial session of 2004-2008. The work was done by a subcommission, presided by Reverend Santiago del Cura Elena and composed of the following members: Most Reverend Bruno Forte, Most Reverend Savio Hon Tai-Fai, S.D.B., Reverends Antonio Castellano, S.D.B., Tomislav Ivanĉiæ, Thomas Norris, Paul Rouhana, Leonard Santedi Kinkupu, Jerzy Szymik and Doctor Thomas Söding.


Since, however, this subcommission had no way of completing its work with the publication of a document, the study was taken up in the following quinquennial session, on the basis of the work previously undertaken. For this purpose, a new subcommission was formed, presided by Monsignor Paul McPartlan and composed of the following members: Most Reverend Jan Liesen, Reverends Serge Thomas Bonino, O.P., Antonio Castellano, S.D.B., Adelbert Denaux, Tomislav Ivanĉiæ, Leonard Santedi Kinkupu, Jerzy Szymik, Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., and Doctor Thomas Söding.


The general discussions of this theme were held in numerous meetings of the subcommission and during the Plenary Sessions of the same International Theological Commission held in Rome from 2004 to 2011. The present text was approved in forma specifica on 29 November 2011 and was then submitted to its President, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who authorized its publication.

INTRODUCTION


1. The years following the Second Vatican Council have been extremely productive for Catholic theology. There have been new theological voices, especially those of laymen and women; theologies from new cultural contexts, particularly Latin America, Africa and Asia; new themes for reflection, such as peace, justice, liberation, ecology and bioethics; deeper treatments of former themes, thanks to renewal in biblical, liturgical, patristic and medieval studies; and new venues for reflection, such as ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. These are fundamentally positive developments. Catholic theology has sought to follow the path opened by the Council, which wished to express its ‘solidarity and respectful affection for the whole human family’ by entering into dialogue with it and offering ‘the saving resources which the Church has received from its founder under the promptings of the Holy Spirit’.[1] However, this period has also seen a certain fragmentation of theology, and in the dialogue just mentioned theology always faces the challenge of maintaining its own true identity. The question arises, therefore, as to what characterises Catholic theology and gives it, in and through its many forms, a clear sense of identity in its engagement with the world of today.


2. To some extent, the Church clearly needs a common discourse if it is to communicate the one message of Christ to the world, both theologically and pastorally. It is therefore legitimate to speak of the need for a certain unity of theology. However, unity here needs to be carefully understood, so as not to be confused with uniformity or a single style. The unity of theology, like that of the Church, as professed in the Creed, must be closely correlated with the idea of catholicity, and also with those of holiness and apostolicity.[2] The Church’s catholicity derives from Christ himself who is the Saviour of the whole world and of all humanity (cf. Eph 1:3-10; 1Tim 2:3-6). The Church is therefore at home in every nation and culture, and seeks to ‘gather in everything for its salvation and sanctification’.[3] The fact that there is one Saviour shows that there is a necessary bond between catholicity and unity. As it explores the inexhaustible Mystery of God and the countless ways in which God’s grace works for salvation in diverse settings, theology rightly and necessarily takes a multitude of forms, and yet as investigations of the unique truth of the triune God and of the one plan of salvation centred on the one Lord Jesus Christ, this plurality must manifest distinctive family traits.


3. The International Theological Commission (ITC) has studied various aspects of the theological task in previous texts, notably, Theological Pluralism (1972), Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology (1975), and The Interpretation of Dogma (1990).[4] The present text seeks to identify distinctive family traits of Catholic theology.[5] It considers basic perspectives and principles which characterise Catholic theology, and offers criteria by which diverse and manifold theologies may nevertheless be recognised as authentically Catholic, and as participating in the Catholic Church’s mission, which is to proclaim the good news to people of every nation, tribe, people and language (cf. Mt 28:18-20; Rev 7:9), and, by enabling them to hear the voice of the one Lord, to gather them all into one flock with one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16). That mission requires there to be in Catholic theology both diversity in unity and unity in diversity. Catholic theologies should be identifiable as such, mutually supportive and mutually accountable, as are Christians themselves in the communion of the Church for the glory of God. The present text accordingly consists of three chapters, setting out the following themes: in the rich plurality of its expressions, protagonists, ideas and contexts, theology is Catholic, and therefore fundamentally one, if it arises from an attentive listening to the Word of God (cf. Chapter One); if it situates itself consciously and faithfully in the communion of the Church (cf. Chapter Two); and if it is orientated to the service of God in the world, offering divine truth to the men and women of today in an intelligible form (cf. Chapter Three).

 

CHAPTER 1:
LISTENING TO THE WORD OF GOD


4. ‘It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will (cf. Eph 1:9)’, namely that all people might ‘have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2Pet 1:4)’.[6] ‘The novelty of biblical revelation consists in the fact that God becomes known through the dialogue which he desires to have with us.’[7] Theology, in all its diverse traditions, disciplines and methods, is founded on the fundamental act of listening in faith to the revealed Word of God, Christ himself. Listening to God’s Word is the definitive principle of Catholic theology; it leads to understanding and speech and to the formation of Christian community: ‘the Church is built upon the word of God; she is born from and lives by that word’.[8] ‘We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1Jn 1:3).[9] The whole world is to hear the summons to salvation, ‘so that through hearing it may believe, through belief it may hope, through hope it may come to love’.[10]


5. Theology is scientific reflection on the divine revelation which the Church accepts by faith as universal saving truth. The sheer fulness and richness of that revelation is too great to be grasped by any one theology, and in fact gives rise to multiple theologies as it is received in diverse ways by human beings. In its diversity, nevertheless, theology is united in its service of the one truth of God. The unity of theology, therefore does not require uniformity, but rather a single focus on God’s Word and an explication of its innumerable riches by theologies able to dialogue and communicate with one another. Likewise, the plurality of theologies should not imply fragmentation or discord, but rather the exploration in myriad ways of God’s one saving truth.


1. The primacy of the Word of God


6. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn 1:1). The Gospel of John starts with a ‘prologue’. This hymn highlights the cosmic scope of revelation and the culmination of revelation in the incarnation of the Word of God. ‘What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people’ (Jn 1:3-4). Creation and history constitute the space and time in which God reveals himself. The world, created by God by means of his Word (cf. Gen 1), is also, however, the setting for the rejection of God by human beings. Nevertheless, God’s love towards them is always infinitely greater; ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it’ (Jn 1:5). The incarnation of the Son is the culmination of that steadfast love: ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). The revelation of God as Father who loves the world (cf. Jn 3:16, 35) is realised in the revelation of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Son of God and ‘Saviour of the world’ (Jn 4:42). In ‘many and various ways’ God spoke through the prophets in former times, but in the fullness of time he spoke to us ‘by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds’ (Heb 1:1-2). ‘No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known’ (Jn 1:18).


7. The Church greatly venerates the Scriptures, but it is important to recognise that ‘the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”; Christianity is the “religion of the word of God”, not of “a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word”’.[11] The gospel of God is fundamentally testified by the sacred Scripture of both Old and New Testaments.[12] The Scriptures are ‘inspired by God and committed to writing once and for all time’; hence, ‘they present God’s own Word in an unalterable form, and they make the voice of the Holy Spirit sound again and again in the words of the prophets and apostles’.[13] Tradition is the faithful transmission of the Word of God, witnessed in the canon of Scripture by the prophets and the apostles and in the leiturgia (liturgy), martyria (testimony) and diakonia (service) of the Church.


8. St Augustine wrote that the Word of God was heard by inspired authors and transmitted by their words: ‘God speaks through a human being in human fashion; and speaking thus he seeks us’.[14] The Holy Spirit not only inspired the biblical authors to find the right words of witness but also assists the readers of the Bible in every age to understand the Word of God in the human words of the holy Scriptures. The relationship between Scripture and Tradition is rooted in the truth which God reveals in his Word for our salvation: ‘the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures’,[15] and through the ages the Holy Spirit ‘leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness (cf. Col 3:16)’.[16] ‘[T]he word of God is given to us in sacred Scripture as an inspired testimony to revelation; together with the Church’s living Tradition, it constitutes the supreme rule of faith.’[17]


9. A criterion of Catholic theology is recognition of the primacy of the Word of God. God speaks ‘in many and various ways’ - in creation, through prophets and sages, through the holy Scriptures, and definitively through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (cf. Heb 1:1-2).


2. Faith, the response to God’s Word


10. St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: ‘faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ’ (Rom 10:17). He makes two important points here. On the one hand, he explains that faith follows from listening to the Word of God, always ‘by the power of the Spirit of God’ (Rom 15:19). On the other hand, he clarifies the means by which the Word of God reaches human ears: fundamentally by means of those who have been sent to proclaim the Word and to awaken faith (cf. Rom 10:14-15). It follows that the Word of God for all time can be proclaimed authentically only on the foundation of the apostles (cf. Eph 2:20-22) and in apostolic succession (cf. 1Tim 4:6).


11. Since Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, ‘is himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation’,[18] the response that the Word seeks, namely faith, is likewise personal. By faith human beings entrust their entire selves to God, in an act which involves the ‘full submission’ of the intellect and will to the God who reveals.[19] ‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom 1:5) is thus something personal. By faith, human beings open their ears to listen to God’s Word and their mouths also to offer him prayer and praise; they open their hearts to receive the love of God which is poured into them through the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5); and they ‘abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 15:13), a hope ‘which does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:5). Thus, a living faith can be understood as embracing both hope and love. Paul emphasises, moreover, that the faith evoked by the Word of God resides in the heart and gives rise to a verbal confession: ‘if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved’ (Rom 10:9-10).


12. Faith, then, is experience of God which involves knowledge of him, since revelation gives access to the truth of God which saves us (cf. 2Th 2:13) and makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). Paul writes to the Galatians that, as believers, they ‘have come to know God, or rather to be known by God’ (Gal 4:9; cf. 1Jn 4:16). Without faith, it would be impossible to gain insight into this truth, because it is revealed by God. The truth revealed by God and accepted in faith, moreover, is not something irrational. Rather, it gives rise to the ‘spiritual worship [logiké latreía]’ that Paul says involves a renewal of the mind (Rom 12:1-2). That God exists and is one, the creator and Lord of history, can be known with the aid of reason from the works of creation, according to a long tradition found in both the Old (cf. Wis 13:1-9) and New Testaments (cf. Rom 1:18-23).[20] However, that God has revealed himself through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of his Son for the salvation of the world (cf. Jn 3:16), and that God in his inner life is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, can be known only through faith.


13. ‘Faith’ is both an act of belief or trust and also that which is believed or confessed, fides qua and fides quae, respectively. Both aspects work together inseparably, since trust is adhesion to a message with intelligible content, and confession cannot be reduced to mere lip service, it must come from the heart. Faith is at the same time a reality profoundly personal and ecclesial. In professing their faith, Christians say both ‘I believe’ and ‘We believe’. Faith is professed within the koinonia of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2Cor 13:13), which unites all believers with God and among themselves (cf. 1Jn 1:1-3), and achieves its ultimate expression in the Eucharist (cf. 1Cor 10:16-17). Professions of faith have developed within the community of the faithful since earliest times. All Christians are called to give personal witness to their faith, but the creeds enable the Church as such to profess her faith. This profession corresponds to the teaching of the apostles, the good news, in which the Church stands and through which it is saved (cf. 1Cor 15:1-11).


14. ‘False prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions’ (2Pet 2:1).[21] The New Testament shows abundantly that, from the very beginnings of the Church, certain people have proposed a ‘heretical’ interpretation of the faith held in common, an interpretation opposed to the Apostolic Tradition. In the first letter of John, separation from the communion of love is an indicator of false teaching (1Jn 2:18-19). Heresy thus not only distorts the Gospel, it also damages ecclesial communion. ‘Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same’.[22] Those guilty of such obstinacy against the teaching of the Church substitute their own judgement for obedience to the word of God (the formal motive of faith), the fides qua. Heresy serves as a reminder that the communion of the Church can only be secured on the basis of the Catholic faith in its integrity, and prompts the Church to an ever-deeper search for truth in communion.


15. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it takes the faith of the Church as its source, context and norm. Theology holds the fides qua and the fides quae together. It expounds the teaching of the apostles, the good news about Jesus Christ ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1Cor 15: 3, 4), as the rule and stimulus of the Church’s faith.

 


3. Theology, the understanding of faith


16. The act of faith, in response to the Word of God, opens the intelligence of the believer to new horizons. St Paul writes: ‘it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor 4:6). In this light, faith contemplates the whole world in a new way; it sees it more truly because, empowered by the Holy Spirit, it shares in God’s own perspective. That is why St Augustine invites everyone who seeks truth to ‘believe in order to understand [crede ut intelligas]’.[23] We have received ‘the Spirit that is from God’, St Paul says, ‘so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God’ (1Cor 2:12). Moreover, by this gift we are drawn into an understanding even of God himself, because ‘the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God’. By teaching that ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1Cor 2:16), St Paul implies that by God’s grace we have a certain participation even in Christ’s own knowledge of his Father, and thereby in God’s own self-knowledge.


17. Placed in possession of ‘the boundless riches of Christ’ (Eph 3:8) by faith, believers seek to understand ever more fully that which they believe, pondering it in their hearts (cf. Lk 2:19). Led by the Spirit and utilising all the resources of their intelligence, they strive to assimilate the intelligible content of the Word of God, so that it may become light and nourishment for their faith. They ask of God that they may be ‘filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’ (Col 1:9). This is the way of the understanding of faith (intellectus fidei). As St Augustine explains, it unfolds from the very dynamism of faith: ‘One who now understands by a true reason what he previously just believed is surely to be preferred to one who still desires to understand what he believes; but if one does not desire and if one thinks that only those things are to be believed which can be understood, then one ignores the very purpose of faith’.[24] This work of understanding faith contributes in turn to the nourishment of faith and enables the latter to grow.[25] Thus it is that ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth’.[26] The way of the intellectus fidei is the path from believing, which is its source and permanent principle, to seeing in glory (the beatific vision; cf. 1Jn 3:2), of which the intellectus fidei is an anticipation.


18. The intellectus fidei takes various forms in the life of the Church and in the community of believers in accordance with the different gifts of the faithful (lectio divina, meditation, preaching, theology as a science, etc.). It becomes theology in the strict sense when the believer undertakes to present the content of the Christian mystery in a rational and scientific way. Theology is therefore scientia Dei in as much as it is a rational participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of all things.


19. A criterion of Catholic theology is that, precisely as the science of faith, ‘faith seeking understanding [fides quaerens intellectum]’,[27] it has a rational dimension. Theology strives to understand what the Church believes, why it believes, and what can be known sub specie Dei. As scientia Dei, theology aims to understand in a rational and systematic manner the saving truth of God.

 

CHAPTER 2:
ABIDING IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH


20. The proper place for theology is within the Church, which is gathered together by the Word of God. The ecclesiality of theology is a constitutive aspect of the theological task, because theology is based on faith, and faith itself is both personal and ecclesial. The revelation of God is directed towards the convocation and renewal of the people of God, and it is through the Church that theologians receive the object of their enquiry. In Catholic theology, there has been considerable reflection on the ‘loci’ of theology, that is, the fundamental reference points for the theological task.[28] It is important to know not just the loci but also their relative weight and the relationship between them.


1. The study of Scripture as the soul of theology


21. The ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the ‘very soul of sacred theology’.[29] This is the Second Vatican Council’s core affirmation with regard to theology. Pope Benedict XVI reiterates: ‘where theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Church’s Scripture, such a theology no longer has a foundation’.[30] Theology in its entirety should conform to the Scriptures, and the Scriptures should sustain and accompany all theological work, because theology is concerned with ‘the truth of the gospel’ (Gal 2:5), and it can know that truth only if it investigates the normative witness to it in the canon of sacred Scripture,[31] and if, in doing so, it relates the human words of the Bible to the living Word of God. ‘Catholic exegetes must never forget that what they are interpreting is the word of God…. They arrive at the true goal of their work only when they have explained the meaning of the biblical text as God’s word for today.’[32]


22. Dei Verbum sees the task of exegesis as that of ascertaining ‘what God has wished to communicate to us’.[33] To understand and explain the meaning of the biblical texts,[34] it must make use of all the appropriate philological, historical and literary methods, with the aim of clarifying and understanding sacred Scripture in its own context and period. Thus the historicity of revelation is methodologically taken into account. Dei Verbum 12 makes particular reference to the need for attentiveness to literary forms: ‘for the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetic texts, and in other forms of literary expression’. Since the council, further methods which can unfold new aspects of the meaning of Scripture have been developed.[35] Dei Verbum 12 indicates, however, that in order to acknowledge ‘the divine dimension of the Bible’ and to achieve a truly ‘theological’ interpretation of Scripture, ‘three fundamental criteria’ must also be taken into account:[36] the unity of Scripture, the witness of Tradition, and the analogy of faith.[37] The council refers to the unity of Scripture because the Bible testifies to the entire truth of salvation only in its pluriform totality.[38] Exegesis has developed methodological ways of taking account of the canon of Scripture as a whole as a hermeneutical reference point for interpreting Scripture. The significance of the location and content of the different books and pericopes can thereby be determined. Overall, as the council teaches, exegesis should strive to read and interpret the biblical texts in the broad setting of the faith and life of the people of God, sustained through the ages by the working of the Holy Spirit. It is in this context that exegesis searches for the literal sense and opens itself to the spiritual or fuller sense (sensus plenior) of scripture.[39] ‘Only where both methodological levels, the historico-critical and the theological, are respected, can one speak of a theological exegesis, an exegesis worthy of this book.’[40]


23. In saying that the study of sacred Scripture is the ‘soul’ of theology, Dei Verbum has in mind all of the theological disciplines. This foundation in the revealed Word of God, as testified by Scripture and Tradition, is essential for theology. Its primary task is to interpret God’s truth as saving truth. Urged on by Vatican II, Catholic theology seeks to attend to the Word of God and thereby to the witness of Scripture in all its work.[41] Thus it is that in theological expositions ‘biblical themes should have first place’, before anything else.[42] This approach corresponds anew to that of the Fathers of the Church, who were ‘primarily and essentially “commentators on sacred Scripture”’,[43] and it opens up the possibility of ecumenical collaboration: ‘shared listening to the Scriptures … spurs us on towards the dialogue of charity and enables growth in the dialogue of truth’.[44]


24. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should draw constantly upon the canonical witness of Scripture and should promote the anchoring of all of the Church’s doctrine and practice in that witness, since ‘all the preaching of the Church, as indeed the entire Christian religion, should be nourished and ruled by sacred Scripture’.[45] Theology should endeavour to open wide the Scriptures to the Christian faithful,[46] so that the faithful may come into contact with the living Word of God (cf. Heb 4:12).


2. Fidelity to Apostolic Tradition


25. The Acts of the Apostles describes the life of the early Christian community in a way that is fundamental for the Church of all times: ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (Acts 2:42; cf. Rev 1:3). This succinct description, at the end of the account of the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit opened the mouths of the apostles to preach and brought many of those who heard them to faith, highlights various essential aspects of the Spirit’s ongoing work in the Church. There is already an anticipatory outline of the Church’s teaching and sacramental life, of its spirituality and commitment to charity. All of these began in the apostolic community, and the handing on of this integral way of life in the Spirit is Apostolic Tradition. Lex orandi (the rule of prayer), lex credendi (the rule of belief) and lex vivendi (the rule of life) are all essential aspects of this Tradition. Paul refers to the Tradition into which as an apostle he has been incorporated when he speaks of ‘handing on’ what he himself ‘received’ (1Cor 15:1-11, cf. also 1Cor 11:23-26).


26. Tradition is therefore something living and vital, an ongoing process in which the unity of faith finds expression in the variety of languages and the diversity of cultures. It ceases to be Tradition if it fossilises. ‘The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on…. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her’.[47] Tradition occurs in the power of the Holy Spirit, who, as Jesus promised his disciples, guides the Church into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), by firmly establishing the memory of Jesus himself (cf. Jn 14:26), keeping the Church faithful to her apostolic origins, enabling the secure transmission of the Faith, and prompting the ever-new presentation of the Gospel under the direction of pastors who are successors of the apostles.[48] Vital components of Tradition are therefore: a constantly renewed study of sacred Scripture, liturgical worship, attention to what the witnesses of faith have taught through the ages, catechesis fostering growth in faith, practical love of God and neighbour, structured ecclesial ministry and the service given by the magisterium to the Word of God. What is handed on comprises ‘everything that serves to make the People of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith’. The Church ‘in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes’.[49]


27. ‘The sayings of the Holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of … Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.’[50] Because the Fathers of the Church, both East and West, have a unique place in the ‘faithful transmission and elucidation’ of revealed truth,[51] their writings are a specific reference point (locus) for Catholic theology. The Tradition known and lived by the Fathers was multi-faceted and pulsing with life, as can be seen from the plurality of liturgical families and of spiritual and exegetical-theological traditions (e.g. in the schools of Alexandria and Antioch), a plurality firmly anchored and united in the one faith. During the major theological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries, the conformity of a doctrine with the consensus of the Fathers, or lack of it, was proof of orthodoxy or heresy.[52] For Augustine, the united witness of the Fathers was the voice of the Church.[53] The councils of Chalcedon and Trent began their solemn declarations with the formula: ‘Following the Holy Fathers…’,[54] and the council of Trent and the First Vatican Council clearly indicated that the ‘unanimous consensus’ of the Fathers was a sure guide for the interpretation of Scripture.[55]


28. Many of the Fathers were bishops who gathered with their fellow bishops in the councils, first regional and later worldwide or ‘ecumenical’, that mark the life of the Church from the earliest centuries, after the example of the apostles (cf. Acts 15:6-21). Confronted with the Christological and Trinitarian heresies that threatened the faith and unity of the Church during the patristic period, bishops met in the great ecumenical councils – Nicaea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople II, Constantinople III, and Nicaea II – to condemn error and proclaim the orthodox faith in creeds and definitions of faith. These councils set forth their teaching, in particular their solemn definitions, as normative and universally binding; and these definitions express and belong to the Apostolic Tradition and continue to serve the faith and unity of the Church. Subsequent councils which have been recognised as ecumenical in the West continued this practice. The Second Vatican Council refers to the teaching office or magisterium of the pope and the bishops of the Church, and states that the bishops teach infallibly when, either gathered with the bishop of Rome in an ecumenical council or in communion with him though dispersed throughout the world, they agree that a particular teaching concerning faith or morals ‘is to be held definitively and absolutely’. The pope himself, head of the college of bishops, teaches infallibly when ‘as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful … he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals’.[56]


29. Catholic theology recognises the teaching authority of ecumenical councils, the ordinary and universal magisterium of the bishops, and the papal magisterium. It acknowledges the special status of dogmas, that is, statements ‘in which the Church proposes a revealed truth definitively, and in a way that is binding for the universal Church, so much so that denial is rejected as heresy and falls under an anathema’.[57] Dogmas belong to the living and ongoing Apostolic Tradition. Theologians are aware of the difficulties that attend their interpretation. For example, it is necessary to understand the precise question under consideration in light of its historical context, and to discern how a dogma’s meaning and content are related to its formulation.[58] Nevertheless, dogmas are sure points of reference for the Church’s faith and are used as such in theological reflection and argumentation.


30. In Catholic belief, Scripture, Tradition, and the magisterium of the Church are inseparably linked. ‘Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church’, and ‘the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone’.[59] Sacred Scripture is not simply a text but ‘locutio Dei’[60] and ‘verbum Dei’,[61] testified initially by the prophets of the Old Testament and ultimately by the apostles in the New Testament (cf. Rom 1:1-2). Having arisen in the midst of the People of God, and having been unified, read and interpreted by the People of God, sacred Scripture belongs to the living Tradition of the Church as the canonical witness to the faith for all time. Indeed, ‘Scripture is the first member in the written tradition’.[62] ‘Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable.’[63] This process is sustained by the Holy Spirit, ‘through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through her in the world’.[64] ‘Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone’.[65] She draws it also from the Apostolic Tradition, because the latter is the living process of the Church’s listening to the Word of God.


31. Vatican II distinguished between Tradition and those traditions that belong to particular periods of the Church’s history, or to particular regions and communities, such as religious orders or specific local churches.[66] Distinguishing between Tradition and traditions has been one of the major tasks of Catholic theology since Vatican II, and of theology generally in recent decades.[67] It is a task profoundly related to the Church’s catholicity, and with many ecumenical implications. Numerous questions arise, for instance: ‘Is it possible to determine more precisely what the content of the one Tradition is, and by what means? Do all traditions which claim to be Christian contain the Tradition? How can we distinguish between traditions embodying the true Tradition and merely human traditions? Where do we find the genuine Tradition, and where impoverished tradition or even distortion of tradition?’[68] On one hand, theology must show that Apostolic Tradition is not something abstract, but that it exists concretely in the different traditions that have formed within the Church. On the other hand, theology has to consider why certain traditions are characteristic not of the Church as a whole, but only of particular religious orders, local churches or historical periods. While criticism is not appropriate with reference to Apostolic Tradition itself, traditions must always be open to critique, so that the ‘continual reformation’ of which the Church has need[69] can take place, and so that the Church can renew herself permanently on her one foundation, namely Jesus Christ. Such a critique seeks to verify whether a specific tradition does indeed express the faith of the Church in a particular place and time, and it seeks correspondingly to strengthen or correct it through contact with the living faith of all places and all times.


32. Fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition is a criterion of Catholic theology. This fidelity requires an active and discerning reception of the various witnesses and expressions of the ongoing Apostolic Tradition. It implies study of sacred Scripture, the liturgy, and the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and attention to the teaching of the magisterium.


3. Attention to the sensus fidelium


33. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul writes: ‘We constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers’ (1Thess 2:13). These words illustrate what Vatican II referred to as ‘the supernatural appreciation of the faith [sensusfidei] of the whole people’,[70] and ‘the intimate sense of spiritual realities’[71] that the faithful have, that is, the sensus fidelium. The subject of faith is the people of God as a whole, which in the power of the Spirit affirms the Word of God. That is why the council declares that the entire people of God participates in the prophetic ministry of Jesus,[72] and that, anointed by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Jn 2:20, 27), it ‘cannot err in matters of belief’.[73] The pastors who guide the people of God, serving its faith, are themselves first of all members of the communion of believers. Therefore Lumen Gentium speaks first about the people of God and the sensusfidei that they have,[74] and then of the bishops[75] who, through their apostolic succession in the episcopate and the reception of their own specific charisma veritatis certum (sure charism of truth),[76] constitute, as a college in hierarchical communion with their head, the bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter in the apostolic see,[77] the Church’s magisterium. Likewise, Dei Verbum teaches that the Word of God has been ‘entrusted to the Church’, and refers to the ‘entire holy people’ adhering to it, before then specifying that the pope and the bishops have the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God.[78] This ordering is fundamental for Catholic theology. As St Augustine said: ‘Vobis sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus’.[79]


34. The nature and location of the sensusfidei or sensusfidelium must be properly understood. The sensus fidelium does not simply mean the majority opinion in a given time or culture, nor is it only a secondary affirmation of what is first taught by the magisterium. The sensusfideliumis the sensus fidei of the people of God as a whole who are obedient to the Word of God and are led in the ways of faith by their pastors. So the sensusfideliumis the sense of the faith that is deeply rooted in the people of God who receive, understand and live the Word of God in the Church.


35. For theologians, the sensus fidelium is of great importance. It is not only an object of attention and respect, it is also a base and a locus for their work. On the one hand, theologians depend on the sensusfidelium, because the faith that they explore and explain lives in the people of God. It is clear, therefore, that theologians themselves must participate in the life of the Church to be truly aware of it. On the other hand, part of the particular service of theologians within the body of Christ is precisely to explicate the Church’s faith as it is found in the Scriptures, the liturgy, creeds, dogmas, catechisms, and in the sensus fidelium itself. Theologians help to clarify and articulate the content of the sensus fidelium, recognising and demonstrating that issues relating to the truth of faith can be complex, and that investigation of them must be precise.[80] It falls to them also on occasion critically to examine expressions of popular piety, new currents of thought and movements within the Church, in the name of fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition. Theologians’ critical assessments must always be constructive; they must be given with humility, respect and charity: ‘Knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, but love (agape) builds up’ (1Cor 8:1).


36. Attention to the sensus fidelium is a criterion for Catholic theology. Theology should strive to discover and articulate accurately what the Catholic faithful actually believe. It must speak the truth in love, so that the faithful may mature in faith, and not be ‘tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14-15).


4. Responsible adherence to the ecclesiastical magisterium


37. In Catholic theology, the magisterium is an integral factor in the theological enterprise itself, since theology receives its object from God through the Church whose faith is authentically interpreted by ‘the living teaching office of the Church alone’,[81] that is, by the magisterium of the pope and the bishops. Fidelity to the magisterium is necessary for theology to be the knowledge of faith (scientia fidei) and an ecclesial task. A correct theological methodology therefore requires a proper understanding of the nature and authority of the magisterium at its various levels, and of the relations that properly exist between the ecclesiastical magisterium and theology.[82] Bishops and theologians have distinct callings, and must respect one another’s particular competence, lest the magisterium reduce theology to a mere repetitive science or theologians presume to substitute the teaching office of the Church’s pastors.


38. An understanding of the Church as communion is a good framework within which to consider how the relationship between theologians and bishops, between theology and the magisterium, can be one of fruitful collaboration. The first thing to acknowledge is that theologians in their work and bishops in their magisterium both stand under the primacy of the Word of God, and never above it.[83] Between bishops and theologians there should be a mutually respectful collaboration; in their obedient listening to this Word and faithful proclamation of it; in their attention to the sensus fidelium and service of the growth and maturing of faith; in their concern to transmit the Word to future generations, with respect for new questions and challenges; and in their hope-filled witness to the gifts already received; in all of this bishops and theologians have their respective roles in one common mission,[84] from which the magisterium and theology each derive their own legitimacy and purpose.[85] Theology investigates and articulates the faith of the Church, and the ecclesiastical magisterium proclaims that faith and authentically interprets it.[86]


39. On the one hand, the magisterium needs theology in order to demonstrate in its interventions not only doctrinal authority, but also theological competence and a capacity for critical evaluation, so theologians should be called upon to assist with the preparation and formulation of magisterial pronouncements. On the other hand, the magisterium is an indispensable help to theology by its authentic transmission of the deposit of faith (depositum fidei), particularly at decisive times of discernment. Theologians should acknowledge the contribution of magisterial statements to theological progress and should assist with the reception of those statements. Magisterial interventions themselves can stimulate theological reflection, and theologians should show how their own contributions conform with and carry forward previous doctrinal statements of the magisterium. There is indeed in the Church a certain ‘magisterium’ of theologians,[87] but there is no place for parallel, opposing or alternative magisteria,[88] or for views that would separate theology from the Church’s magisterium.


40. When it comes to the ‘authentic’ interpretation of the faith, the magisterium plays a role that theology simply cannot take to itself. Theology cannot substitute a judgement coming from the scientific theological community for that of the bishops. Acceptance of this function of the magisterium in relation to the authenticity of faith requires recognition of the different levels of magisterial affirmations.[89] These different levels give rise to a correspondingly differentiated response on the part of the faithful and of theologians. Not all magisterial teaching has the same weight. This itself is relevant to the work of theology, and indeed the different levels are described by what are called ‘theological qualifications or notes’.[90]


41. Precisely because of this gradation, the obedience that theologians as members of the people of God owe to the magisterium always involves constructively critical evaluation and comment.[91] While ‘dissent’ towards the magisterium has no place in Catholic theology, investigation and questioning is justified and even necessary if theology is to fulfil its task.[92] Whatever the situation, a mere formal and exterior obedience or adherence on the part of theologians is not sufficient. Theologians should strive to deepen their reflection on the truth proclaimed by the Church’s magisterium, and should seek its implications for the Christian life and for the service of the truth. In this way, theologians fulfil their proper task and the teaching of the magisterium is not reduced to mere decorative citations in theological discourse.


42. The relationship between bishops and theologians is often good and trusting on both sides, with due respect for one another’s callings and responsibilities. For example, bishops attend and participate in national and regional gatherings of theological associations, call on theological experts as they formulate their own teaching and policies, and visit and support theological faculties and schools in their dioceses. Inevitably, there will be tensions at times in the relationship between theologians and bishops. In his profound analysis of the dynamic interaction, within the living organism of the Church, of the three offices of Christ as prophet, priest and king, Blessed John Henry Newman acknowledged the possibility of such ‘chronic collisions or contrasts’, and it is well to remember that he saw them as ‘lying in the nature of the case’.[93] ‘Theology is the fundamental and regulating principle of the whole Church system’, he wrote, and yet ‘theology cannot always have its own way’.[94] With regard to tensions between theologians and the magisterium, the International Theological Commission said in 1975: ‘wherever there is genuine life, tension always exists’. ‘Such tension need not be interpreted as hostility or real opposition, but can be seen as a vital force and an incentive to a common carrying out of [their] respective tasks by way of dialogue.’[95]


43. The freedom of theology and of theologians is a theme of special interest.[96] This freedom ‘derives from the true scientific responsibility of theologians’.[97] The idea of adherence to the magisterium sometimes prompts a critical contrast between a so-called ‘scientific’ theology (without presuppositions of faith or ecclesial allegiance) and a so-called ‘confessional’ theology (elaborated within a religious confession), but such a contrast is inadequate.[98] Other debates arise from consideration of the believer’s freedom of conscience, or of the importance of scientific progress in theological investigation, and the magisterium is sometimes cast as a repressive force or a brake on progress. Investigating such issues is itself part of the theological task, so as properly to integrate the scientific and confessional aspects of theology, and to see the freedom of theology within the horizon of the design and will of God.


44. Giving responsible adherence to the magisterium in its various gradations is a criterion of Catholic theology. Catholic theologians should recognise the competence of bishops, and especially of the college of bishops headed by the pope, to give an authentic interpretation of the Word of God handed on in Scripture and Tradition.[99]


5. In the company of theologians


45. As is the case with all Christian vocations, the ministry of theologians, as well as being personal, is also both communal and collegial; that is, it is exercised in and for the Church as a whole, and it is lived out in solidarity with those who have the same calling. Theologians are rightly conscious and proud of the profound links of solidarity that unite them with one another in service to the body of Christ and to the world. In very many ways, as colleagues in theological faculties and schools, as fellow members of theological societies and associations, as collaborators in research, and as writers and teachers, they support, encourage and inspire one another, and also serve as mentors and role models for those, especially graduate students, who are aspiring to be theologians. Moreover, links of solidarity rightly extend in space and time, uniting theologians across the world in different countries and cultures, and through time in different eras and contexts. This solidarity is truly beneficial when it promotes awareness and observance of the criteria of Catholic theology as identified in this report. No-one is better placed to assist Catholic theologians in striving to give the best possible service, in accordance with the true characteristics of their discipline, than other Catholic theologians.


46. Nowadays, collaboration in research and publication projects, both within and across various theological fields, is increasingly common. Opportunities for presentations, seminars and conferences that will strengthen the mutual awareness and appreciation of colleagues in theological institutions and faculties should be cultivated. Moreover, occasions for inter-disciplinary encounter and exchange between theologians and philosophers, natural and social scientists, historians, and so on, should also be fostered, since, as is indicated in this report, theology is a science that thrives in interaction with other sciences, as they do also in fruitful exchange with theology.


47. In the nature of their task, theologians often work at the frontiers of the Church’s experience and reflection. Especially with the expanded number nowadays of lay theologians who have experience of particular areas of interaction between the Church and the world, between the Gospel and life, with which ordained theologians and theologians in religious life may not be so familiar, it is increasingly the case that theologians give an initial articulation of ‘faith seeking understanding’ in new circumstances or in the face of new issues. Theologians need and deserve the prayerful support of the ecclesial community as a whole, and particularly of one another, in their sincere endeavours on behalf of the Church, but careful adherence to the fundamental criteria of Catholic theology is especially important in such circumstances. Theologians should always recognise the intrinsic provisionality of their endeavours, and offer their work to the Church as a whole for scrutiny and evaluation.[100]


48. One of the most valuable services that theologians render to one another is that of mutual questioning and correction, e.g. by the medieval practice of the disputatio and today’s practice of reviewing one another’s writings, so that ideas and methods can be progressively refined and perfected, and this process generally and healthily occurs within the theological community itself.[101] Of its nature, however, it can be a slow and private process, and, especially in these days of instant communication and dissemination of ideas far beyond the strictly theological community, it would be unreasonable to imagine that this self-correcting mechanism suffices in all cases. The bishops who watch over the faithful, teaching and caring for them, certainly have the right and the duty to speak, to intervene and if necessary to censure theological work that they deem to be erroneous or harmful.[102]


49. Ecumenical dialogue and research provides a uniquely privileged and potentially productive field for collaboration between Catholic theologians and those of other Christian traditions. In such work, issues of faith, meaning and language are deeply pondered. As they work to promote mutual understanding on issues that have been contentious between their traditions, perhaps for many centuries, theologians act as ambassadors for their communities in the holy task of seeking the reconciliation and unity of Christians, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). That ambassadorial task requires particular adherence to the criteria outlined here on the part of Catholic participants, so that the manifold gifts that the Catholic tradition contains can truly be offered in the ‘exchange of gifts’ that ecumenical dialogue and collaboration more widely always in some sense is.[103]


50. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should be practised in professional, prayerful and charitable collaboration with the whole company of Catholic theologians in the communion of the Church, in a spirit of mutual appreciation and support, attentive both to the needs and comments of the faithful and to the guidance of the Church’s pastors.

 


6. In dialogue with the world


51. ‘The people of God believes that it is led by the Spirit of the Lord who fills the whole world’.[104] The Second Vatican Council said that the Church should therefore be ready to discern in ‘the events, the needs and the longings’ of today’s world what may truly be signs of the Spirit’s activity.[105] ‘At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times [signa temporum perscrutandi] and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which [people] ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live’.[106]


52. As they live their daily lives in the world with faith, all Christians face the challenge of interpreting the events and crises that arise in human affairs, and all engage in conversation and debate in which, inevitably, faith is questioned and a response is needed. The whole Church lives, as it were, at the interface between the Gospel and everyday life, which is also the boundary between the past and the future, as history moves forward. The Church is always in dialogue and in movement, and within the communion of the baptised who are all dynamically engaged in this way bishops and theologians have particular responsibilities, as the council made clear. ‘With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the whole people of God, particularly of its pastors and theologians, to listen to and distinguish the many voices of our times and to interpret them in the light of the divine Word, in order that the revealed truth may be more deeply penetrated, better understood, and more suitably presented’.[107]


53. Theology has a particular competence and responsibility in this regard. Through its constant dialogue with the social, religious and cultural currents of the time, and through its openness to other sciences which, with their own methods examine those developments, theology can help the faithful and the magisterium to see the importance of developments, events and trends in human history, and to discern and interpret ways in which through them the Spirit may be speaking to the Church and to the world.


54. The ‘signs of the times’ may be described as those events or phenomena in human history which, in a sense, because of their impact or extent, define the face of a period, and bring to expression particular needs and aspirations of humanity at that time. The Council’s use of the expression, ‘signs of the times’, shows that it fully recognised the historicity not only of the world, but also of the Church, which is in the world (cf. Jn 17:11, 15, 18) though not of the world (cf. Jn 17:14, 16). What is happening in the world at large, good or bad, can never be a matter of indifference to the Church. The world is the place in which the Church, following in the footsteps of Christ, announces the Gospel, bears witness to the justice and mercy of God, and participates in the drama of human life.


55. Recent centuries have seen major social and cultural developments. One might think, for instance, of the discovery of historicity, and of movements such as the Enlightenment and the French revolution (with its ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity), movements for emancipation and for the promotion of women’s rights, movements for peace and justice, liberation and democratisation, and the ecological movement. The ambivalence of human history has led the Church at times in the past to be overly cautious about such movements, to see only the threats they may contain to Christian doctrine and faith, and to neglect their significance. However, such attitudes have gradually changed thanks to the sensus fidei of the People of God, the clear sight of prophetic individual believers, and the patient dialogue of theologians with their surrounding cultures. A better discernment in the light of the Gospel has been made, with a greater readiness to see how the Spirit of God may be speaking through such events. In all cases, discernment must carefully distinguish between elements compatible with the Gospel and those contrary to it, between positive contributions and ideological aspects, but the more acute understanding of the world that results cannot fail to prompt a more penetrating appreciation of Christ the Lord and of the Gospel[108] since Christ is the Saviour of the world.


56. While the world of human culture profits from the activity of the Church, the Church also profits from ‘the history and development of mankind’. ‘It profits from the experience of past ages, from the progress of the sciences, and from the riches hidden in various cultures, through which greater light is thrown on the mystery of man and new avenues to truth are opened up’.[109]The painstaking work to establish profitable links with other disciplines, sciences and cultures so as to enhance that light and broaden those avenues is the particular task of theologians, and the discernment of the signs of the times presents great opportunities for theological endeavour, notwithstanding the complex hermeneutical issues that arise. Thanks to the work of many theologians, Vatican II was able to acknowledge various signs of the times in connection with its own teaching.[110]


57. Heeding God’s final Word in Jesus Christ, Christians are open to hear echoes of his voice in other persons, places, and cultures (cf. Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-28; Rom 1:19-20). The council urged that the faithful ‘should be familiar with their national and religious traditions and uncover with gladness and respect those seeds of the Word which lie hidden among them’.[111] It specifically taught that the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is ‘true and holy’ in non-Christian religions, whose precepts and doctrines ‘often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens’ all people.[112] Again, the uncovering of such seeds and discernment of such rays is especially the task of theologians, who have an important contribution to make to inter-religious dialogue.


58. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should be in constant dialogue with the world. It should help the Church to read the signs of the times illuminated by the light that comes from divine revelation, and to profit from doing so in its life and mission.

CHAPTER 3:
GIVING AN ACCOUNT OF THE TRUTH OF GOD


59. The Word of God, accepted in faith, gives light to the believer’s intelligence and understanding. Revelation is not received purely passively by the human mind. On the contrary, the believing intelligence actively embraces revealed truth.[113] Prompted by love, it strives to assimilate it because this Word responds to its own deepest questions. Without ever claiming to exhaust the riches of revelation, it strives to appreciate and explore the intelligibility of the Word of God – fides quaerens intellectum – and to offer a reasoned account of the truth of God. In other words, it seeks to express God’s truth in the rational and scientific mode that is proper to human understanding.


60. In a threefold investigation, addressing a number of current issues, the present chapter considers essential aspects of theology as a rational, human endeavour, which has its own authentic and irreplaceable position in the midst of all intellectual enquiry. First, theology is a work of reason illuminated by faith (ratio fide illustrata), which seeks to translate into scientific discourse the Word of God expressed in revelation. Second, the variety of rational methods it deploys and the plurality of specialised theological disciplines that result remain compatible with the fundamental unity of theology as discourse about God in the light of revelation. Third, theology is closely bound to spiritual experience, which it enlightens and by which in turn it is nourished, and of its nature it opens into an authentic wisdom with a lively sense of the transcendence of the God of Jesus Christ.

1. The truth of God and the rationality of theology


61. This section considers some aspects of the history of theology from the challenges of early times to those of today, in relation to the scientific nature of theology. We are to know God, to know the truth of God. ‘This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (Jn 17:3). Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (cf. Jn 18:37) and presented himself as ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). This truth is a gift which comes down from ‘the Father of lights’ (James 1:17). God the Father initiated this enlightenment (cf. Gal 4:4-7), and he himself will consummate it (cf. Rev 21:5-7). The Holy Spirit is both the Paraclete, consoling the faithful, and the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:16-17), who inspires and illuminates the truth and guides the faithful ‘into all the truth’ (Jn 16:13). The final revelation of the plenitude of God’s truth will be the ultimate fulfilment of humanity and of creation (cf. 1Cor 15:28). Correspondingly, the mystery of the Trinity must be at the centre of theological contemplation.


62. The truth of God, accepted in faith, encounters human reason. Created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27), the human person is capable, by the light of reason, of penetrating beyond appearances to the deep-down truth of things, and opens up thereby to universal reality. The common reference to truth, which is objective and universal, makes authentic dialogue possible between human persons. The human spirit is both intuitive and rational. It is intuitive in that it spontaneously grasps the first principles of reality and of thought. It is rational in that, beginning from those first principles, it progressively discovers truths previously unknown using rigorous procedures of analysis and investigation, and it organises them in a coherent fashion. ‘Science’ is the highest form that rational consciousness takes. It designates a form of knowledge capable of explaining how and why things are as they are. Human reason, itself part of created reality, does not simply project on to reality in its richness and complexity a framework of intelligibility; it adapts itself to the intrinsic intelligibility of reality. In accordance with its object, that is with the particular aspect of reality that it is studying, reason applies different methods adapted to the object itself. Rationality, therefore, is one but takes a plurality of forms, all of which are rigorous means of grasping the intelligibility of reality. Science likewise is pluriform, each science having its own specific object and method. There is a modern tendency to reserve the term ‘science’ to ‘hard’ sciences (mathematics, experimental sciences, etc.) and to dismiss as irrational and mere opinion knowledge which does not correspond to the criteria of those sciences. This univocal view of science and of rationality is reductive and inadequate.


63. So, the revealed truth of God both requires and stimulates the believer’s reason. On the one hand, the truth of the Word of God must be considered and probed by the believer – thus begins the intellectus fidei, the form taken here below by the believer’s desire to see God.[114] Its aim is not at all to replace faith,[115] rather it unfolds naturally from the believer’s act of faith, and it can indeed assist those whose faith may be wavering in the face of hostility.[116] The fruit of the believer’s rational reflection is an understanding of the truths of faith. By the use of reason, the believer grasps the profound connections between the different stages in the history of salvation and also between the various mysteries of faith which illuminate one another. On the other hand, faith stimulates reason itself and stretches its limits. Reason is stirred to explore paths which of itself it would not even have suspected it could take. This encounter with the Word of God leaves reason enriched, because it discovers new and unsuspected horizons.[117]


64. The dialogue between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy, is therefore required not only by faith but also by reason, as Pope John Paul explains in Fides et Ratio.[118] It is necessary because a faith which rejects or is contemptuous of reason risks falling into superstition or fanaticism, while reason which deliberately closes itself to faith, though it may make great strides, fails to rise to the full heights of what can be known. This dialogue is possible because of the unity of truth in the variety of its aspects. The truths embraced in faith and the truths discovered by reason not only cannot ultimately contradict one another, since they proceed from the same source, the very truth of God, the creator of reason and the giver of faith,[119] but in fact they support and enlighten one another: ‘right reason demonstrates the grounds of faith, and, illumined by the latter’s light, pursues the understanding of divine things, while faith frees and protects reason from errors and provides it with manifold insights’.[120]


65. This is the profound reason why, even though religion and philosophy were often opposed in ancient thought, from the start Christian faith reconciled them in a broader vision. In fact, while taking the form of a religion, early Christianity frequently thought of itself not as a new religion but rather as the true philosophy,[121] now able to attain the ultimate truth. Christianity claimed to teach the truth both about God and about human existence. Therefore, in their commitment to the truth, the Church Fathers deliberately distanced their theology from ‘mythical’ and ‘political’ theology, as the latter were understood at that time. Mythical theology told stories of the gods in a way that did not respect the transcendence of the divine; political theology was a purely sociological and utilitarian approach to religion which did not care about truth. The Fathers of the Church located Christianity alongside ‘natural theology’, which claimed to offer rational enlightenment about the ‘nature’ of the gods.[122] However, by teaching that the Logos, the principle of all things, was a personal being with a face and a name, and that he was seeking friendship with humanity, Christianity purified and transformed the philosophical idea of God, and introduced into it the dynamism of love (agape).


66. Great Eastern theologians used the encounter between Christianity and Greek philosophy as a providential opportunity to reflect on the truth of revelation, i.e. the truth of the logos. In order to defend and illumine the mysteries of faith (the consubstantiality of the persons of the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc.), they readily but critically adopted philosophical notions and put them in service to an understanding of faith. However, they also strongly insisted on the apophatic dimension of theology: theology must never reduce the Mystery.[123] In the West, at the end of the patristic period, Boethius inaugurated a way of doing theology that accentuated the scientific nature of the intellectus fidei. In his opuscula sacra, he marshalled all the resources of philosophy in the service of clarifying Christian doctrine and offered a systematic and axiomatic exposition of the faith.[124] This new theological method, using refined philosophical tools and aiming at a certain systematisation, was also developed to some extent in the East, for example by St John of Damascus.


67. Throughout the medieval period, especially with the eventual founding of universities and the development of scholastic methodology, theology steadily became differentiated, though not necessarily separated, from other forms of the intellectus fidei (e.g. lectio divina, preaching). It constituted itself truly as a science, in accordance with Aristotle’s criteria of a science set forth especially in his Posteriora analyticorum: that is, by reasoning it could be shown why something was so and not otherwise, and by reasoning conclusions could be reached from principles. Scholastic theologians sought to present the intelligible content of the Christian faith in the form of a rational and scientific synthesis. In order to do this, they considered the articles of faith as principles in the science of theology. Then, theologians made use of reason to establish revealed truth with precision and to defend it by showing that it was not contrary to reason, or by showing its internal intelligibility. In the latter case, they formulated a hierarchy (ordo) of truths, seeking which were the most fundamental and therefore the most illuminating of others.[125] They articulated the intelligible connections between the mysteries (nexus mysteriorum), and the syntheses they achieved expounded the intelligible content of the word of God in a scientific way, in accordance with the demands and capacities of human reason. This scientific ideal, however, never took the form of a rationalistic hypothetical-deductive system. Rather, it was always modelled on the reality being contemplated, which far exceeds the capacities of human reason. Moreover, even though they undertook various exercises and used literary genres distinct from scriptural commentary, the Bible was the living source of inspiration for scholastic theologians – theology precisely aimed at a better understanding of the Word, and St Bonaventure and St Thomas Aquinas thought of themselves primarily as magistri in sacra pagina. The role played by the ‘argument from fittingness’ was crucial. The theologian does not reason a priori, but listens to revelation and searches the wise ways God has freely chosen in his plan of love. Firmly based on faith, therefore, theology understood itself as a human participation in God’s knowledge of himself and of all things, ‘quaedam impressio divinae scientiae quae est una et simplex omnium’.[126] That was the primary source of its unity.


68. Towards the end of the middle ages, the unified structure of Christian wisdom, of which theology was the keystone, began to break up. Philosophy and other secular disciplines increasingly separated themselves from theology, and theology itself fragmented into specialisations which sometimes lost sight of their deep connection. There was a tendency of theology to distance itself from the Word of God, so that on occasion it became a purely philosophical reflection applied to religious questions. At the same time, perhaps because of this neglect of Scripture, its theo-logical dimension and spiritual finality slipped from view, and the spiritual life began to develop aside from a rationalising university theology, and even in opposition to the latter.[127] Theology, thus fragmented, became more and more cut off from the actual life of the Christian people and ill equipped to face the challenges of modernity.


69. Scholastic theology was criticised during the Reformation for placing too much value on the rationality of faith and too little on the damage sin does to reason. Catholic theology responded by maintaining in high esteem the anthropology of the image of God (imago Dei) and the capacity and responsibility of reason, wounded but not destroyed by sin, and by emphasising the Church as the place where God could truly be known and the science of faith truly be developed. The Catholic Church thus kept open the possibility of dialogue with philosophy, philology and the historical and natural sciences.


70. The critique of faith and theology made during the Enlightenment, however, was more radical. In some ways, the Enlightenment had a religious stimulus. However, by aligning themselves with deism, Enlightenment thinkers now saw an irreconcilable difference between the factual contingencies of history and the genuine needs of reason. Truth, for them, was not to be found in history, and revelation, as an historical event, could not serve any longer as a reliable source of knowledge for human beings. In many cases, Catholic theology reacted defensively against the challenge of Enlightenment thinking. It gave priority to apologetics rather than to the sapiential dimension of faith, it separated too much the natural order of reason and the supernatural order of faith, and it gave great importance to ‘natural theology’ and too little to the intellectus fidei as an understanding of the mysteries of the faith. Catholic theology was thus left damaged in various respects by its own strategy in this encounter. At its best, however, Catholic theology also sought a constructive dialogue with the Enlightenment and with its philosophical criticism. With reference to Scripture and Church teaching, the merely ‘instructional’ idea of revelation was criticised theologically, and the idea of revelation was reshaped in terms of the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, such that history could still be understood as the place of God’s saving acts.


71. Today there is a new challenge, and Catholic theology has to deal with a post-modern crisis of classical reason itself that has serious implications for the intellectus fidei. The idea of ‘truth’ seems very problematic. Is there such a thing as ‘truth’? Is there only one ‘truth’? Does such an idea lead to intolerance and violence? Catholic theology traditionally operates with a strong sense of the capacity of reason to go beyond appearances and attain the reality and the truth of things, but today reason is often viewed weakly, as unable in principle to attain ‘reality’. There is therefore a problem in that the metaphysical orientation of philosophy, which was important for the former models of Catholic theology, remains in deep crisis. Theology can help to overcome this crisis and to revitalise an authentic metaphysics. Catholic theology is interested, nonetheless, in dialogue about the question of God and truth with all contemporary philosophies.


72. In Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II rejected both philosophical scepticism and fideism and called for a renewal of the relationship between theology and philosophy. He recognised philosophy as an autonomous science and as a crucial interlocutor for theology. He insisted that theology must necessarily have recourse to philosophy: without philosophy, theology cannot adequately critique the validity of its assertions nor clarify its ideas nor properly understand different schools of thought.[128] Theology’s ‘source and starting-point’ is the word of God revealed in history, and theology seeks to understand that word. However, God’s word is Truth (cf. Jn 17:17), and it follows that philosophy, ‘the human search for truth’, can help in the understanding of God’s word.[129]


73. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should strive to give a scientifically and rationally argued presentation of the truths of the Christian faith. For this, it needs to make use of reason and it must acknowledge the strong relationship between faith and reason, first of all philosophical reason, so as to overcome both fideism and rationalism.[130]

2. The unity of theology in a plurality of methods and disciplines


74. This section considers the relationship between theology and theologies, and the relationship also between theology and other sciences. Catholic theology, fundamentally understood with St Augustine as ‘reasoning or discourse about God’,[131] is one in its essence and has its own unique characteristics as a science: its proper subject is the one and only God, and it studies its subject in its own proper manner, namely by the use of reason enlightened by revelation. At the very start of the Summa theologiae, St Thomas explains that everything in theology is understood with regard to God, sub ratione Dei.[132] The great diversity of matters that the theologian is led to consider finds its unity in this ultimate reference to God. All the ‘mysteries’ contained in diverse theological treatises refer to what is the single absolute Mystery in the strictest sense, namely, the Mystery of God. Reference to this Mystery unites theology, in the vast range of the latter’s subject matter and contexts, and the idea of reductio in Mysterium can be valuable as an expression of the dynamism that deeply unites theological propositions. Since the Mystery of God is revealed in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, Vatican II directed that all theological treatises ‘should be renewed through a more vivid contact with the Mystery of Christ and the history of salvation’.[133]


75. The Church Fathers knew the word ‘theology’ only in the singular. For them, ‘theology’ was not ‘myth’ but the Logosof God himself. In so far as the human spirit is impressed by the Spirit of God through the revelation of the Logos and led to contemplate the infinite mystery of his nature and action, human beings also are enabled to do theology. In scholastic theology, the diversity of questions studied by the theologian might justify the use of various methods but it never placed in doubt the fundamental unity of theology. Towards the end of the middle ages, however, there was a tendency to distinguish and even to separate scholastic and mystical theology, speculative and positive theology, and so on. In modern times, there has been an increasing tendency to use the word ‘theology’ in the plural. There is talk of the ‘theologies’ of different authors, periods or cultures. In mind are the characteristic concepts, significant themes and specific perspectives of those ‘theologies’.


76. Various factors have contributed to this modern plurality of ‘theologies’.

- There is within theology more and more internal specialisation into different disciplines: e.g. biblical studies, liturgy, patristics, Church history, fundamental theology, systematic theology, moral theology, pastoral theology, spirituality, catechetics, and canon law. This development is inevitable and understandable because of the scientific nature of theology and the demands of research.

- There is a diversification of theological styles because of the external influence of other sciences: e.g. philosophy, philology, history, and the social, natural and life sciences. As a result, in central fields of Catholic theology today very different forms of thinking co-exist: e.g. transcendental theology and salvation historical theology, analytic theology, renewed scholastic and metaphysical theology, political and liberation theology.

- There is with regard to the practice of theology an ever-increasing multiplicity of subjects, places, institutions, intentions, contexts and interests, and a new appreciation of the plurality and variety of cultures.[134]


77. The plurality of theologies is undoubtedly necessary and justified.[135] It results primarily from the abundance of divine truth itself, which human beings can only ever grasp under its specific aspects and never as a whole, and moreover never definitively, but always, as it were, with new eyes. Then also, because of the diversity of the objects it considers and interprets (e.g. God, human beings, historical events, texts), and the sheer diversity of human questioning, theology must inevitably have recourse to a plurality of disciplines and methods,[136] according to the nature of the object being studied. The plurality of theologies reflects, in fact, the catholicity of the Church, which strives to proclaim the one Gospel to people everywhere, in all kinds of circumstances.


78. Plurality, of course, has limits. There is a fundamental difference between the legitimate pluralism of theology, on the one hand, and relativism, heterodoxy or heresy, on the other. Pluralism itself is problematic, however, if there is no communication between different theological disciplines or if there are no agreed criteria by which various forms of theology are understandable – both to themselves and to others – as Catholic theology. Essential to the avoidance or overcoming of such problems is a fundamental common recognition of theology as a rational enterprise, scientia fidei and scientia Dei, such that each theology can be evaluated in relation to a common universal truth.


79. The search for unity among the plurality of theologies today takes a number of forms: insisting on reference to a common ecclesial tradition of theology, practising dialogue and interdisciplinarity, and being attentive to preventing the other disciplines with which theology deals from imposing their own ‘magisterium’ on theology. The existence of a common theological tradition in the Church (which must be distinguished from Tradition itself, but not separated from Tradition[137]) is an important factor in the unity of theology. There is a common memory in theology, such that certain historical achievements (e.g. the writings of the Fathers of the Church, both East and West, and the synthesis of St Thomas, Doctor communis[138]), remain as reference points for theology today. It is true that certain aspects of prior theological tradition can and must sometimes be abandoned, but the work of the theologian can never dispense with a critical reference to the tradition that went before.


80. The various forms of theology that can basically be distinguished today (e.g., biblical, historical, fundamental, systematic, practical, moral), characterised by their various sources, methods and tasks, are all fundamentally united by a striving for true knowledge of God and of God’s saving plan. There should therefore be intensive communication and cooperation between them. Dialogue and interdisciplinary collaboration are indispensable means of ensuring and expressing the unity of theology. The singular, ‘theology’, by no means indicates a uniformity of styles or concepts; rather, it serves to indicate a common search for truth, common service of the body of Christ and common devotion to the one God.


81. Since ancient times, theology has worked in partnership with philosophy. While this partnership remains fundamental, in modern times further partners for theology have been found. Biblical studies and Church history have been helped by the development of new methods to analyse and interpret texts, and by new techniques to prove the historical validity of sources and to describe social and cultural developments.[139] Systematic, fundamental and moral theology have all benefited from an engagement with natural, economic and medical sciences. Practical theology has profited from the encounter with sociology, psychology and pedagogy. In all of these engagements, Catholic theology should respect the proper coherence of the methods and sciences utilised, but it should also use them in a critical fashion, in light of the faith that is part of the theologian’s own identity and motivation.[140] Partial results, obtained by a method borrowed from another discipline, cannot be determinative for the theologian’s work, and must be critically integrated with theology’s own task and argument.[141] An insufficiently critical use of the knowledge or methods of other sciences is likely to distort and fragment the work of theology. Indeed, an over-hasty fusion between faith and philosophy was already identified by the Fathers as a source of heresies.[142] In short, other disciplines must not be allowed to impose their own ‘magisterium’ on theology. The theologian should indeed take up and utilise the data supplied by other disciplines, but in light of theology’s own proper principles and methods.


82. In this critical assimilation and integration by theology of data from other sciences, philosophy has a mediating role to play. It pertains to philosophy, as rational wisdom, to insert the results obtained by various sciences into a more universal vision. Recourse to philosophy in this mediating role helps the theologian to use scientific data with due care. For example, scientific knowledge gained with regard to the evolution of life needs to be interpreted in the light of philosophy, so as to determine its value and meaning, before being taken into account by theology.[143] Philosophy also helps scientists to avoid the temptation to apply in a univocal way their own methods and the fruits of their researches to religious questions that require another approach.


83. The relationship between theology and religious sciences or religious studies (e.g. philosophy of religion, sociology of religion) is of particular interest. Religious sciences/studies deal with texts, institutions and phenomena of the Christian tradition, but by the nature of their methodological principles they do so from outside, regardless of the question as to the truth of what they study; for them, the Church and its faith are simply objects for research like other objects. In the 19th century, there were major controversies between theology and religious sciences/studies. On the one side, it was claimed that theology is not a science because of its presupposition of faith; only religious sciences/studies could be ‘objective’. On the other side, it was said that religious sciences/studies are anti-theological because they would deny faith. Today these old controversies sometimes reappear, but nowadays there are better conditions for a fruitful dialogue between the two sides. On the one hand, religious sciences/studies are now integrated into the fabric of theological methods because, not only for exegesis and Church history, but also for pastoral and fundamental theology, it is necessary to investigate the history, structure and phenomenology of religious ideas, subjects, rites, etc.. On the other hand, the physical sciences and contemporary epistemology more generally have shown that there is never a neutral position from which to search for truth; the enquirer always brings particular perspectives, insights and presuppositions which bear upon the study being conducted. There remains, however, an essential difference between theology and religious sciences/studies: theology has the truth of God as its subject and reflects on its subject with faith and in the light of God, while religious sciences/studies have religious phenomena as their subject and approach them with cultural interests, methodologically prescinding from the truth of the Christian faith. Theology goes beyond religious sciences/studies by reflecting from the inside on the Church and its faith, but theology can also profit from the investigations that religious sciences/studies make from the outside.


84. Catholic theology acknowledges the proper autonomy of other sciences and the professional competence and the striving after knowledge to be found in them, and has itself prompted developments in many sciences. Theology also opens the way for other sciences to engage with religious issues. Through constructive critique, it helps other sciences to liberate themselves from anti-theological elements acquired under the influence of rationalism. By expelling theology from the household of science, rationalism and positivism reduced the scope and power of the sciences themselves. Catholic theology criticises every form of self-absolutisation of the sciences, as a self-reduction and impoverishment.[144] The presence of theology and theologians at the heart of university life and the dialogue this presence enables with other disciplines help to promote a broad, analogical and integral view of intellectual life. As scientia Dei and scientia fidei, theology plays an important part in the symphony of the sciences, and so claims a proper place in the academy.


85. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it attempts to integrate a plurality of enquiries and methods into the unified project of the intellectus fidei, and insists on the unity of truth and therefore on the fundamental unity of theology itself. Catholic theology recognises the proper methods of other sciences and critically utilises them in its own research. It does not isolate itself from critique and welcomes scientific dialogue.

3. Science and wisdom


86. This final section considers the fact that theology is not only a science but also a wisdom, with a particular role to play in the relationship between all human knowledge and the Mystery of God. The human person is not satisfied by partial truths, but seeks to unify different pieces and areas of knowledge into an understanding of the final truth of all things and of human life itself. This search for wisdom, which undoubtedly animates theology itself, gives theology a close relationship to spiritual experience and to the wisdom of the saints. More broadly, however, Catholic theology invites everyone to recognise the transcendence of the ultimate Truth, which can never be fully grasped or mastered. Theology is not only a wisdom in itself, it is also an invitation to wisdom for other disciplines. The presence of theology in scientific debate and in university life potentially has the beneficial effect of reminding everyone of the sapiential vocation of human intelligence, and of the telling question Jesus asks in his first utterance in St John’s Gospel: ‘What do you seek?’ (Jn 1:38; RSV).


87. In the Old Testament, the central message of wisdom theology appears three times: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111:10; cf. Prov 1:7; 9:10). The basis of this motto is the insight of the sages of Israel that God’s wisdom is at work in creation and in history and that those who appreciate that will understand the meaning of the world and of events (cf. Prov 7ff., Wis 7ff.). ‘Fear of God’ is the right attitude in the presence of God (coram Deo). Wisdom is the art of understanding the world and of orientating one’s life in devotion to God. In the books of Ecclesiastes and Job, the limits of human understanding of God’s thoughts and ways are starkly revealed, not so as to destroy the wisdom of human beings, but to deepen it within the horizon of the wisdom of God.


88. Jesus himself stood in this Wisdom tradition of Israel, and in him the revelation theology of the Old Testament was transformed. He prayed: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants’ (Mt 11:25). This confounding of traditional wisdom comes in the Gospel context of the proclamation of something new: the eschatological revelation of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus continues: ‘no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’, and this prefaces his famous invitation: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Mt 11:27-29). This learning comes from discipleship in the company of Jesus. He alone unlocks the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:25-27; Jn 5:36-40; Rev 5:5), because the truth and wisdom of God have been revealed in him.


89. Paul the apostle criticises the ‘wisdom of the world’ which sees the cross of Jesus Christ only as ‘foolishness’ (1Cor 1:18-20). This foolishness he proclaims to be ‘God’s wisdom, secret and hidden’, ‘decreed before the ages’ and now revealed (1Cor 2:7). The cross is the crucial moment of God’s salvific plan. Christ crucified is the ‘power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1Cor 1:18-25). Believers, those who have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1Cor 2:16), receive this wisdom, and it gives access to the ‘mystery of God’ (1Cor 2:1-2). It is important to note that, while the paradoxical wisdom of God, manifested in the cross, contradicts the ‘wisdom of the world’, it nevertheless does not contradict authentic human wisdom. On the contrary, it transcends the latter and fulfils it in an unforeseen way.


90. Christian faith soon encountered the Greek quest for wisdom. It drew attention to the limits of that quest, especially regarding the idea of salvation by knowledge (gnosis) alone, but it also incorporated authentic insights from the Greeks. Wisdom is a unifying vision. While science endeavours to give an account of a particular, limited and well defined aspect of reality, highlighting the principles that explain the properties of the object being studied, wisdom strives to give a unified view of the whole of reality. It is, in effect, a knowledge in accordance with the highest, most universal and also most explanatory causes.[145] For the Fathers of the Church, the sage was one who judged all things in the light of God and eternal realities, which are the norm for things here on earth.[146] Therefore, wisdom also has a moral and spiritual dimension.


91. As its name indicates, philosophy understands itself as a wisdom, or at least as a loving quest for wisdom. Metaphysics, in particular, proposes a vision of reality unified around the fundamental mystery of being; but the Word of God, which reveals ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived’ (1Cor 2:9), opens up for human beings the way to a higher wisdom.[147] This supernatural Christian wisdom, which transcends the purely human wisdom of philosophy, takes two forms which sustain one another but should not be confused: theological wisdom and mystical wisdom.[148] Theological wisdom is the work of reason enlightened by faith. It is therefore an acquired wisdom, though it supposes of course the gift of faith. It offers a unified explanation of reality in light of the highest truths of revelation, and it enlightens everything from the foundational mystery of the Trinity, considered both in itself and in its action in creation and in history. In this regard, Vatican I said: ‘Reason illuminated by faith, when it seeks zealously, piously and soberly, attains with the help of God some understanding of the mysteries, and a most fruitful understanding, both by analogy with those things which it knows naturally, and also from the connection of the mysteries among themselves and with the final end of man’.[149] The intellectual contemplation which results from the rational labour of the theologian is thus truly a wisdom. Mystical wisdom or ‘the knowledge of the saints’ is a gift of the Holy Spirit which comes from union with God in love. Love, in fact, creates an affective connaturality between the human being and God, who allows spiritual persons to know and even suffer things divine (pati divina),[150] actually experiencing them in their lives. This is a non-conceptual knowledge, often expressed in poetry. It leads to contemplation and personal union with God in peace and silence.


92. Theological wisdom and mystical wisdom are formally distinct and it is important not to confuse them. Mystical wisdom is never a substitute for theological wisdom. It is clear, nonetheless, that there are strong links between these two forms of Christian wisdom, both in the person of the theologian and in the community of the Church. On the one hand, an intense spiritual life striving for holiness is a requirement for authentic theology, as the example of the doctors of the Church, East and West, shows. True theology presupposes faith and is animated by charity: ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love’ (1Jn 4:8).[151] Intelligence provides theology with clear sighted reason, but the heart has its own wisdom that purifies intelligence. What is true of all Christians has a particular resonance for theologians, namely that they are ‘called to be saints’ (1Cor 1:2). On the other hand, the proper exercise of theology’s task of giving a scientific understanding of faith enables the authenticity of spiritual experience to be verified.[152] That is why St Teresa of Avila wanted her nuns to seek the counsel of theologians: ‘The more the Lord gives you graces in prayer, the more it is necessary that your prayer and all your works rest on a solid foundation.’[153] With the help of theologians, it is ultimately the task of the magisterium to determine whether any spiritual claim is authentically Christian.


93. The object of theology is the living God, and the life of the theologian cannot fail to be affected by the sustained effort to know the living God. The theologian cannot exclude his or her own life from the endeavour to understand all of reality with regard to God. Obedience to the truth purifies the soul (cf. 1Pet 1:22), and ‘the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy’ (James 3:17). It follows that the pursuit of theology should purify the mind and heart of the theologian.[154] This special feature of the theological enterprise by no means violates the scientific character of theology; on the contrary, it profoundly accords with the latter. Thus, theology is characterised by a distinctive spirituality. Integral to the spirituality of the theologian are: a love of truth, a readiness for conversion of heart and mind, a striving for holiness, and a commitment to ecclesial communion and mission.[155]


94. Theologians have received a particular calling to service in the body of Christ. Called and gifted, they exist in a particular relationship to the body and all of its members. Living in ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’ (2Cor 13:13), they along with all their brothers and sisters should seek to conform their lives to the mystery of the Eucharist ‘from which the Church ever derives its life and on which it thrives’.[156] Indeed, called as they are to explicate the mysteries of the faith, they should be particularly bound to the Eucharist, in which is contained ‘the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch’, whose flesh is made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit.[157] As the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit’ of the life of the Church[158] and ‘of all preaching of the Gospel’,[159] so it is also the source and summit of all theology. In this sense, theology can be understood as essentially and profoundly ‘mystical’.


95. God’s truth is thus not simply something to be explored in systematic reflection and justified in deductive reasoning; it is living truth, experienced by participation in Christ, ‘who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption’ (1Cor 1:30). As wisdom, theology is able to integrate aspects of the faith both studied and experienced and to transcend in the service of God’s truth the limits of what is strictly possible from an intellectual standpoint. Such an appreciation of theology as wisdom can help to resolve two problems facing theology today: first, it offers a way of bridging the gap between believers and theological reflection; and second, it offers a way of expanding understanding of God’s truth, so as to facilitate the mission of the Church in non-Christian cultures characterised by various wisdom traditions.


96. The sense of mystery which properly characterises theology leads to a ready acknowledgement of the limits of theological knowledge, contrary to all rationalist pretensions to exhaust the Mystery of God. The teaching of Lateran IV is fundamental: ‘between creator and creature no similarity can be noted without noting a greater dissimilarity’.[160] Reason enlightened by faith and guided by revelation is always aware of the intrinsic limits of its activity. That is why Christian theology can take the form of ‘negative’ or ‘apophatic’ theology.


97. Nevertheless, negative theology is not at all a negation of theology. Cataphatic and apophatic theology should not be placed in opposition to one another; far from disqualifying an intellectual approach to the Mystery of God, the via negativa simply highlights the limits of such an approach. The via negativa is a fundamental dimension of all authentically theological discourse, but it cannot be separated from the via affirmativa and the via eminentiae.[161]The human spirit, rising from effects to the Cause, from creatures to the Creator, begins by affirming the presence in God of the authentic perfections discovered in creatures (via affirmativa), then it denies that those perfections are in God in the imperfect way in which they are in creatures (via negativa); finally, it affirms that they are in God in a properly divine way which escapes human comprehension (via eminentiae).[162] Theology rightly intends to speak truly of the Mystery of God, but at the same time it knows that its knowledge though true is inadequate in relation to the reality of God, whom it can never ‘comprehend’. As St Augustine said: ‘If you comprehend, it is not God’.[163]


98. It is important to be aware of the sense of emptiness and of the absence of God that many people feel today and that imbues much of modern culture. The primary reality for Christian theology, however, is God’s revelation. The obligatory reference point is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In these events, God has spoken definitively by means of his Word made flesh. Affirmative theology is possible as a result of obedient listening to the Word, present in creation and in history. The Mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is a mystery of ekstasis, love, communion and mutual indwelling among the three divine persons; a mystery of kenosis, the relinquishing of the form of God by Jesus in his incarnation, so as to take the form of a slave (cf. Phil 2:5-11); and a mystery of theosis, human beings are called to participate in the life of God and to share in ‘the divine nature’ (2Pet 1:4) through Christ, in the Spirit. When theology speaks of a negative path and of speechlessness, it is referring to a sense of awe before the Trinitarian Mystery in which is salvation. Though words cannot fully describe it, by love believers already participate in the Mystery. ‘Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’ (1Pet 1:8-9).


99. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should seek and delight in the wisdom of God which is foolishness to the world (cf. 1Cor 1:18-25; 1Cor 2:6-16). Catholic theology should root itself in the great wisdom tradition of the Bible, connect itself with the wisdom traditions of eastern and western Christianity, and seek to establish a bridge to all wisdom traditions. As it strives for true wisdom in its study of the Mystery of God, theology acknowledges God’s utter priority; it seeks not to possess but to be possessed by God. It must therefore be attentive to what the Spirit is saying to the churches by means of ‘the knowledge of the saints’. Theology implies a striving for holiness and an ever-deeper awareness of the transcendence of the Mystery of God.

 

CONCLUSION


100. As theology is a service rendered to the Church and to society, so the present text, written by theologians, seeks to be of service to our theologian colleagues and also to those with whom Catholic theologians engage in dialogue. Written with respect for all who pursue theological enquiry, and with a profound sense of the joy and privilege of a theological vocation, it strives to indicate perspectives and principles which characterise Catholic theology and to offer criteria by which that theology may be identified. In summary, it may be said that Catholic theology studies the Mystery of God revealed in Christ, and articulates the experience of faith that those in the communion of the Church, participating in the life of God, have, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church into the truth (Jn 16:13). It ponders the immensity of the love by which the Father gave his Son to the world (cf. Jn 3:16), and the glory, grace and truth that were revealed in him for our salvation (cf. Jn 1:14); and it emphasises the importance of hope in God rather than in created things, a hope it strives to explain (cf. 1Pet 3:15). In all its endeavours, in accordance with Paul’s injunction always to ‘be thankful’ (Col 3:15; 1Thess 5:18), even in adversity (cf. Rom 8:31-39), it is fundamentally doxological, characterised by praise and thanksgiving. As it considers the work of God for our salvation and the surpassing nature of his accomplishments, glory and praise is its most appropriate modality, as St Paul not only teaches but also exemplifies: ‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen’ (Eph 3:20-21).

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes 3. Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Vatican II documents are taken from Vatican Council II, vol.1, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company and Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996).

[2] For the latter two, see below, paragraphs 92-94, and 10, 25-32, respectively.

[3] Henri de Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p.298.

[4] These and further ITC texts mentioned below may be found either in International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents 1969-1985, ed. Michael Sharkey (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), or in International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents 1986-2007, eds. Michael Sharkey and Thomas Weinandy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009).

[5] ‘Catholic’, with a capital ‘c’, refers here to the Catholic Church in which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Christ and committed to the care of Peter and the apostles subsists (cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 8, Unitatis Redintegratio 4, Dignitatis Humanae 1). Throughout this text, the term ‘theology’ refers to theology as the Catholic Church understands it.

[6] Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 2.

[7] Pope Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini (2010), 6; cf. Dei Verbum 2, 6.

[8] Verbum Domini 3.

[9] Unless otherwise indicated, scriptural quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version throughout.

[10] Dei Verbum 1; cf. St Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8 (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina [CCSL] 46:129).

[11] Verbum Domini 7; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), n.108.

[12] Cf. Dei Verbum 7, 11, 16.

[13] Dei Verbum 21.

[14] Augustine, ‘Deus … per hominem more hominum loquitur; quia et sic loquendo nos quaerit’ (De civitate Dei XVII, 6, 2; CCSL 48:567); cf. Vatican II, Dei Verbum 12.

[15] Dei Verbum 11.

[16] Dei Verbum 8.

[17] Verbum Domini 18.

[18] Dei Verbum 2.

[19] Cf. Dei Verbum 5, with reference also to Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.3 (DH 3008).

[20] Cf. Dei Verbum 3; also, Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.2 (DH 3004).

[21] Cf. also 1Jn 4:1-6; 2Jn 7; Gal 1:6-9; 1Tim 4:1.

[22] CCC 2089.

[23] Augustine, In Joannis Evang., XXIX, 6 (CCSL 36:287); also, Sermo 43, 7 (CCSL 41:511).

[24] Augustine, Letter 120 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [CSEL] 34, 2:704): ‘Porro autem qui vera ratione jam quod tantummodo credebat intelligit, profecto praepondendus est ei qui cupit adhuc intelligere quod credit; si autem non cupit et ea quae intelligendae sunt credenda tantummodo existimat, cui rei fides prorsus ignorat’.

[25] Cf. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV, 1 (CCSL 50A:424): ‘Huic scientiae tribuens … illud tantummodo quo fides saluberrima quae ad veram beatitudinem ducit gignitur, nutritur, defenditur, roboratur’.

[26] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Fides et Ratio (1998), opening words.

[27] Anselm, Proslogion, Proemium (in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, t.1, p.94). Because of the close bond between faith, hope and love (see above, paragraph 11), it can be affirmed that theology is also spes quaerens intellectum (cf. 1Pet 3:15) and caritas quaerens intellectum. The latter aspect receives particular emphasis in the Christian East: as it explicates the mystery of Christ who is the revelation of God’s love (cf. Jn 3:16), theology is God’s love put into words.

[28] Cf. in particular, Melchior Cano, De locis theologicis, ed. Juan Belda Plans (Madrid, 2006). Cano lists ten loci: Sacra Scriptura, traditiones Christi et apostolorum, Ecclesia Catholica, Concilia, Ecclesia Romana, sancti veteres, theologi scholastici, ratio naturalis, philosophi, humana historia.

[29] Dei Verbum 24.

[30] Verbum Domini 35; cf. 31.

[31] Cf. Council of Trent, Decretum de libris sacris et de traditionibus recipiendis (DH 1501-1505).

[32] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993), III, C, 1; cf. Verbum Domini 33.

[33] Dei Verbum 12.

[34] Cf. Dei Verbum 12.

[35] Cf. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, I, B-E.

[36] Verbum Domini 34.

[37] ‘[S]ince sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the same Spirit in which it was written [eodem Spiritu quo scripta est], no less attention must be devoted to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, taking into account the Tradition of the entire Church and the analogy of faith, if we are to derive their true meaning from the sacred texts’ (Dei Verbum 12; amended translation).

[38] Cf. Verbum Domini 39.

[39] Cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993), II, B; also CCC 115-118. Medieval theology spoke of the four senses of Scripture: Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.

[40] Verbum Domini 34.

[41] On the central place of Scripture in theology, cf. St Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Prologue.

[42] Second Vatican Council, Optatam Totius 16. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, q.36, a.2, ad.1: ‘de Deo dicere non debemus quod in sacra Scriptura non invenitur vel per verba, vel per sensum’.

[43] Verbum Domini 37.

[44] Verbum Domini 46.

[45] Dei Verbum 21.

[46] Cf. Dei Verbum 22.

[47] Dei Verbum 8.

[48] Cf. Dei Verbum 7.

[49] Dei Verbum 8.

[50] Dei Verbum 8.

[51] Cf. Optatam Totius 16.

[52] Cyril of Alexandria presented a dossier of patristic extracts to the council of Ephesus; cf. Mansi IV, 1183-1195; E. Schwartz, ed., Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, 1.1, pp.31-44.

[53] Cf. Augustine, Contra duas epistulas pelagianorum, 4, 8, 20 (CSEL 60:542-543); 4, 12, 32 (CSEL 60:568-569); Contra Iulianum, 1, 7, 34 (PL 44, 665); 2, 10, 37 (PL 44, 700-702). Also, Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium 28, 6 (CCSL 64:187): ‘Sed eorum dumtaxat patrum sententiae conferendae sunt, qui in fide et communione catholica sancte sapienter constanter viventes docentes et permanentes, vel mori in Christo fideliter vel occidi pro Christo feliciter meruerunt.’

[54] Cf. DH 301, 1510.

[55] DH 1507, 3007.

[56] Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 25.

[57] ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma (1990), B, III, 3; cf. Theological Pluralism (1972), nn.6-8, 10-12.

[58] Cf. Pope John XXIII, ‘Allocutio in Concilii Vaticani inauguratione’, AAS 84(1962), p.792; Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 62. For a detailed consideration of the whole question, see ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma.

[59] Dei Verbum 10.

[60] Dei Verbum 9.

[61] Dei Verbum 24.

[62] Johann Adam Möhler, Unity in the Church or the Principle of Catholicism, Presented in the Spirit of the Church Fathers of the First Three Centuries, Peter C. Erb, trans. and ed. (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p.117.

[63] Verbum Domini 7.

[64] Dei Verbum 9.

[65] Dei Verbum 9.

[66] Cf. Dei Verbum 8; Lumen Gentium 13, 14; Unitatis Redintegratio 15, 17; Ad Gentes 22.

[67] Cf. Yves Congar, Tradition et traditions: I Essai historique; II Essai théologique, two vols. (Paris: 1960, 1963).

[68] ‘Scripture, Tradition and Traditions’, in P. C. Rodger and Lukas Vischer, eds., The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: Montreal 1963 (New York: Association Press, 1964), n.48, p.52. Strictly speaking, as this document indicates, Tradition (with a capital ‘T’) and tradition (with a small ‘t’) may also be distinguished: Tradition is ‘the Gospel itself, transmitted from generation to generation in and by the Church’, it is ‘Christ himself present in the life of the Church’; and tradition is ‘the traditionary process’ (n.39, p.50).

[69] Cf. Unitatis Redintegratio 6.

[70] Lumen Gentium 12.

[71] Dei Verbum 8.

[72] Cf. Lumen Gentium 35.

[73] Lumen Gentium 12.

[74] Cf. Lumen Gentium, chapter 2.

[75] Cf. Lumen Gentium, chapter 3.

[76] Cf. Dei Verbum 8; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 26, 2.

[77] Cf. Lumen Gentium 21, 24-25.

[78] Dei Verbum 10; see above, paragraph 30.

[79] Augustine, Sermo 340 A (PL 38, 1483).

[80] The Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, Donum Veritatis (1990), speaks of the truth given by God to his people (nn.2-5) and it locates ‘the vocation of the theologian’ in direct service to the people of God so that they may have an understanding of the gift received in faith (nn.6-7).

[81] Dei Verbum 10.

[82] The ITC addressed this question in its Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology (1975), as did the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Donum Veritatis.

[83] Cf. Dei Verbum 10.

[84] Cf. Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 2. Today as in the past, of course, bishops and theologians do not constitute two fully distinct groups.

[85] Cf. Donum Veritatis 21.

[86] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 21-25, Christus Dominus 12, Dei Verbum 10.

[87] Thomas Aquinas distinguished the ‘magisterium cathedrae pastoralis’ and the ‘magisterium cathedrae magistralis’, the former pertaining to bishops and the latter to theologians. More recently, ‘magisterium’ or ‘ecclesiastical magisterium’ has come to refer specifically to the first of those two meanings, and is used in that sense in this text (cf. above, paragraphs 26, 28-30, 33). While theologians do have a teaching role, which may be formally recognised by the Church, it is not to be confused with or opposed to that of the bishops; cf. Aquinas, Contra Impugnantes, c.2; Quaest. Quodlibet., III, q.4, a.9, ad 3; In IV Sent., d.19, q.2, a.3, qa.3, ad.4; also Donum Veritatis, footnote 27.

[88] Cf. Donum Veritatis 34.

[89] Cf. Donum Veritatis 13-20.

[90] Cf. ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma, B, II, 3. Contradiction of the teaching of the magisterium at various levels by theological propositions gives rise to correspondingly differentiated negative evaluations or censures of such propositions, and possible sanctions against those responsible; cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, Ad Tuendam Fidem (1998).

[91] Cf. Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 8.

[92] Cf. Donum Veritatis 21-41.

[93] John Henry Newman, ‘Preface to the Third Edition’, in The Via Media of the Anglican Church, ed. H. D. Wiedner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp.10-57, here at 27.

[94] ‘Preface to the Third Edition’, pp.29-30. ‘[N]ot all knowledge is suited to all minds; a proposition may be ever so true, yet at a particular time and place it may be “temerarious, offensive to pious ears, and scandalous”, though not “heretical” nor “erroneous”’ (p.34).

[95] Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 9. The ITC also proposed guidelines for good practice in situations of dispute (cf. Theses 11-12).

[96] Cf. Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 8.

[97] Theses on the Relationship between the Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology, Thesis 8.

[98] See below, paragraph 83.

[99] Cf. Lumen Gentium 22, 25.

[100] Cf. Donum Veritatis 11.

[101] See, for example, Augustine, Epist. 82, 5, 36 (CCSL 31A:122), where he urges Jerome that in the liberty of friendship and with brotherly love they should be frank in correcting one another; also De Trinitate, I, 3, 5 (CCSL 50:33), where he says he will profit greatly if those who disagree with him argue their case with charity and truth and succeed in refuting his own argument.

[102] Cf. ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma, C, III, 6.

[103] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ut Unum Sint 28.

[104] Gaudium et Spes 11.

[105] Gaudium et Spes 11.

[106] Gaudium et Spes 4.

[107] Gaudium et Spes 44.

[108] Cf. Gaudium et Spes 44.

[109] Gaudium et Spes 44.

[110] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium 43, Unitatis Redintegratio 4, Dignitatis Humanae 15, Apostolicam Actuositatem 14, Presbyterorum Ordinis 9.

[111] Second Vatican Council, Ad Gentes 11.

[112] Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate 2.

[113] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, q.2, a.10.

[114] Cf. Anselm, Proslogion, ch.1 (in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, t.1, p.100): ‘Desidero aliquatenus intelligere veritatem tuam, quam credit et amat cor meum’; also Augustine, De Trinitate, XV, 28, 51 (CCSL 50A:534).

[115] Cf. Anselm, Proslogion, ch.1 (in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, t.1, p.100): ‘Non tento, domine, penetrare altitudinem tuam …. Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo: quia “nisi credidero, non intelligam”.’

[116] Cf. Origen, Contra Celsum, Prologue, 4 (ed. M. Boret, Sources chrétiennes, vol.132, pp.72-73); Augustine, City of God, I (CCSL 47).

[117] Cf. Fides et Ratio 73.

[118] Cf. Fides et Ratio 77.

[119] Cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius (DH 3017); also, Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, I, c.7.

[120] Vatican I, Dei Filius (DH 3019).

[121] Cf. Justin, Dialogus cum Tryphone, 8, 4 (Iustini philosophi et martyris opera quae feruntur omnia, ed. C. T. Otto, Corpus apologetarum christianorum saeculi secundi, 2, Iéna, 1877, pp.32-33); Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos, 31 (Corpus apologetarum christianorum saeculi secundi, 6, Iéna, 1851, p.118); also Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio 38.

[122] Cf. Augustine, De civitate Dei, VI, 5-12 (CCSL 47:170-184).

[123] In reaction against the theological rationalism of ‘radical Arians’, the Cappadocian Fathers and the Greek theological tradition insisted on the impossibility of knowing the divine essence in itself here below, either by nature or by grace, or even in the state of glory. Latin theology, convinced that human beatitude could only consist in the vision of God ‘as he is’ (1Jn 3:2), distinguished rather between the knowledge of the divine essence promised to the blessed and the comprehensive knowledge of God’s essence that is proper only to God. In the constitution, Benedictus Deus (1336), Pope Benedict XII defined that the blessed see the very essence of God, face to face (DH 1000).

[124] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, In Boethium De Trinitate, prologue (ed. Leonine, t.50, p.76): ‘Modus autem de Trinitate tractandi duplex est, ut dicit Augustinus in I de Trinitate, scilicet per auctoritates et per rationes. Quem utrumque modum Augustinus complexus est, ut ipsemet dicit; quidam vero sanctorum patrum, ut Ambrosius et Hylarius, alterum tantum modum prosequti sunt, scilicet per actoritates; Boetius vero elegit prosequi per alium modum, scilicet per rationes, praesupponens hoc quod ab aliis per auctoritates fuerat prosequtum.’

[125] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, q.1, a.7.

[126] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.3, ad 2.

[127] Cf. Thomas a Kempis, Imitatio Iesu Christi, I, 3.

[128] Fides et Ratio 66.

[129] Cf. Fides et Ratio 73.

[130] Cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius (DH 3008-3009, 3031-3033).

[131] Augustine, ‘de divinitate ratio sive sermo’ (De civitate Dei VIII, 1; CCSL 47:216-217).

[132] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.7: ‘Omnia autem pertractantur in sacra doctrina sub ratione Dei, vel quia sunt ipse Deus; vel quia habent ordinem ad Deum, ut ad principium et finem. Unde sequitur quod Deus vere sit subiectum huius scientiae.’

[133] Optatam Totius 16.

[134] Cf. International Theological Commission, Faith and Inculturation (1989).

[135] Cf. International Theological Commission, Theological Pluralism (1972).

[136] Cf. International Theological Commission, The Interpretation of Dogma (1990).

[137] See above, chapter 2, section 2: ‘Fidelity to Apostolic Tradition’.

[138] Cf. Optatam Totius 16.

[139] Cf. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. This text serves as a valuable paradigm in that it reflects on the capacities and limitations of different contemporary methods of exegesis within the horizon of a theology of Revelation rooted in the Scriptures themselves and in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

[140] Cf. Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.5, ad 2, where St Thomas says of theology: ‘Haec scientia accipere potest aliquid a philosophicis disciplinis, non quod ex necessitate eis indigeat, sed ad maiorem manifestationem eorum quae in hac scientia traduntur. Non enim accipit sua principia ab aliis scientiis, sed immediate a Deo per revelationem. Et ideo non accipit ab aliis scientiis tanquam a superioribus, sed utitur eis tanquam inferioribus et ancillis.’

[141] For example, in his Encyclical Letter, Veritatis Splendor (1993), Pope John Paul called upon moral theologians to exercise discernment in their use of the behavioural sciences (esp., nn.33, 111, 112).

[142] The early Fathers emphasised that heresies, especially the various forms of gnosticism, often resulted from an insufficiently critical adoption of particular philosophical theories. See, for example, Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 7, 3 (Sources chrétiennes 46, p.96): ‘Ipsae denique haereses a philosophia subornantur.’

[143] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Message to participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 22 October 1996; also, Fides at Ratio 69.

[144] Pope Benedict XVI observes a pathology in reason when it distances itself from questions of ultimate truth and God. By this harmful self-limitation, reason becomes subject to human interests and is reduced to ‘instrumental reason’. The way is opened for relativism. Given these dangers, Pope Benedict repeatedly proposes that faith is ‘a purifying force for reason itself’: ‘Faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly’ (Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, 2005, n.28).

[145] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.6.

[146] Cf. Augustine, De Trinitate, XII, 14, 21 - 15, 25 (CCSL 50:374-380).

[147] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1, a.6.

[148] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, q.1 , a.6, ad 3.

[149] Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.4 (DH 3016).

[150] Cf. Dionysius, De divinis nominibus, ch. 2, 9 (in Corpus Dionysiacum, I. Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita De divinis nominibus, Herausgegeben von Beate Regina Suchla, «Patristische Texte und Studien, 33», p.134).

[151] Cf. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love, 2, 26 (G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, trans. & ed., The Philokalia, vol.2, London/Boston, 1981, p.69): ‘the intellect is granted the grace of theology when, carried on wings of love …, it is taken up into God and with the help of the Holy Spirit discerns – as far as this is possible for the human intellect – the qualities of God; also Richard of St Victor, De praeparatione animi ad contemplationem 13 (PL 196, 10A): Ubi amor, ibi oculus; Tractatus de gradibus charitatis 3, 23 (G. Dumeige, ed, Textes philosophiques du Moyen Age, 3, Paris: 1955, p.71): ‘amor oculus est, et amare videre est’ (Richard attributes this phrase to St Augustine).

[152] Regarding private revelations, which are always subject to ecclesiastical judgement and which, even when authentic, have a value ‘essentially different from that of the one public revelation’, see Verbum Domini 14.

[153] Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, ch. 5.

[154] Cf. ITC, The Interpretation of Dogma, B, III, 4: ‘the theological interpretation of dogmas is not an intellectual process only. At a deeper level still, it is a spiritual enterprise, brought about by the Spirit of Truth and possible only when preceded by a purification of the “eyes of the heart”’.

[155] Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate (2009), 1.

[156] Lumen Gentium 26; cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), 1.

[157] Presbyterorum Ordinis 5.

[158] Lumen Gentium 11; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 10.

[159] Presbyterorum Ordinis 5.

[160] Fourth Lateran Council (DH 806).

[161] Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent., d.35, q.1, a.1, ad.2: ‘Omnis negatio fundatur in aliqua affirmatione’.

[162] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones disputatae de potentia, q.7, a.5, ad.2, where he gives an interpretation of the teaching of Dionysius.

[163] Augustine, ‘De deo loquimur, quid mirum si non comprehendis? Si enim comprehendis, non est Deus’ (Sermo 117, 3, 5; PL 38, 663); ‘Si quasi comprehendere potuisti, cogitatione tua te decepisti’ (Sermo 52, 6, 16; PL 38, 360).

(Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_doc_20111129_teologia-oggi_en.html)

 

Links National

Links International

Internationale Theologenkommission

The Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology

Original Catholic Encyclopedia: Theology

New Advent: Theology (please scroll down a little)

Dr. Scott Hahn: What is Biblical Theology?

Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology: Benedict XVI and Biblical Theology

Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology: Biblical Theology Themes and Issues

CARM: Dictionary of Theology

Dave Armstrong: Liberal Theology and Modernism

Dave Armstrong: Romantic and Imaginative Theology

Resources

Prof. Dr. Scott Hahn: Catholic Theological Resources


    * Adam, Karl. The Spirit of Catholicism. New Cork: Macmillan, 1933.
    * Acklin, Fr. Thomas. The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood: A Faith Perspective on the Reality and Mystery of the Priesthood in the Church. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2006.
    * Aquilina, Mike. The Mass of the Early Christians. 2nd Ed. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007.
    * _____. The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2006.
    * Augustine, St. Confessions. New York: Penguin. 1961.
    * Barker, Margaret. The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. London: T & T.
    * Bouyer, Louis. The Word, Church & Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism. San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2004.
    * _____.  The Christian Mystery: From Pagan Myth to Christian Mysticism. Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1990.
    * _____. The Church of God. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1982.
    * Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of Catholic History. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2004
    * Congar, Yves M-J. Tradition and Traditions: The Biblical, Historical and Theological Evidence for Catholic Teaching on Tradition. Granville, OH: Basilica Press, 1998.
    * _____. The Meaning of Tradition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.
    * Corbon, Jean. Wellspring of Worship. Translated by Matthew J. O’Connell. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005.
    * Danielou, Jean, S.J. The Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1956.
    * _____. The Lord of History. New York: Meridian, 1968.
    * _____. The Presence of God. Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1959.
    * Driscoll, Jeremy. What Happens at Mass. Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2005.
    * Driscoll, Fr. Jeremy, O.S.B. Theology at the Eucharistic Table. England: Gracewing Publishing, 2005.
    * Dubay, Thomas, S.M. Faith and Certitude: Can We Be Sure of the Things that Matter Most to Us?
    * Dulles, Avery Cardinal. The Assurance of Things Hoped For: A Theology of Christian Faith. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
    * Durwell, F.X. The Eucharist: Presence of Christ. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1974.
    * _____. Mary: Icon of the Spirit and of the Church. London: St. Paul Publications, 1991.
    * _____. Holy Spirit of God. Translated by Sister Benedict Davies, O.S.U. Cincinatti, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006.
    * Escriva, St. Josemaria. In Love with the Church. New York: Scepter, 1989.
    * Faberberg, David, W. Theologia Prima: What is Liturgical Theology? Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2004.
    * Garrigou-LaGrange, Reginald, O.P. God, His Existence and His Nature V2: A Thomistic Solution to Certain Agnostic Antinomies. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2008.
    * _____. Life Everlasting and the Immensity of the Soul: A Theological Treatise on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 1992.
    * _____. Predestination. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 1999.
    * _____. The Mother of the Savior: And Our Interior Life. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 2004.
    * _____. The One God: A Commentary on the First Part of St. Thomas’ Theological Summa. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1943.
    * _____. The Savior and His Love for Us. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 1999.
    * _____. The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 2002.
    * Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., and M. Timothea Doyle. The Three Ages in the Interior Life. (2 volume set). Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 1999.
    * _____. Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2008.
    * Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., and Dom Bede Rose. Providence. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 1999.
    * Hahn, Scott. A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1998.
    * _____. The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. New York: Doubleday, 1999.
    * _____. Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
    * _____. Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God. New York: Doubleday, 2001.
    * _____. First Comes Love: Finding Your Family in the Church and the Trinity. New York: Doubleday, 2002.
    * _____. Swear to God: The Promise and Power of the Sacraments. New York: Doubleday, 2004.
    * _____. Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy. New York: Doubleday, 2005.
    * _____. Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments. Ph.D. dissertation, Marquette University, 1995.
    * Hahn, Scott and Benjamin Wiker. Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins Case Against God. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2008.
    * Jungmann, Josef, S.J. Handing on the Faith. New York: Herder and Herder, 1962.
    * _____. The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its History and Development. 2 vols. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1986.
    * Keefe, Donald, J. Covenantal Theology: The Eucharistic Order of History. 2 vols. New York: University Press of America, 1991.
    * Manteau-Bonamy, O.P. Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St.Maximilian Kolbe. Libertyville, IL: Marytown Press, 2001.
    * McDonough, William K. The Divine Family: The Trinity and Our Life with God. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005.
    * Mork, Dom Wulstan, O.S.B. Transformed by Grace: Scripture, Sacraments & the Sonship of Christ. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004.
    * Newman, John Henry Cardinal. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. New York: Doubleday, 1960.
    * Olsen, Glenn. Beginning at Jerusalem: Five Reflections on the History of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.
    * _____. Christian Marriage: A Historical Study. Chestnut Ridge, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2001.
    * Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Mystery of Continuity: Time, History, Memory and Eternity in the thought of St. Augustine. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1986.
    * Peterson, Erik. The Angels in the Liturgy. New York: Herder and Herder, 1964.
    * Pieper, Josef. The Four Cardinal Virtues. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966.
    * Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio. (September 14, 1998). Boston: Daughters of St. Paul.
    * _____. Puebla: A Pilgrimage of Faith. Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1979.
    * Pope Benedict XVI. The Apostles. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007.
    * _____. Jesus of Nazareth. New York: Doubleday, 2007.
    * _____. Deus Caritas Est. Encyclical Letter on Christian Love (December 25, 2005). San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006.
    * Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Introduction to Christianity. Ignatius Press: San Francisco. 1990.
    * _____. Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987.
    * _____. Many Religions One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999.
    * _____. A New Song for the Lord. New York: Crossroad, 1997.
    * _____. Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986.
    * _____. Daughter Zion. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983.
    * _____. Eschatology. Washington, D.C: Catholic University of America Press, 1988.
    * _____. Feast of Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986.
    * _____. The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995.
    * _____. On the Way to Jesus Christ. Trans. by Michael Miller. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.
    * _____. The Nature and Mission of Theology: Approaches to Understanding Its Role in the Light of Present Controversy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995.
    * _____. God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. S.O. Edited by Horn and v. Pfnur. Trans. by Henry Taylor. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003.
    * Saward, John. The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997.
    * Scheeben, Joseph Matthias. The Mysteries of Christianity. Crossroad Publishing Company, 2008.
    * _____. The Glories of Divine Grace: A Fervent Exhortation to All to Persevere and to Grow in Sanctifying Grace. Rockford, IL: Tan Books & Publishers, 2001.
    * Schoenborn, Christoph Cardinal. Loving the Church: Spiritual Exercises Preached in the Presence of John Paul II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998.
    * _____. From Death to Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995.
    * Thurian, Max. Mary, Mother of All Chrisitians. New York: Herder and Herder, 1964.
    * Von Balthasar, Hans Urs, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Mary: The Church at Her Source. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.


Catholic For a Reason Series

    * Hahn, Scott and Leon J. Suprenant, Jr. Eds. Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 1998.
    * _____. Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2000.
    * Hahn, Scott and Regis J. Flaherty. Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2004.
    * _____. Catholic for a Reason IV: Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2007.

(Source: http://www.scotthahn.com/catholic-theological-resources.html)

Fr. Barron and Dr. Scott Hahn discuss Modernity, the Bible and Theology